Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Of Good Memories & Good Dogs

I grew up on a farm. Do you know what theat means? It means I have loads of good memories of growing up and of good dogs. Farm dogs are good dogs (not always but for the most part, they are good dogs) and the experiences a child has growing up on the farm can only lead to good memories (not all but most).

Spring is my favorite time for remembering growing up on the farm. Why? The smells of life emerging from the frozen earth, the chirping of birds in the still quiet, the lowing of cattle as a new generation springs forth in the darkest hours of the night, crocuses, the horses losing their winter coats and frolicking their winter dulldroms out, the vast acres of mud puddles to lose one's boot (or boots) in and countless other reasons I just can't begin to name (but they are there; right in the forefront of my memory. I remember it so vividly that I can close my eyes and "see" and smell my memories).

We used to "swim" in the ditches as they filled up with melted snow and spring showers, spend hours catching those tiny frogs and letting them go just to catch them one more time (it took me years to actually commit to catching one; I was all for the chase but the thought of a frog moving in my hand freaked me out a bit - as tomboyish as I was, I still had a streak of "girl" in me!), explore through the pasture/woods to find proof that Spring was really there, go for walks with Grandpa or watch as he sought "usefulness" in his age by digging trenches in the driveway to drain water...

My heart feels so warm & full remembering this time of my life; I can not begin to verbalize it - not even a little, not even close.

We had a couple good farm dogs that I remember and one great dog (great as far as what he did for us not the farm). Tor. Oh how I loved that dog. He was an Australian Shephard/Border Collie cross (mainly brown, with splashes of black and white including a white chest). He was intended to be Thor (a good strong Norwegian viking name -suitable for the best of dogs only, which he was) but, unfortunately, my younger brother was quite young when we got Tor and I couldn't bear to watch my dog run to the name "Sore". It was a painful thing to imagine; not too mention what the other farm dogs would say and how they would tease him...(you laugh?)

I watched "Marley & Me" the other day (I will openly & without shame admit to bawling my head off) and while two of Marley's "Kids" are on the bus coming home they are talking about whether Marley will be there to meet them or not.

"How does he know we're coming?

"I dunno. He just knows. Dogs just know."

"All dogs?"

"All good dogs."

Yep, all good dogs know and all great dogs will sit at the end of the driveway long after the bus has come and gone, staring down the long dirt road wondering where his third kid is because the long yellow creature swallowed him/her that morning and never spit him/her back out with the other two that night. That was Tor.

All good dogs will make you laugh as you watch him chase a frog through the tall grass and all great dogs will make you almost pee your pants by hopping with the frog and flinging him in the air once he catches him just so he can chase him again. That was Tor.

All good dogs will sing with you but GREAT dogs will continue singing happy birthday long after the party is over & there's nothing left but the crying. THAT was Tor.

Some other things about Tor that made him a great dog:

-He loved to take the new-born kittens ever-so-gently- in his mouth and place them in his doghouse to keep them warm with, not only the fresh straw & blankets but, his long, fluffy fur. The first time we saw that I remember my parents being a bit nervous for the kittens.

-He never met a squirrel he didn't chase and chase until said squirrel finally dropped due to heart failure, the squirrel hid its face thinking Tor couldn't see it (which then bored him) or he just couldn't find it due to the severity of his cataracts.

- He loved to sit on the step and eat my brother's vanilla, beet relish & black pepper ice cream cones. (You have no idea! We tried to tell him that wouldn't be a very good combination)

-He was not above discipline. Like the time he bit my brother so my brother bit him back and the two sat crying, "holding" each other on the stairs...suffering together. (THAT is a great dog!) Or the time he killed my cat, Harley (sorry for not believing you Bro) & I refused to speak to him for days until he humbly and sadly came to me while I sat on the stairs & put his big ol' head in my lap & looked at me with those big brown eyes that just begged to be forgiven and I threw my face into his thick fluffy coat and cried and sobbed that I loved him and forgave him & was so very sorry I hadn't talked to him in so long. (Apparently, he was also not above begging)

-He was a great and fierce protector. Who could feel safer with a dog like him around, one who would bolt into our house and try to hide under the couch during thunder storms, or jump up and lick strangers with the enthusiasm of a long lost loved one's return? He was a dog who risked death itself by "attacking" my dad by biting him on the ankle while Dad was chasing me weilding a deadly...

...water balloon but Tor heard my cries, my pleas of "NO DAD!" (unfortunately he missed the laughter in there too) and bit my dad to protect me. THAT. IS. A. GREAT. DOG!

-Tor would follow us to the ends of the earth. Okay, okay; he would follow us to the beaver dam and stand guard while we explored, studied (nature not school work. Sheesh!), picnicked, day dreamed, snoozed, rolled, picked flowers, made forts...

-Tor would come with us every Christmas to help us pick out our tree (not only did he come to help but he brought with him the cats and the horses)

-During the dog days of summer while sunning ourselves on Grandma's front lawn, Tor would stand guard over our backs completely blocking out the sun and thus, preventing us from falling vicitim to ANY harmful UV rays. (What a GREAT dog!)


He would come and lay himself on our backs until the very last ounce of air had escaped our bodies. I mean WHAT IF WE HAD GOTTEN TOO MUCH CARBON DIOXIDE THAT TIME!?

-He always saved us from the deadliest of dangers that lurk on any farm...our soccer ball, baseball, well, any ball. He wasn't afraid of any kind of ball...; he was that brave. There was no ball so fierce that Tor wouldn't puncture and shred it to bits in every attempt to save us from its deadly ball was safe on our farm!

-Tor could also take on any size tire tread and live to tell about it including hanging by the tractor tire tread for the entire. tire. rotation. He was even a gymnast!

There are so many more things I wanted to say about our dog, Tor to display the difference between a good dog and a great dog but I am so overwhelmed with memories right now that they are there and then gone before my fingers can capture them. Perhaps I can capture more at a later date...perhaps.

The last thing I can say in this post to sum up how Tor was not a good dog but a great dog is also found in "Marley & Me" in a monologue by Owen Wilson's character about his beloved Marley at the very bitter, heart wrenching, cruel end...

"How many people can make you feel rare and pure and special? How many people can make you feel extraordinary?"

I can't be certain but I am certain enough to put it on the internet for countless number of people with internet access to be able to see, Tor made me and my sister and brother feel that way. He WAS a GREAT dog! Truly an example for dogs in generations to come to model themselves by.

**Disclaimer This is a completely unbiased opinion on my dog. Someone's dog has to have been the best ever and as close as Old Yeller, Benji, The Littlest Hobo, Lassie or Pluto got they just didn't quite cut it. Sorry guys.

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