Man's best friend

By Helen Row Toews

November 24, 2016 12:00 AM

When we think of living in the country our thoughts naturally turn toward animals and dogs in particular.
It is seldom you might pull into a farmyard without being greeted by one. Oft times they have jobs like guarding the property or working the cattle.
Mostly though, they have no useful purpose at all other than to provide love and companionship—and that’s enough. 
We’ve had several lovely dogs on the farm.
One of them figures largely in my childhood memories; a gorgeous Scotch Collie named Lassie.
Original name, hey?
She went with my brother and me everywhere and even accompanied our family on a couple of camping trips to the Rockies and Montana.
This was quite a feat back when camping, for us, was accomplished in a half ton truck and a plywood camper.
A friend and neighbour of mine owns a number of dogs ranging in size from tiny to bloody enormous.
They’re an affectionate group; trotting around my bus each morning to greet us and send the kids off with a hasty lick on the hand.
The furry fellow I’m speaking of, however, is Max. Max is an Irish Wolfhound/Mastiff cross and to say he could pass as a small horse is not overstating the fact.
His dark looks are impressive, and intimidating to say the least, but he is a gentle soul with a kindly eye and a loving nature.
Unfortunately, he is also in possession of a wanderlust nature too.
One never knows where he may turn up next.
Occasionally, he’ll appear at the school in town as he seeks out his mistress who teaches there.
Sometimes he can be seen loping across a distant field as he roams the countryside visiting friends.
On more than one occasion, I’ve been sitting quietly in my living room as his massive head rose from the evening gloom to peer in with curiosity.
The subsequent shriek was more than mildly disconcerting for the both of us.
During the daylight hours it’s a different situation altogether and not nearly so unsettling.
To see Max gallop past through the pasture is rather like watching the Wookie rushing in to save Han Solo.
Sadly, owning an animal we love also means we must, at some point, say goodbye.
It’s difficult since they become such a part of our lives.
My personal feeling is country people take more of a practical view of the life of a family pet.
They love their pets, don’t get me wrong, but when you raise animals and live close to nature, you see life and death played out too often.
Therefore, it is perhaps, accepted more readily and philosophically.
As an example of my theory, we were asked to hold a dog funeral for a family living in the city.
After the day’s events played out, I’m not afraid to say this hound had a finer funeral than I can ever hope for.
Several carloads of people arrived in our yard to pay their respects and a solemn procession formed near the house and slowly walked down the driveway to the allotted site.
Songs were sung, a eulogy was delivered and speeches of remembrance were spoken.
Several hardy shrubs were planted to commemorate the life of Rufus the dog and I prepared a delicious repast for the assembled crowd once they had all trailed back to the house.
Quite a remarkable day, all things considered.
It meant a lot to them and I supported them in it but it does however, underscore the differences I have seen between this and the more pragmatic approach taken by people I know from the country.
  At the end of the day, owning a dog is a blessing and shouldn’t be undertaken lightly.
They are our friends, beloved members of the family and are at times even our confidants.
They are faithful even when we are not and love us unconditionally.
We could learn a lot from man’s best friend.

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