Dogs can make life less complicated


“For the simple things, I am grateful. We complicate our lives to the point of total distraction from that which is most sacred, and that distraction keeps us from experiencing deep gratitude.”

— Helen Hooven Santmyer

When life gets a little too complicated, I like nothing more than to hang out with my dogs.


Channing, the wonder English Shepherd farm dog, reminds me that running and sniffing the air brings all sorts of rewards. She longs to herd a flock of almost anything in order to show off for me. It is easy to see her thoughts, almost cartoon-like above her dashing head, and it goes something like this: See how fast I am? Don’t you just love it when I make those enormous animals move just because I say so? It is my favorite thing!

It saddens me that Channing has to be confined when no one is home. As I wrote in an earlier column, we spent lots of money on an underground fence that seemed amazingly precise in its promised end result. Channing would walk to the edge of the lawn, stopping within a foot of the invisible fence. We were patting ourselves on the back for a wise and wonderful investment.

Always the explorer

Always the explorer, Channing began wandering on the back 40 acres of the farm. I watched with laughter as this great farm dog tried to herd a flock of Canada geese one autumn morning, landing here by the hundreds. She can spend hours sniffing scents left behind on the busy deer trail along the knoll of the west horizon. One day, obviously, it occurred to her to keep right on walking. Her collar did not send any signals telling her to stop when she was far from the house.

She visited elderly neighbors. After greeting them as they sat on their porch, she would travel on where a middle-aged couple had their adorable little pre-school granddaughter visiting during the day. It was love at first sight for dog and girl. Upon returning home during that stretch of time, I would find Channing with a hanging head, looking guilty as a convict wearing stripes. Other days, the loving touch of that little girl held Channing captive, and I would come home to no dashing dog.

Once we realized what was happening, and that crossing busy country roads could definitely prove deadly, we began confining Channing when we all have to be away. She doesn’t like it any more than we do. It is a safe solution until we can come up with a better one.


Spanky, the all-white Pekingese, is another gloriously happy buddy for which we are thankful. He just celebrated his 12th birthday, and I give him daily supplements to help him stay strong enough to continue doing his tricks. He sits up on his back haunches for the longest time, looking as though he is part kangaroo and part groundhog.

He talks to us, wanting to tell us everything, and every bit of it is joyous news. He is the happiest dog, and everyone who visits falls in love with him. The only time his sparkle of happiness fades is when a storm is brewing. He can hear the thunder long before we can, and he very clearly communicates that he wants someone in the family to please sit down so he can have a lap to lie on.


Spanky’s sweet sidekick is a petite Westie named Tia. Tia is ladylike in every way, and makes no secret that she adores my son Cort more than anything in the world. Nothing else really matters to her. As she whimpers and dances in glee at the foot of the stairsteps each morning, awaiting his arrival, I can’t help but think it would be easy to solve all the problems of the world if everyone could love so wholeheartedly.


My tiniest teacup Yorkshire Terrier, Chantico, has no idea that she is no bigger than a minute at two pounds. She longs to chase all the farm creatures around in her laughable attempt to imitate Channing. She typically sticks to the barn cats, but they are all on to her and simply stare her down from a higher perch as if to say, “You are an idiot and certainly not worth expending any energy upon.”

Just last week, a litter of teacup Yorkies was born to Ellie, and Chantico wants to climb in that warm little nest here in my writing room and help mother them. Ellie, looking a bit worn out from around-the-clock nursing, might welcome a break from time to time, but has proven to be an exemplary first-time mama.

I returned to the farm late last night, worn to a frazzle. I went through the daily mail, jotted some things on my shopping list for the big Thanksgiving feast, then sat down on the floor to my very favorite thing in the whole wide world — a lapful of happy dogs with nothing on their minds but loving on their master.

Life is good

Life is good. When I begin to lose sight of that, I have some wonderful pals to remind me of all sorts of simple joys. There is much for which to be thankful.


Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!

Previous articleTry to be a little Pollyanna-ish
Next articleWe can't be forever 15
Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.



Receive emails as this discussion progresses.