It was a red letter day in my life when I found a lost dog on Pennsylvania Avenue and he followed me home. We never could trace Pepper’s original owner and he bonded with me almost immediately. (I named him “Pepper” because his white forelegs were “peppered” with black spots and because he was by nature full of PEP.)
Blocky of build, his body was white and his head black. His left ear loped over and his right ear stood up straight. His tail curled up and rested on his back. His legs were medium short and I would judge him to be about the size of a Chow or perhaps a Springer Spaniel.
I have never known a more intelligent or merrier dog. Teaching him the basics of canine obedience, he quickly mastered and eagerly practiced in all situations. At the proper signal or command Pepper would “come”, “stay” “heel” or “hi-out”. He readily learned tricks that were fun for him and entertaining for our family and friends. He rolled over, played dead, jumped through my arms (or over a stick), and sat up on his hind legs wherever you pointed him to and for as long as you required. While he was sitting up, he would take a cookie or a piece of meat in his mouth and hold it until I gave him the word to “take it”.
I can’t imagine a dog with a better disposition than Pepper but when he was hunting game he became a creature of passion and fury. I’ve never known an animal as fearless, no matter the size of his adversary.
An amusing episode with Pepper and a ‘possum comes to mind. I was skiing on the hillside near the stone quarry at the head of Pennsylvania Avenue when Pepper started barking furiously in the gully at the foot of the hill. continued skiing and Pepper kept on barking until I looked down the hill to see him dragging a bucket by the bale up the hill toward me. Examining the bucket, I discovered the opening was crushed in so that my dog could not get his mouth into it but, to my surprise, a small ‘possum was lying in leaves in the bottom of the bucket.
In 1928 Dad and brother Brady bought a thirty acre farm five miles from Sutton on Bug Ridge. I took Pepper to the farm with me that summer and he stayed there with Dad for the rest of his life. Pepper really earned his keep on the farm, hunting down and catching the weasels that killed numbers of Dad’s Rhode Island Red chickens.
One day when Dad and I had been grubbing brush and started to the house for supper I looked down at Pepper and saw that his head was badly swollen. My first thought was that he had been stung by bees, but when Dad looked at him he said, “he’s been bitten by a copperhead snake”. Then I remembered seeing my dog yip and jump back from a rock pile. When we pulled the rocks off of the pile the snake popped out and Dad killed it with his mattock. Pepper had been bitten in the mouth and after we gave him all the milk he would drink, he laid down on the porch and seemed to be unconscious, not moving a muscle, for two days. I was deeply troubled, fearing my wonderful dog would die. After two days Pepper began recovering and was soon back to normal.
It was right Pepper should live out his life on the farm with my Dad. it was a joy for me to spend several summers with my father and my dog. Dad lived alone walking many miles in all kinds of weather to teach in the West Virginia hill schools. Pepper was his constant companion, going to school with him where he was loved by the children.
Dad wrote of Pepper, in his autobiography. “With all due respect to other dogs I ever owned and all dogs owned by anyone else, to my mind Pepper stood head and shoulders above all of them. I declare, of all dogs I ever knew, he was prince of them all.” I can only wish that all who read this have been, or will be, blessed by friendship with a happy, loyal, trusting dog.