Life with Channing is better than ever


Ever since the summer day that Channing arrived on our farm, things have seemed a little brighter around here.
Channing is an English shepherd, a black dog with a tan spot over each eye and strokes of tan on her chest, feet and face. She is following in the footsteps of many wonderful English shepherds before her, as my grandparents raised this great breed in the 1930s and beyond, so I grew up knowing their worthiness.
My children grew up with Miss Murphy and already we are amazed at some of the similarities between Murph and Channing.
White feet. Channing was chosen from the litter because she had four little white feet, something that once prompted my grandfather to say she will work hard on the farm to get those white feet dirty!
Channing exudes happiness. She is thrilled to chase a squirrel up a tree and watch it for the longest time. She is sensibly excited to greet anyone who arrives and pleasant when they leave. Most of all, she is happy to go to the barn with anyone when chore time comes.
We are amazed by her wisdom. She is wise enough to stay out of the way of moving trucks, tractors or cars, and has had this wisdom from the time she was just weeks old.
Channing is 100 percent farm dog. She loves the barn, loves the fields and the pastures. She will spend hours watching the cattle and the horses, her genetic herding instincts on high alert. She seems to know that she might be called upon to round these creatures up and she fully enjoys being on constant standby status.
Fun. Perhaps the greatest fun we have had since Channing arrived is watching her with the barn cats. If there is no call for working the livestock, no squirrels or bunnies or groundhogs to chase, she will seek out the cats as companions and playmates.
One morning recently, I was surprised to see Channing asleep in the open dog crate that we keep on the porch for her daytime naps. At night, she usually chooses to sleep in the barn, but it had been a mild night so she must have chosen to stay out and about.
I stepped out on the porch to pet her and when she lifted her head, I could see a cat curled up with her in that crate!
It stands to reason. As a tiny pup, Channing had witnessed her mother taking on a few orphaned kittens, bringing them to her nest in the barn, nursing them along with her large litter of puppies. Channing must think every dog has kittens as siblings!
Favorite pastime. One of Channing’s favorite things to do is carry something to her human family members. She quite often will be seen carrying a hat that someone abandoned (it is now, most definitely, Channing’s hat!), or a stick, or one of her tennis balls.
Doug is amazed by her steady companionship in the barn, not just tagging along, but truly trying to learn what needs to be done.
“That dog is sensible and smart, that’s all there is to it,” he says.
For now, as I write this, she is curled up on the porch rug just outside the back door, her ears ever alert for someone to need her services. When she looks up, her ears perked, her brown eyes shining, I see the wonderful dogs that came before her, including Miss Murphy, and I know that we have once again been blessed.
Miss Channing is a keeper.


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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, in college.