Saturday, April 9, 2011

What I learned from grandpa about stray animals

Grandpa in his trademark bibs with pocket watch.
If there is one thing that I remember most about my grandpa's farming ways, it has to be how he handled stray animals.  If an abandoned dog or cat ended up on the porch starving for food, grandpa always made sure they had something to eat.

Most of the stray cats my grandparents cared for would unpack their bags in the barn.  And when a stray dog would come up, it wasn't uncommon for it to take the room in the dog house outside -- if it was available, of course.

When I was about 10 years old, I remember when a litter of scrawny cats found their way to the ramp leading into the milk house.  (My grandparents had a small dairy farm.)  After grandma and grandpa finished milking the cows the night they arrived, grandpa asked grandma if she would put some milk in an aluminum pie plate for the cats out back who were looking for "rooms in the inn."  Grandma and grandpa never were the type to get attached to the strays, but they sure made it clear as responsible farmers, if you can help an animal in need, do it!

Preparing feed for the pigs.
Feeding the horses at dusk. 
I guess that mind set has stuck with me to this day.  Over the years, my family has taken in and helped stray dogs (and a few kittens).  Most of them appeared to be "dumps" from somebody who didn't want them and were almost always scared and hungry when they showed up on the step.  Our little indoor dog was a stray that found its way to our farm several years ago.  Mutts, in my opinion, are some of the best dogs to own.  Our little dog, Princess, is a "mutt" and has never jumped on furniture or chewed on anything -- ever!  Not even a bone!  It is as if she knows she got lucky and doesn't want to ruin her "diva dog" lifestyle of heat, air conditioning, comfy pillow, food, treats and a sparkling pink collar by doing something we might disapprove. 

Checking on the Belgian horses in the pasture.
As I write this post, ironically a scared stray dog is hiding under our corn hole boards on the front porch.  The dog is cute, but scared to death and hungry.  So, like responsible animal agriculture farmers, we've been feeding and watering it, and we've thrown him some treats.  He won't come near us, but he sure hasn't decided to leave.  I am thinking that this dog would make the perfect farm dog once he gets used to us and realizes we won't harm him.  But who knows.  Until we decide what to do with him (find him a good home), he'll at least get the love and care he seeks while under our watch.  After all, it is what grandpa would have done.  Grandpa may have passed on many years ago, but the impression he left with me about being a responsible caretaker of animals stays strong today.

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