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Tales of a Hay Hauler: An unlikely source of understanding

Brad Nelson for Progressive Forage Published on 30 October 2020

Late last summer, we had a pair of stray dogs show up. Big dogs. With paws almost as big as my hand. One had husky or malamute markings in mostly white and a head size and shape showing some Great Pyrenees characteristics; the other was a beautiful tan and brown-and-white fellow of the same size whose markings were similar to a German shepherd, with the head also showing some Great Pyrenees.

The white one hopefully found his way back to his home, and the tan one hung around. Our neighbor asked for my help relocating him, since he was prone to chase her cats and had probably left her dog pregnant. I asked some friends who are animal lovers about possibilities, and they asked one of their friends. Since the guy I’d been calling Bruno had such a mellow personality, someone wanted him. The feedback we got was that the new owners of “Bruno” were delighted with him.

In early winter, a litter of six was born, with only three surviving. As the pups ventured out in public, my daughter commented about their appearance by stating, “They’re not puppies. Those are bear cubs.”

Indeed, one would have to describe them as 75% feet and 25% dog. They soon claimed the two-family neighborhood as their domain. The lone female was mostly tan in color – and unfortunately did not survive the “watch out for cars” learning curve. The tan-and-white (with some black) male that was by far the most handsome of the trio disappeared, and it was assumed someone driving by had dognapped him. The last of the three, who had been named “Oreo,” was mostly black with a huge white marking on his chest and a bit of white near his oversized feet. He has the most eerie yellow eyes and would have to be described as rather homely.

When Oreo was over three-fourths grown, his mother turned up missing with no explanation as to what happened. Oreo is at least as mellow as his supposed father and has taken it upon himself to be the official watchman and greeter of the neighborhood. When Oreo was still a basketball-sized puppy, he got separated from his mother in snow that was deeper than his chunky feet and legs were tall. I followed the puppy’s wailing sound and found him lost and stranded. I picked him up and returned him to his mother and siblings. The look his mother gave him could have been a “see what happens when you wander off” scowl.

Some hereabouts think he remembers that rescue and deems me and mine part of his domain. When we arrive home, if we are not quick about getting out of the car or pickup, there is this huge black head in our lap. I mean, that head takes up the whole of a lap.

If we then hesitate to push him away and disembark from the vehicle, there follows one paw, then another paw as Oreo attempts to become a 125-pound lap dog – as though whoever happens to be there “needs” a big moose of a dog in their lap.

He’s finally come to realize I don’t always have time to talk to and pet him for hours and, after a greeting, will go about his business of patrolling the neighborhood.

Last spring, the neighbors mentioned Oreo had brought them a kitten. “You mean a live kitten?” I asked.

Indeed, it was a live kitten, carried gently in his mouth and delivered on their porch by the front door. Said they’d never heard of a dog rescuing a kitten before. The kitten appeared unharmed and was being fed inside their house.

On Labor Day this year, I looked out the door because my two house dogs were raising a ruckus about something outside. Into the yard came Oreo, walking slowly, his huge head and nose close to the ground. He was herding and nosing a yowling, skinny kitten who looked like a survivor from Chernobyl – missing at least half her hair – toward my house.

I called out to the girls of the household, and the kitten was gathered up and brought inside. Moments later, she was eating tuna and no longer shivering. The household German shepherd started acting like it was her kitten. Five minutes later, I was informed that “we” had officially adopted a kitten.

The vet said ringworm was the cause of the hair loss and that otherwise she was healthy. She came home with some medicated shampoo and “Ashe,” as she was named, becomes “my” kitten after she’s had her bath until she forgives whoever bathed her.

Now, raising my hand to change the subject: As we approach Thanksgiving and near the end of a nightmare year on so many fronts, perhaps we could take a moment to be thankful for the example of some of God’s “lesser” creations concerning how we act and react and care for those around us.

And as we give thanks for what we have, perhaps we could pray for guidance as we look to the future of our families, our livelihoods, our country and our freedom.   end mark