Gig Line: A man and woman’s best friend

Published 1:08 pm Sunday, August 30, 2020

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Not long after my sweetie pie Billy and I got married in 1968, he wanted to get a dog. At the time Billy was a Dare County deputy sheriff and he knew someone who was moving who had secured a home that disallowed pets. The family loved their dog, a German Shepherd named Baby and, while they hated to part with their furry family member, the choice was clear: forfeit the house they wanted or find someone who loved dogs as much as they did. That was Billy.

Now, just being honest, dogs were not my thing . . . back then. I was 17 years old when we got married and I liked dogs, but having been confronted by a vicious boxer as a child, I could take ’em or leave ’em, however the thought that it would make Billy happy was enough for me. Billy had asked my opinion – that was my thoughtful husband, always respectful and considerate as my “other half.” Baby came to our house soon and Billy was thrilled, she was a pretty dog; very friendly, but protective by nature.

One night after my Mama and Daddy had had a disagreement – no, a huge but rare argument – she same over to visit us. At the time, we owned a new mobile home that we had established on the back lot of my parents’ property across from Manteo Elementary School. Mama was in tears and the disagreement, though intense, was silly but nonetheless upsetting to her.

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Well, Baby was used to being outside when we got her and therefore slept under our front deck. Suddenly, we heard someone holler and spit expletives out that I cannot share. It was Daddy who had come over in the dark unannounced to see if he could hear Mama’s take on the argument from our opened living room window, however, Baby had sprung into action and lurched at Daddy, which scared the pee out of him and in the process, she had nipped him in the posterior (not hurting anything but his pride), ripping a hole in his favorite khaki pants.

Of course, we all ran out to investigate the commotion and saw Daddy standing there furious and embarrassed. Baby had revealed his sneakiness. Result? He was mad enough to feel that while our mobile home rested on his land, “No more dogs!” Now I know that sounds mean and at the time we were upset that he had taken the reaction and unexpected encounter so seriously, but it had truly scared him and what it if had been a child? And they had been hurt?

Reluctantly, Billy talked to someone who had several acres of land at their home and the perfect place for a big dog to run and play and be happy, so Baby was adopted again. The last we heard, she was healthy, happy, a best friend to the family’s kids and all was well.

As a couple, that was the first of many dog ownerships through the almost 50 years together, having accepted a St. Bernard that a friend who could no longer keep that we thought was just fluffy and healthy, turned out to be pregnant with 13 puppies that were born under house front porch one night – SUR-PRIZE! They were not full-blooded, regardless, we still managed to find good homes for each one, which was a blessing. Beyond that, we embraced our furry friends, one by one, loving the heck out of them and with each one my sweet Billy relished in playing with, bathing, feeding and taking them to the vet all the while as proud as if they were celebrated show dogs. Our dachshunds, English bulldog, Shih Tzu, American bulldog, Shar Pei (wrinkle dogs) and lastly our precious little Pepper.

Pepper was born a “Wancheser” on May 13, 2014, a precious little full-blooded registered Yorkie. She was to be a surprise to my sweetie pie Billy as a Father’s Day gift, having no intention to tell him until then. But I knew while Billy tended to love the bigger dogs, he’d probably love her too, and I just couldn’t wait. So, off to Wanchese we went, just to visit her until she would be weaned from nursing.

Well, Billy and Pepper fell madly in love the first minute he held her in his great big hands. She was tiny, so tiny and so sweet. She stayed on his mind from that moment until we could pick her up a week later. The anticipation was through the roof and from the second we brought her home, she captured Billy’s full attention. Pepper was cradled in Billy’s arms every second he sat down. Even when he drove his truck, she rested on his chest and left shoulder supervising the traffic and his direction of travel. She was glued to his side and oh, how he loved her.

Billy and Pepper, two peas in a pod, such a special friendship. She stayed in his arms, in his lap or shared his pillow, even when Billy became ill with brain cancer from Agent Orange (Vietnam) and though she had grown, but was still small, she sprung like a jumping bean from the floor to his hospital bed to lay on his pillow with him. From the distance of the bed to the floor, nobody could believe she could jump that high, but it was her Daddy that lay there sick and she knew it. I loved Pepper too, very much, but it was Billy who had always insisted on doing everything for her, grooming her, taking her for rides, cutting her nails, taking her out for walks and they were inseparable.

