December 14, 2013

The humble Farmer: A dog’s look of love includes healthy dose of self-interest

Birthday cake and bacon grease are sure ways to guarantee the ever-faithful canine’s attention.

By Robert Skoglund

Because we are going to swap dog stories today, I looked up the word “dogmatism” in a psychology book. On Page 573 I read, “Dogmatic persons find it difficult to change their beliefs” and was delighted that it fits right in with the topic at hand.

You might have heard me say that I don’t see any sense in keeping a pet that you can’t eat. A Maine man teaches his calves to graze quietly in the assigned areas. A small amount of mooing is tolerated as they age because it contributes to that pastoral ambiance that is treasured by the bed-and-breakfast guest.

As the summer passes, the man learns to love and appreciate his muscular steer friends, who convert ugly weeds and bushes into valuable protein, even as they contribute nitrogen and other valuable nutrients to the rocky soil. In November, he eats them.

But only a very foolish old man never changes his mind. Dogmatism is eventually trumped by epiphany, and there comes a time in every man’s life when he realizes it would be nice to have a pet that did absolutely nothing but wander around in his house and keep him company. So – keep your eyes open. If you can find a dog that can be taught the Heimlich maneuver and administer CPR, I will bring it to my home and feed it.

My wife, Marsha, The Almost Perfect Woman, likes dogs. One night, while visiting her daughter, she prepared to let the resident Loki Dog out for his evening run. Finding the electronic shock collar with the metal thing hanging from it that kept Loki from running beyond his allocated bounds, she slipped it over his head and let him outside.

When the dog came back in, her daughter said, “That’s not his electronic collar. It’s the adjustable head lamp that I use to read in bed at night.”

Marsha says that some dogs go wild when they hear a vacuum cleaner and will attack the machine. Other dogs are hunters, who, at any opportune moment, will grab a chicken. Although the guilty one looks up at you with innocent, loving eyes, he is betrayed by a few feathers around the jowls.

Have you noticed that the butterflies fluttering about the cans of dog food on your TV screen make dog food look so good that the children beg to try it? Our friends, who are training their dog, had some dog treats in a little dish on the table last night. They looked so crisp and tasty, Marsha had all she could do to keep her hands off them.

“Oh, see how he likes me,” you’ve heard a child cry as she wiped dog slobber from her face. Let’s be honest. Dogs don’t lick people because they like people. Dogs are after the salt or the minuscule food particles on your skin.

Dogs are very self-centered people. If you let a dog run loose under the table at a child’s birthday party, there will be no cake ground into the carpet to clean up later.

And then there are border collies. A man at the Common Ground Fair told me that he was once with a bunch of dog walkers out in the woods and, without noticing, what had happened was that the border collies had herded all their owners together. He and his friends were all so close they were touching – shoulder to shoulder and chest to chest. Owning a border collie is a good way to quickly make new friends if you’re young and lonesome and living in a city.

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