Farm Horizons, April 2012

Favorite farm dog stories, part 2

Spunky shows true compassion

From Linda Keyes, Howard Lake

Our barnyard dog is “Spunky,” now 14 years old and losing her eyesight. She was rescued at the humane society; which we call the orphanage. She was the only puppy, at 4 months old, running around and barking in her kennel while the other puppies were all sleeping. That was the one my husband wanted. We later found out she had separation anxiety disorder and Spunky hated gunfire and loud noises. They have a good relationship, keeping each other company.

Spunky protected the farm animals; chickens, geese, ducks, cats, and a pet sheep named Mel. Spunky and Mel never got along. Mel was free range in our farm yard and would get into the animal food, which bothered Spunky, because she wanted it.

The last week of Mel’s life, he went into a coma in the winter before Christmas. Spunky knew he was dying and stayed with him all day and night, laying on a blanket next to him until he passed away. This showed us animals have compassion.

Spunky knew I was sick. I had Bell’s palsey, and she stayed by my bedside continuously until I was ready to get out of bed. She would touch my arm to let me know she was there.

A few years ago, my husband needed to go to the hospital by ambulance. As they brought him out of the house to be put on an ambulance cot, Spunky came over to him and put her head on his arm, as if to say “it’s ok” in front of all the emergency personnel.

We have our daily runs and walks with her that keep her in good shape for an old dog. These are just a few memories we will always have about her.

That dog is Worthmore

By Michael Merriman, Lester Prairie

My grandparents’ farm sits just west of Delano. Although it is no longer in our family, there are a lot of great memories that remain.

My Uncle Bill purchased this farm from my grandfather many, many, years ago and they both lived there until the day they died.

My uncle always had a dog, and I remember most his first dog, named Worthmore. I remember I always thought it was an odd name for a dog. Many years passed, and eventually Worthmore passed away and Uncle Bill got another dog.

He named it Worthless. As the dog grew and Uncle Bill grew more attached to the dog, its name became Worthmore.

My uncle had many dogs over the years, and I can’t remember how many Worthless/Worthmores there actually were.

Butch, a man’s best friend

Submitted by Evelyn Fowler with collaboration from Jim, Sarah, and Emma Fowler. Jim and his sister Mary are the present owners of the 231-acre farm in Martin County, which has been family-owned for over 150 years.

My name is Butch. I’m a very big dog, making me the talk of the neighborhood. Technically, I’m a cross between Akbash, similar to a Newfoundland, and Labrador, so I get a lot of respect, but I make friends pretty easy.

I started my farm life in Lester Prairie on a farm with a lady named Betty Wroge. I had the run of the farm yard and fields, keeping the varmints out and alerting my owner to anything unusual. Life was good until progress came and chopped up the fields into building lots, shrinking my world. I didn’t know what to make of all the commotion, and the new neighbors didn’t like a big, black dog of unknown character rambling through the neighborhood.

My owner, Betty, decided I needed a change of scenery. So, my dog house, food, and dog dish were loaded onto a trailer and she convinced me to get into a van for a long road trip south in June 2003.

I was a very lucky dog. My new home was on 230 acres along Elm Creek in Martin County. I got a warm welcome from Art Fowler and his daughter, Mary. Because I’m such a big dog, I was again the talk of the neighborhood.

I had two main jobs. First, greet whoever drove into the yard and make sure they belonged there. Remember, I’m a big, black dog, so I got immediate respect. My post was the top step outside the back door. It was the perfect spot to survey, the yard and guaranteed that I’d get attention when Art or Mary came out the door. The farm cats liked to hang around the back door, too. I didn’t mind them too much, but I occasionally let them know who was king of the hill. It was jolly fun to see them run.

Keeping Art company when he was working or sitting outside was my easy second job. Art retired from farming some time ago, but during the summer, he was outside a lot mowing grass. We spent a lot of time together watching the world go by while sitting in the lawn chair in the shade of a hackberry tree. Better yet, if Travis, the renter, stopped to visit while doing chores or checking the sheep in the pasture, guaranteed I’d get some additional pats and attention.

Occasionally repairmen came through, which were bonus days. If I did a good job with the sad dog eyes and stood in their walking path, I’d get attention, and my whole body smiled.

As I said, Art and I were best buddies. Early one morning there were a lot of lights, noise, and people in the yard. Art left on a fancy bed in a vehicle with lots of lights. I stood watch all day, but only Travis came by and threw food in my dish. I really wasn’t hungry. I just wanted Art to come home. For several days, I laid out on the lawn, next to Art’s chair, waiting for him to return. He didn’t. Mary and I both missed him.

So, the world changed again in June 2004. Art’s grandkids, Emma, Wade, and Sarah didn’t come to play or visit as often and activity in the yard slowed.

But, Mary and I took lots of walks down the driveway, onto the gravel road, and back up the old driveway along the old horse pasture. In the mornings or evenings, I was Mary’s shadow while she fed the birds and walked to the barn to feed the cats, just like Art used to do. While she was gone to work, I watched the place, which got pretty boring after awhile. You understand why I got annoyed, when too often, she’d come home from work and disappeared into the house without much socializing. Then I’d give her the cold shoulder when she’d come out with my supper and pills. I felt the same way when she loaded a suitcase into her vehicle, not knowing when she would return.

By 2007, I admit I was getting on in years. My right hip pained me daily, only made tolerable by a regular pill dosage from Mary. My best days were the early days of spring or cool days of fall. Hot summer days were only tolerable if I could find some cool wet dirt, frequently found in the small flower bed under the living room picture window. Mary never seemed too upset that I smashed her plants or scolded me too much. I still kept the cats in line, but I didn’t run too far or fast and I still escorted vehicles from the yard down the driveway.

For some time, Mary had also been slowing down, plagued by bad knees. Our walks became less frequent, but we enjoyed time together when she brushed my massive, shedding coat or sat beside me. I kept her company working in the vegetable garden, where she allowed me to munch fresh pea pods or ground cherries.

The summer of 2011 was a scorcher and I was miserable. One day, I went in search of a cool, wet spot near the creek to relieve my misery. Having now lived on the farm for 8 years, I’d been up and down the steep, 40-foot bank to the creek from the building site many times. This time, my aged body failed me. I found relief in the mud at the bottom of the steep bank, but I could not get out. My bark and whine eventually brought Mary, and then Travis and his son, Jed, to my aid. With a rope and a push from behind, I was transported up the 40-foot bank. I know I had Mary pretty worked up and worried, so I got plenty of attention for several days.

The unrelenting heat and humidity continued and after a couple of weeks, my body just gave up. Mary made me as comfortable as she could, creating a cool wet spot in the middle of some evergreen trees. I’d had a good life and was-well loved for 13 years, but it was my time to move on.

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