The air has turned crisp as the sun rises and sets each day, and my yard is filled with leaves from a gigantic maple tree that stands behind my house, giving me a chore that I have not had for about 20 years — raking.
As I was working in my yard on Sunday afternoon, I remembered a day when my kids were younger and when I would rake the leaves, they would come jump into the pile. Then it would become a game. I would create a monster pile and then take turns with each throwing them in. They would then come out the other side then run around and get back in line waiting to go again.
One day while playing this game I noticed that one of the participants standing in line had long black hair, four legs and dog breath. We had a longhaired dog, part German shepard and part retriever who wanted to play also. So, I picked her up and threw her into the pile, too. She loved it, and we played all afternoon long.
Ebony was her name, and she couldn’t have been more human than if she were, well, human.
I recall kidding with my nephew one day that Ebony could talk. My nephew, knowing that I was seldom ever serious about anything, took the challenge. I spoke to Ebony and told her three times to say “Jimmy.” We both stood there shocked when she made some sound that really, really, really sounded like she was trying to say “Jimmy!” (I’m not lying — wait ‘til you hear about this flying saucer I entered once).
Ebony had a heart of gold. (That’s just a saying. Her heart was probably the same color as other dogs). One day upon arriving home, my wife and kids were standing near an outbuilding looking all around it like they had lost something. When I inquired, they informed me that Ebony had crawled under the building and they thought she was trapped. I began calling to her, and we could hear her muffled barking.
Deciding that I was going to dig her out, I turned to retrieve some tools for the task, and just then she emerged from beneath the shed holding a baby kitten ever so gently in her mouth. The baby couldn’t have been more than an hour old. She set the kitty down at our feet, and then returned to beneath the shed. I don’t recall how many times she did this, but several newborn kittens were rescued by Ebony. Mother cat had apparently given birth and abandoned them, and Ebony sensed their presence beneath the building.
In the days and weeks to come, my wife and kids bottle fed and nurtured the babies until they were strong enough to run and play. And you might have already guessed, they followed Ebony around just like she was their mother. When she would lay down, they climbed all over her. If they explored beyond the boundaries of our yard, Ebony would gently pick them up by their head (in her mouth) and bring them to the back door.
The kittens loved their adopted mother, and they were an absolute sight to behold. Ebony would try to outrun them and they would chase her down and cling to her back with their claws. You could tell by the loving little yelps emanating from her as she trotted across the lawn with them riding in tow.
I would like to say that every day for the mismatched animals was a bed of roses, but I will never forget the day one ventured onto the highway that ran in front of our house and lost a battle with an oncoming vehicle. Ebony, as well as all of us, was devastated. She laid by the road and howled in sorrow for what seemed to be days.
Only one was lost, and over time the kittens, growing into adult cats, found adoptive homes as we sold our business and packed to leave. We brought Ebony back to Ohio with us where she lived out her days on a nice farm surrounded by a loving family and lots of dairy cattle.
Every year at this time I can’t look at a pile of leaves without thinking of Ebony, my adopted child, as she played to her heart’s content with the rest of our kids.
Herb Day is a longtime local radio personality and singer-musician. You can email him at [email protected] and follow his work at http://www.HerbDayVoices.com and http://www.HerbDayRadio.com.