Song for Austin

Austin Powers, the 14-year-old black Scottish terrier and beloved companion of Mary Beth and Karl Mueller, went to dog heaven on Saturday, June 7. He is preceded in death by Karl, who died on June 17, 2005, and his running mate Millie, the couple’s beloved West Highland White Terrier who died last year. Austin is remembered fondly by Mrs. Mueller and his play lady, Claire, and all who knew him as an icon of the South Minneapolis sidewalks, boulevards, and fire hydrants he frequented.

“We got him a year after we moved into the house,” said Mrs. Mueller, of the big house that she and her late musician husband bought on the 48th block of Colfax Avenue in the early ’90s. “When he was a little puppy, he used to love to sit in the window and watch the kids get on the school bus. Karl used to have to explain to him that he wasn’t human. When Karl would walk him, he’d want to stop at the bus stop and kind of check up on everybody.

“He had his routes: The Rose Gardens and the Perennial Gardens. That’s why we memorialized the bench to Karl down there by the turtle fountain; that was really on Austin’s route — he had to check on everything and make sure everything was OK. When Karl died, a little girl down the street did a little crayon drawing card for me, ‘I’m sorry,’ and it had the dogs and ‘I’ll miss watching you walk your Oreo dogs.’”

For at least one hour every morning, Austin led Mrs. Mueller around the neighborhood — definitely not the other way around.

“We had to go through Guse [Hardware] at least once a day, sometimes twice a day, to check on Adam and Alison and everybody,” said Mrs. Mueller. “He absolutely [dictated the walk]. He decided usually when he got to King’s Highway if he was going to the Rose Gardens or if he was going the other way down to the Minnehaha Creek.

“Anywhere between Lyndale and the lake [Harriet] and 47th to 40th was his turf, and he patrolled it well. I don’t think there was a squirrel safe that he didn’t want to chase.”

In keeping with the Scottie’s pedigree as a proper old-world dog, Mrs. Mueller recalled Austin as a very “regal” animal. And, as is the case with all our four-legged companions who love us both because and in spite of ourselves, Austin was the epitome of the adage “man’s best friend.” In this case, woman’s.

“For 14 years, every morning I would walk him in this neighborhood, and that is where I’d sort out my day,” said Mrs. Mueller. “We’ve been through an awful lot together. It was really fun training him off-leash as a puppy; he would stay at every corner, he wouldn’t go until I said ‘cross over.’ Very hard to ever train a terrier to do that, and I don’t recommend it because if he sees a squirrel out of the corner of his eye, he’ll be gone. But he was really good at staying. I could trust him.

“You know, you spend an hour every day of your life with someone who can’t reveal your secrets; you tell them everything,” she said with a laugh. “I often wondered if people didn’t look out their windows and say, ‘Oh my God, there’s that crazy lady talking to herself with her two Scotties.’

“After Karl died, walking the dogs got me out. It was the only time I could really walk around … I just sobbed walking the dogs. It’s very cathartic having a dog that you walk everyday. And it’s a great way to know what’s going on in your neighborhood. I used to joke that the reason I got dogs in the first place was so that when I’d walk them after dinner I could look in people’s windows and see what kind of wallpaper they had in their living rooms. Which is why I walk my dogs on Emerson and Fremont, where rich people live.

“You have a dog, you see the neighborhood differently. You become more in touch with it. You walk through an alley, for instance, as opposed to the street. You spend more time noticing your neighbors’ gardens, which is a really great treat in this neighborhood. You see the seasons differently than someone that doesn’t go out and walk every day. You see your neighbors differently — like Elliot’s parents, who live over on Dupont. I have no idea what their real names are, but I know their dog.”

Mrs. Mueller has a new dog, Katie, a black Scottish terrier puppy, who keeps her busy.

Jim Walsh lives and grew up in East Harriet.