Column: Remembering Echo
Dog from Kinky Friedman's Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch made walks worthwhile
It's not hard to choose the smartest words Kinky Friedman ever said. "Your boys need a dog," he told me. As it turns out, I needed one. About 10 years ago I adopted a sweet, gangly dog from Kinky's rescue ranch. Last week, a day shy of his 12th birthday, that dog died. His name was Echo, and he was a good boy.
Kinky is seldom described in similar terms. You could call him politically incorrect and still fail to capture the full measure of his offensiveness as a novelty country singer, satirical detective novelist, or politician. But Kinky redeems himself as the man who founded the Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch in Medina, Texas, which they say has "saved more animals than Noah." This is where I found Echo.
At first I wanted to adopt Echo's brother because I liked the look of him. "No, you've got kids," said Tony the caretaker, who pointed at his brother, a long-limbed puppy. "You want him. He's a lap dog." Tony pointed out the large paws on the mixed-breed dog and mentioned that his mother had a little Mastiff in her. "He's going to be a big dog," he said.
Echo went right past big and became implausibly large, topping out over 100 pounds. He looked like an outsized black Labrador topped off by a stately block of a head. He got so big that to take him places in my sedan we would have to flatten the back seats so the boys could lay flat in the trunk. It must have looked odd when we'd pull up to a park with the giant dog bounding out of the back seat and two boys popping out of the trunk.
He was a dog like I always wanted and was the only dog I ever had that did not need a leash. He happily walked beside me wherever I was headed and never chased a cat, rabbit or squirrel. I once had a dog that would chase the birds in the sky. Not Echo. He stuck with me. If I called, he came. If I walked, he heeled.
And boy did we walk. We had favorite routes in parks, through neighborhoods, and along rivers. Writing this, I'm honestly wondering what the point of walking without Echo is. Do people really walk without dogs?
It's customary to describe a dog as loyal. Echo was not. While I suspect he held me close to his heart, he would happily go off with anyone who wanted a walk. We have a friend who used to come take Echo for walks to relieve the stress of writing a dissertation while planning a wedding.
He was a calm, good-natured dog, as many larger ones are. Little dogs would see his body block their view of the sky and yip and yap at him. He'd sniff in apparent confusion at their aggression. It never occurred to him to fight another dog. He would have rather taken a nap.
If I have one regret it was in choosing his name. The folks at Utopia named him SpongeBob, which seemed to capture his affable, slightly dim nature, but while he was cartoonishly large I thought he deserved a name with more dignity. However, I failed to anticipate how silly I would sound when calling him in a park. Other people would look at me as if I were a kid throwing a stick and hoping it was a boomerang.
He leaves behind a family that loves him, several pill bottles from a blessedly brief but final illness, and many tumbleweeds of black hair that in recent years had become increasingly gray. In lieu of flowers, which he never saw the point of anyway, the family asks that donations be made in his name to the Utopia Rescue Ranch at utopiarescue.com. Let's reward Kinky's good behavior.
I am dreading telling Kinky about Echo because he'll try to get me to take another one, but I'm done with the optional heartbreak of owning a dog for now. I'm unlikely to find another dog like my Echo, anyway. He was such a good boy.
Jason Stanford is a regular contributor to the Austin American-Statesman and a Democratic consultant.Follow him on Twitter @JasStanford.