I think I am facing the loss of another old dog.
My little Kate, who has lived longer than her brothers, Ox, Ted and Wish, is getting older and is starting to show her age.
She has always been a lean little running machine, but that's not how most people think of her.
Kate is mean.
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Yep, I admit it. She was born mean, and I don't know why. Her mother, Gwyn, was the sweetest dog in the world, and her dad was a dog with a solid, dependable disposition.
When Kate's litter was about 7 weeks old, a couple of women called and asked if they could see the puppies. All of the pups were already sold, except for Kate. My friend talked me into letting these people see the dog and let them decide if Kate was right for them.
We had the puppies out in the barn, in a big stall. When the women got there, the puppies were ecstatic to see them. Except for Kate.
Kate lurked around in the back, showing her teeth and just generally being a creep. The women tried to coax Kate into letting them touch her, but Kate said no way.
After that encounter, I decided that Kate had problems. Big problems. And I try not to sell my problems. So Kate became mine.
Everything was OK until Kate got a foxtail in her ear. She was about 3 months old, and I couldn't see the foxtail, so off to the vet we went.
The vet tech sedated the little puppy, and then I left her at the clinic until later that afternoon, when I could pick her up.
When I got back to the vet's office, I told them I had come to get Kate. When one of the employees heard me say Kate, her eyes got big and she stopped in her tracks.
"You're here to get Kate?" she asked. I told her I was, and she asked me if I could go in the back and get her out of the cage. I asked why, and she said that no one could get near Kate, she was too mean.
I was incredulous, and I laughed out loud. "She's 3 months old, for goodness sake," I said.
The tech invited me back, and told me to stay out of Kate's sight. She walked toward the cage, talking to Kate and saying the pup's name.
Kate stood up, arched her back like a darned coyote, and snarled.
Wow, did she look mean. I stepped into the room, said her name, and Kate's back went down, her face softened and she wagged her tail at me.
That was the beginning of Kate's reputation as a bad dog. Everyone gave the little dog, who grew up to weigh less than 30 pounds, a wide berth. Kate's specialty was "drive-bys." She would appear out of nowhere, take a quick nip at someone's knee, and disappear.
My sister was on the receiving end of Kate's craziness one time. My sister had walked in the door, and was talking to my mom. All of a sudden, my sister yelled, "Hey, I think I got bit."
I was in the other room, and I came out. There was no dog to be seen, and my mom and I looked blankly at my sister.
"I think I got bit," she said again. She said she thought she saw a little gray blur go by, but she wasn't sure.
It was Kate.
After that, I tried very hard to socialize the little dog. But I believe that she was born crazy. She loved me dearly, and she tolerated my friend. But no one else.
For years, people who come to visit have asked me where Kate is before they will get out of their car. Kate has a rep, although since that drive-by on my sister, she has never bitten again.
That's probably because everyone is afraid of her now. I made sure for the past 12 years that Kate was either crated or put away before family or friends visited. I tried to make her more social, but it wasn't to be.
I'm not sure what went wrong with Kate, because as I said, all of her brothers and sisters had normal, sunny dispositions. Maybe she was a throwback, maybe she was just psycho.
Through the years, I grew to love the little blue rat. She loves me fiercely, and that has to count for something.
And now, almost 13 years after she was born, Kate has finally started to show her age. She's getting a little bit deaf, and her greatest desire in the world is to sleep on my bed, curled up, with no other dogs to bother her.
Some folks might say that I should have put Kate down because of her craziness. They may be right. But Kate was my problem, as I said, and I chose to make sure that she was under control at all times, because I didn't want to put the pretty little dog down.
Lately, Kate has mellowed. Just a tiny bit. But she still won't go to anyone except my friend and me, and although she doesn't have very many teeth left, I still think that she might try to bite someone. If she could see them.
You see, Kate is getting old. Like me. And the older she gets, the more she means to me. I'm not sure why, maybe it's because she is the last puppy from Gwyn. Kate didn't turn out the way I thought she would, but that doesn't mean she's a bad dog.
I'm starting to realize that Kate isn't going to live a whole bunch of years longer. She is gray around the muzzle, and she's starting to sleep more and more.
But she eats, and she enjoys being with me, and she asks little from me: just a nice soft place to sleep, good food and my love.
It's easy to love a good dog. It's a lot harder to love a bad one. And although a lot of people would think that Kate is a bad dog, I don't.
I think of Kate as a friend, and an ear to whisper my thoughts and prayers to, and as a little dog that loves to cuddle up with me at night.
Kate isn't as good of a dog as her mother was, or her father, or even her brothers and sisters. But she is my dog, and she is my friend. And Lord knows, we all need those.
Hang a little longer, Baby Kate. I still need you.
Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or firstname.lastname@example.org