As Billy’s condition worsened in 2016, Pepper consistently stayed close at hand and one day, returning from a doctor’s appointment when he was still mobile, Billy was tired and wanted to take his jeans off right there in the living room and just rest in his big brown recliner. He laid his pants on the chair with his belt still through the loops and sunk down in his favorite chair for the rest he needed. Pepper jumped up on the other chair that held his pants and circled around on the inside of the waistband, then laid down inside his favorite britches as if she was nesting. Billy laughed at that – she made him happy – and then the tears started to roll down his beautiful face. He knew the time would come soon when he and Pepper, his precious sidekick, would part.

Now folks, I don’t know how you feel about pets, especially dogs, but I can tell you that along with my thanking God for the blessings of Billy and our children and grandchildren, I thank Him for little Pepper. She is my sidekick now and I am responsible to provide all the care that Billy used to, and I do it with joy. And every day when I open my phone to make a call and kiss my husband’s picture and tell him I love him and miss him, I’ll say, “Pepper, that’s Daddy” and show her his picture. And every time I do, and even after four years since he passed, she immediately looks at the door to see if he’s coming in . . . coming home . . . and every time, I tell her, “Peppy, Daddy’s in Heaven baby.”

I know folks would say, that is crazy. Dogs don’t go to Heaven! But only God knows for sure. Personally, I think that a warm-blooded animal that returns the love you give them, brings you joy, gives you comfort, frets when you’re ailing and offers you unconditional love – God has a place for them too.

If you have a dog, take special care of it. Love it, protect it and be thankful you have a fuzzy creature who accepts love and gives it back wholeheartedly; if you don’t have a dog please consider getting one. If you have allergies, fret not. There are several breeds of dogs that are hypoallergenic and don’t shed. Pepper is; she’s a Yorkshire terrier (Yorkie) and so are other breeds like Portuguese water dog, Maltese terrier, Chinese crested, Komondor, Basenji, Airedale terrier, Italian greyhound and others. But if allergies are not an issue and you look to acquire a dog who isn’t a fancy-pants celebrity dog but one who wants, needs and deserves a good loving home – go and adopt!

The comfort, companionship and love you will enjoy from a dog is insurmountable and trust me, they sure let you know that someone’s at the door – maybe someone you welcome and maybe not. Their keen senses and protective nature help keep you safe and well aware of company, invited or uninvited!

To adopt, contact our Dare County Animal Shelter 252-475-5620 Monday – Friday 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. The folks there are super nice and happy to help. Note: if you adopt, be sure you are willing to be a responsible owner. Upon adoption, I understand the fee you pay is inclusive of the animal already having been given all required shots, rabies, etc. and they have a microchip already also to aid in finding your little Fido if she becomes lost. Just think about it!

A dog can be a real blessing and especially valuable when it comes to helping those with P.T.S.D., anxiety and depression, hence the reference “comfort support animals.” I suggest you research what type of dog might be exactly right for you; read about the different breeds, contact the animal shelter to see what animals are there waiting for a loving parent and take it from me – as the wife of a Vietnam veteran, the attention pets need and the comfort they can offer, asking no questions, offering no judgements or unqualified therapy, is invaluable and worthy of your love for them and the love they return.

Until next time, be healthy, safe and happy. Wear your masks, tell the ones you love the most how much you love them, even if they’re in Heaven; be kind to others, love our veterans and thank God you are an American! If you are a veteran or know a vet who could use some help, please call me at 252-202-2058, write to me at or contact our Dare County Veteran Service Officer (V.S.O.) Patty O’Sullivan – she’s our official V.A. liaison and she can and will answer your military related questions or she’ll sure go out of her way to find the answers for you. Her office number is 252-475-5604 or email her at I truly love you all! God bless you all and please stay tuned!