Monday, May 17, 2010

Murph Takes a Swim

Murph, 2000

This is Murphy, formally known as Bonney McMurphy of Alanton, but better known as Murph.

She was our second Scottish terrier and lived with us from 1992 until her death in 2005. When she was just a puppy we learned that Murph had a compromised immune system. Her survival was touch and go for the first year or so, with lots of unpleasant treatments. During that time we learned that there is a canine dermatologist in our area and that the same amount of heartworm medicine that’s given to a half ton steer on a monthly basis will not harm a 25-pound Scottish terrier when given daily. In the end, it was that daily dose of Medicine that kept Murph alive for thirteen years. Better living through chemistry.

Murph had every right to be a mean dog. Among other things, she endured twenty-four mange dips and at least that many skin tests before she was a year old. She was, to be sure, your typical stubborn terrier. But Murph was also very sweet and protective. She didn’t want to be in your lap. But she always stayed close by. Even in her last days, when her hearing had gone and she spent most of her time asleep on her dog bed in the middle of the family room, she’d rouse occasionally and look up to make sure you were still there. They she could rest her head again and sleep.

Murph loved to ride in the car and went everywhere with us. For years she spent her days at the little antique shop where my wife worked, entertaining shoppers and keeping a watchful eye on things.

Murph was a regular on our vacation trips to Martha’s Vineyard. She particularly enjoyed the year we stayed in Edie’s cottage on the harbor at Edgartown.

There was a sluice—a narrow boxed canal—running beside Edie’s cottage that connected the large herring pond behind the cottage with the harbor. At high tide there might be as much as three feet of water in the sluice. At low tide it was almost dry.

The water in front of Edie’s cottage, on the other hand, was calm. Murph wasn’t much of a swimmer—even dog paddling seemed foreign to her—but liked to wander up and down the pier and wade along the water’s edge with the two terriers from the neighboring house.

One afternoon I was in the shower when I heard a series of shrieks. One of our housemates had been casually looking down into the sluice, watching the schools of herring swim back and forth with the tide, when she noticed a large black blog in the water that finally registered in her mind as Murph.

“Oh, look,” she called without much other thought. “Murph’s in the sluice.”

My wife immediately jumped up from her chair nearby. “Murph doesn’t swim!” she shouted. When she looked down into the sluice, Murph was struggling, bouncing on her back paws to keep her nose above water.

By the time I got out of the shower, my wife had jumped down into the sluice and rescued poor Murph, who by the time I got outside was sitting nonchalantly on the beach nearby drying off, grinning in that way that dogs do and catching her breath as if nothing had happened.


  1. Awwwwww! Murph is adorable; what a great photo of her. Jaunty little thing. What a great story.

  2. It's a very touching story! Thank you!
    I have to Scotties - wheaten and black, 3.5 and 5 years old. I love them so much...