“Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them, filling an emptiness we don’t even know we have.”
— Thom Jones
(Last in a three-part series. Scroll down to see links to the other installments.)
The pups heard the rumble of the International tractor before I did. I saw their ears perk up, then those long-legged bodies jumped in to action.
As the tractor, pulling a load of hay, came in to view, both pups retreated from the lane. I observed from a distance as both returned to the sidewalk near the house, watching the tractor with great interest.
It wasn’t until the tractor was shut down, our neighbor greeting my hubby out near the barn, that the pups ran from the safety of the sidewalk. They were eager to inspect this new person, the tractor tires, and to take in the scent of new hay.
All my life I’ve heard stories of English Shepherds, seemingly born with an old soul, able to figure things out without the life experience to give credence to such wisdom. Longtime readers of this column might recall Miss Murphy, who sometimes penned her account of life at our house.
A gift to me for Mother’s Day when my youngest was 6 months old, Murphy calmly watched over her family. She reacted if the children got too close to the road, once pulling Caroline back by the seat of her pants when she attempted to get the mail from the box near the road.
Part I: Time to invest in new pups
Part II: Trying keep a dog breed alive
A year or two later, Caroline went after a ball that had been batted by her brother into the tall corn field behind our house. She got turned around, unable to find her way out. Murphy realized a frantic situation when she saw one. I was shouting instructions to stop, stand still, and wait, but Caroline could not hear me over the rustle of the corn stalks. Murphy ran, in search of her girl, and in no time, out from the tall corn field popped that big shepherd, Caroline holding the dog’s tail.
I once received a letter that began with, You don’t know me, but I owe you a lifetime of gratitude. Postmarked Minnesota, the writer told of his two young sons who went out to explore with a cousin and his dog one Christmas holiday. The boys fell through the deep part of a lake that they had mistakenly thought was iced over.
The English Shepherd, a pup of Murphy’s, reacted quickly, pulling the boys to safety, then running a good distance to the house, barking frantically.
The people who got the dog from you said they’d never seen the dog behave that way, the man wrote. So, we followed, finding three young boys about to freeze to death. That dog saved the lives of our boys that day.
A great judge of character, every English Shepherd I’ve been lucky enough to know will rarely bristle at visitors. When they do, we have every reason to respect their instincts.
When we arrived home with two young black-and-tan pups from North Carolina, I sat down on the back porch to read further in to the long pedigree.
There, in black and white, was the name of the great-great grand dam of these black-and-tan pups: Sutherland’s Murphy.
And another lifetime of stories begins.
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