Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for May: (5/4) Linda Norlander, (5/11) Connie Berry, (5/18) Mary Keliikoa, (5/22) Annette Dashofy, and (5/25) Rosalie Spielman.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Cormac McCarthy Loves My Dog

by Linda Rodriguez

I’m a big rescue-animal person. I’ve had rescue dogs and cats all my adult life. When I’ve lost a dog to the cancers and other vicissitudes of old age, always a heartbreaking situation, I go looking for a replacement in the dogs on death row—those scheduled for euthanasia. I have found so many wonderful dogs in this way.

I’m thinking about this because next week is the adoption anniversary of our current dog, Dyson. Eight years ago this fall, we had lost our much-beloved sixteen-year-old Husky-Sharpei, who’d been adopted at seven on what was supposed to be the last day of her life and given us so many more wonderful years. After grieving for a month, we began looking online at the adoptable dogs of local shelters. Hearing that the Kansas City Animal Shelter was overcrowded, we decided to go visit and adopt one of their desperate dogs slated for death.

I walked into the shelter the week before Thanksgiving with certain criteria in mind. I wanted an older female dog who was already housebroken and calm. I knew older dogs were harder to find homes and figured I’d be able to choose among several older females. No stubborn, rambunctious, untrained young males for me. I was no longer the young, strong woman who had trained such dogs years before.

As luck would have it, someone showed us an emaciated, big, male dog with a strange brindle coat, starved and sad-eyed, who was scheduled for euthanasia the next day. He walked placidly for me on the leash and looked at us without hope. My husband and I were hooked by those big sad eyes. Even when we were informed that he had heartworm, which costs hundreds of dollars to treat, we weren’t dissuaded and signed up to adopt him that day, all the time telling ourselves how crazy this was. As we signed papers and laid down money, people who worked at the shelter began to filter into the office. “Are you the folks taking Dyson?” they would ask, and then shake our hands and thank us, telling us what a good dog he was. Then, we found out he was less than a year old, big as he was—and that he was a breed of dog we’d never heard of before, the Plott hound.

Dyson, who should have weighed at least 70 pounds at that time, was so starved that he weighed less than 40 pounds. (The first photos of him are then, the later photo of him now.) He had never been neutered and never been in a house, we discovered. We would have to keep this long-legged creature crated for weeks at first because of the heartworm treatment. If he became too active, he could have a stroke. What possessed us to continue and sign up for this dog, I can’t begin to understand.

Thus, began my education in the dogs Cormac McCarthy calls “the ninja warriors of dogdom” and of whom he says, “They are just without fear.” Developed in the 1700s by a German immigrant family (from whom they get their name) in the Great Smoky Mountains who never sold any outside of the family until after World War II, Plott hounds are the state dog of North Carolina. They were bred for centuries as trackers and hunters of bear. They are practically triple-jointed and can perform acrobatic feats while avoiding the claws of huge bears they have brought to bay. They are highly valued by big game hunters all over the world, who pay thousands of dollars for trained Plott hounds to use to hunt bear, cougars, and other large predators.

We don’t hunt. While on a leash for walks, Dyson constantly charges into the hedges and emerges with a big possum or feral cat in his mouth, which we’ll make him drop—always uninjured since he has the softest mouth. Other things we’ve discovered about
Plotts are that they are extra-smart and yet goofy and playful. And so he is. Also, loyal, affectionate, protective, and he loves fibers and textiles, often in early days pulling my knitting out without harming it and lying before it confused at why he couldn’t do what Mommy does with those sticks.

Though he was the opposite of the placid, female, older dog we wanted and he truly does seem to be without fear, Dyson has been the perfect dog for us, always a source of fun and joy. And the inevitable mischief that a young, boisterous male (for once he regained his health, he regained his personality) commits is a small price to pay for the love he shows when he lays his massive head in my lap and looks at me with love in his big, now-happy eyes.

That lack of fear that McCarthy so admired and the resilience that allowed Dyson to bounce back from abuse, starvation, and potentially fatal illness are two qualities I'm trying to achieve for myself as a writer. Dyson refuses to believe that he can't take on any challenge that presents itself. He's absolutely sure that he's equal to any task. Such confidence drives out fear, and I'm trying to cultivate it in myself. I suspect that belief in self is also linked to the resilience Dyson has exhibited, that ability I desire to be able to recover from professional, physical, and financial disaster. The sad dog I rescued has become my sensei in professional matters. If Dyson had opposable thumbs, how would he handle this? has become a recurrent question.

Happy birthday to His Majesty Dyson the Toy King Sweetie Boy Rodriguez-Furnish!

Linda Rodriguez's Plotting the Character-Driven Novel, based on her popular workshop, and The World Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East, an anthology she co-edited, are her newest books. Dark Sister: Poems will be published in May, 2018, and Every Family Doubt, her fourth mystery novel featuring Cherokee campus police chief, Skeet Bannion, will appear August 15, 2018. Her three earlier Skeet novels—Every Hidden Fear, Every Broken Trust, and Every Last Secret—and her books of poetry—Skin Hunger and Heart's Migration—have received critical recognition and awards, such as St. Martin's Press/Malice Domestic Best First Novel, International Latino Book Award, Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, Midwest Voices & Visions, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, Thorpe Menn Award, and Ragdale and Macondo fellowships. Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” published in the anthology, Kansas City Noir, has been optioned for film.

