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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Man’s Best Friend

Lassie Man’s Best Friend

Did you have a special pet growing up? Having a pet at a young age can serve so many purposes. You get to learn about responsibility, friendship, compassion, a level of social interaction, and so much more. You even learn about caring and actually loving something other than yourself. If you grew into your teens without a special friend (pet), you don't know what you missed out on.

I was 12 years old and living on the farm before I had my very first dog. He was a Collie and looked just like the dog Lassie on the television series (1954-74). Of course I named him Lassie. I took him everywhere with me while I was doing my chores or just going for a walk through the many acres that my stepfather managed. I had accepted a rule imposed on me as part of my ownership of Lassie. Lassie was to be tied up (chained anytime that I wasn't around with him).

Near the entrance to one of the big barns I kept all the equipment I needed to groom Lassie. Special shampoo, brush, even a blow dryer so I could dry his fur. Whenever someone in a pickup truck was going into town, I would take Lassie for a ride by riding with him in the back of the truck (that was long before the required seat belts). At that time in my life I was naive enough to believe that the doggie and I would grow old together. I even wonder what I would do when the time came to go away to college.

One day I came home from school on the school bus and was surprised to find that Lassie wasn't tied to her chain where she usually waited for me every day after school. I went into a panic and began calling her name within a quarter mile radius of our home. By the time I got back home he was waiting for me near the place where he was normally kept chained. I was shocked that he had blood all over him, and my first thought was that he got hurt fighting with another dog or dogs. Lassie wasn't acting injured, if anything he was acting playful.

I put away my books, and went over every inch of lassie looking for injuries. When I didn't find any injuries, my next instinct was to get rid of the evidence. I gave him a good scrubbing with shampoo than I toweled him dry and finished by using the blow dryer on him. I took the wet towels and got them started washing on our electric washer to get rid of the evidence. Then I went for a long walk with my dog into the partially harvested corn fields. My plan was to get my dog sweaty (I don't even know if dogs perspire- I don't think they do), and dirty. The main thing is I didn't want him to look like he had just been groomed.

When Lassie and I got back to the farm house my step-father was there talking to some men that came by, and were carrying rifles, and shotguns. They appeared abrupt and bad tempered. They wanted to take a close look at my dog, and of course my step-father gave his permission. They totally scrutinized Lassie looking through his fur, his ears and collar. The whole time this was going on I was silently praying that I had done a good job of washing all the blood off of him. When they were done, they asked me where I usually kept my dog during the day (this was a question they had already asked of my step-father. I explained that when I wasn't around he was kept chained, and I showed them where. I told them he had been chained when I arrived from school, and that I had taken him for a walk as I usually do every day.

At the risk of upsetting my step-father, I asked the men why they were looking at my dog. The man that appeared to be in charge explained that one of his mint fields about a mile away from our house had 600 hundred geese clearing the weeds, when they were attacked by a dog or pack of dogs, that stampeded the geese into an irrigation canal killing about 500 of the geese. His last words as he left (satisfied that my dog had nothing to do with his problems) were that when he caught up with the owner of the culprit dog they were going to pay $7 per goose times 500.

A week later my good friend Lassie was gone when I got back from school. I looked for him late into the night, but months went by and I finally gave up trying to find him. I was in my twenties before my mother told me that she felt real bad about a secret that she had kept form me for many years. As it turned out, my mother was asked by my stepfather, if she had seen anything unusual with regard to Lassie, and she told him that I had given Lassie a bath before I even came into the house after school. No one even asked me about my side of the story (I would have lied of course). As it turned out my step-father explained to my mother that once a dog learns to eat or attack poultry, he will always return to the scene of the crime and bad habit. Not wanting to risk having to pay for all the butchered geese, he decided to get rid of Lassie. The story is that he was traveling to Oregon on business, and he gave Lassie away while out of State. I prefer to believe that version of the story, so I never confronted my step-father I was afraid to hear something different.

I've always kept a special family friend around the house, and I often said that if I die and come back as a dog or cat I hope that I end up in a home like ours. In our home the pets (family members) own the house, and we are the guests. The best is yet to come....

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