On the stage and behind the scenes

The NarroWay Blog

Chapter 44: The Tail of Three Bassets

basset hound in front of theater

Jessie, JP, Jehu – you may not know these guys, but these are the men in our lives. They aren’t the typical clean-shaven, handsome hunks with which many of you share life.

Nope, these were MUCH easier to train!

Children... we love them, but they require time ...and food ...and money! And with the schedule we keep, there hasn’t been much time for social things or vetting husbands.

So, we got the next best thing to a man – a BASSET HOUND!!


basset hound outside

They say people resemble their dogs. Well, a Basset Hound on all fours is short (like me). But put a loaf of bread atop a file cabinet and that short hound will become tall (like Birdie).

At our first church we barely had enough money to pay rent. We even took out a loan to buy a portable dishwasher! But we saved up enough to spend $300 on a hound dog!

His name was Jessie.

Jessie the basset
basset from back

It was love at first sight! He tripped over his own ears.

Our apartment was located over a mechanic’s garage, up a flight of about twenty narrow steps. So house breaking was a feat!

We carpeted most of the apartment with newspapers in our first puppy potty-training experience.

Jessie wasn’t allowed in my rented room because it had white carpet. Even a peek resulted in a stern, “NO! Bad boy!” But inevitably when he didn’t want to walk that flight of steps, he sneaked into that white-carpeted room to poop!

That, in fact, was his favorite place to poop.
You should have heard Rebecca when she went into her room to find the fecal surprise.
It was funny until she went to gagging and I had to clean it up!

basset hound in snow

Jessie was a master at sneaking, and winters in the mountains of Kentucky gave him plenty of reasons to not want to go outside!

Jessie got sick the day after we bought him. The breeder thought it was separation anxiety.

The veterinarian sent him home with meds but his condition worsened.

Finally the vet decided to keep Jessie for intense care.

We went to hold him every day at lunch and after work but he developed pneumonia. We asked the vet if Jessie was going to die. She said, “It looks like it.”

We cried our eyes out. “Well, he isn’t going to die in a vet kennel!” we said. And we carried the fragile little fella home.

Rebecca called her big sister, Tessie.

Tessie said, “Try what I do when my babies are sick. Boil a chicken. Get a medicine dropper and every 15-30 minutes put a couple of drops of chicken broth into his mouth, more if he will take it.”

We did. And do you know that saved Jessie’s life! It was a slow recovery but soon he was walking again and playing. He didn’t bark until he was about 6-months old, but when we heard him bark for the first time you would have thought we won the lottery!

basset with cat
Jessie and Birdie

Jessie saw us through our first church, our second church and helped us get NarroWay started!! He lived to be 17 years old!

In his last days, he couldn’t walk. We fitted him for wheels. Eventually we had to carry him.

basset hound in wheelchair

But we didn’t mind. When he died in 1998, my precious daddy built him a casket and dug his grave at my Tennessee home place. Oh, we grieved over that little fella!

A little over a year later, February 2, 2000...

It was such a sad day because my daddy had passed away in November and February 2 was his birthday.

John Phillips, a cast member who played the role of Jesus, came to the amphitheater and said, “I have something for you.”

Then John handed me an 8-week-old basset. So, we named him JP.

JP as a puppy

JP loved the amphitheater life and riding the golf cart and he helped us build the NarroWay Theatre.

basset on concrete
basset in golf cart
JP sitting
JP in golf cart
basset with pigs
JP wearing glasses
basset hound and owner

Now, JP was a singer! Honestly, he was! I don’t know if it was because he laid beside Birdie as she wrote the NarroWay music or what.

He even had favorite songs. His all-time favorites were “School Days” from our show “Twenty Years Ago” and “Five Dollar Lamb” from the show “Fishes and Loaves.”

JP singing as Birdie rehearses "Five Dollar Lamb"

When we wrote “The Gospel According to Tennessee” we intended to use JP in the show. We trained him to wear a straw hat and everything! In fact, on the billboard is JP’s picture, in his hat!

But EVERY BLASTED TIME the music began to play on stage, JP started singing! No matter what we tried, he howled his song of praise all the louder. We finally gave up and took him off the stage!

basset wearing straw hat
basset wearing coat
JP in sunglasses

So much for stardom!

JP was 11-years-old when Birdie was orchestrating the creation scene from “Lord of Light.” He LOVED the arrangement of “This Is My Father’s World.” He lifted his nose to Heaven and sang, as if he knew just where God might be. And that’s when we noticed that JP was losing his singing voice.

Funny as that may sound, we knew something was wrong.

JP and Rebecca at beach
basset snuggled up sleeping

We visited one vet, then another. We feared cancer.

He was 13-years-old when we lost him in February, 2013.

Like most pet owners, we vowed we wouldn’t go through that heartbreak again.

JP and Birdie
JP and Rebecca

But Lora, our best buddy and Theatre Manager for NarroWay, knew we were heartbroken. She adored JP, too. Unbeknownst to us, she found a breeder who was set to deliver a litter of bassets in October, just in time for Christmas.

She followed the progress every day.

Silly as it may sound, I prayed that the Lord would send us the perfect little basset. And I was second on the list to get a boy. But when the litter was born October 18, 2013 – there was only one male. My heart sank. There would be no puppy for Christmas.

Until the breeder called Lora back!

“I made a mistake!” he said. “There’s one more boy!”

It was a late December Sunday evening. Birdie and I were working. We thought it was odd that we hadn’t seen Lora all day, but she said she had errands to run.

Around 11pm Lora walks in holding a baby blanket!

Now that was an odd sight! I thought, “Lora, I’m hoping somebody left that baby on your doorsteps!”

Then, without words, she handed the baby to me.

He was wearing a tiny Santa cap.

baby basset
Jehu in Birdie's lap
baby basset sleeping

And all three of us were grinning bigger than a crescent moon.

Rebecca and Jehu
basset hound puppy
sleeping in basket

We named him Jehu and introduced him to the Christmas audience the next weekend and he has been on stage ever since.

hound in doghouse on stage
basset in senator's office
baseball scene with basset
family scene

He’s not a singer but he tries to talk. He lies on our feet as we work, rides to and from work in Lora’s truck, snores like a freight train, goes through staff member’s purses when they arrive and loves to kiss the cast children’s faces like licking a lollipop!

dog under desk
basset in truck
basset with child
basset sleeping
basset with toothpaste
basset under feet
hound in truck
basset with children
basset in trouble
Jehu with Lindsey
Jehu sleeping

And he LOVES big sticks!

basset carrying big stick

I can’t say whether or not Jessie, JP or Jehu ever helped us to write a song or a script but, oh the difference that unconditional puppy-love has made to us!

“Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you, because I knew you, I have been changed for good.” (lyrics from “For Good,” written by Stephen Schwartz for the musical “Wicked.”)

Jehu and Birdie on couch

More Photos

Birdie Rebecca and Jehu
Jehu in hat
basset in ocean
basset on lap
Jehu and Rebecca
basset in sand


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Chapter 45: The Show Must Go On
Chapter 43: The NarroWay Cast

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