A loveable mutt with no patience for life at home
She had been missing for three days. We had put a reward notice with a photograph and dollar signs in the window of the nearest store, seven miles away across open fields and swampy woods. The local farmers, tractor drivers, and crop-duster pilots had all been alerted to look out for a burly German shepherd/Lab/hound mix with outsize ears, belonging to the Englishman and his wife in Dr. Foose’s old house.
Most of them already knew Savanna. They had seen her charging after their pickup trucks, or trotting along the one paved road in this remote corner of the Mississippi Delta. On several occasions, they had seen me, or my wife, Mariah, driving up and down the levees and calling out her name in vain. Savanna was fairly obedient at close quarters by then, but she’s always had a deep aversion to coming when called, even when I tried walking her with roast chicken tied to my belt. She has her sweet, soppy, affectionate side and takes her guarding responsibilities seriously, but she’s a rebel and a runaway at heart, a scrapper and a bruiser. We probably should have named her Big Sue.
We had given her up for dead a few times before, only to spot her in the distance limping home after another wild adventure in the woods. She would come into the kitchen panting like a freight train, covered in mud, often reeking of the rotten carcasses she had rolled in. That was her idea of a good night out. It wasn’t fun unless it incurred a vet bill. Sooner or later, we told ourselves, she was going to disappear for good, and we would never know what killed her. This felt like that time. We kept driving around and looking for her, but I was now checking the sky for circling vultures.
There were so many ways for a dog to die out here: alligators, wild hogs, coyotes, water moccasins, even a buck, or a boar raccoon. The way she chased vehicles was painful to watch, because she would snap at the wheels, but it seemed too cruel to keep her penned up. We had agonized back and forth on this question. No one else who lived out here kept their dogs penned, or walked them on the leash. It was a culture of loose country dogs who came in at night, and we had reluctantly let Savanna join it. We worried constantly about her safety, but we’d never seen her so happy and fulfilled. She loved the freedom to run, chase, and hunt more than anything else.
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