Rodriguez is past chair of the AWP Indigenous Writer’s Caucus, past president of Border Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime, founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of International Thriller Writers, Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, and Kansas City Cherokee Community. Visit her at


Kait said...

That is beautiful, Linda. We learn so much from our animals. Dyson is an amazing and gorgeous boy. Each and every one of my muses, feline in my case, was a rescue. We too seek out the older ones whose expiration dates are near. Which is not to say we don't sometimes get otherwise selected!

Shari Randall said...

Happy birthday, Dyson!

Warren Bull said...

Great story, Linda.

Gloria Alden said...

Very touching, Linda. You can see how happy he is now. I've been in love with collies since
I discovered the books of Albert Payson Terhune in my school library. My first collie was a stray collie who showed up when I was sixteen. When I married my parents gave her to a farmer because we moved into an apartment that didn't allow dogs. Later when we had our own home and children we got a collie that was advertised at a very cheap price because he didn't work out for the family. The next one was years later when my husband found a young female collie wandering up and down the sidewalk in front of the place he worked. When she was still there when he left work, he brought her home. I put an ad in the paper but no one answered it so
we took her to a vet to have lumps on three of her legs and to have her spayed. We had her for about 8 years and then she got leukemia and had to be put down. My son brought home a German shepherd puppy one of his friends gave him. He became more mine, of course, and
lived to be twelve years old and when he developed problems with his hind quarters, he had to be put down too. I was teaching then and lived alone then so I didn't get another dog
until I was almost ready to retire and saw an ad for collie puppies, and got Molly. Molly
developed grand mall seizures which paralyzed her real quarters and had to be put down. I
went online to find a rescue collie (collies are not very popular anymore) and those that
came up were very elderly and none lived within driving distance. So my daughter found a
breeder locally who said she'd have puppies in the fall, but none of her girls had puppies
but she had an 18 month old who didn't show well. I didn't care about that, and fell in
love with her as soon as I saw her and with my daughter paying for half of the cost, I
brought her home. Otherwise she was going to be kept in a kennel and used for breeding so
I felt she was a rescue dog because of the life she has with me. I love her as much as she loves me. She is the sweetest most friendly dog I've ever had.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Kait, thank you. He is a great dog (though right this minute he's in time-out, so don't tell him I said that). People scorn the older dogs and cats and the black ones, as well as those with health problems, but I've found black pets and older pets make the best companions, and those with health problems like Dyson was, get well with care and become positively robust.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Dyson appreciates that, Shari, especially right now when he's been naughty and is in trouble.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Thanks, Warren!

Linda Rodriguez said...

Gloria, I love collies, too. The bearded collie I had when I was 11 and 12 in a small town in Oklahoma was a lifesaver in many ways. Having her was what turned me toward the Terhune books. The funny thing is that she was the only collie I've ever had in a long life with dogs. I've always rescued dogs--Princess, my collie, was going to be euthanized because she'd been bred too often and couldn't carry a litter to term any longer when i begged to take her instead. ButI almost never see collies at the pounds and shelters that kill dogs because they're overcrowded, so I've never again had one.

KM Rockwood said...

We have rescue pets and they seem to know how close they came to being put down, and appreciate it. Right now we have a medium sized mixed breed named Vinny and have just gotten a small perhaps Pomeranian mix that someone left tied outside a beauty parlor. She is adjusting to our household (and we are adjusting to her) We also have six cats, none of whom were deliberately acquired.

Dyson looks similar to a mountain cur, and may very well be closely related. My brother-in-law, a mine inspector, came across a starving puppy that he assures us is a pure bred West Virginia brown dog.

Linda Rodriguez said...

KM, I know the Plott hound ancestor, a German mastiff-hound that was an ancestor of the Great Dane also, was crossbred with the Cherokee dog and its close ancestor the red wolf to create the Plott hound. So there are probably some ancestors in common with the West Virginia dog--red wolf, certainly.

Grace Topping said...

How sweet. I have so much admiration for people who rescue dogs from shelters. They bring such pleasure into your life. My daughters both have a dog, and we frequently keep them for a few days. We are happy to see them come, but glad to see them go home. One is a Rhodesian ridgeback, and the other a lab-pit bull blend.

Linda Rodriguez said...

I wouldn't want to be without my dog, whichever one it is at the time. Our Sharpei-Husky, Mina, that we had before Dyson was so wonderful--and all of the others before her, as well.

Jim Jackson said...

My step-kids adopted a Plott hound, who unfortunately had severe hip problems and lasted only four years. Sweet dog, who knew she wasn’t allowed on the couch, so would hitch one hip up, leaving three legs on the floor. “Legal,” her looks would say and challenge us to disagree. No one did.

Happy birthday to Dyson, and many more.

~ Jim

Linda Rodriguez said...

Jim, they are sweet dogs, but way too smart for their own good. Always testing, like your kids' dog. Hip problems are unusual for Plott hounds. So sorry to hear that. Dyson thanks you all for your birthday wishes.

Sharon Marchisello said...

Linda, Thanks so much for rescuing Dyson. I'm glad he has had such a rewarding impact on your life. We need more people to adopt animals from shelters, as thousands of potentially great pets are killed every day, simply because they don't have homes.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Yes, it breaks my heart that we don't have the space to adopt more and save them.