by Pettus Read
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 pick up 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 enjoy, I have had the opportunity to spend numerous days on Tennessee farms with farmers who usually have a trusted farm dog nearby. They often ride 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. It has been a true pleasure of mine to scratch behind the ears of many good farm dogs across this state. They never seemed to have a problem with me taking their pictures and I also didn't have to wait to let them adjust their hats. What you saw was what you got.
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.
My last farm dog was Sally. She's been gone now for a few years, but I still miss her presence whenever I check things around the place. 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 smile - that you have ever seen. Her long pink tongue was always hanging to the side of her mouth and being a Dalmatian, 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.
We could all take a lesson from our dogs. A writer once penned the following examples suggested by the actions of his dog. He suggested we should follow their example of when loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
Also, never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride. Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be a moment of true enjoyment.
When it's in your best interest, practice obedience.
Let others know when they've invaded your territory.
Take naps and stretch before rising.
Run, romp and play daily.
Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
Avoid biting, when a simple growl will do.
When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
No matter how often you're scolded, don't buy into the guilt thing and pout ... run right back and make friends.
Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
Never pretend to be something you're not.
If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
When your important someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.
And, always remember that a good pat on the back, or head, is always appreciated for a job well done.
It's time for me to find me another dog. A farm needs a dog and a farmer needs a best friend who likes to listen without giving advice. Guess I'll be checking out the shelter again. Maybe they have another Sally waiting to go walking in the woods with a man who has a short memory cycle too.