Weekly Wire
Nashville Scene Walk-On Dog

By Walter Jowers

NOVEMBER 24, 1997:  A few years back, next-door neighbors Buddy and Ellen went to visit Ellen's family, over in West Tennessee. One night, Buddy went out for his evening jog, and he decided to strike out across the bridge, into Mississippi. While he was there, a big, yellow, Lab-like boydog trotted out of the woods and fell in step with him.

Every jogger picks up a little friendly dog company every now and then. Usually, after a quarter-mile or so, the dog realizes that his food and all the stinky things he loves are back in the other direction, so he turns around and goes home. But this dog stuck with Buddy. So Buddy started yelling to people in their yards, "Hey, do you know where this dog lives?" Nobody could say where the dog lived, but they all knew his name. He was Primo.

Primo ran with Buddy back through the woods, back across the bridge to Tennessee, and all the way to the in-laws' house. The next morning, he was still there.

Ellen's folks, Nancy and Bill Stracener, already had two dogs, and they didn't want to take in a stray. So Bill picked up Primo, tail wagging and tongue licking, and dropped him into the back of his pickup truck. Bill headed for Mississippi, to the road where Buddy and Primo met. Bill found the spot, and Primo jumped out of the truck and headed off into the woods.

The next day, Primo was back at the Straceners' house. So Bill trucked him back to Mississippi again, this time quite a bit farther down the road.

The next day, Primo was back in the Straceners' yard yet again, tail a-wagging. So Bill loaded up his pellet rifle, pumped it up just enough to sting, and shot Primo in the rump until he ran off into the woods. A few hours later, Primo came back.

Nancy called Ellen and half-jokingly asked her to come get "her dog." Ellen told Nancy she already had a dog, and besides, Primo belonged in Mississippi. She offered to come back and give Primo a lift to his native habitat. "Bill did that twice already," Nancy said. "We'll figure something out."

Now understand, Nancy and Bill are lifelong pet lovers and dog spoilers. Any dog with a lick of sense could just look at 'em and know they're pushovers. Clearly, Primo sensed this, and he wasn't leaving without a fight.

Bill, however, was not about to be outsmarted by a Mississippi mutt. He went to his vet. "I need enough dog dope," he said, "to put a 50-pound dog to sleep for, say, a couple of hours." The vet complied. Bill put his two dogs in a pen and served up a special plate of doped Alpo to Primo. Ten minutes later, Primo was sleeping like Dorothy in the wicked witch's poppy field.

As Bill placed the sleeping dog into the back of his pickup truck, he noticed a scar on Primo's haunch. He felt a little twinge of guilt and wondered if he'd pumped up the pellet gun a little too much. Bill shook it off, though, and climbed into the cab of the truck. This time, he took Primo way down into Mississippi, and he deposited the drowsy mutt in a clearing well off the road. Two days later, Primo was back, and he had a limp. That day, the Straceners became a three-dog family.

My personal theory is that Primo was a hippie dog, named after his owner's patch of reefer hidden somewhere in the Mississippi woods. I figure Primo lived with a crew of potheads who got him stoned regularly. The dope-addled dog probably latched onto Buddy as his spirit guide. When Bill took Primo beyond his gateway drug and introduced him to big-time dog downers, well, Primo had no choice but to come back for more.

He never got more, though. The Straceners detoxed Primo, and they joined in a years-long partnership. The Straceners gave Primo food, a nice doghouse, and regular vet visits. In return, the Straceners got to rub Primo's goofy, football-sized dog head.

Primo lived to a ripe old age and then one day decided to head back down the road to Mississippi, the very road he'd trotted in on. After all those trips back and forth on the two-lane blacktop, Primo's luck finally ran out. A car got him.

Visit Walter's Web site at http://www.nashscene.com>. Or you can send him e-mail at walter_jowers@msn.com

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