There are still a few folks in this world who do not know about the famous Catahoula Leopard Dog and its rise into the social circles of the hound world.
The dog is one of sterling character. They are native to Louisiana, and in the middle 1990s they were named the state dog, an honor that has increased their popularity and financial worth.
It is said that Gov. Huey Long, better known as the Kingfish, is the very man that, in 1932, recognized their worth and delivered a few pairs to the state prison called Angola. Anyone who has ever toyed with the judicial system in Louisiana knows only too well, it is not a spot that man or beast would like to go. However, those pairs of good-looking spotted dogs made some history and helped the last years of lifers have some meaning.
Those old-timers became dog officials; they kept records and told stories about the character of these beasts that were said to never fear anything or anyone.
Well, that might have been true then, but a rare and unusual happening took place in Edgemoor recently. One spotted, yellow-eyed Catahoula became, overnight, a frightened, pitiful wreck, trying to hide behind or under the skirt of his owner.
He took to rushing at breakneck speed out the kennel door and then high-tailing it back in before anyone had a chance to even say his name. During all of this rushing, his nose never touched the ground, a habit inbred in these dogs. Not our boy; his head was pointed toward the heavens. Those big old yellow eyes revolved around trying to catch a glimpse of the demon that was hunting him.
He was the only one that saw the apparition, and we laughed because we began to believe that he was suffering through some kind of mental visions. Now it has been said that sometimes these "Cats" (an endearing term for the Catahoula) that are spotted, are a little different, especially those with yellow eyes. If they should be born with one blue eye and one yellow, the price goes skyrocketing, and their sanity is assured. But the two "yellers" could mean trouble.
It took a while for us to understand exactly what was going on with old Shiner. He crouched low to the ground, his tail firmly held against the underside of his belly and his ears were straight up, his nose working from side to side and his eyes revolving in twisted circles, which told of his near insanity begotten from sheer fear.
Then one day, the whole truth was acted out. Kate pulled him out of the kennel -- you had to put a lead on him to get him out of the door and then drag him to the tree that he loves. He circled the tree and slobbered a bit, trying to get under some young pear trees that were just coming up and cried.
Kate is a kind hearted person and she knelt down to console this terribly frightened dog and he tried to get in her lap. A 120-pound, breathing, squirming object with four legs is a hard thing to get a good grip on, so he slid off. Kate landed in the pear trees and screamed at him to stop. Oh boy, that just made the whole thing worse. Now, he added Kate to his list of fears.
She was on her knees begging him not to be scared and she assured him of her never-ending love and promised two, three or even four biscuits, if he would only stop being so scared and start acting with some purebred dog decorum. While she talked, he tried to find another place to hide.
Kate said, it was at that moment, that she heard the shrill screech of a bird. She said a good-sized bird was dive-bombing right toward Shiner, while he was trying to lift Kate off the ground to get under her skirt.
The bird headed right toward him. Kate flew her hand up and said some unkind thing to that little bird, and Shiner tried to get smaller. The bird dived and dived again. She was not afraid of Kate, and then as if it had never happened, the bird took off. Shiner made a beeline for the kennel, and Kate went to shower and change her clothes before going back to work.
We are still trying to figure out this bird, and Shiner has taken to living in the kennel. He never wants his feet to touch the ground again. Of course, that cannot be, so he is dragged out and then he pulls Kate back in.
We described the bird to Lou Watts, and she assured us it was a mockingbird; one got mad at her Boykin, too.
Remember, all of those lovely songs written about them, "Hush Little Baby, don't say a word, Mama's gonna buy you a Mockingbird." And the sweet, "Listen to the Mockingbird," said to be one of President Lincoln's favorites. It tells the story of a bird that sings out the sadness of death in wonderful rhyming prose, written by Alice Hawthorne in 1855. She never mentioned that, once angered, there is no wrath to equal that of an annoyed mockingbird.
Just come by and talk to my "yellow eyed dog," he'll tell you -- if he can get over his slight stammer.