Last of the First Ones
I still vividly remember the first time I saw Emma.
It was the day before moving to our new farm in
Emmitsburg. As Audrey climbed out of the car, this
little grayish fuzzball bounced out behind.
come" had no effect on her at all as she was too
focused on exploring her new surroundings. "Emma,
Steps" had even
less impact. The steps
stopped Emma cold. As I watched, Audrey
gently reached down to pick her up. The
expression on Audrey’s face as she ascended with the
wiggling package said it all. While officially Emma was
to be ‘‘Our’’ dog, in reality, Emma already was
Audrey had no sooner
put Emma down on the floor, then she took off after
Tony, one of Audrey’s cats. While her intentions were
clearly to play, Tony, still recovering from the shock
of having to share his home with PJ, was in no
mood to play with a
bouncing puppy, quickly making this fact clear to Emma
in a way only an experienced barn cat can. Willy on the
other hand, simply hid, and PJ shifted his allegiance to
my brother Bill.
To a puppy, the world
is both an exciting as well as scary place, the latter
more so when it is alone at
night for the first time. Being un-house broken, that
evening we placed Emma in the kitchen surrounded by a
‘‘wall’’ of packed boxes. We had no sooner
turned off the lights then she began to emit a low,
mournful howl. The howl soon became a bark, and while we
did our best to ignore it, it soon became apparent that
something would have to be done, least we wake the whole
In hopes of soothing
her plight, we roused PJ from deep sleep and placed him
by her side. If ever there was a look that could kill,
PJ gave it to me that night. It was bad enough that
Audrey had taken his place next to me on the bed, but to
have to spend the night with a whining puppy
was asking too much. Unfortunately, PJ wanting nothing
of the new dog, made short work of the cage, and, before
either of us knew it, they both escaped. Eventually,
Emma quieted, and in spite of PJ unwillingness, the two
bonded and were soon inseparable.
While the Huskey part
of Emma made
house training a tad bit difficult, it was teething that
tried everyone to the very limits of civility. Shoes of
every sort and size fell victim to her appetite to chew
all in sight. Returning home late one night she greeted
us with delight, proud to show us her night’s work.
Having managed to grab a piece of the entrance hall’s
linoleum flooring, she had pulled and pulled till the
flooring lay all about. Having long hated the floor, we
didn’t make much of it, and the next day, finished
removing what she had left.
After pain staking
replacing the tile with a pattern of our
choice, we headed out to dinner to celebrate our
success. On our return home that evening, Emma greeted
us sitting among the remains of the new floor. We were
not amused. Emma received her first sentence to the
boiler room, a.k.a. ‘‘the bad dog box’’,
a spot she came to know only too well.
When old enough to
understand commands, Audrey enrolled her in dog
obedience. As a result of those classes, a bond was soon
created that wherever Audrey would go, Emma was sure to
follow. With each passing class, the adoration for each
other grew and grew. By the time they mastered agility,
they had grown so close together that it was hard
Audrey having ever been without her.
German Shepard/Husky cross, Emma had the looks of a
Shepard, but had the mannerism of a husky. A watchful
dog, Emma was always on patrol for any incursions into
her territory by man or beast. Her appearance and her
bark always put strangers at bay.
But for those that she
knew, the greeting was sure, capped off by a happy
circle or two. At night, she was always attuned to any
sound outside, and was quick to alert us of any
irregularities. While the occasional false alarms gave
me a few gray hairs, we always slept soundly, knowing
she was on guard.
While happy on the
farm, Emma lived to ride in the truck. No matter where
on the farm she might be, "Emma, Truck!" was
sure to bring her running. She would bound into the
truck and sit tall in the seat, as if to insure not to
miss anything. As it moved down
the road, her ears were always up, and her eyes on
The cry ‘‘Emma!
Momma Dog!’’ was the highlight of every trip. ‘‘Momma
Dog’’ was a mangy old mutt that would chase our
truck as we drove by her house. The thought of ‘‘Momma
Dog’’ running alongside the truck always brought
about a barking fit that would continue ‘‘til long
after Momma dog had disappeared in the rear view mirror.
