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In Memory of Dudley

By Barth Weistart

His name was Dudley MacArthur Weistart. He arrived at our house as an 8 inch long bundle of white fur. Little did we know this white fur was also devilish, energetic, proud, spoiled, conniving, vengeful, playful, and loving. In fact he so bedraggled us that after a few months we took him back to the breeder who kept him for a week and then returned him to us. Dudley was ours!

Dudley was a West Highland Terrier or "Westie". He was going to be kept in the laundry room and outside; then in the kitchen area on the tile floor; then the family room; then any place in the house except on the beds; then anyplace he wanted at least until the children left home. I remember the day I came home from work and sat down on the couch to find out that one daughter had taught Dudley a new trick. A blazing snow ball came flying across the living room through the family room door and half way across the floor went airborne to land on the couch. I bolted into a sitting position afraid I was being attack. There stood Dudley wagging his tail with a grin on his face. The couch was 4 to 5 times taller than he and without the flying leap he would never have made it. There were many leaps after that. Often Dudley would aim at ones chest whether or not you were reading a paper or magazine. Surprise!

He could be extremely friendly and at other times ignore every one around. Dud would greet maybe six people with a kiss. One was my brother who is now dead, another was my daughter Mara, and two days before he died he kissed Mara's two year old son Patrick. Others he would greet with a smiling face and let them pet him. Most often when we were walking and met a group of people several might want to pet him. He would ignore them for the most part but might pick out one person to be friendly with. My relationship with Dud was unique. He wouldn't try to kiss me but after a long walk or while taking a break from a project I'd be working on I would feel him come up and lick the back of my hand. Of course he would get his ears scratched for such a gesture. A couple years ago, I was walking with Dudley and we met a couple with their dog. Dud went up to the other dog and nudged it with his nose. He let the other dog rub up against him and explore his face with his nose. The other man asked if I knew what Dudley was doing. I replied that Dudley would not hurt his dog. The man explained that they had picked a blind puppy because they knew no one else would want him and Dudley was the first dog he had seen that had been so kind to his dog. Dud apparently knew the dog was blind and wanted to offer support. The man was crying as we walked away.

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At meal time he would revert to some primordial state. He wanted to be challenged for his food. If no one was around, he would seek someone out. With several feigned runs to his dog dish, you knew what he wanted. Just a little nudge with you foot as he approached he dish would do it. Dudley would snarl and make deep barks as though he was being challenged for the kill of the day. (Luckily we never won the prize in the dish). After his meal, he would return to his duties of the day with a smile on his face. My daughter reminded me how Dudley always insisted on sleeping on her pillow and not at the foot of the bed. Oh yes. When they first went to bed he was at his assigned space at the foot of the bed; but, once Mara was asleep guess who made his move to the pillow. Stare down was another tactic to get what he wanted. To most members of the family he would sit and stare until his demands were met. Several would take up the challenge of his stare and stare back. He seemed to know what was going on and would not blink. If one or the other blinked the contest was over and Dudley knew it. He didn't treat me the same. He would avoid looking into my eyes. Several times I tried to get him in a stare down and he bared his teeth to let me know he wanted no part of my game. I always felt since I started his engine at meal time and we had many adventures together, he considered me more as part of the pack he led.

One incident we could never figure out happened when no one was around. One of my daughters heard a whimpering in the kitchen. She went to investigate and found Dudley hanging by his front paws from a pull down lamp over the kitchen table. His bottom feet were several inches above the table. First, he was never allowed on the kitchen table. Everyone in the house agreed. Second, a leap to the kitchen chair and then onto the table was a major feat in itself for such a small dog. But there he was holding on for dear life. We never figured out the purpose of his feat. I can only guess that he grabbed hold of the light and gave a push with is hind legs. The light must have retracted and locked into a higher position with Dudley still hanging on.

Dudley was called by several deviations of his name as: Dudley, Dud, Dud The Stud, Dudley Dog, and most popular Dudley Do right. He was a car dog. If a car or truck door was open, he thought if was meant for him to get in. It didn't matter whose vehicle. Stranger or friend he was ready to go. It wasn't that Dudley didn't travel. He traveled most of Arizona, was in California, and his favorite- Mexico. By the time we reached the edge of town, he seemed to realize we were not heading for the mountains and he would settle down for a little nap. After crossing the border, he knew where we were going. He would stand on his hind legs looking at the passing country. A little smile seemed to appear on his face.

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When we reached the condominiums we would be staying at he first checked out the surrounding area from the edge of the elevated parking lot. Then he made a dash for the condominium we would stay in. He got it right every time. We spent a good part of the day walking the beaches. One could walk several miles with seeing few other people and they were generally North Americans or Europeans. Dudley had to smell everything- the dead pelicans wash up on the beach, fish ,crabs and other unidentified masses. He would lag behind as we walked away from the condos but would take the lead as we headed back home. If I was late to start the walk he would remind me it was time by sitting in front of me staring up as if to say I'm, ready if you are. He was good company on these trips and walks and I appreciated him.

We probably spent the most time together at Haigler Creek in northern Arizona. On one of our first visits, he became high country savvy in short order. A herd of javelins had decided to inspect our back yard. I took Dudley outside to see them but he decided to make friends. He started after one and ignored my calls to return to the porch. Two others started circling in behind him. They thought they had caught a predator. A final loud yell from me turned Dudley around. He sized up the situation immediately. His face was locked in terror as he headed back to the porch. With 4 to 5 inches to spare he cleared the ambush. His attackers were in full pursuit. Back on the porch he was shaking. I picked him up and held him for a time. He seemed grateful. Ever after when he went outside he would first sniff the air for javelina smell. Caution became his by word.

When we went for walks in the forest he wanted to be in charge. He would led. I usually carried water but he refused to drink until we reached a stream or cattle watering tank. I never quite figured out why. I would even drink first just to show him the water was not poisoned. In later years, he was more accepting of water. We all mellow as we get older and find out we are not as "in charge" as we thought we were.

In the last couple of years Dudley was obviously having heart problems. His vet checked him several times during this period but said he was in good shape. It was probably better not to know his true condition because there wouldn't have been much we could have done. Heart problems run in our family and Dudley was probably so integrated into the family that he to inherited the condition. Dudley was a good companion and I feel very honored to have known him..