By PETTUS READ
A few weeks ago, I decided to take the plunge and get something that has been gone from my life for over six years. Since the day I was born there has been one with me, and after losing one that had been very special to me, it has been hard for me to get another one until just recently. Oh, I have thought about it a lot, but she was so special that I just couldn't make myself get another friend like her. However, I met the perfect one in mid-February, and in about five weeks we will be united for some great times. Yes, it is true - I'm getting a new farm dog.
When the term farm animal is mentioned in conversation or in writing, most of us assume the obvious and think of a cow. Cows are important, along with sheep, goats, pigs, chickens and other animals that are vital to production on today's farms. You can't pickup a child's book that has farms as its subject without the first thing you see being one of the aforementioned animals. But, there is also another animal on every farm across this land that has to be there to make a farm a true farm. All across America each and everyday, farmers and ranchers rise bright and early to face a day's work with a farm animal at their side that has been on every farm since the early settlers arrived in Jamestown to create the "New World" we enjoy today. That animal does not produce food, does not plow the fields or even haul the produce, but the farm dog is just as important as any animal that graces the pages of any "Old McDonald" storybook.
In the job I enjoyed for over forty years, I had the opportunity to spend numerous days on Tennessee farms with farmers who usually had a trusted farm dog nearby. They often rode inside or in the back of pickup trucks, eager to let the wind blow around their ears and usually with a tail wagging at a velocity that could power a TVA generating plant. I'm planning to do the same with Ranger in the coming years.
Many are used to herd livestock, as well as protect other farm animals from wildlife not very kind to domesticated farm animals. But, most are companion animals that become a farmer's best friend during long days of farm work. They are always there to support, greet and be a listening source that seems to understand when things are not just right, but attempt to make it right with a look that only your dog can give you. Hopefully, Ranger and I will become buddies just like that.
In past articles, I told you about my late farm dog Sally. We adopted her when she was two, and as a very large Dalmatian, she never lacked for energy. She was never able to herd livestock or even go for help in an emergency, but every afternoon when I would arrive home, there she would stand with her tail wagging and her tongue hanging out, looking as if she had the biggest smile on her face (if dogs can smile) that you have ever seen. Her long pink tongue was always hanging to the side of her mouth and her thought cycle was almost as short as mine. But, when Sally and I headed out into the Tennessee woods of our farm on a fall afternoon for my walk and her run, she could transform my day of disaster into an afternoon of thinking about what is really important.
She had the ability to make me see the beauty of a fall setting sun, listen to the evening call of a Bob White quail, and watch her enjoying herself in the browning farm fields. She could always accomplish what she does best, which was making me feel good. She loved without asking for anything back and was always there when I needed her.
My new companion-to-be is a black lab pup named Ranger. In my retirement he will become my friend who I hope will teach me just as I will attempt to teach him. Together we will never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride with the windows rolled down. He will probably be the one with his head sticking out and tongue flapping in the breeze, but who knows, it could be fun.
Together, I feel we both will have to learn some obedience and I'm sure he will understand that we will need to take some naps along the way, in addition to the runs and romps in the woods.
Yeah, I'm looking forward to Ranger becoming a good farm dog, but most importantly of all, a very good friend.
-Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org