Storytime: Little Orphan Annie Ledbetter, the Laughing Dog
Three friends reminisce about rescuing a dog off a highway on their pilgrimage to Lead Belly’s grave.
With Ted Lindsay, Katy Hobgood Ray, & David Ray
It was hot. VERY hot. Dave, Ted and I finally remembered this fact about the day that we rescued Annie Ledbetter off the side of a country highway, because we recalled that the little pads of her paws were burned off by the heat of the asphalt.
Little Orphan Annie Ledbetter, the Laughing Dog, was a medium sized solid black mutt who had been abandoned on the Blanchard Latex Road in rural Caddo Parish in northwest Louisiana.
We know she was abandoned because she was running back and forth along the road cut through the rolling piney woods, sticking close to shoulder, waiting and barking, and terrified. We passed her in our truck on our way to visit Lead Belly’s grave, and agreed that were she still there on our way back, we would try to rescue her.
We spent some time in the grave yard at Shiloh Baptist Church, looking at the old headstones, including Lead Belly’s grave (a place we all visit several times a year) and noticing all the Ledbetter descendants in that yard. Ted was captivated by a head stone that had the name ‘Annie Ledbetter’ etched upon it. He loved that name.
We piled back into Dave’s white pickup truck and headed back to Ted’s house in Mooringsport. There was nothing save pine forest, or the occasional dilapidated shack or mobile home every half mile or so.
We all kept our eye out for the little black dog. As we rounded a gentle bend, we saw her.
She was there. Sitting on the side of the road. Waiting. For what? For who?
Dave pulled his truck over and he and Ted and I scrambled out of the car to approach the little black dog.
She was panicked and terrified, and bared her teeth at us. Yet she wouldn’t run away. You could see she was desperately in need of comfort. She would chase after us a few feet when we would retreat.
We didn’t give up. We had nothing more pressing on this sunny day than to save this life. We didn’t chase her. We gave her time and space and hung out in the back of the pickup truck and waited for her to get comfortable. The wind blew gently through the tree tops. Cars were few and far between.
Dave finally got the bright idea to coax her with water. He went to his truck, pulled out a big frisbee and poured in cool liquid from his water bottle. He put it on the ground outside the truck and sat just inside with the door open.
Ted and I watched from behind the truck as she warily approached the water. She sniffed, and then desperately started drinking. We gingerly approached, and soothingly talked to her. She didn’t run….. She cowered, and then she gave in. She gave herself over to what fate would bring. Ted put his hands gently on her, and next thing you know, he had scooped her up and put her into the back of the truck. We climbed in to sit with her while Dave drove the truck back to Ted’s house.
She was a lapdog for the rest of the night. Hugs and snuggles and food and water and campfire light and music. A frisky, wiggly, joyful dog emerged from the fearful creature, just like that.
Little Orphan Annie Ledbetter was full of joy, happy to be alive, happy to be loved.
She lived out the rest of her happy life with Ted there in those woods.