A MacScottie Wish

Artist - Michelle D'netto

Artist – Michelle D’netto

Once upon a time in the ever, ever foggy land of San Francisco, there lived a droll and gregarious Scottish terrier named MacDougal. Now MacDougal never did get along with other dogs, but he had many human friends and other friendly relations, notably among the cat and cow families.

The first time I saw him, he was striding jauntily along next to a pair of skyscraper legs which reached up and up into the fog and belonged to a very tall man, his owner. I had met his owner at the weekly volleyball get-together, and MacDougal had come along for the pizza party following the game. While not much of a sporting dog himself, he was an enthusiastic connoisseur of tasty pizza and promptly gobbled up the portion his owner had intended to take home. Although MacDougal won me over immediately with his funny and silly antics, he was banned from pizza parties for a long time afterwards.

Charles & McDougal in SF 1976As we had all become fast friends, Mac started coming over regularly and even spending weekends and an occasional holiday. With a smile, I remember the gigantic rawhide bone that resembled a dinosaur fossil, which he received one Christmas morning. Never mind that it was nearly his own length and too heavy for him to pick up, MacDougal was a tenacious dog by nature. So he promptly grabbed hold of one end of the bone and proceeded to drag it round and round the living room, while wagging his short tail triumphantly!

On another occasion, MacDougal and I were out for a walk in the park, across from the house where I lived, when he saw three other dogs in the distance. Determined to defend his territory, Mac started towards them. Running hard after him, I scooped him up and raced breathlessly back to the house with a Doberman, a German shepherd, and a large yellow mongrel fast on my heels. Meanwhile, Mad Mac continued to bark his defiance at them all the way back home.

After each of these madcap visits, MacDougal would invariably return to his abode in the foggy Sunset district, leaving me with the slowly growing desire to have my very own dog, and more specifically a dog just like MacDougal. Because of the special friendship that existed between the dog and I, his owners agreed to escort him on a first date with a well-bred and adorable Scottie who had recently moved into our neighborhood from Paris.

Trimmed and groomed and looking every inch the brave, stalwart and handsome sire, MacDougal proudly led our little retinue forwards to his rendezvous. But soon, too soon, any hopes for a romantic interlude and possible offspring were dashed when he spied the Parisian Scottie’s constant companion — a sweet, timid, floppy-eared Belgian dwarf rabbit. True to his ancestral instinct, MacDougal was far more interested in chasing the rabbit than in cuddling up with the little Scottie. She, at the same time, fiercely protected her pet companion, and would have nothing further to do with the unmannerly Mad Mac ruffian.

493bbc694f7c1b8c8d996e3f5fad44b0  Over steaming cups of Jasmine tea and gales of laughter, we all agreed that MacDougal was certainly a very special dog, and we would have to wait a long time indeed for him to sire a puppy. Shortly after his failed attempt at romance, one of my colleagues gave me a magazine clipping of a Scottie and a dark-haired woman in red holding him. Since the woman resembled me somewhat and red is my favorite color, I immediately pinned up the clipping next to my desk and glanced at it often during the course of each work day.

A few months later, I left for a year’s sojourn in Europe to visit friends but naturally to include some doggie haunts. In Scotland, I met several of MacDougal’s long-lost relatives, and it simply reinforced my desire to have my own Scottie dog. I found the perfect puppy in London, but he was too young to make the trip back home. While in Texas, once more I came across a Scottie puppy, but it was not meant to be. As I slowly made the cross-country trip back to California, I spoke with various breeders, only to have my inquiries met with a by-now familiar response, “You sure don’t see many Scotties nowadays.”

Indeed, no Scottie dogs were to be found. However in Los Angeles, I did share lodgings with a couple of Great Danes, more like small horses, who enjoyed climbing onto the bed when they thought I was asleep. Certainly it is an original and effective way of waking up and getting out of bed to avoid being trampled on before breakfast. Another image comes to mind of MacDougal’s own fascination with horses, but especially cows. He came from a kennel in the mid-West that was located next to a dairy farm, and perhaps he had experienced “imprinting” as a puppy.

On drives up to Sonoma County, whose low-rolling hills are dotted with sheep and cows, Mad Mac would constantly dash from one side of the old VW station wagon to the other, barking at all the grazing cows. Whenever I visited a dairy farm, he would sit quietly by the fence watching the enormous cows on the other side, until he was dragged away. In fact, even when there were no cows nearby, it was easy to tease him by simply calling out, “MacDougal – mooooo cows!” and that was enough to get him going.

While reminiscing on these past adventures with MacDougal, I started the last leg of the journey through the farmlands of California’s Central Valley towards the almond farm of a warm Italian family, with whose daughter I had worked. Pulling up, I saw the new pink piglets running around and broke into laughter remembering Mad Mac’s adventure the year before. He had been left on guard duty outside when all of a sudden, there was a commotion. Somehow the piglets had escaped from the pig-pen, and the next thing we all saw were all the piglets running around and rooting in the garden with MacDougal in their midst, looking like a shaggy black piglet himself.

MacDougal 1982


However, along with the welcome of glasses of delicious homemade wine and mounds of hand-rolled pasta, there was a troubling message from MacDougal’s owner asking to contact him as soon as I returned to San Francisco.

Upon arrival, I went to see him right away, and he had some unexpected news. Since he and his girlfriend had separated, MacDougal had not taken it well. She wanted me to come over and visit the dog, who was listless and despondent and had taken to peeing on the bed pillows when left alone. I hardly recognized the sulking and unhappy dog, so very different from the high-spirited one I knew so well. His mistress confided that his present behavior was out of loyalty to his former owner, and then she really surprised me! The two had agreed to give MacDougal to me, that is, if I wanted him. Of course, of course I did!

Artist - Svetlana Novikova

Artist – Svetlana Novikova

So that is how a MacScottie wish came true almost forty years ago. Although MacDougal is long gone, there have been a steady and unbroken succession of MacScotties since then. With each passing year, I am increasingly grateful for my continued relationship with these courageous, loyal, stubborn little dogs that have always brought me joy and laughter. And I am often reminded that wishes do come true simply because a funny Scottie dog once claimed me for his own in the foggy, foggy never-land of San Francisco. Since where a Scottie dog magically appears, others are bound to follow and that is also the nature of miracles.

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