“Humankind is drawn to dogs because they are so like ourselves — bumbling, affectionate, confused, easily disappointed, eager to be amused, grateful for kindness and the least attention.”
— Pam Brown, 1928
Sitting atop a special shelf in my writing room sits a tiny book that is one of my most treasured possessions. Just this morning, I felt compelled to pick up the fragile old book and take a look inside.
A hand-written note came fluttering out which reads, “To Caroline: Beautiful Joe writes good but Murphy writes better. I liked it and your whole family will too. Your Mom might even get a column from it.”
The note, and the book, came from a life-long Farm and Dairy reader named Bill Choma who lived near Alliance, Ohio. He has since passed away and had become such a dear friend to us that we were each mentioned in his will.
He has left us with many fond memories and this tiny book that is a treasure. He once told me his favorite columns in the Farm and Dairy were those penned by our English Shepherd, Miss Murphy.
Beautiful Joe was written in 1893 by Marshall Saunders. The preface tells that Beautiful Joe is a real dog who belonged, for the first part of his life, to a cruel master, who beat, tortured and mutilated him.
He was rescued while still a young dog “and is now living in a happy home with pleasant surroundings and enjoys a wide local celebrity.” Joe was rescued just shortly after his first master had cruelly chopped off both ears close to his head, then his tail, with a hatchet.
A fellow passing by on a bicycle heard the dog’s cries and stopped to confront the cruel man. Wrapping the bleeding dog in an apron, the young man named Harry offered a passing youngster a quarter if he would help him carry the injured dog home. The dog was cleaned and medicated, then wrapped in bandages in Harry’s stable.
Harry’s cousin, Miss Laura, came from the house to see what the neighborhood boys were buzzing about and instantly befriended the young dog. She convinced Harry that charges should be brought against the cruel man. Miss Laura later carried the dying dog into the house and fed him warm, medicated milk throughout the night.
“I don’t believe that a dog could have fallen into a happier home than I did. In a week, thanks to good nursing, good food and kind words, I was almost well.”
This is the beginning of a wonderfully well-written book, told through the eyes of Beautiful Joe, who notes that he was decidedly not beautiful at all, except in the eyes of Miss Laura.
Throughout my life, some of my greatest joys have come from the dogs I have been blessed to have. I am realistic enough to know not everyone shares that joy and yet it seems incomprehensible to me that there are those who can inflict harm to helpless animals. Miss Murphy was such a remarkable dog and we continue to feel we were all blessed to have her in our family.
A gift to me on Mother’s Day when Caroline was only 6 months old, we often speak of how Murphy helped to raise both Cort and Caroline. She adored our children and watched over them, while watching over our other pets as well.
One of our dear dogs, a snow-white Pekingese named Spanky, was Miss Murphy’s sidekick. While we may have trained Spanky in certain areas, we all feel Miss Murphy raised him to have this sparkling personality which makes him adored by all who meet him.
There were many times Miss Murphy would set a paw atop Spanky’s head, then bring him close to her, holding him very still. Eventually, she would begin to lick his face and ears. The entire time, there was no doubt that communication was being exchanged. When she would allow Spanky to get up, he would often remain at her side, looking to her for direction.
Spanky is now aging, beginning to suffer with arthritis, and we do all that we can to make him more comfortable. He is a beloved member of our family. I have always felt the hardest part of loving a dog is knowing one day we will lose them. I find myself wanting to take extra time every day to just enjoy my pets, to make sure they know how much they are loved.
My husband has often said if there is such a thing as coming back to this life after death, he would wish to come back as one of my pets because they all have the life of Riley.
One of my favorite quotes, from Henry Wheeler Shaw, is this: “A dog is the only thing on this earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” So true!