Mixing duty and freedom

It seems to be the nature of the dog to flout the law, and the new leash requirements that have superseded "running at large" are a mockery. I had just finished "sottin'" 48 tender celery plants in a neat row in my tillage when a large, yellow Thomas Cat hastened in a generally south-north direction and placed a foot precisely on each plant aforesaid en passant.m The reason for this intrusion was immediately clear -- four large and excited hounds in full cry had effected this alacrity on the puss, and he was eager to reach the ash yonder to climb to the sanctuary of a limb. The dogs, having treed him, bugled a few moments in vain, and then trotted off to, I suppose, look for another cat. They should have been at their respective homes, restrained. I regrouped my celery.

I seem to observe that dogs sometimes restrained and then again not are less agreeable than our old pooches that never knew a fetter. It makes sense. I have always held that nobody should keep a dog without at least ten acres adjacent, and have always believed sadness is a pet mutt in an apartment. Back when we had dogs and something more than ten acres, there seemed to be some gentility to their manners. Old Hector and friends knew how to walk across a garden without stepping on anything.

And along with being licensed "to run at large," they lived in the serenity of knowing they could, so they didn't -- much. Nobody ever came to complain to us about Argos, a sheep dog we had all too briefly. It's safe to say that Argos was well aware that if he pestered a cat he would be reprimanded.

There was a good little dog that was half collie and half conjecture that protected the domain during the lad's growing up. This dog, name of Prince, didn't even have a collar, let alone a leash, and he attended to every chore with diligence and care. He liked to plow. As the tractor crossed the piece, turning the stile, Prince would walk behind right in the spot where the sod was rolling. Back and forth, back and forth, Prince would plow all day. And as the lad came along, he helped Prince plow; by now there was some age on Prince and a driver had to keep an eye on him. At the end of a furrow, whem about to turn and come back, whoever sat on the tractor seat had to look about and make sure plodding, doddering, old Prince was out of harm. So the lad went off to be a soldier. And in due time to got some leave and came home -- apple blossom time and the plow set up and ready.

But Prince was no longer in residence, and we had not in the meantime engaged the services of his successor. The lad was up at dawn the next morning eager to get some ground ready, and he had a couple of hours in before breakfast. At breakfast, he said, "we need another dog."

"Second nature," he said. "I plowed so many times with Price in the way that now I keep looking for him when he isn't there. If I'm going to plow, I want a dog to look out for."

So we got another dog, and we called that one Gelert. Gelert was the one that wouldn't come in the house. Couldn't beg him in. We fed him on the steps, and he'd sleep the night in the rhubarb. When winter came and the rhubarb waned , Gelert kept on sleeping there, and if a blizzard brought two feet of snow he would bound out of the drift in the morning ready for his day's work. I spoke about ol' Gelert here long, long ago and told how he slept in the snow, and had several letters from dog lovers who chided me for mistreating him. We had Gelert for 19 years. Or, perhaps that should read: Gelert had us for 19 years. For all that time he took care of every detail about running the farm, except the taxes. He never stepped on celery.

Maybe I should mention Sheemo, too. He was confused. When our own youngsters got off the schools bus he would whoop and bark and fuss and carry on so you'd think the Bulgarian Army was attacking. But let a tramp wander along, and Sheemo would rub against him and lead him into our parlor, tail wagging and all friendly.

Somehow in meditating on those things, I've decided the trouble with dogs, today, is that they have too little to do, and spend idle hours in frivolity.

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