In 1989 my family and I adopted this adorable puppy that I named Spunky. It was love at first sight for me. I was 2 going on 3 and seeing him for the first time is one of my first memories. Looking up at all the puppies in the pens at the Humane Society and seeing his little fluff ball self, so eager to meet his forever family.
So why would a little girl name a boy dog Spunky you ask? Well because a horse is a horse of course! He was named after a horse in the Shirley Temple movie Curly Top (1935) that I loved. My brother, around 5 at the time, agreed and thus Spunky was named. It wasn’t ever weird to us, but when I would tell people about our dog Spunky, they would laugh and ask why we named a male dog that. After explaining about the movie, they would always look at me blankly and say, “Oh.”
Spunky was that true once in a lifetime dog that comes along and shows you what true loyalty and friendship means. He was my protector and best friend for over 15 years. He died a few months after my senior pictures were taken, in which he prominently appeared.
My Spunky Doodle Dog
We adopted him from the Humane Society the day my mom graduated from nursing school with her LPN. She had promised us that we could have a dog when she graduated from school and my dad drove us there right after her pinning ceremony since it was right down the road. Let’s be totally honest here; Dad wanted a dog just as much as my brother and I did, so it wasn’t hard for him to take the leap that day.
As I already mentioned, seeing and holding Spunky for the first time is my first memory. My mom thinks I’m lying, but I know I’m not. I looked up at Dad and he asked if that was the one? The volunteer pulled him out of the little kennel he was in, and Dad looked down at me smiling with an adorable white puffy ball in his arms. Cheesing from ear to ear he bent down and handed me the puppy. I remember the excitement being more than I was able to express and just squealing and hugging him tight. This is a reaction I’m still known for to this day, lol!
I don’t remember much after this because he was just part of the family and my everyday life. In those early years he would run and play with us and always went to visit my Grammy P. because she loved him too.
When I was a little older Spunky would go on walks with me through the woods or down the road. He would do circles around me, up to a quarter mile in any direction, to ensure that I was safe and nothing messed with his girl. In the winters we would curl up together on the in-floor register vent between the kitchen and dinning room, me in my footy jammies and him eager to love. We spent more nights than I can count covering up the register with a blanket and snuggling in for the night together.
My mom and dad like to remind me that I never ate without sharing with Spunky. If I had a glass of milk, Spunky got to have at least a couple puppy swigs of it. If I had dinner, Spunky got some of everything, but a lot of the veggies. I say his healthy diet from me sharing with him is what helped him live so long, haha!
When we would work in the garden in the Summer, Spunky was in tow, making sure my brother and I didn’t wander off. He made sure we were safe from snakes hiding in the brush and raccoons and the like that hid in the clear dark Summer nights. During the blistering hot mid-Summer heat, he would bark at me until I would join him in the creek for a quick mid-day dip to cool off. If you didn’t follow him, he would go dunk himself and then come 100 yards across the garden to shake off onto you. He had a great sense of humor like that.
In the Fall, he would help me out by pulling a bushel of beans or tomatoes when I hooked it up to him. He would keep the deer and other critters out of the garden. Constantly on the prowl for something to test him and his security zone he was tasked with maintaining.
Spunky and the Beaver
When Spunky was 14-years-old, a family of beavers had moved in and flooded our back garden area. When I was hanging clothes on the line to dry in the back yard, he suddenly bolted to the entrance to the beaver pond. Dad was working in the garden and I was in my bare feet, as usual. The next thing I knew, a white terror popped up from the water growling and biting at a large brown fury thing. I realized he was fighting a large beaver. I yelled for my dad and told him what was going on. He ran to get his gun, because beaver are vicious creatures that can literally bite a human arm or leg OFF. Dad ran down with his gun and was able to get Spunky to distance himself just enough to shoot the beaver that he had already critically injured. Dad helped Spunky drag it out of the water and Spunky collapsed from exhaustion. Dad let him have “the kill” and he was the proudest dog you’ve ever seen in your life. It turned out that the beaver had hissed at me without me realizing it, and Spunky, being ever vigilante of his oblivious girl, was on that thing faster than you could blink. This was also the day we realized how old he was really getting, and I will forever remember this act of an old dog as the standard for anyone’s loyalty, human or animal.
Wolf Dog of the North
My dad has always loved stories like White Fang and others where a wolf dog saves the day. Because of this, he quickly gave Spunky the nickname Wolf Dog of the North. A fitting nickname for a Shepherd/Husky mix I would say.
Spunky, The Great Wolf Dog of the North was pure snow white with the large Shepherd black spot on his back. Because of the husky in him he loved to be in the cold and snow. He would run around like a crazy dog every time it snowed, digging his nose down in and flinging it around while spinning with joy. On the really cold days he would dig a spot in the snow and hunker down like the sled dogs do. It was actually really hard to get him to come in from the winter weather because he loved it so much.
I thought of him during the last snow fall, looking at Tootsie going crazy in the fluffy falling snow. It warms my heart and swells it with with affection every time I see Tootsie and Charlie because the two of them remind me so much of Spunky. It’s amazing how much of an impact good dogs can have on your life.
My memories of Spunky are far too many to share in just one post, and I know that my dad will point out ones I left out, but the memories I have with my wolf dog still help to keep me warm through the long winter nights. As the thaw of spring approaches, I’m happy to have wolf dogs in my den again. They keep me honest and remind me of the dog that taught me how to treat an animal with love and respect so that I am now able to help them live better lives.
I watched Togo for the first time a couple of weeks ago on Disney+ and the last line of the movie hit like a freight train and I immediately burst into tears thinking about Spunky while cuddling Tootsie and Charlie. The line is, “…if you’re around them long enough, they tend to get under your skin: and if you’re lucky enough to have known a great one they never really leave. They stay with you as long as you live. Harnessed to your heart, giving their all…Always.”
a more true statement has never been made in my opinion. Every dog we have had the pleasure of having in our family has left an impact on us, but none as profound as Spunky, the Wolf Dog of the North.
He lives in our hearts everyday; reminding us to be the people he knew us to be. Reminding us what true unconditional love and loyalty is. Reminding us that there is always time for a quick belly rub (or whatever you enjoy). Always reminding us that even though we are getting old and our bodies hurt, there is always one more fight in us to protect the ones we love.