Not Just Any Old Black Dog

Scully didn’t like to chase cars.

He preferred to get out front and lead them like a dog-track hare, ears pinned back, jowls flapping, legs pumping like pistons in an old flathead Ford.

He was a big dog but he could motor.

Scully was a black Lab, about a hundred pounds in his prime, with a disposition as soft as flannel pajamas and the joints of a retired linebacker. He was born with hip dysplasia, something that Labs often grow into, but Scully had it his entire life and all that running only added insult to injury.

Nonetheless, Scully was going on his thirteenth birthday – pretty good for such a big old boy. But it had gotten to the point where we had to lift him up and down the stairs to get in and out of the house, and a frequent facial tic betrayed the onset of something grave – very likely epilepsy.

Then one afternoon, as the sky darkened and an electrical storm approached, Scully ran off. We didn’t actually see him go, but he must have become frightened by a clap of thunder. When I finally found him several hours later, he was out in the woods, lying in the rain motionless. I yelled and he weakly raised his head. His legs had totally betrayed him, and he was unable to move. It was all we could do to wheel him back to the house in a wagon.

Scully never recovered. We gave him painkillers and tried to keep him comfortable, but when after several days he still couldn’t get up, we took him to the vet and at that point we all agreed – it was time.

Losing a dog is always hard, but we felt as though we had lost something more as well. We had acquired Scully when our son had just begun second grade. The two had grown up together, and when Spike went off to college, Scully kept us from having a totally empty nest. He was the link to that childhood that we were stubbornly hanging onto, as only parents can do, even though it had long since matured and moved on.

That afternoon after Scully was gone, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Finally, after dinner, I decided I would go hit some golf balls out behind the West Tisbury School. I needed to do something mindless.

That’s when I heard the bark. A big, throaty, hey-listen-to-me-don’t-I-sound-like-a-tough-guy bark.

Scully’s bark.

I looked up and saw something coming through the bushes. A large black dog appeared and began walking toward me.


The same long nose. The same languid tail. The same blue collar. The same lumbering gait – he even had the same limp. He walked up to me, and I looked into his eyes.

Scully’s eyes.

Then a woman came out of the woods and walked over to me. By this time, I was kneeling down and hugging this dog like a lost friend, and she said, “I’m sorry, I hope we aren’t bothering you.”

I explained that earlier that day I had lost a dog that looked remarkably like this one, in fact the similarity was uncanny. I went on to tell her how Scully was the best dog we ever had.

“Scully,” she said. “This is Scully’s brother, Zeb!”

The last time that Scully and Zeb had ever been together was twelve years ago when they both happened to be at the vet at the same time. I was beginning to feel like I had stepped into the Twilight Zone.

And then came the clincher: “You know, I walk Zeb on the path back there in the woods nearly every night and we see you out here quite often. Normally, Zeb just keeps walking along the path – his hips are pretty bad. He doesn’t really stray off that much, and we never come out onto the field if there’s someone here. But tonight, for some reason, he suddenly started walking through the bushes toward you. I called for him to come back and he didn’t listen.

“I really don’t know what came over him.”