The Dog That Saved My Life, Or, Why I Love Dogs Better Than I Love You

The photo above is of a beautiful Australian Shepard. It is a photo I found through Google since there are no known photos of the actual dog you are going to read about if you continue to read this story.

I grew up in a very rural area in West Tennessee, known as Shiloh, not to be confused with the Shiloh Tennessee battleground area. An entire platoon of the National Guard once showed up on our doorstep thinking we were living on the Shiloh Battleground property, but that’s another story.

One day, when I was five years old, my mother and I were sitting on our small front porch, which faced the straight gravel road known as Shiloh Road. To the right of the way lay our garden. This road made a slight curve in our garden. Then, the road passed by the left side of our house and on toward actual civilization.

I have no recollection of what we were doing, or why we were sitting on the porch. It could have been for any number of reasons. I was an only child, and this was in 1966, so clearly I wasn’t engrossed in my smartphone. We may have been shelling green beans or talking. What I do recall is witnessing a dog walking toward us down the road.

Australian Shepherd dog running on Del Mar dog beach in California

My parents were not animal lovers, but we did have several outdoor cats. My folks were not fans of allowing an animal inside the house. They were children from the Great Depression and animals that didn’t feed you with their meat or eggs were luxuries. Those animals, if you had them, stayed outside.

This dog eventually made it near our house, and I ran to greet it. I recall my mother saying that she tried to hold me back because rabies was a common disease in animals in those days. She said I pulled away and ran to hug the dog. He had no collar. He was amiable. We had no idea what kind of dog he was since he had unusual markings. In our part of the world, hound dogs, mainly blue tick hounds, were famous for hunting. This dog was very different.

We, meaning my parents and me, tried to figure out where the origins of this. The nearest town from the direction of the road would have been Parsons, Tennessee which would have been more than a twenty-mile walk. My dad thought that most-likely, the dog had come from Interstate 40, the major highway which ran between us and Parsons, TN.

Perhaps the dog had been let out of a car to pee and had run away for some reason. We would never know. He was at our house now, and my parents allowed me to keep him. They even allowed Bullet to come inside the house. Looking back on it all these years, it surprises me.

This pup was black, white with a little brown. Around his neck, the coloring was white, with a bullet-shaped spot of black between his shoulder blades. I named him “Bullet.”

Bullet and I became best of friends; me having no siblings and growing up in a very rural area around people much older than me, even my parents. My father was 40 when I was born. I didn’t have human playmates; I only had my best friend, “Bullet.”

Now the dates are about to get fuzzy, and I can only state that what I’m about to tell you did happen, I can’t remember exactly when. I decided to go outside and play. It was dusk, and I was allowed to be out at least until dark. Suddenly Bullet began to bark as I opened the screen door. We had a window air unit, and unless it was scorching, we kept the front door open, and the screen door closed to keep out bugs.

As I opened the screen door, Bullet began to growl and pace back and forth, something he never usually did. I managed to get the door open and get past him, but he stepped in front of me and blocked my way. Bullet would not allow me to step off the front porch. He turned his body sideways and pushed me back toward the door. (My parents recounted this story, and that is why I recall it so well.)

Bullet and I went back inside. Minutes later, a pickup truck with several men quickly pulls into our driveway. The men exited the truck and came to the door. My father comes to the door, and the men explain that they are tracking a rabid fox and we should not leave the house. Immediately afterward, the men began to fire at something in our garden.

The rabid fox was hiding in our garden, yards away from our front door. The men killed it and had its body onto the back of their truck. Rabies is a viral disease that causes inflammation in the brain of humans and mammals. It can be treated but sometimes fatal. The treatments for it are excruciating. The outdoor cats we owned had to be euthanized after the incident because the fox may have drunk from their outside water bowls.

Dear old Bullet lived until I was sixteen. I found Bullet lying peacefully in some tall grass on my grandparent’s farm. I still remember running home, crying that he had passed away. Forty-Two years later, and I can again see him there. Forty-two years.

Therefore, my dog, my best friend at the time, Bullet, may have saved my life. I have henceforth, held a strong bond with each dog we’ve been fortunate enough to own. I encourage you that if you are considering getting a pet, to rescue one. I certainly want another Australian Shepard like Bullet, but he was a breed that you won’t find at a shelter. Instead, we opt to rescue ours, they may not be purebred, they may not fit your “vision” exactly, but they deserve a chance to live, and they will appreciate you all the more for saving their lives. Who knows, they may one day save yours?

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