The Highlanders

The Highlanders

By J. V. Houlihan Jr

“I have a Scottie. In him I find consolation and diversion…he is the “one person”

to whom I can talk without the conversation coming back war. “

-Dwight D. Eisenhower


We recently lost our tough and tenacious Scottish Highland Terrier MacTavish, in a tragic accident. He was adopted a year and a half ago from “The Scottish Terrier Club of New England.”   McTavish had been caged for several hours a day prior to being given up to a foster family from Boston. Our name came up on the SCTNE’s list, and we brought this little character home to live with us and our Cockapoo Sailor—who was also adopted. I wrote about the exploits of Sailor and McTavish when the inspiration came—which was often— in my columns and blogs for the Block Island Times. The most fun I’ve ever had writing was telling stories of these characters.

Three years ago my wife was caring for a gentleman who was nearing the end of his life. He had a Cockapoo named Tommy, a.k.a Sailor, as a companion—he never left his master’s side. At that time we had another Scottie named MacDonald who was also another tough and tenacious Scottie—it’s the Highland way to be thick headed, fearless and independent. We had been thinking that perhaps Mac needed a brother because he was slowing down a little. With the best wishes of the family, one day my wife brought Sailor and Mac down to the ferry dock for a visit. They got along fine in the car ride from down in Charlestown—I was in for a penny or a pound. Sailor and Mac became fast friends. Sailor’s master had moved on and then he moved in with us. Mac was very good to the new member of the family. My wife had voiced her concern several times regarding what would happen to Sailor when his master was gone. “He is so loyal, and he’ll be lost,” she said. “Let’s give him a shot and see if it works out for him and us,” I said. It worked.

A year later Mac died from bladder cancer. (Scotties are known to get this form of cancer, and although we had Mac screened he contracted the disease). One month later we adopted McTavish. He had some serious medical issues; however, this did not deter us from taking him home. When he came to live with us it must’ve been culture shock. He had a cage—which went right into the garage— and a bed, along with a slew of toys. His ball was the size of a regulation size basketball. His peccadillos were hilarious: marking up the house, jumping in the tub, barking at the mailman—or nothing in particular. He also loved barking and jumping into the waves at the beach. He redefined the word “grumpy.” The sounds that came out of McTavish were a deep baritone of “harrumphing.” He and Sailor would strut together around the neighborhood like a couple of dudes as they were walked each day. McTavish was friendly to a fault, and knew how to charm a treat—he taught Sailor— well; moreover, he enjoyed hanging around with me on our sailboat.

This loss as all losses is very difficult. Our friends, who know how well we treat our dogs, have encouraged us to remember the good life we gave McTavish—the good times. “There’s another Scottie out there who needs a home,” said a friend from Block Island. In fact several people echoed that same sentiment. Sailor was respectful not to eat out of McTavish’s bowl; however, now he senses it’s OK. He sits where McTavish used to sit while I write in my office. He must feel that is OK, too. He’s been staying very connected to my wife. He’s taking care of us now. He knows his role in the world. In due time, we will look to adopt another Scottie. Furthermore, my wife is now caring for an elderly couple and Sailor is her assistant.

A few weeks ago Sailor was scheduled to have his haircut by our groomer in Wakefield. I was at the docks so Cindy would be bringing him into town. Sailor and Mac, and Sailor and McTavish always were booked to go together —to keep each other company. What happened on this day had us shaking our heads. When Cindy was dropping Sailor off for his appointment the groomer was trying to quickly hustle my wife out the door. As it turned out, a Scottie was booked for an appointment at the same time and the groomer was trying to protect my wife from seeing the dog. She did see the little Scottie and her name was Mac. I felt bad for the groomer, my wife and Sailor; however, it also strengthened our resolve to adopt another Scottish Highland Terrier. Dwight D. Eisenhower had it right. Our Scotties—and Sailor— have diverted stressful issues and consoled us. Finally, Sailor is picking up the slack now until another Scottie makes his appearance in the back seat of the truck.

Nota Bene: As of submitting this column, we are currently in the process of adopting a Scottish Highland Terrier. Her name is Tuppence and she is 6. Sailor’s going to have his paws full with this new sister!


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