Thankful… For the Heart & Mind of a Dog

Written By: Crysta Stephenson

Where does love come from?

It comes from the heart of a dog.

Those that have come to know that type of love should consider themselves among God’s most privileged and highly blessed children. 

Only a mother’s love is known to be more pure than the loyalty and devotion that flows from the heart and mind of a dog.

Highland County, Virginia, Monterey, dog, dogs, love, family


In our own family, we’ve been blessed time and again. There was the German Shepherd named Lulie. Then, there was a Beagle named Runt and her daughter, the Beagle named Sniffer. There was the mixed mutt named Misty Blue. And, the best pet of all, the Beagle/Sheltie mix that we called Auggi Dog. All these fine dogs have gone on to their reward.

Highland County, Virginia, Monterey, dog, dogs, love, family

“Auggi Dog”

The one that lives with us now, though, is right up there with the best of them. He is my daughter’s dog and came to live with us when he was quite young. When he came to us, he already had the name Alexander. My daughter gave him the middle name, “Brown,” because – well – he is brown all over. She gave him her last name, Landrum. 

Alexander Brown Landrum came to live with us after being separated from his sister and their owner, an elderly lady who could no longer care for her beloved Dachshunds. Her gift to my daughter was undoubtedly the most precious that anyone has ever received. From that time to this, my daughter and Alexander – Alex, for short – have only been separated when absolutely necessary.

Highland County, Virginia, Monterey, dog, dogs, love, family, man's best friend


When Alex came to us, his coat was a rich brown, and he was full of boy-like boisterous energy. Today, his muzzle is gray. He sleeps a lot and lounges a lot but each morning he awakes with that boyish romp in his system as he makes his rounds through the house bidding each a “Good Morning,” and then, making his morning patrol of the farm and its premises.

Over the years, Alex has been my daughter’s best friend and most ardent companion. Although he belongs to her, he has also developed special relationships with each member of our family. 

Alex is a family-oriented, people dog and would much rather be with a family member than to be alone in the house. These days he is a little more calm, but if you left him alone in the house, he would stand around barking until someone came inside with him or let him outside with them. (He still does that today even if a family member simply walks outside.) Now, his vision and hearing are fairly dull. If you leave him alone while he is sleeping, he may never realize you have left. And, in many cases, you can enter the room without him being aware that you are there … until you gently touch his haunches and wake him from another daytime snooze.

This little dog’s black eyes are deep wells of emotion. Watching him interact with my daughter over the years, I created a voice for him. He has his own speech patterns and personality. Moreover, his intellect far exceeds most people I know … and, as such, I thoroughly enjoy reading his thoughts, reactions, and perceptions. I speak his words in his voice and we have the best time. Other family members have joined in using his voice to help him “speak” to other humans in the house. 

Alex, Highland County, Virginia, Monterey, dog, dogs, love, family, man's best friend

Staring into “Mam’s” eyes… With love…

Alex’s main mission in life each day is to track down his Mom’s location. In fact, he doesn’t exactly call her Mom. It is more like, “Mam.” On days when she is not home, he walks the floors tracking her scent, but – of course – is unable to find her. That is when he finds his way to the family member that is watching him that day … and begins to whine. Years ago, he just wandered around and fretted. Now, Alex has become a professional whiner. He looks all sad and lost and whines like he is about to cry. The worst thing? He doesn’t stop! He will settle down when she comes home or when you properly distract him and get him to eat, play, or sleep. He’s quiet when he sleeps. Thank the Lord.

The second thing Alex worries about during the day is his great-aunt … my sister. My sister has grown quite attached to Alex in the past few years … and he to her. She plays with him and pets him and makes him talk in the familiar tone I created for him. He loves her.

Alex, Highland County, Virginia, Monterey, dog, dogs, love, family, man's best friend

Alex having some quality “snore time” at the foot of my bed.

On nights when my daughter is staying away from home, Alex sleeps with me on his very own blanket at the foot of my bed. Our quality time is snoring together. I snore horribly, and I know I am due for a sleep study. True to form, Alex snores as well. As my daughter puts it, Alex and I “peel the paint off” the walls.

As for my mother, who owns our family home, she thinks Alex is constantly in the way. And, she would be right. Alex is fascinated by her and follows her everywhere. Inevitably, Alex will be underfoot and/or standing in between my mother and her destination. This either requires stepping over him as if he were a live, moving hurdle … or, tapping him on his bottom with your foot until he moves.

Alex does steer clear of my older daughter. She is a veterinary technician and is often pressed into service to clip his nails. She is not fond of doing so because he acts like she’s killing him. And, of course, he doesn’t seem to care for it either. However, he will walk by and lick her ankle … which is his way of showing love, but she says she finds it rather gross. 

Nonetheless, this is the cast of characters that Alex plays among daily. In future posts, we will be writing about this family dynamic through Alex’s eyes. We will attempt to share his thoughts and observations and hope you will find it insightful and somewhat entertaining. Also, we must offer a key to the nicknames associated with our family: 

Mam = Alex’s owner and my youngest daughter

Dorfy = Alex’s great-aunt and my sister

Regular Gaggy = Me (Gaggy is my daughters’ name for Grandmother. Don’t ask me why.)

Great Gaggy = Alex’s great-grandmother and my mother (Because we have to differentiate between the Gaggies in our home)

Auntie Bec Vet Tech = Alex’s aunt and my oldest daughter

I know. We are ridiculous.

And, this may be the exact reason that the Good Lord Above chose to bless us with this dog. He knew we needed someone stable to watch over us!


About the Author

Editor & Writer | More Posts by This Author

Crysta Stephenson grew up in the Meadowdale and Vanderpool areas of Highland County. She loved it so much that she returned to raise her daughters on the family farm, Glenwood. She received a B.A. in mass communications with a minor in history from Mary Baldwin College. For 13 years, she honed her journalism skills as a staff writer and editor at two small Virginia newspapers. Her second career - also lasting 13 years - focused on managing two small historical museums here in Virginia. These days, she juggles lots of odd jobs including writing and museum assignments that give her time to enjoy life and admire the accomplishments of her daughters, Rebecca and Suzanna, and play with her grandmutts, Alex and Snoopy. She splits her time between her family home in Highland and her apartment in Augusta County.


  1. Dot Terry

    Thank you for introducing me to Alex! I look forward to hearing more stories about him!

    • Dorothy Stephenson

      You’re very welcome, Dot! Glad you enjoyed it, and thank you SO MUCH for reading!

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