If there’s one thing I’m certain of, it’s that no farm should be without a farm dog. When our old farm dog retired to dog heaven, Bob and I began contemplating getting a real cow dog such as a Border Collie or an Australian Shepard or a Kelpie. Perhaps a Catahoula or a Black Mouth Cur. We envisioned the high stack of papers of our new dog’s purebred lineage. Our dream dog would be medium sized, have an athletic body, shiny coat, strong conformation, incredible herding instincts, grit and stamina. Our dog would round up and bring the cows in from the far pasture while we sat on the veranda sipping coffee and watching this beautiful site of a working cow dog tenaciously but gently sweeping the cattle together across the high plains. If one bovine got out of line, our new, highly bred dog would lovingly, but sternly bring it back to the herd. Our new dog would be magnificent.
The very day we were ready to take the leap and purchase the pedigree of our choice, we delivered a truckload of chicken manure to a nearby neighbor, Jim. We unloaded the manure, had a nice conversation with Jim, hopped back into the truck, and headed to get our dream dog, but about ten miles down the road, in the back of the truck, we heard something akin to what we imagined was a frog in a passionate condition.
Bob pulled over to the side of the road. We jumped out of the truck, threw back the tarp and there was the least pleasant looking dog we’d ever laid eyes on. He had a bulldog face and poodle ears, dung brown hair with splotches of calf scours yellow, a spiny rat-like tail and St. Bernard feet. His front legs were a full inch shorter than his back legs.
I whipped out my cell phone. “Um, Jim, we have a stow away.”
“Who? Stretch? Wondered where he went,” said Jim.
“We’ll bring him home right away,” I offered.
“No. No. Stretch wandered in here a couple weeks ago. Can’t find his rightful owner. Guess, he’s yours now.”
“But Jim, we’re on our way to buy…”
“Well, now, isn’t that great you don’t have to spend hard earned money on a dog. It’s obvious he wants to go home with you good, kind folks.”
We soon realized why Jim called this dog Stretch. Because that’s his usual position. Usually underneath a vehicle. If he’s in an intelligent mood, it will be under a vehicle without a running motor.
When Stretch is awake, he is inhaling dog food. Besides those activities, Stretch is mostly useless. No rounding up calves. No herding cows while we sip coffee from the veranda. No chasing deer from the garden. No chasing squirrels from the bird feeders. In fact, there’s only one thing that Stretch ever chases–skunks.
Stretch will arouse those black and white malodorous beasts and get atomized from one end to the other. Then with absolute glee, he will descend upon Homo sapiens and scatter them in every direction. Take the other day for instance. Bob and I and our four kids were standing in the middle of the yard discussing the weather and other worldly problems with our new neighbors, Maude and Clarence.
Stretch wasn’t in sight and I was thankful for this void of embarrassment, but just then Stretch zipped around the corner of the chicken coop. Skunk perfume peeled off him like paint off an old barn. All heads spun around towards this hideous smell. Hands flew up to noses. Eyes screwed up and faces wrinkled like puckered raisins.
Like a pole bender, Stretch zigzagged between our eight sets of high stepping, promenading legs. Maude grabbed Clarence and wrapped her right leg around his waist and with her left leg shinnied up his backbone. I believe she could have made it to the top if Clarence, who was green faced and pop-eyed, hadn’t pried open her clenched fists from his throat.
Without even saying good-bye, Clarence shot for their Volkswagen Beetle like a catapulted cannon ball. Maude picked herself up off the ground, hiked up her skirt in the knee-deep stench, and stampeded after him.
Stretch thought this was great fun. He roared past Maude and Clarence and circled the VW. His hind legs wheeled past his ears and he was on his second lap when they opened the car doors. Stretch saw the cool, shady back seat and slipped undetected past Maude into the Volkswagen. Maude jumped into the front seat, slammed the door shut, cranked the window closed and slapped on her seat belt.
Meanwhile, Clarence revved up the engine and the three of them raced down the road. Dust flew a mile high. Stretch stared out the VW’s back window, his eyes glazed with canine ruminations.
In a very short time, the Volkswagen sped backwards down our road in serpentine splendor. As the dust settled, Clarence clamored out of his car and after a few smutty remarks about farm dogs, ours in particular, Stretch crawled out of the back seat, yawned and moseyed over to lay down under the truck. There wasn’t a shadow of a doubt about what Clarence thought we ought to do with Stretch, but gosh, even though he isn’t our dream dog, it just wouldn’t be a farm without him.