It was the fall of 2005. I was sitting in a tree stand, near my home, that we had build beside a creek. This was a watershed area in the north-east corner of Richland County near Lake Wateree. With camera in hand I hoped to photograph the Ivory Billed Woodpecker. I had seen the pair a few weeks earlier in my backyard. The “yard” was a three acre area behind my home I had cleared of underbrush all the way to the creek line. It was what we called the park. Throughout the property I had blazed many trails that meandered through the woods of this 3,000 acre tract. The main trail started not far from the back deck and made its way down toward the swamp to what we called the island. I built a log bridge to the island, and there I had bench, covered over with some camo-net so one could sit and observe the wildlife that followed the creek. We had seen deer, turkey, Russian boar, Carolina cougar and bear. Birds of every kind for the area were usually hanging out too. Naturally the snakes, amphibians and turtles also hung out nearby. From the island I built a longer natural log bridge over the creek, and from there the trail followed the creek north to the upper forty acres. It was there, near the end of blazed trail the tree stand stood.
The Ivory Billed Woodpecker was so rare it was thought to be extinct. I remember seeing them when I was a kid in the Congaree Swamp (Congaree National Park now). I was a country boy back then and us boys would ride our bicycles with fishing pole tied to handlebars to the Congaree National Monument and fish the Bow Lake and creeks.
So one day I see this pair of woodpeckers checking out a hole high in a dead tree in the “park” behind my home. I took my binoculars out and could see clearly they were the rare Ivory Billed Woodpecker. I called the DNR and reported the sighting, and the guy on the phone, after I told him where I lived told me that was impossible, they don’t live that far from the swamp where they had been seen last. I insisted with him I had in fact seen these birds, and know what they looked like. He told me to take some pictures and send it to the DNR, hanging up the phone on me. Okay, no problem. I had seen these birds a couple more times after that but was not able to get good photos. They visited the hollow tree each time but never stayed long enough. But I did notice each time they flew in from the area where the tree stand was. So this is what brings me to why I was in the stand. But this is not what my story here is really about. It is about The Indestructible Spaz.
I was sitting in the tree stand one evening with my camera. I had sat here for many days before. I heard something running along the trail behind me. I thought it was probably a deer or hog from the sound on the leaves. I had walked this trail to the stand. As it got closer I could see it was a white dog, nose to the ground running quickly toward me. It ran straight up to the tree stand, looked up the ladder at me, wagging it tail and sat down at the base of the ladder. The dog was what looked like a pit bull, pure white, pink eyes and blue tongue. And it just sat there. I thought it would leave and go off trailing whatever it was looking for. But it just sat there. Then it laid down and the bottom of the tree, looking up at me every now and then. It was going to be dark soon and I kept thinking the dog would leave. But it did not. I actually begin to worry. Maybe it was waiting for me to come down so it could bite me, or rip me apart as I heard some of this breed does to people. I had my sidearm on me and when I could wait no longer I pulled it out of the holster and took the safety off. I hoped I would not have to shot the dog, but if it was me or him I would not hesitate. As soon as I started to climb down he jumped up and with excitement spun around in a spastic way then sat down, tail wagging the whole time. I had the weapon trained on his head as I reached the ground. He laid down and rolled over with his belly up. I reached down, rubbed his tummy a few times and suddenly he jumped up and flew off down the trail the way he came. I thought… do you mean you laid down here for all these hours waiting just so someone would rub your tummy? I guess he did.
