Half Full/Mark Wilcox

In the chronology of things 13 years really isn’t that long of a period of time. But I remember when we were bringing our new puppy home, thinking “If we keep him healthy and happy, by the time we say ‘goodbye’ our kids will be grown and on their own.” It was an abstract concept at the time. Our oldest, Julianne, had just become a teenager and Marshall was in the second grade. Well, time marches on, as it always does, and Julianne has given us three beautiful grandchildren and Marshall is a junior at Michigan Tech. Yep, they’re all grown up. And last month we said goodbye to Kipper.

Let me go back a bit. After more than four years of marriage and more than a little persuasion (okay, begging and whining) on the part of the kids in the family (Julianne, Marshall and myself) the decision was made to get a dog. We decided on a toy poodle. Marshall came up with the name Kipper, after a dog in a series of books and TV shows. Although Maryann and I hadn’t heard of that Kipper, we agreed because, well, he looked like a Kipper. When I called Marshall last month to let him know his old friend was gone, he was quiet for a moment and said. “You couldn’t have asked for a better dog.”

As far as pets go, Kipper was a dream come true. Always up for a walk, pretty even tempered and very easy to train. He pretty much stayed in the yard, even untethered, and on those occasions when he wandered across the street he immediately came when called. A trait that nearly got him killed one summer afternoon. I was at the grill fixing supper when I noticed him across the street in the neighbor’s yard. I called him and he immediately came running to me right into the path of an oncoming car. It was just a bit of a bump, just enough to scare him, me and the Tech student driving the car. In fact the young man was so concerned he called us to make sure Kipper was OK. That was one of Kipper’s traits. He seemed to bring out the best in people and in other dogs. I know this sounds weird, but other dogs really liked him. Several folks would stop by while walking their pets just so their dogs could “say hello” to Kipper. In fact, one neighbor would always come to our house first when his dog went missing, because the dog loved Kipper. We’ve got so many fond memories of Kipper, but perhaps no image is stronger than of him running through fields. He loved to run. We’d take him to Maryann’s dad’s place and he would be so happy just running in the wide open spaces.

My fondest memory was camping in Stoughton, Wis. about ten years ago. The campground was on the grounds of a former orphanage with a huge field and a small pond. Each morning Kipper would run across the field to chase the birds resting on the pond. It’s the closest he came to a hunting experience.

Like all pets, Kipper was not without his “Bad Dog” moments.

He was a chewer and over the years ruined a tent, several pairs of shoes, a fur hat and while left alone in our van chewed right through several seat belts, which cost hundreds of dollars to replace. He also locked himself in a car (along with my set of keys) and forced us to delay the start of a fancy holiday dinner while we, and our guests, scoured the neighborhood when he ran away a couple of days before Christmas. The ache we felt in our hearts, proved to me he truly had become a member of the family.

Yes, he could be a challenge, and there were times I questioned the sanity of getting a pet. But the truth be told, I’d gladly pay for another set of seat belts just to watch him chase those birds one more time.

Editor’s note:?Mark Wilcox is the Managing Editor of The Daily Mining Gazette.