Shortly after my wife-to-be and I settled into our new house, we decided it was time to increase the family – with a dog. My wife was unfamiliar with dogs, but immediately shut down all my requests for “the perfect dog”, which usually revolved around a Dane/St. Bernard/something HUGE. I didn’t really want anything TOO over-bred, preferring dogs a bit closer to the wolf. Huskies were too big for the wife, and while we both loved Bassets, their reputation as … well … wise-acres scared us both off them as a first attempt.
My wife, doing some research, hit upon an unfamiliar breed – The Australian Cattle Dog. Medium sized, so it fit my wife’s criteria, fairly close to the Aussie Dingo, so it fit my “wolf” requirement, and with both a short coat and high intelligence, suggesting low maintenance. (Pay attention to that last attribute – it WILL come back to bite me in the butt.)
So after a fair bit of searching, we found a guy selling cattle dog pups nearby, and ended up with the “runt” of the litter – a bonus, as far as my wife was concerned. We brought him home, set him up a “den” in our kitchen, (using a couple spare doors left in the house when we moved in), named him “Zingo” (get it? Zingo the Dingo), and proceeded to love him. Correction – I proceeded to love him, and HE proceeded to love my wife. Yeah – I even slept with him on the kitchen floor the first night. Turns out cattle dogs are VERY protective, and since Zingo was a boy, he decided the person needing protection was my wife. It eventually worked out fine, as our 2nd dog (my beloved Red Dwarf the Border Collie) became MY dog – Red’s emphasis. But here I was, with a dog that should’ve bonded to me, instead latching onto my wife. Lord, why can’t I have normal animals?!?
But wait – it gets better. Really better.
Zingo grew quite normally, not being all that small for a cattle dog. After 3 months, we took him on his first road trip, to a dog-friendly sci-fi convention in Michigan. Zingo was in heaven! All these new people to meet! As was the norm with the convention, we all left our room doors open, and circulated around, talking to old friends. Some friends of ours dropped in, briefly met Zingo, then started gabbing with us. About 20 minutes later, I notice Zingo is gone. In our friends’ room, across the hall? Nope. Next room? Nope. We followed a trail of “hit and run” visits, and found Zingo at the opposite end of the wing. Well, okay, he was just out making friends.
People started asking us, as we made our way back, if that was our dog. Not mean or nasty, just curious. Oh lord, what has this pinhead done? Answer: Eaten EVERY bar of soap in EVERY room he visited. Yep, Zingo had a taste for hotel soap. No ill effects, either – he had a cast iron stomach, of which we would learn more later. But he HAD done one good thing – earned his first nickname – Zippy the Pinhead. Not sure what the reference was, but my dad used it to refer to people who did idiotic things. Eating half a hotel’s worth of soap? Works for me!
Then Zippy … er .. Zingo pulled his next stunt, two days later (last day of the con). Actually, it was the night before – the MIDDLE of the night. See, he wasn’t house-broken (though he was paper trained, and we had taken GREAT precautions), so we figured middle-of-the-night cleanups were just part of the game. (The hotel was actually okay with it, as long as you cleaned up, and we had brought an entire case of cleaning gear.) 1am, the dog wakes us both up, crying and yelping! Oh God, now what? The soap coming through? Had he hurt himself? We’re panicking, with no idea of what the dog wants. We decided to at least get him outside, to lessen the impact of his noise. We no more than get his butt outside, when he runs to the nearby grass, drops, and drains his bladder. Hmm. Self-house-breaking dog. Weird. But good. So he made up for the soap.
But the years passed, proving that idea SO off the mark.
