Herald Journal Columns
March 3, 2003 Herald Journal
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Not for animal lovers


Many people have a natural affinity for animals. They not only love them, but animals seem to love them back.

Usually these same people relate well to children. You know the type. Babies immediately stop crying when placed in their arms, and toddlers seek out their laps in a crowded room.

I must confess that I am not one of these people.

Toddlers look suspiciously at me as if I'm plotting to take away their suckers, and I'm positive that animals can sense that I consider them a food source rather than a friend.

However, I do admit that animals certainly are valuable beyond satisfying our nutritional needs.

For instance, dogs can retrieve game birds that I have shot, or they can track down other animals like foxes and raccoons that I hope to shoot.

Basically, my view is that the primary function of most animals is to keep the populations of other animals in check.

For example, birds keep the world from being overrun by insects, while cats help limit the number of mice and rats on the planet.

In spite of my rather callous attitude toward many of God's creatures, even I had a dog when I was a kid. Actually there were two dogs that strayed into my childhood.

The first was a little mutt ("mixed breed" for you dog lovers) that we named Blackie. She was only about a foot tall; and as her name implies, she was mostly black in color with a bit of white splashed on her face, chest, and stomach.

With hair about two inches long, Blackie looked similar to a miniature collie, except that she was even smaller and had a less prominent nose. Just as with first girlfriends, a fella's first dog is the one of whom he has the most vivid memories.

She was very playful and eager to please (I'm referring to the dog here).

But we finally had to get rid of her because of her promiscuity (Take your pick here). Blackie had so many litters of pups that it was impossible to find homes for all of them.

My brother Sonny once told me that Pa had to drown some of them in a gunnysack in the river, but I don't know if it was really the truth because sometimes Sonny told me scary things when I was being a brat, just to shut me up. At any rate, because of all the pups, Pa tried to give Blackie away.

For a few years my dad and Elmer Schwartz owned a well rig together.

One day they took the dog along when they went to drill a well for a farmer who lived south of Plato.

Pa talked the farmer into keeping Blackie; at least that was the plan.

Pa returned home about six for supper, and Blackie scampered up the driveway just before nine. Faster than I thought possible, those little legs had carried her five miles.

I suppose she wanted to be home before dark so we wouldn't worry about her.

My dad was not one to make the same mistake twice. In October he and some friends took Blackie along pheasant hunting. They drove west about 90 miles to an area near the town of Appleton; and when the hunters returned, Blackie was not with them.

Of course, I asked where Blackie was; but without looking me in the eye, Pa mumbled something about the dog getting lost in a big cornfield.

I wasn't too upset because I was confident that she would again find her way back home, but after a few days I gave up hope of ever seeing her again.

The second dog that owned us was Poodles. I don't have the slightest idea how we came to give him that name, because he certainly didn't look anything like a poodle.

Poodles was a fiesty little brown and white rat terrier/traveling salesman cross, whose short hair did not lend itself to grooming of any kind.

He was one of those playful, high speed little dogs that would run ahead full tilt while looking back at you over his shoulder.

Consequently, he frequently smashed into things, tumbled head over heels down steps, and more or less sprinted and skidded his way through the day.

Like many who choose to live their lives in the fast lane, Poodles died young.

One day his careless momentum pushed him under the wheels of a passing car and, "crunch," he was gone.

His demise was made somewhat less tragic by the fact that I had previously witnessed so many near misses that I knew what Poodles' ultimate fate would be.

The moral of this story: Don't rush through life. Stop to smell the hydrants.

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