This job NEVER gets old! This week I met a genu-wine Florida Cracker pooch named Sug (as in “sug-ar”) Gunter. She’s a super pretty Catahoula Leopard dog who works at the Indian River Farms Water Management District office with her Dad, David, who’s The Boss.
It was already burnin’ daylight, but still early, when me and my assistant got to Sug’s office, out in the boonies, and she’d already been workin’ for a while. The nice receptionist, Debbie, led us back to where Sug was, a big kinda garage with a bunch of machines. Sug gave a coupla friendly woofs (nice alto voice) to let us know she was In Charge, then came up for the Wag and Sniff.
“Hey there, Bonzo, honey. I’m Sug Gunter. This here’s my Daddy, David. And this’s my buddy, Tim. He works here, too. You met Debbie, right? My Momma’s Alice. She’s home.”
“Pleased to meet you Miss Sug,” I said. Her short coat was all white ‘cept for her dark brown face and ears. And showin’ though her hair were lotsa dark polka-dots (like leopard spots) all over her pink skin. She had a white blaze, black mouth, brown eyes with ice blue around the edges, and the cutest half-bobtail.
We went into her office, and Sug settled into her daybed. “You’re a Florida native, I hear,” I said.
“Yessiree. My Forever Daddy had met my pooch Mom’s sister, Aunt Scout. She was a cur dog, and he liked her right away. So when Daddy heard my pooch Mom and Dad – a cur and a Catahoula Leopard, living on a ranch up near Claremont – were expecting puppies, he said, ‘I Want One!’ So him an Momma went up and picked ME outta the litter. I rode back home with ‘em. That was in February 2013, and I’ve been ridin’ with Daddy every day since.”
“Sounds like an exciting life,” I said.
“I reckon it is. Wouldn’t trade it for nothin’! Me and Daddy usta go huntin’ out on the lease. He taught me trackin’! I hadda wear a harness. When Daddy put it on me, I knew we were going to work. Then he’d clip on this 25-foot-long static line, so he could keep track o’ me but not have to get drug through a lotta underbrush. I learned how to trail a scent like you wouldn’t buh-LIEVE, and I never got tricked by a false trail. I can follow a scent for half uh mile cuz I have an outstanding nose and Super Pooch hearing! Daddy even used me to teach other humans about tracking. We’d go out on the lease and I’d git to RUN! I LOVED it!! Now I’m consumed with squirrels. They like tuh aggravate the spots right off me, but now I got them little critters figgered out. I go into my Cat Creep and park myself right by the bird feeder so they can’t get at it. Drives ‘em nuts!”
“Of uh mornin’, I’m out in the compound, makin’ sure the guys get goin’ on their equipment, with No Loiterin’. And I ride shotgun in the truck with Daddy. We Check Stuff Out. I got my own travel crate (got one at home, too). With camo covers. When there’s just me and Debbie in the office, if I detect a sound or smell that don’t seem right, I make a pretty good racket. I can sound real scary, too! Bad guys do NOT wanna mess with THIS pooch.”
“No Woof!” I exclaimed. “So, you’re the Water Control District Official Mascot, right?”
“Yup! I’m also Daddy’s Official BS Detector. Soon as I detect any Bogus Stuff, I go right up to the person and just stare.”
“Bogus Stuff. Of COURSE.” I managed.
“Daddy says it’s ‘specially helpful when we’re in important meetings with LAW-yers.”
“I SEE,” I replied, skillfully changing the subject. “Whaddya do when you’re off work?”
“Play with my human niece and nephew, Lily an Tripp. Play in the sprinkler! An we got this ol’ stray cat out here, Rusty. Him and me do lotsa chasin’ around. I’ll zoom up and swoosh the feet right out from under him and he goes a’flyin’. Then he’ll go to hissin’ at me. So I give him a big ol’ bark. Yep, good ol’ Rusty. I usta play Frisbee with Daddy. I’d jump way high to catch it. But I blew out my ACL and hadda have surgery. I was on leash rehab for 3 months. Like to drove me and Daddy crazy. So no more Frisbee.”
“Soggy Dog Biscuits!”
“Mostly I just wanna be with Daddy. If he hasta leave me in the office, I give him the Stink Eye. But when he’s workin’ on the welder or somethin’, it gets real loud and there’s sparks a’flyin’, so I go outside. If the door shuts, I go around to the front and look in the window so’s Debbie’ll let me back in.”
“How do you keep your coat shiny?”
“Well, sometimes I get a hankerin’ to roll in something, you know? Then go share it with Daddy. So pretty quick he hoses me off on the patio. I used to shower inside, till Momma remodeled.”
“Any favorite foods?”
“I got ALLERgies, so I get special kibbles. I can always go fer a nice carrot or some chicken jerky. Or crunchy ice. Throw some ice in my dish, I’m good all afternoon. Then, at 9 p.m., Daddy’s snoring in fronta the TV: I wake him up, he gets my treat, and I curl up in my good ol’ crate, my safe zone. I never get scolded when I’m in my crate.”
Dog, the time went by fast. Heading home, I was wonderin’ what it’d be like to track something like Sug does. I dunno know if I’d have enough concentration.
Unless it was pizza. Yeah, I’m pretty sure I could track a nice pepperoni pizza.