The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 7, 2009

MICHELE M. BENDER | My favorite redhead

By MICHELE M. BENDER

In “Peanuts,” Charlie Brown yearned for “the little red-haired girl.” Desi loved Lucy.

My favorite redhead had four legs and a tail. This Irish setter was a year old when I brought her home long ago.

The shelter staff said her name was Kelly, but I changed that. The first red-haired person I ever met was a girl named Bridget in kindergarten. Kelly became Bridget.

Bridget was a human soul in a canine body. I called her my hairy little person. She watched what people did and did the same.

She slept in bed with her head on a pillow. On the sofa, she sat with her tail, fanny and hind legs on the cushion, and front legs on the floor, people-style.

The only thing she loved more than long walks was car rides. She’d jump in right behind the wheel.

“Are you going to drive or shall I?” I’d ask.

If she’d had her own car, she would never have been home.

Apparently, Bridget had a colorful past. She wasn’t talking, but actions speak louder.

The minute she’d hear a snap top, she was THERE. Her nose told her what cans contained. Soda bored her, but suds made that tail dance. I never gave her sips and I didn’t allow guests to, but my little boozehound clearly knew what she was missing.

In addition to being quirky, she was amazingly smart.

Walking in the woods off the leash one afternoon, she spotted a chipmunk on a tree limb.

She plucked him off the branch like he was an apple and turned to show me her trophy. His little arms and legs flailed.

“Bridget,” I scolded, “spit him out this instant!”

“Pffft,” she spat, and the frightened critter scampered back up the tree, probably to say a grateful chipmunk prayer.

Bridget had three boyfriends, two canine and one human.

Casey, an Irish wolfhound, and his “mom” often took leash walks with us. She admired Shiloh, a German shepherd, from afar.

One night, I hooked her to her cable in the yard for a final “out.” When I returned five minutes later, she was gone.

I panicked.

I phoned my neighbor Dick. “Please help me find her!” I pleaded.

“I’ll be right there,” he promised.

I waited anxiously on my stoop and watched as his car passed beneath the street light. I saw two silhouettes, Dick behind the wheel and someone with long hair snuggled next to him.

“Darn! He has a date! I interrupted them!” I thought.

Dick opened his car door and flashed a huge grin. Then his “date” hopped out. It was Bridget!

“I found her in my yard,” he explained.

“C’mon, let’s go in and get a beer,” I offered. I wagged my finger at Bridget. “No beer for you!”