A strong spirit who continues to inspire

spring sunrise with flower

“Whatever it is you’re seeking won’t come in the form you’re expecting.” 

— Haruki Murakami  

The dreams of big things begin at a tender age, when imagination soars beyond all boundaries. 

One of the first dreams I held in my heart was to write stories, spinning magical tales that my family would find joy in reading. I would put a piece of paper and a pencil in my bicycle basket, set my Pekingese pup on top and away we would go.  

The journey

It didn’t matter where we ended up because the destination made no difference. Riding down a big hill or back the long lane to the woods was part of the fun, escaping to quiet was the plan. 

My imagination could get me in trouble, trying out my stories to anyone who would listen long before I was old enough to even know how to set it down on paper. More than a few spankings with a paddle came my way, my mother intent on stopping my whopper tales. It hurt my heart much more than it hurt my behind. 

Just last week we had the joy of watching our young grandchildren take their first spin on a carnival ride at a small street fair. As I waited for them to make their way through the line of children waiting their turn, a fellow my husband knows came to sit with us on a nearby bench. 

“I read your columns in the Farm and Dairy, and wanted to tell you my dad got a pup from your grandpa years ago,” Richard said to me. They raised puppies from the English Shepherd and sold them back to my grandfather when the pups were old enough to go to new homes awaiting them.

Before her time

It is a story I love to hear, knowing my grandmother’s great idea of raising puppies this way was a win for many happy families back in the 1930s and 1940s. She was averse to the puppy mill mentality long before the term was coined, so local families raised litters for them, starting the puppies in happy circumstances before they began their journey as a herding dog or pet. 

They sold hundreds of puppies throughout the entire country at a time when a well-trained farm dog was valuable beyond measure. How I wish I could have sat down and listened to her stories, putting them down on paper to hold in my heart and share with others. 

An intelligent, hard-working school teacher forced to give up teaching when she married, my grandma Helen learned to channel her creative mind into something that helped her family to thrive. She created a legacy in the process. 

I’m sure when she headed off to Ashland College at 18, her dreams did not include this story in any form. She educated herself, met a boyfriend and then broke off an engagement, wanting more than anything to be a school teacher reading storybooks to children while helping them build their own stories. 

Then she met my grandfather and fell in love. After an Easter wedding, she was allowed to complete that school year of teaching but knew not to ask to stay on. 

A year later my father was born, when the Great Depression was suffocating families and farms. A brilliant, well-trained dog could aid livestock farmers without hiring help they couldn’t afford. She put her plan down on paper, and a successful story began. 

How I wish I could have known her, but her death at age 35 would change all that. In spite of that sudden ending, her spirit was strong and bright enough to pass to me her love of stories, children and dogs. I treasure each gift.


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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, and three grandchildren.



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