Readers share special stories about their favorite canine friends.
December 2017/January 2018
We were inundated with letters about your faithful canine companions after Editorial Director Hank Will wrote about his pack (“Living a Good Life,” August/September 2017). We wanted to include all of your stories, but had to narrow it down to a few of our favorites!
Photo by Valinda Mullin
Marty is the most awesome and weirdest little dog, all in the same package. We found each other. I went to the animal shelter looking for a pet, and when I was just about to give up, I was asked if I’d ever considered adopting a small dog. I hadn’t, but I squatted down and waited to see what they’d send out to greet me … Marty! The bond was instant and mutual; he came right over and claimed me as his own.
Marty is a bit of a quirky dog. He doesn’t like bugs, and the buzzing of bees is something he struggles with daily, but he loves all kinds of babies. He’s always on baby watch around here with the goats, rabbits, and chickens. When we’re kidding goats, we have a monitor set up at the house that he can listen to. He alerts me at the slightest noise out of the ordinary. I don’t think he’s ever led me wrong. Marty is a fantastic farm dog. He adds something special to my life that I didn’t know I was missing, but I sure enjoy having him around now.
Photo by Lynn
I got my dog before I ever thought of having other animals, and she’s proved a valuable asset. She’s always watching out for my chickens, guineas, rabbits, and donkey. She protects them from predators, even hawks, and helps me round up baby rabbits when they escape their pen. The chickens and guineas run loose much of the time, and if stragglers don’t want to listen when it’s time to go in for the night, she rounds them up and guides them straight to the coop. Without her, I couldn’t have goats or chickens — I’m not fast enough to catch a wayward animal! She’s even teaching our puppy the ropes. She’s my faithful helper wherever I go out on the farm, rain or shine, heat or cold. Thank God for good dogs!
Lincolnton, North Carolina
Photo by Anita C.
My best girl Frannie is gone now, and I still well up if I think about her a bit too long. She was a sweet soul, and I believe she rescued me as much as I rescued her.
About a decade ago, I became very close to the German exchange student I hosted. The day he left for home, I was sitting in my porch swing thinking about it all, and this dog with a happy face and wagging tail came up and greeted me as though she’d been waiting to find me — just the bit of sunshine I needed at that moment. After that first meeting, this happy dog visited regularly, and of course we became fast friends. I learned that Frannie lived three doors down, and she’d make a beeline for my house whenever she got loose! This went on for about two years, and sometimes she stayed overnight with me — by then, the neighbors didn’t bother to come find her because they knew where she was.
One day, Frannie’s owner said she was going to take Frannie to a shelter unless I wanted her. I hadn’t planned to have a dog, but her going to a shelter was unthinkable. So, that very day, Frannie moved in for good. We had nine good years together before she got sick. And I know I will remember her face to my last day. She was such a gift.
My mother, Agnes, was born on a small farm in rural Iowa in 1901. One day, her mother, Grandma Fette, spread a quilt in the backyard on which she placed baby Agnes while doing the laundry. Intent on her work, Grandma ignored the pet dog, Shep, who was a distance away, barking and barking. Finally, she decided to see why the dog was making such a fuss. To her horror, she saw that Agnes had crawled into the pigpen, which held a mother sow with piglets. Shep was keeping the mother sow from attacking Agnes. Grandma rescued her daughter, but almost fainted at what might have happened if Shep hadn’t kept the sow at bay.
From then on, Shep was given top position in the family, and Agnes heard the story of Shep saving her life many times.
Sister Mary Jane Seyler
My wife and I have two German Shepherds, both rescues and now aged 11 and 13. They have creaky bones and calcified spines — one so bad that vet after vet has wondered how she was walking at all. We call her our miracle girl. She pushed her luck too far one day when she jumped off some stairs and pinched a nerve on the landing. For all intents and purposes, her rear end is paralyzed. Most would say her life’s not worth constantly taking her out to the bathroom, or bringing the water dish to her, or spending the money at the vet to see if she can recover.
Hank’s opening comments made me see that there’s both compassion and love in choosing to humanely put an animal out of its misery, should something like this happen. But there’s also love in extra care for an animal that needs it. Our “pup” is now fairly used to her assisted wheels, and smells, poops, and pees with the best of them on her daily walks.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Photo by Kathy Kysar
One beautiful, sunny morning in early March, my shepherd-husky-wolf mix Nali was dying for a run, and I was dying to soak up some sun and fresh air. Nali was dancing in circles as she watched me get bundled up, knowing what all those layers meant. A run!
Winter snowmobile rides on the frozen river near Unalakleet, Alaska, are great fun. A couple of miles after we headed out, Nali was showing signs of being thirsty, wandering off the main trail in search of open water. When we found the open water I’d heard locals used to supply their cabins, I parked my four-wheeler and encouraged Nali to drink. She acted shy of it, so I walked gingerly to the edge, thinking the ice must be thickest where there were animal tracks. Nali was still leery of getting too close, and when I squatted down to splash the water, the ice gave way!
I immediately reached for the ledge from which I had fallen and it gave way again. The fast-flowing river was trying to pull me under the ice. I was only about 5 feet from the shore, but I couldn’t get any traction on the ice with my wet gloves. The current was filling my boots and trying to drag me under. I managed to scoot myself barely onto the shelf before it collapsed under my weight again.
I thought of my cellphone in my pocket, but even if I could dial out, by the time help arrived I’d be dead. I was paralyzed with cold, though I didn’t feel pain. Nali, dancing all around me, was all I could see out of my peripheral vision, and above me was the beautiful Alaskan sky.
“This is where they’ll find me,” I thought, “frozen solid, like a popsicle.” Then I heard the whine of a snowmobile and shouted for help. My student Jaysen, his dad, Norm, and four others had been out for a joyride, and had initially taken Nali, running along the river, for a wolf. That’s when they noticed me in the water nearby — only my head was out of the water when the men arrived.
I did everything wrong that day. It’s truly a miracle that I walked away unharmed. A year later, I was able to present the men who saved my life with a city plaque for heroism. I love the dog who put her life in danger to save mine more every day.
Lesson learned: Listen to your dog; she’s right.