“Andy Beagle was out at dawn this morning doing a bit of rabbit work. He is 12 years old now, and stiff in the joints sometimes, but on a misty morning when scents cling to the grasses there is nothing like hunting rabbit after breakfast to keep an old guy in shape.”
— Sue Hubbell, A Country Year: Living the Questions
Samantha Patton is credited with the great quote about dogs that has stayed with me, “And the dogs wander freely through the streets of long gone dreams.”
I think of all the times I’ve watched a dog, deep in sleep, huffing out a little bark, legs in movement, and wonder if this is a happy hunting dream or a nightmare of frantic escape.
This is National Dog Week, and it prompts me to think of how many wonderful dogs my own family has been blessed to know and love.
I have enjoyed watching our English Shepherds winding around in the wide open fields and the pastures, hunting on high alert after catching a scent that would never cross our own senses.
No matter which dog I am enjoying, there is always, always the memory of our late great Miss Murphy standing in her shadow. I miss her to this day.
We moved to this farm after her passing, and each of us, in turn, have commented on how much Murphy would have loved it here.
This quiet farm, far from traffic or distractions, would have captivated her curious spirit.
Murphy was not only part of our family, she was so present in our lives that she had become a part of each one of us.
She had been my Mother’s Day gift when Caroline was a newborn, and Murphy knew instinctively that both Cort and Caroline were hers to watch over.
She herded them well, and seemed to take great pride in it. I still remember how Murphy would sleep upstairs in the hallway, central to any one of us who might need her during the night.
She did this every single night, except for the stretches of time when Doug was traveling on business. On those nights, she refused to come upstairs, but would lie at the bottom of the open stairway, leaning against the bottom step, on guard.
She was a big part of helping to raise and train other pups that came in to our family over those years.
It was comical to watch the young pups wait patiently beside Murphy for their nightly ‘bath’ as this gentle dog would lick the faces clean, gently holding a pup between her two front paws, nudging it away when she was done.
If a pup became a bit too rambunctious in playing with our kids, Murphy would let them know it with a bat of a paw as a scolding.
Murphy was a big, beautiful dog, kind and calm and incredibly smart. She would lie with her front paws crossed — a regal lady.
While the kids were at school, she would often rest on the porch, and begin pacing when it was time for the bus to bring them home.
She could hear that bus long before I did, and her ears would perk with anticipation.
Each day was a celebration when they returned home, the wagging tail and joyous jaunt leaving no doubt that a dog can feel happiness.
That is the gift of living in the country and raising a family with the help of an English Shepherd. There is nothing quite like it, and we count ourselves among the lucky ones.
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