Forty Years with Birds and Dogs
Long ago we didn't imagine that we would have to keep dogs on a leash, especially in farm country.
By Cary Neeper for the LADP week Nov. 21, 2014
Skates, our blond border collie, was missing. I must have gone downstairs and called, then whistled. No Skates. I walked down the front stairs, up the driveway to the backyard and called and whistled again. Still no Skates.
What is remarkable, now that I think of it, is that I felt no angst, just a little irritation: “Oh dear. Skates and Sammy are probably off somewhere on campus.”
Those were our graduate school years 1959-1963 in Madison, Wisconsin. Sammy was a small dog who lived somewhere nearby and often came to visit Skates. I had no idea who owned Sammy.
He was friendly to us humans and a playful, unassuming companion for our much larger golden girl. When Skates was outside, he would often show up, and they would peruse the neighborhood doing what dogs do—mostly sniffing every bush to see who or what had been around lately.
Some years earlier on Pa’s Hayward California victory farm, a similar friendship had blossomed between our first pup Boots and Browny, a dark brown German shepherd whose territory included our entire forty acres and old man Madeiros’s acres across the gravel road.
The road ran down the hill of fruit trees, including fig trees with their smooth horizontal branches for hanging by one’s knees.
The dogs hunted gophers and moles, and I think Mr. Madeiros fed Browny occasionally, but no one ever claimed to “own” the dog. Browny belonged to no one. He simply occupied the neighborhood. No one worried about it. Now, in most US communities, such acceptance—an attitude of laissez faire toward “strays” is unthinkable—for good reasons like rabies and pack behavior.
Later, in Madison Wisconsin, I had no thought of not letting a dog run free. Now, allowing such freedom to one’s pet is unthinkable. It’s analogous to the idea of letting your five-year-old walk across the neighborhood to kindergarten.