Arriving back home, Emma would bound out of the truck
and lay about lazily until the next time "Emma!
Truck!" was shouted out.
Emma always joined
Audrey for her quick trips into town, and the sight of
Emma sitting upright in the seat next to her soon became
Audrey’s trademark. One day, while cashing a check, I
was surprised not to be asked for any identification.
When I inquired why, the teller laughed, and said
"I don’t know you, but I do recognize Emma, and
that’s good enough for me."
Every dog has its
special time, and for Emma, it was the filling of the
horse’s water buckets. The first drops of water would
no sooner leave the hose then Emma would bound out of
nowhere and race to your side. Standing on her rear
legs, she stared unforgivingly at you with her
expressive brown eyes for the belly scratches she knew
would come. No one could refuse her, no matter how hard
One always started with
her belly and worked slowly up her side. The end of each
bucket was signaled with a thump to her side and with it
she move quickly to the next stall, to resume where we
had left off. Try as they might, she always defended her
right, and never allowed PJ and Charlie to share in her
Emma above all, was a
curious dog. Her eyes and her eyebrows spoke a language
all their own, serving as windows to her soul. When
something of interest caught her attention, she would
watch it for hours, as if studying its intentions. When
puzzled, her head tilted, just ever so slightly. When
happy she grinned and showed all a broad smile.
of her obedience training, or for some other reason,
every command or call to Emma was always proceeded by an
‘‘Emma!" It wasn’t ‘‘Truck!’’, but
‘‘Emma! Truck!’’ It wasn’t ‘‘Jump!’’,
but ‘‘Emma! Jump!’’ She relished in having her
name called, and produced a smile even years after her
death, I can still recall.
Being a longhaired dog,
winter was Emma’s love. A thick undercoat of down
assured her warmth in even the coldest of spells. The
deeper the snow, the harder she played. Like a Husky,
she would bound through the deepest snow. She though
nothing of rolling over and over in it, nor burying her
nose deep into it. When fatigue overtook her, she would
curl into a bowl with her tail over her nose and sleep
till awakened for more play or adventure.
As you might expect,
summer had the opposite effect. From late morning to
early afternoon, she would seek out the protection of
shade on the side of the barn, and nap the heat of the
Charmer before her, Emma left us too quickly. Having
sought out the coolness of the ground beneath the
trailer one hot summer day, she was unable to escape
from beneath it as it was pulled suddenly forward.
Realizing something was wrong, I jumped out of the truck
and caught Emma slinking off
into the barn. The expression on her face told me
something was dreadfully wrong.
She was rushed to the
hospital where she was quickly examined. The severity of
her injuries caused her to be moved to an intensive
care vet hospital. At first things look good, and she
looked like she would pull through, but in spite of
their best efforts, as the hours ticked by, the injury
took its toll, and soon the call we feared most came
from the vet. "Emma's Crashed, we have to go
now!" is all that Audrey would, and could say. Her
eyes were swollen with tears.
We could not reach her
in time, and she passed away before
we arrived at the hospital, tearing a whole in our
souls. She was only 7, and in the prime of her young
That evening as all the
animals gathered about, we laid her to rest in the spot
she had always chosen to rest.
Like Charmer before
her, the closing of Emma’s chapter in our lives opened
a chapter for another, and that someone was Kess. Had
the two know each other, they would have been
When our twilight years
finally do come, we will remember that both loved to run
and play, and both sought and give affection without
end. But most important of all, both adored Audrey to no
end, and she adored them.
"Farewell, Master, Yet not
Where I go, ye too shall dwell
I am gone, before your face,
A moment's time, a little space.
When ye come where I have stepped
Ye will wonder why ye wept."
1: Charmer's Story
Part 3: Willie's Story
Part 4: Tony's Story
Part 5: PJ's Story
other stories by Michael Hillman