Oniontown Pastoral: Why We Spoil Sherlock Holmes

Oniontown Pastoral: Why We Spoil Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes and I have a routine on Erie days. After taking wife Kathy to work, I open the back door and summon the Coleman family’s foxhound from his mother’s recliner. Pleased and bleary-eyed, he lands with a thump on the hardwood floor and clicks my way.

Got legs, Mr. Holmes?

Out he jogs with his strange gait. A year ago he goofed up his back so badly we wondered if his days were numbered. After a long convalescence he came around, not to his former abandon, but good enough to muddle on. On the run, he now makes a seesaw motion. Imagine a furry seesaw with droopy ears, snout and comically long legs crossing your backyard, and you’ve seen our amateur detective moving with a purpose.

Sherlock accepting his least favorite treat. My fingers are in his mouth but he doesn’t bite.

After surveying the property, he arrives at my writing hut door and gives a hoop. Now we’ve reached the important part. I let him in for snack time, which is not optional. A writing day can be driven to distraction if treats aren’t provided. This morning I bought a bag of Pup-Peroni, original beef flavor, because I’d run out of his usuals. Kathy makes Holmes—that’s what she calls him—liver treats. Mmm. Our house smells scrumptious when she makes the slurry of cow-organ and grain, spreads it on a baking sheet, and slides it into the oven. But you love a dog, and this is where you wind up: wrecking your kitchen in exchange for a few wags of a boney tail. (Note: Kathy also prepares and freezes a daily light lunch and hearty supper for His Lordship.)

His Lordship.

On the off chance you haven’t gathered this already, loving a needy hound is pricey. That Pup-Peroni, which I seldom buy because it’s nutritionally iffy, costs $12. Usually I go to a pet store and spend about the same amount for tender sticks made of cows that have grazed on lush waves of grass watered with Perrier, sans pesticides. The packaging doesn’t say this. I’m just assuming, based on the dearth of morsels I get for my outlay.

Again, love is to blame. Kathy and I cough up thousands for Sherlock Holmes’ provisions and veterinary care, get him out for long walks and until recently took him to a park for exercise and camraderie. The Colemans certainly aren’t more affectionate or indulgent with our pets than you who let your dogs or cats hog the bed and share your ice cream cones—don’t deny it.

Admit it, you’d let this pup share your ice cream cone.

But we do have a reason for going overboard that might be unusual. We suspect that Sherlock’s first few years—before we brought him home from a shelter—were rough. He cowered at first. He was okay being petted, but just try to have a look in his ear, give him a pill, or get sleep from his eyes. We had 70 pounds of lanky berserk on our hands. Trips to the veterinarian were a nightmare. Getting his nails trimmed required sedation.

Saddest of all, coaxing a kiss out of the guy was impossible. Somebody once gave him the business over this. In my family the dogs always give foamy, unsanitary licks on the face. Son Micah is our only privileged recipient. He started with smearing peanut butter on his nose and eventually earned a test lap or two. Now a 31-year-old and a K-9 nuzzle on the floor. That’s the key, Micah insists. Occasionally Sherlock will pause, sniff and give a couple of temperate swipes up his cheek.

Sherlock Holmes, in the bleak midwinter.

We have seen progress. When ear mites gave my buddy fits, and he let me go in with pointer fingers and give some relief. I may have scratched his brain stem a few times; I’m not sure.

If you could see Holmes’ face during treat time, you’d know why he gets more than he probably should. He is carefree and happy. Some years back he likely suffered. A guy who knows foxhounds remarked that my pal looks great but maybe didn’t hunt well and was abandoned. Who knows?

Sherlock at the shelter, where we found him.

On writing days in particular I help our pup make up for lost time. He gets the good life and lots of it. After his last treat, I put my forehead against his, scratch his chin, and tell him that he’s a good boy, the best boy.

Then he hops up on the couch just behind me, curls up, and snoozes the morning away. Sometimes a dream gets him whimpering and jerking his legs. I choose to believe he is on the chase, doing what he was bred to do—his heaven. Whatever he sees, he’ll finally awaken and find me nearby. I’ll join him on the couch, run a hand over his flank and murmur more good words.

He gets my drift, I think. We’re both safe, glad and loved. What more can a dog and man hope for?

Safe, glad and loved.

5 thoughts on “Oniontown Pastoral: Why We Spoil Sherlock Holmes

  1. from one dog lover to another; my two dogs have saved my sanity many times. I don’t think I can live without these two friends. I’m sure Jim looks on approvingly

  2. You are such a loving man, to people and animals. I miss you and love you very much. We are still looking for a church up here that we enjoy as much as your church. Lost my son Tony Last Sept 20,2022. Please pray for me. I am having a very hard time with this one.

    • Hi, Marge. Sorry to be late responding. I love and miss you, too, Vince and the whole gang. I can’t tell you how sorry I am about Tony. A mother should never have to bury a child. You are now and always have been in my prayers! Much love your way.

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