Ron Brown couldn’t figure out what to do with the last puppy of a litter born at the Ellis County Pct. 4 barn.
All of the puppy’s brothers and sisters had been adopted and taken to cozy homes to grow up in a nice backyard. But Pluto, as he came to be called, was singled out for some reason.
“No one wanted him,” Brown said, looking down at the now senior adult dog. “He was just a little different. He was sort of ‘Plain Jane’ I guess.”
Pluto’s mother wandered onto the barn property just before she gave birth to Pluto and his siblings. That was about 14 or 15 years ago, Brown guesses, and since his puppyhood, Pluto has held the position of yard dog at the precinct.
“He just stayed here. He’s been very protective of this place,” Brown said.
Pluto is of unknown lineage — one can spot characteristics of chow heritage in his pointy ears, snout and the thick, cinnamon tinted fur. Strangers may find his behavior abrasive but his extended family at the barn knows that Pluto is only being territorial.
“He’s never bitten anyone but a lot of people think he will,” Brown said, saying many people have learned to bring a treat for Pluto in order to exit their vehicle. “It takes new people a little while to warm up to him. Once he finds out you belong here, he likes you.”
However, Pluto, in all his years, has never approved of an animal control vehicle or employee.
“He despises the dogcatcher. They come out here to fill up with gas and he’ll get real loud,” Brown said, with Pct. 4 foreman Eric Thompson adding, “He barks until they leave.”
“I’ll hear him barking and I’ll ask, ‘What’s going on?’ ” Brown said, noting the normal reply confirms the presence of an animal control truck.
As Pluto chomps on a small piece of a Slim Jim, Brown laughs at his appetite — which includes anything from his normal dog food, to Mexican cuisine and a variety of leftovers from the Pct. 4 employees’ lunches.
“He eats all kinds of food — he’s diversified on food,” Brown said.
With Brown working in his 17th year as Pct. 4 commissioner, he’s developed a close relationship with Pluto.
“I come in on long weekends and holidays to check on him. He’s so happy in the mornings when everyone comes in. He’s sort of special,” Brown said. “I consider Pluto the best employee I’ve ever had. He’s never asked for a raise and he’s only missed two days. He got a wild hair and wandered off. He had found himself a girlfriend.”
Other than those two days, Pluto has spent his time at the precinct barn greeting employees in the morning, taking naps on the cool tile inside the building, eating anything he is offered and body surfing on a dirt pile on the property.
“I imagine he could find a way out if he wanted to but he just hangs out and waits for us to come back in the mornings,” Brown said. “He knows the sounds of the different vehicles. He’s everybody’s dog out here.”
During election season, Brown always ponders what he will do with Pluto if he happens to lose his position as commissioner.
“I always think that I will take him home. But it would be hard to take him away from here,” Brown said. “He’s never known anything else.”
For the little puppy that couldn’t seem to attract people with lush backyards and quiet homes, Pluto has lived a long life in a loud, busy atmosphere, serving as man’s best friend to the 16 employees of the Pct. 4 barn.
“This is his home,” Brown said.
E-mail Mandy at firstname.lastname@example.org.