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Tales of a Hay Hauler: Peeps and puppies

Brad Nelson Published on 30 April 2015
Peeps and puppies

I just explained to Feather, our Lab/cow-dog cross, that if marshmallow “Peeps” are not the traditional Easter colors of yellow or pink, then you don’t have to wait until Easter to eat them.

Feather looked at me with her big, brown, understanding eyes and seemed to comprehend every word I said. I was opening a package of Peeps green rabbits as I spoke to her. I never buy them in the traditional Easter colors.

Some years back, I had a four-chick group of Peeps yellow chicks ready to eat as I parked in the Walmart parking lot.

In the car ahead of me, which faced me, was a fellow somewhere between 11 and 15 years old, who was amusing himself with a pair of binoculars as he waited for his people to return.

As I parked and removed my keys and opened the door to get out, I put one end of the foursome of marshmallow chicks in my mouth as I opened the door and stepped out, pocketing my keys.

At that moment I noticed the young man – and that what he saw through his binoculars he did not believe, and with a shocked look on his face, he removed the binoculars and looked directly at me with his bare eyes.

I realized what he must have seen through the binoculars and bit off the end chick, holding the remaining three in my hand as I waved to him. He shook his head, looked at the binoculars still in his hand, then back at me and burst out laughing.

The very best dogs are free. Feather fit this description. Depending on who I ask (and I can’t remember), Feather came to live with us either before or after Naj, my daughter’s German Shepherd, lost a right-of-way dispute with a pick-up.

The grandchildren named her Feather because of the white stripe that runs from the base of her nose, between her eyes, and continues onto her head. She was answering to Feather before I came up with a name I liked, so it stuck.

When Naj came home from the vet, she had two legs in casts and a permanently misshapen pelvis. She was also recovering from a bug she picked up along the way that left her with a tender tummy and diarrhea (and subsequent dehydration).

With pieces I cut from hog-wire panels, I made an outside kennel for Naj. A tarp fastened overhead shielded her from rain and sun, and the kennel did more to keep the neighbor’s dogs away than to keep Naj home, since she couldn’t walk and there were a few hours each day that the dogs were home alone.

As Naj healed, it became a challenge to get her up and using her rear legs. I made a two-wheeled cart that would support most of her weight. After a half-dozen times on the cart, Naj realized that she hated the cart more than she feared walking on her own.

Naj wanted to lie down and be miserable. The puppy (Feather) wanted to play. We noticed the puppy going over and chewing on Naj, which she objected to, and she had to get up and do something about the puppy to get her to stop chewing on her. Feather became the de facto physical therapy for Naj.

Naj is still gimpy on her hind legs but does most of what a normal German Shepherd can do. She has that wonderful Big Dog fierce bark that will make trespassers wet their pants. She and Feather are insanely jealous of each other.

Feather will not jump up on me but will stand on her hind legs beside me. Then I hold out a hand to support her front paws while explaining to her what a worthless mutt she is as I pet her.

Naj does not have the strength in her hindquarters to do the same, though she tries. After a few seconds, Naj will chew on Feather, which will make her get down to defend herself, at which time Naj moves in for some doggy-cuddling.

My daughter said that Feather will approach her and whine to have her ears scratched. This will cause Naj to come over and boot Feather out of the way as Naj takes over receipt of the ear-scratching.

Feather will then go over and lie down in the center of Naj’s bed, which Naj does not allow her to be on.

They occasionally work together. Feather will come to me when I’m at the computer and whine, then whine louder, then climb up on me whining loudly and finally barking in my face, insisting that she needs to go out right now.

When anyone heads for the door, both dogs come running. As often as not, after the vociferous insistence that she needs to go out right now, Feather will stand nonchalantly at the door allowing the whole world to see that it was Naj who had the emergency. These two have a conspiracy.  FG

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