Once I found out that my wife was pregnant, I wanted to get a dog for the baby to grow up with for companionship and protection. I wanted a German Shepard like Spitz, the dog I remembered from childhood. It was my cousin Jane’s dog but they had moved to a place where they couldn’t have pets. So my parents agreed to care for her until they could get her back. Spitz was a marvelous dog and a great help to my parents until she grew over protective of me and my brother. She would keep a close watch over us when we were playing outside and herd or drag us away from the road. That’s what I wanted in a dog. Great loving, intelligence, and of course strength and beauty.
So, I was looking for a pure bred silver\gray German Shepard puppy. My friend Jeff went with me to a local German Shepard breeder who provided dogs for seeing eye and police training and pets. They were breeding for temperment. intelligence and strength. They had no dogs the color I was looking for but sent me to a friend whose dog had a litter of pups sired by her top stud.
There I found a Rebel, a 5 week old fuzz-ball of gray with black makings and white chest, belly and neck blazes with a sable undercoat. The rest of the puppies shied away, but he came right to me.
His pedigree was heavy with Liebestrand bloodlines with many champion and grand-champions in Show, Working and Companion Dog classes. His AKC registered name was Dillon's Rebel Rouser. And to think I only paid $35 - $45 for him. But that was 1/3 to 1/2 of a paycheck back then.
I took Reb to see old Doc Crandle, a Veterinarian I knew from working at the Wickes Agriculture Grain Elevator, at the feed plant, in Cass City. He was impressed with his looks and gave me vitamins and calcium supplements to give him all that he needed as a growing puppy. And he told me what dog foods to feed and how to feed them. That man was right to be impressed and right in all of the rest of his advice and care. It was too bad that he didn’t live long enough to see Rebel when he matured.
Shortly after getting Rebel a curios looking dog showed up at work. It looked like a small half starved wolf. It took little coaxing to get him to come inside the elevator where my brother John (who also worked there) and I fed him some dog food from one of the broken bags of MASTERMIX HoundPak that we sold there. That’s when we noticed the 2 sets of large and small upper canine teeth it had. It wolfed it down and was looking for more. It stayed around until quitting time, so I took it home. MISTAKE. It about took Rebels head off, so we kept him on the back porch. It was house broken so caused little other problem. Jeff came over to see it and said it was a well trained coy-dog mix, but was leery of me keeping it with a baby coming soon. A day or two later I took it to Doc Crandle to find out if he knew anyone who lost one and what it was. Sure enough, Jeff was right, he said it was either a coyote or a coy-dog mix. Well sadly I couldn’t keep it because it wouldn’t tolerate Rebel, but I don’t remember whether I found a home for it or took it to the dog pound.
Rebel went everywhere with me except work, and loved to ride in my car and loved to meet people. He loved to chew too, BUT, he chewed all of the wrong things, my wife’s stuff. She soon hated him, and even gave me an ultimatum, her or that damned dog. He was banned to a chain outdoors while I was at work and penned-up in the kitchen at night.
I worked with Rebel in all of my spare time. Teaching him NO was the first priority. Then teaching him to allow anyone to take food from him. And not to accept food from anyone but my wife and I. And not to beg at the dinning table, however I failed when it came to his favorite food, spaghetti. He would quietly whine from the time he smelled the sauce cooking until after we ate and gave him leftovers. Anything Italian and he was right there. He also liked onions both raw and cooked.
One of the teaching games I taught him was how NOT to get hit by a stick. By this time he had outgrown most of his puppy chewing and my wife Lynn was beginning to enjoy helping to train him too. He loved this game and soon became a master of not only not getting hit but of disarming his attacker. There were lots of children in the neighborhood and I didn’t want him tormented or them bitten. And I also taught him to avoid being hit by stones by sneaking out of the house and throwing things at him. You only got him once, and then only if he was sleeping or didn’t see or hear you. Sit and STAY were harder to teach, but he eventually learned and obeyed most of the time. His two favorite toys were a tug toy and the Frisbee. Oh, how he LOVED to fetch that Frisbee. Oh I could fool him sometimes, but not often, he had eyes like a hawk. He didn’t often try to jump up to catch it, but when he did he was so proud of himself and pranced around with it for a while instead of bringing it right back, and then tease me with it by trying to make me chase after him and take it away.