I was a little leery walking down the trail back home. But the dog was not laying in wait to ambush me. When I got back to the house that dog was laying on the back deck against the door. He heard me and jumped up, dancing all about in a rather spastic way. Tail going 100 miles an hour acting like we where best friends. I petted him a bit, he did not seem at all aggressive or in any way like he would bite anyone. It was a hot day so I went inside and got a pan of water for him. He was happy to get it! I went inside, thinking he probably would go home soon. The next morning he was laying on the front porch. The kids decided to feed him. He loved kids and was eager to play ball and hung out with them all day. We decided to take a few photos of him and place some signs in the area hoping someone had missed him. After several weeks nobody came forward. I took him to the local vet to see if they might know who he belonged to. The Vet looked him over and said he had a chip in him and used some device to read it. He got the owner info and said he would notify him about his dog. We left him there. A couple days later the vet called me and said the man did not want his dog. The owner had told the vet he could put him down because the dog wouldn’t hunt. The vet told me that he would rather see the dog go to a good home instead of putting him to sleep if I wanted him. He seemed like a good dog so I went and picked him up. The vet told me that man had paid $12,000 for the dog! He was a pure breed that was made for coon hunting but after spending a sum on training he said the dog was to spastic and high strung and would not hunt raccoons. The man told the vet he had taken the dog to the country and put him out thinking the dog could live as a stray. He even said he thought about shooting him once he got him out in the country.
This dog was as high strung as anything I had ever seen. He would jump about three or four feet into the air, dance around in circles, run around here and there every time anyone would offer to play ball with him. The kids named him Spaz, short for spastic. Spaz was one of a kind. He was the boldest dang dog in history. He was tougher than a Mack truck too. Spaz could not seem to stay off the highway. He waited for the bus to bring the kids home everyday. He know the time when it would arrive. Spaz got hit by cars flying down the old country road in front of our house 5 times. Each time there was not a scratch on him. The vet told me he had never seen a dog so indestructible. Once my son and I were working out in front of the property and Spaz was across the road “hunting” in the field. He caught something and raced back toward the house. At the same time a car was coming by at 60 mph or so and hit Spaz. We both seen it happen. The dog was knocked into the air and sent flying out into the field. He just laid there. We figured he was surly dead… this time. We went behind the house to get a couple shovels so we could bury Spaz. While we were in the shed getting the tools I heard something behind me. It was Spaz, jumping all around like he normally does! We loaded him into the pick-up truck and drove him to the vet. One thing Spaz loved was riding in the truck. He would stand with his front feet on the side of the bed. His bull-dog lips flapping in the wind, he looked funny but you could tell he was in heaven. The vet examined him, took x-rays and determined the dog had no broken bones and only a little fur was knocked off where tail meets hip. It was hard to believe.
The following summer Spaz decided he liked to play with Rattle Snakes. One evening I could hear a Rattler, like on my back porch! It was not uncommon for snakes to be nearby. But usually the Rattle Snakes never came close to the house. In 15 years only one was to close for comfort. It was a 9 foot 8 inch Eastern Diamondback Rattle Snake coiled up under the trellis of the grape vines. I looked out the sliding glass door and Spaz had brought one about three foot long up on the deck. He had the snake in his mouth, and would put it down and lay near it. Every time the snake would try and slither off Spaz would pick it up and move it back on the porch. I tried to get the dog to come inside but he was not going to leave the snake and tried to bring it in the house with him. I finally had to get the dog by his collar and make him come inside. I caught the Rattler and carried it out across the creek and released it into the woods. That dog went fool when I let him back out later trying to find the snake.
Another time we were working in the garden. I heard a Rattler bust off just on the other side of the creek. I looked that way and sure as hell Spaz was over there. I went over and tried to get the dog away from the snake. Spaz was not having any part of leaving his buddy. He picked the snake up in his mouth and ran further into the woods. I followed him and he put the snake down. It was interesting watching the snake follow the dogs head as Spaz sniffed the snakes body. I know rattlers only bite as a last resort, because it takes a while for them to make venom. This (for the snake) could make the difference in getting a meal, so they normally don’t strike unless provoked. But this was that one day that Spaz must have bit down too hard. As I went to grab him by the collar he jumped down and grabbed the snake, so he could flee from me. The little snake bit him on the face. Spaz let go of the critter and took off yelping toward the house. When I got to him I could see the snake had popped him good, both fangs in his cheek. I took him to the vet and the vet did what he could. By the next day his head was swollen up the size of a rural mailbox. He was sick for a little over a week. But in the life of the indestructible Spaz he recovered. He never messed with another snake after that. At least as far as I know.
Once day Spaz disappeared. We never found him or any remains of him. But he will always be remembered as;
Spaz – The Indestructible Dog.