Meet The Newest Member Of The Family
There is actually a significant racing connotation here, so please bear with me. Most regular readers of this site probably remember last fall when I had to put my thirteen year-old lab down. In fact, yesterday was ten months to the day that we lost our friend “Luckey”.
Most here know me as a devout fan of the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500. Those that know me personally, also know that I am a dog-lover – especially yellow labs.
Over a period of almost thirty years, I’ve had two female yellow labs. I got my first one in 1986 (pictured below) and named her Neyland, after the legendary football coach (and stadium) at the University of Tennessee, my alma mater.
Neyland lived a good long life. I got her as a puppy before I got married. She was there for the birth of my two kids and she was there long after I got divorced in 1996. She was as much a part of the family as anyone. Old age finally caught up with Neyland in 2002 and she had to be put down at the ripe old age of sixteen.
The following year, I adopted Luckey – who was already one and a half when I rescued her. Born on that fateful day of September 11, 2001; Luckey apparently led a hard life at first. The way she flinched anytime I would make a fast motion with my hand, indicated that she had been beaten regularly. Her first vet visit the next day showed that one of her back legs had been broken and never set properly. The vet warned that it would give her problems in later years. It did.
Like Neyland before her, Luckey became a family member. Once she came into our home, she never spent a night outside or in a crate. Our home was her home. She slept in chairs, on the sofa or on her bed in my bedroom. Basically, she was spoiled rotten. Luckey was not quite as smart as Neyland, but she made up for that in her temperament. She was the sweetest dog I ever saw.
Susan and I got married over three years ago. With my kids grown and out of the house; Luckey and I moved in with Susan. Although she was getting old, Luckey adjusted nicely and seemed to be in great health. But at the end of last September, she had an episode with her legs and a tumor on her spleen was found. We nursed her back to where she was walking on her own and things seemed fine – for a couple of weeks. But she spiraled quickly downhill and had to be euthanized last October 16th.
Some people head out to replace a dog the very next day. I couldn’t do that. It didn’t seem right. I knew I had to wait. So I set myself a goal to get a new female yellow lab puppy this summer. Given my advanced age of fifty-six, I figured if this one lived as long as my other two – I would be in my seventies when it finally crossed the rainbow bridge. At that point, I probably wouldn’t be in the market for another dog. Realizing that this had the potential to be my last dog, I wanted to make sure it was a good one. Nothing against rescues – I’m glad I did it with Luckey, but I wanted a puppy for my last one.
I started looking at breeders in January. That’s when I found that they were a very different “breed” themselves. It wasn’t like it was in 1986. Now, breeders make you fill out an application online. Then they schedule a phone interview. If that goes well, they will agree to do you the honor of selling you one of their dogs for a price that is about quadruple what it was in 1986 – that is, if you ever hear from them after submitting your application.
On various levels, I was in contact with breeders in Atlanta, Knoxville, TN, Illinois and Indiana before finding one with a level of mutual respect in Memphis – Spencer’s English Labs. It was not a puppy mill. Instead, she breeds about two to three litters a year, she had a good reputation among other breeders and she had been breeding strictly English-style labs for over twelve years. Best of all, she was easy to talk to and work with. Long story made not much shorter – the pups were born on Monday June 22nd. If anyone is interested, she still has a very cute black male available from the litter.
This past weekend, Susan and I made the trip to Memphis and met our new family member and brought her home on Saturday afternoon. Susan snapped this shot of me at the breeder’s house, just as I was handed our new bundle of joy for the very first time.
Unfortunately, we had no name for her. I had been wanting a name with some racing connection – but after dwelling on this since January, eight months later we still had nothing that just blew our socks off. Several names were considered and discarded for one reason or another. AJ and Wheldon were considered too masculine. Pippa was already taken by our Sheltie. Janet, Lyn, Bea (Ana), Katherine and Milka were all quickly discarded for one reason or another. Sarah was strongly considered but didn’t make the cut. Danica was not considered.
Gurney, Ruby, Lola and Indy were all considered – and dismissed at some point. Shaw sounded too short. Rosie (for Mauri Rose), Maysey (for Rex Mays) and even Gilly (for Gilmore) were all considered at one point. Dawson (for Joe Dawson and Dawson’s on Main) was a heavy favorite for a while. Chappy (for Chaparral) was a late suggestion we almost went with. My mother suggested Cassie for Castroneves and Nellie for Parnelli Jones. Nellie was a front-runner last week. Callie for Ol’ Calhoun was the leader at some point a week ago as well.
Yesterday morning, there were five front-runners; Emmy (for Emerson Fittipaldi), Camber and Lindy (not necessarily for Lindy Thackston, more for L’il Indy). There was my personal favorite, Ellie for Helio; and Susan’s personal favorite, Dixie for Scott Dixon. We narrowed it down to those two before Susan came up with the name that pleased us both around lunchtime.
Susan asked me; “What was the name of the car that used to be up on the roof in Indianapolis, that we went to go see once?” Of course, she was referring to the Jones & Maley Special – the 1954 Kurtis KK500C. George Salih, who would later build the iconic Belond Special that won the 1957 and 1958 Indianapolis 500, was the chief mechanic and Bill Hohmeier was the driver. Hohmeier could barely get it up to speed and Bill Vukovich drove it in practice to see if he could make a difference. He couldn’t. The car qualified eighteenth and finished thirty-third.
The following year, Salih turned to Sam Hanks to drive it and he qualified on the outside of Row Two, next to Vukovich who would lose his life that day. Hanks was sidelined with transmission issues and finished nineteenth. In 1956, Hanks started thirteenth and finished second to winner Pat Flaherty. In 1957, Salih lured Hanks to drive the Belond Special, so Bob Christie was hired to drive the Jones & Maley Special.
The car was eventually sold and became the Safety Auto Glass Special. Several drivers took their turn in the car, but 1961 was the last year the car appeared at The Speedway. Shortly afterwards, the car was placed on the roof of the Safety Auto Glass company, just east of downtown Indianapolis. For fifty-one years, the car sat on the roof deteriorating (along with being blown off in 1964). Susan and I went to see it in April of 2012 and took these pictures.
Later that year, a group from California bought the old relic, with plans to restore it to its former glory in the original Jones & Maley livery. The car came down and was trucked away. Based on its condition, I would assume it would take a lot of time to bring it back up to show condition. I’ve not heard any updates on the status of their project.
When I responded to Susan’s question that it was the Jones & Maley Special, she suggested “How about Maley?” For the first time since we started thinking about this in January, we had a great name that we both could agree on. It matched Susan’s desire to have a unique name that didn’t sound like every other trendy dog name. It suited my wishes to have a two-syllable name that had a tie to the Indianapolis 500.
So, please welcome our newest member of the family – Maley.
It’s not Marley, or Mallie. It’s Maley and rhymes with Bailey. We’ve had a fun two days with her, so far. She has assimilated well into her new surroundings and enjoys terrorizing Pippa. We are looking forward to many years with her.