For 14 years I had a fishing companion that never complained, always let me fish the front of the boat, helped me catch every fish I caught and was always ready to go to the lake.
The following story about Merlin was first published in the Griffin Daily News in September, 1996. It won second place in the Georgia Outdoor Writers Association Excellence in Craft competition, Daily Newspaper Column, for that year. Another story about her will appear here on 12-29-97.
Merlin was a dog pound dog. Linda and I were visiting her parents in Maryland in 1974 and had been talking about getting a puppy. We dropped by the local dog pound just to get an idea of what was available. We left with what they told us was a 8 week old mixed breed St. Bernard.
Since we had to drive 750 miles back to Griffin the next day, we really did not plan on getting a dog in Maryland. The decision to take her was the beginning of 14 years of joy, sadness, fun and sharing. Everyone should have at least one dog in their lives that can become their constant companion.
Merlin was special from the start. While all the other puppies in the pens yapped and jumped around, she sat there and stared at us, like she was checking us out to see if we were worthy of her interest. For some reason, she looked smart.
That night we put her in a box by the bed. She slept the night through and did not bother us at all. We left the next morning and drove home in 15 hours, stopping about four times. Merlin slept in the floor of the car, getting out for a "break" when we did, and she never had an accident. She was completely housebroken within two weeks.
Merlin might seem to be a strange name for a female but Linda had been reading a book about the magician in King Arthur's court. Our Merlin really was a magician, putting a spell on our hearts, entertaining us constantly and conjuring up ways to get what she wanted.
It always lightened our day to return home after work and have her jump around, showing here excitement of having us with her again. Of course, it did not matter how long one of us had been gone, she would go wild even if we had just gone to town for a few minutes. It seemed she was trying to make up for our calm original meeting.
Merlin developed into a 40 pound brown and white ball of energy. No St. Bernard, she was mostly Border Collie. She was also very smart and adaptable.
The first time I took Merlin fishing, two days after we got back from Maryland, we went to Jackson. I remember two things about that trip. She was too small to get up on the casting platform with me so I helped her. From that day on she wanted to be right beside me when we were fishing alone or beside Linda when she was in the back of the boat.
The morning at Jackson was very foggy. Merlin had not been on the platform with me for more than a few minutes the first time when, while making a cast, I heard a splash near my feet. I looked down to see a nose sticking out of the water and two feet struggling to keep her on the surface. I quickly grabbed her and got her back in the boat. She shook off, walked right back to the edge of the platform and watched me fish. Her fall did not scare her at all.
On the way home later that day, I noticed her staring at me as I ate my cracker lunch. I gave Merlin a bite and started a bad habit. I ate very little for the next 14 years that she did not share. She had the great ability to sit staring at you while you ate until you gave in and gave her something. The look was much like the one she gave us the first time at the pound. It said she would consider sharing your food if you were nice to her.
Merlin loved fishing as much as I did. Even when old and unable to move very well, she demanded to go every time I went. The last time she fished with me, I again had to lift her in the boat and up on the platform, just like when she was a puppy. She could hardly move around but she let me know she was exactly where she wanted to be. Two days later, she could not get up off the floor and we had to put her to sleep.
Although she has been gone eight years, I still miss her. I have many wonderful memories of our times together. I am glad she shared them with me.
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