By the time he was six months old there wasn’t a collar made that would hold him. I spent more money on broken collars and chains than I paid for him. If I was home and he wanted to come in nothing would stop him. One day I returned with so many broken collars that the owner of Albe’s Hardware swore I was trying to pull a truck with them and demanded to see this six month old dog of mine. I had him with me in the car and went out to get him.
Well we came into the back of the store and old Mr. Albe caught site of Rebel and noticed that I didn’t have a leash on him and he headed for the front door. I quickly reassured him he had nothing to fear and he cautiously came to where we were by the pet section of the store. You see, Rebel was all muscle and very heavily shouldered.
Since I had tried the heaviest collar that he stocked, Mr. Albe suggested I try a choke chain instead. He grabbed a medium sized one and opened a new heavy duty dog chain and we went out the back of the store. He hooked the chain to the back of his pick-up and fastened the other to the choke chain collar on Rebel. I walked a little way out of chain reach and told Rebel to “come”. He did. Mr. Albe went back into the store and came out with the biggest choke collar he had proclaiming “this will hold a horse”. But it barely slowed Rebel down. You see, here was his trick. He would come to the end of his reach and back up a half step, then rear up on his hind legs and leap forward and down at the same time. It was like cracking a whip, and the force it put on the chain and collar was tremendous. This time the collar held but the chain didn’t. Mr. Albe went back inside and came out with a length of heavy chain and clasp and we tried it again. This time he went back in the store to get a new choke collar because that one MUST have been defective. After breaking 2 more he finally gave up. He said he would talk to the supplier when he came in next and see what he could do. And he wanted a picture of Rebel that he could show the man. He also suggested that for the time being I just paddle-lock the chain around Rebel’s neck. I came back about an hour later to buy a new chain. Mr. Albe GAVE me the new heavier dog chain and a lock and suggested I chain an old tire to the tree I had Rebel hooked to and then attach this chain to the tire. That worked for a while.
The supplier did bring a collar and offered a free replacement guarantee, but after replacing it twice said that was the last one. After lots of scolding and talking, Rebel finally agreed to stay on a chain and not to break too many more collars. But we both knew that anytime he wanted he could break free and only his love for me kept him on a chain.
We were renting a big old 2 storey house on Fourth St. in Cass City at the time. It was only about ¾ of a block from where I worked and our next-door neighbor was a mailman whose walking route included our street. Both him and his wife were very fond of Rebel. She complained to me one day that my dog was a fussy eater and wouldn’t touch the bowls of scraps that she had been taking out to him. No matter how much petting and coaxing she just couldn’t get him to eat. And she was concerned he might be sick. Well I walked out with her and sure enough, a bowl of nice cooked steak pieces and potatoes and gravy sat inside Rebels chain reach and he was trying hard to ignore it. I picked up the bowl and handed him a piece of meat which he gulped down almost without chewing. I handed her the bowl and told her to try again. He still didn’t take it. She had this crestfallen look on her face and I had to laugh, not only at her but in joy that my training had worked so well. I told Rebel it was ok and to go ahead and eat it. He raised up and gave her a big sloppy one on the face and then gently took the offered meat, ate it with gusto and wagged his tail so hard I thought he would break his spine. She laughed in surprise and amusement and set the bowl down and watched him eat. I told her about all of the training I was doing and she was amazed, and exclaimed “no wonder I had to dump out so much good food”, but that it was an excellent idea. After that night she would knock on my door when she had leftovers for Rebel and we would go feed it to him. If we didn’t hear her or weren’t home she would leave the bowl on the back porch step. Rebel really liked her husband, especially when he would “come out and play” but for some reason HATED his uniform. When he left for work Rebel would bark and growl and throw a fit. It was the same thing as he walked his route and got between our houses and again when he returned home from work. But as soon as he changed clothes and came outside it was a completely different story. One Saturday however, we all had a major fright. Rebel was lying on the couch in direct line with the front door and Lynn and I were in the den a short ways away. The doorbell rang and Lynn went to see who it was. She opened the door and all hell broke loose. Rebel launched off of the couch with a very nasty growl and charged the front door. I flew out of my chair after him but didn’t make it in time.