One day some years later, while out walking with my wife, Zingo got far enough away to lose sight of her. They were walking near an area soon to be a flood-control area, and he got on the far side of a dirt mound. (He was on a 50-foot roller lead.) A policeman pulled up in his cruiser, got out, and started talking to my wife – he was concerned about some reports of “youth gang” activity, and was checking on my wife’s safety. She said something that made him laugh, which attracted Zingo’s attention. He charged over the mound at full speed, hit the gravel on the opposite side, and realised all was fine. Problem – dogs don’t have anti-lock brakes. Zingo skidded, fishtailed, and smacked the side of the officer’s car (an old full-size Chevy Caprice) with his hip. Dog? Fine. Car? Severely dented, requiring (as we later found out) almost a thousand bucks worth of body work to repair the damage. To this day, the legend of the car-crashing Cattle Dog still makes the rounds in Wood Dale, Illinois…
Some other “Zingo episodes”:
On one of our many road trips, with both dogs in tow (no, we never strapped them to the roof of the car!), we stopped at an air museum in Indiana. While I was off taking pictures of some of the aircraft on outside display, my wife made lunch – PB&J sandwiches. We usually shared our lunches with the dogs when on the road, so my wife offered Zingo a bit of her sandwich. Prior to this, he had eaten such sandwiches, if not with gusto, then willingly enough. Apparently, this time he had his sights set higher. My wife dropped the piece of sandwich, turned to start making mine, then heard a noise and turned back to find Zingo industriously burying the offending sandwich in the gravel of the parking lot! Everybody’s a critic!
We once took Zingo with us to a re-enactment. We were in a corner area, so we had him well back from any crowd, and we had picked up a one-piece “pup” tent – not what we re-enactors call “correct”, so we couldn’t use it in the display, but off to one side was okay. This was during the summer, so it was rather hot, and Zingo was trying to use the tent for shade. My wife got the idea to dump some ice under the tent, which had a rubber floor. Zingo found the cool spot, and was ROOTED there for the rest of the day! “Pup” tent indeed!
Our friends in Lansing, Michigan, owned several female sheep, plus one ram named Zorro. The first time we brought Zingo up with us, we decided to introduce him (carefully) to the sheep. After all, Zingo was a Cattle Dog, so he should get along with sheep – probably wanting to herd them, or some such. Zingo showed no interest in the ewes. None. He did, however, head straight for the ram. Now, Zorro was a BIG guy – he once rammed the male half of our friends, a guy 6’6″ and over 300 pounds, lifted him clear of the 4′ tall fence, and landed him outside with broken ribs and several wrenched joints. So we were more than a bit fearful about Zingo’s sudden interest in Zorro.
We needn’t have worried. They met, nose to nose at the fence, and then – started grunting at each other. No, not growling, GRUNTING. Zingo would grunt at Zorro, Zorro would grunt at Zingo, and so forth. They did this for over an hour, before we finally hauled Zingo into the house. Every time Zingo went outside after that, we could find him at he fence, nose to nose with Zorro, grunting back and forth. (Sigh.)
In our house’s back yard, there was a single, large tree – elm, I think. Zingo loved to try to chase the squirrels, but they were usually too fast for him, leaving him at the bottom of the tree and chittering at him. One day, a particular squirrel decided to tease poor Zingo. He didn’t realise Zingo was on a longer lead than usual. Zingo was laying on the back porch, and the squirrel had the audacity to actually climb on the deck’s handrail to taunt Zingo. Well, he launched off in pursuit of the cocky little so-and-so. Zingo chased him off the porch, across the yard, and to the tree. Then, forgetting about being a dog, or gravity, or whatever, he proceeded UP the tree! It looked like a clip from a Tom & Jerry or Road Runner cartoon. Zingo went three dog-lengths up the tree, paused for a moment, and you could almost hear him say “Wait! I’m a dog! I can’t climb trees!” – then he dropped back to the ground. Safe, sound, embarrassed, and pissed as all get out. Gravity might win out in the end, but dingo determination will get you pretty dang far!
So, now you’ve met our first dog, Zingo. The first in a long series of pets that would have both my wife and I asking “Lord, why can’t we have NORMAL pets?”. Future episodes will contain the sheep dog afraid of sheep, the 120-pound “pure Border Collie” that looked like Lassie, our current mastiff Sam, and if I get REALLY adventurous, the tales of our cats – all strays. And our prayer for normal pets? Yet to be answered…….