Appreciate the treasures you have

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“I am pessimistic about the human race because it is too ingenious for its own good. Our approach to nature is to beat it into submission. We would stand a better chance of survival if we accommodated ourselves to this planet and viewed it appreciatively, instead of skeptically and dictatorially.”

— E.B. White

Have you ever pondered just what life would be like without all of the animals who share space and stories of our journey with us?

Aside from the obvious impossibilities pertaining to botany, I’m thinking of the simpler ways in which animals impact our everyday existence.

A little boy who was an only child once told me he was hoping so much that Santa would listen if he only asked for one thing. I expected him to mention the latest game or toy when I asked him to tell me his singular wish, but he said, “A pet. I don’t even care what it is — I just need a buddy.”

It prompted me to consider how my life had been filled with all sorts of wonderful animals, simply there from my earliest memory. From the newborn calves I fed for their first weeks, to the kittens found in hidden places all over the farm, to the first-calf heifers we needed to stanchion train, I loved naming them all.

Encompassing it all was our dog, Bill, likely the only pet our dad ever got to name. Bill would go to the barn with us and round up the milk cows from the far pasture without being summoned to do it. He lived by man’s clock, and he knew better than we did when it was time to do his job. 

Bill was from a litter of English Shepherds my paternal grandfather had raised, perhaps from his final litter after many years furthering this great breed.

Bred to work livestock, Bill had instincts that defied reason. He had a gentle disposition until it was time to sort hogs for market. Hogs didn’t respond to his herding like our gentle milk cows did, and Dad would sometimes have to call Bill back with a stern voice. 

It was the only time I ever saw the dog’s working instinct lean toward aggression. Somehow, he sorted the finished hogs from those who needed more time at the feed trough. It was an amazing thing to witness.

Close to my heart was the Pekingese pup my dad had insisted I needed when I was only 2 years old since my older sisters were heading off to school, leaving me alone. 

One of my favorite black and white pictures from the early 1960s shows three girls ready for the first day of school, Chippi and I snuggled up together on the couch, me in my jammies.

Chip was tiny but mighty, trying to keep up with Bill, occasionally getting herself in a jam. Bill came to her rescue, creating space and time for her to make her escape. I showered him with love and treats many times for saving that little Peke from obliteration.

Many of my best memories revolve around animals. Someone asked me recently what I would do with a huge lottery jackpot. I couldn’t think of anything of enormity, but it would definitely involve helping animals and the people who love them.

This prompted me to remember the wonderful quote that I treasure: “The secret to having it all is knowing you already do.”

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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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