I’m not sure what I heard first, the sound of glass breaking or Lynn’s scream along with the mailman’s. I rounded the corner just in time to see Rebel backing away from the broken bottom pane of safety glass in the storm door, 2 more steps and I had a hold of his collar. Lynn was starring out at the mailman and he was starring back at the dog. I tossed the now docile and stunned Rebel back on the couch and told him to STAY!
Then I asked if everyone was alright and went outside to check on our poor neighbor. He was still in shock. White as a ghost, with his jaw dropped and his arm outstretched still holding a package, in the midst of shards of broken glass. I gently took his arm and walked him next door and sat him on his porch. I asked him again if he was okay but all he said was “teeth”. As I was looking him over for injuries he finally snapped out of it and said that was the most frightening dog encounter he had ever had. I promised him it wouldn’t happen again. He wasn’t physically hurt but I am sure that he had nightmares over that incident. He told me of other dog encounters he had in his many years of delivering mail, including some bites. Finally he said he had better get back to his route and reassured me that he was alright and I had better go check on Lynn and Rebel. Both were okay. I noticed that it was a while before he visited with Rebel again, and I can’t say that I blamed him.
They rented out their upstairs to Dave Osentoski and his wife Karen. I knew them from school as both of them graduated a couple of years ahead of me. His brother Marty was in my class in school and I knew Karen through her brother Kevin Gaffney who was in Explorer Scouts with me. Dave was working third shift and got home about an hour before my mailman neighbor went to work. Well I tried to keep Rebel quiet in the mornings and would try to wait until my neighbor left for work before I would chain him out for the day. But this one time he was running late and I had to get to work too. As I was chaining Reb out he left for work and Reb had a fit. Finally Dave came out onto the upstairs landing and hollered at me to “Shut that damn dog up before I take a baseball bat to him.” I tried to explain to Dave that I tried to keep him as quiet as possible, but he would hear none of it, and kept up his threats. Finally I told him to come on down and try it. I said if he would sign papers not to hold me or my dog responsible for any injuries that he may accidentally receive, I would even furnish the baseball bat, under one condition, I let Rebel off of the chain first. I also said that on the remote chance of it happening, I would sign papers not to hold him responsible for any injuries to my dog. That took the wind out of his sails, and he retreated back inside with one last threat to keep that dog quite so he could get some sleep. Never again to hear Dave complain.
My other next-door neighbor was old “DOC” Johnson and his wife. He was the crane operator who worked with my dad when they were building I-75 up north. He gave Rebel his first taste of beer, accidentally. When Reb was still a puppy we walked next door to visit Doc as he was sitting in his driveway listening to a baseball game on the radio. Rebel knocked over an open can of beer Doc had sitting beside his lawn chair and lapped some of it up. I scolded Rebel for knocking the beer over, but Doc said that’s ok a little beer won’t hurt him. On future visits Doc always managed to “spill” a little beer for Rebel. He was always glad to see us and enjoyed the company, and a chance to relive tales of his “glory days” of being a crane operator and discuss his baseball team, the Tigers. Even though I told him I didn’t follow and sports, I would still listen to the ins and outs of the game, for a while.
On the night my first child was born Rebel even tried my patience. December 19, 1973 was a cold wet day and I was at work grinding and bagging custom blended feed for farmers. That afternoon a flatbed semi truck showed up with 30 tons of fertilizer in 50 pound bags that had to be delivered to a farmer who ordered it, and John and I had to go and off load it at the farm. That left old Dan Gomery and old Frank Weidermann to run the plant until closing time and then they too would join us. The closest we could get the truck to the barn was about 200 feet and then we had to lug it through a barnyard knee deep in mud and cow shit. I just can’t explain how much fun that was. The farmer and his son helped and we even tried laying down planks over the worst spots in the barnyard, but it was just a grueling, sloppy and slippery mess. John and I started out carrying a bag under each arm but the sucking mud tired us out fast and soon it was one at a time.
It was about 6:30pm before we were done and when we got back to the elevator I was so covered in filth I decided to walk home instead of getting my car messed up. We had invited Lynn’s parents over for dinner that night and Lynn had made a huge meatloaf. I got cleaned up and we sat down to eat. All of a sudden Lynn got this strange look on her face. Yup, she started having contractions, but refused to go to the hospital until she had her supper. Throughout the meal we kept an eye on her and were all concerned. As soon as she was done eating we tossed the dishes in the sink and the leftovers on the counter and hurried her into their car and off we went.
We’ll we needn’t had been in such a hurry because we were in for a long night. Poor Lynn was in for many hours of hard labor. Whenever I had to leave the room so they could do a dilation check, I would go to the waiting room to report on her progress. And the room was full; her parents, my parents, my brother and his wife, my sister Mary and her boyfriend Scott, my youngest sister Carol and our best friends, Beth and Jeff. I don’t remember now. but I think Lynn’s brother and his girlfriend may have been there too for a while.
We arrived at the hospital about 8pm and finally around 2am they were getting ready to take Lynn to the delivery room. As the nurses shooed me out yet again, our family doctor Ivan McRae called me aside. “Would you like to go in the delivery room” he furtively asked, “Hell yes” I replied. “You won’t faint on me will you?” “Nope I am a hunter” “Follow me then” was the conversation as we walked to the scrub room. As we were suiting and cleaning up he was telling me what to expect, and I assured him that I was trained as a Red Cross ambulance attendant and had been trained in emergency childbirth. He said, well then if something were to go wrong and I say “leave” then just walk out and don’t give me a hard time. I promised him I would do as he said as we headed for the delivery room. “AND JUST WHERE DO YOU THINK YOUR GOING” boomed the head nurse. CAUGHT, damn I thought. “We’re going to deliver a baby” the doctor said. “THAT’S NO PLACE FOR A MAN” she retorted. “I’m a man” he said, “and I’ve been delivering babies most of my life! Besides HE was there when it was conceived, so he might as well be there when it’s born.” “WE’LL JUST SEE ABOUT THIS” she cursed as she turned around and stomped off. I looked into the twinkling eyes of the wizened old doc and said, “If this is going to cause problems for you.....” “Come on” he laughed as we walked inside. And so I became the first “man” allowed to be in the delivery room at Hills and Dales General Hospital.
It made the attending nurses very nervous, but they only complained very quietly so the Dr. wouldn’t hear. Dr. McRae was a very diligent teacher, all through the delivery he would point out different aspects to me and tell me how well things were proceeding. It was difficult to pay close attention as I was trying to comfort and encourage Lynn at the time. The delivery went well and soon I was the FATHER of a beautiful baby girl. We named her Angela inspired by the secretary’s daughter from where I worked. As the nurses were cleaning Angie, I was instructed in massaging Lynn’s abdomen to proceed with the delivery of the placenta. Now I was torn in three directions, paying attention to the doctor, encouraging my wife, and trying to watch the nurses with my baby girl. Soon I was next to the doctor as he examined the afterbirth and was showing me how he could tell my baby and wife were healthy. Finally they gave Angie to Lynn and I was allowed to marvel over both of them before being whisked out of the room while they prepared to take Lynn back into her room.
Downstairs I went, to tell everyone the good news. The rest is a blur until Jeff finally came to take me home about 7am. Rebel had made good use of his time in our absence.
Jeff and I walked in to a scene from Hell. Before we left for the hospital I had penned Rebel up in the kitchen/dining room, it was about 14 x 20 ft and in one corner I had stacked about 500 pounds of dog food that I had salvaged from about a ton of wet bags caused by a leaky roof at work and been given to me by the boss. It was scattered over every square inch of the floor. He had also pulled open all of the drawers in the kitchen and scattered the contents all over. He managed to get to the leftover meatloaf forgotten on the counter and managed to somehow eat it and pull the heirloom platter to the floor without breaking it. Silverware, dishcloths and towels, knives and utensils were everywhere. He had opened the cupboards and strewn baking ware and pots and pans all over. As we were cleaning up this mess we discovered that he had chewed the handles of our “Old Hickory” kitchen knife set, most of them beyond repair.
Rebel had never done anything like this before and never again.
I recently came across the last survivor of the kitchen knife set, it was left outdoors for the last 10-15 years. It was in pretty sorry shape, all rusted up, blade chipped, and the handles warped, and still bearing scars of that night over 34 years ago. I’ve been working on it and soon plan to give it to Angie. She has need of a good butcher knife, with memories.
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