Farm duty is hard duty, never harder than on cold winter mornings when stiff fingers struggle to strip ice off fence latches. I get glimmers of that experience when I take my herd out to the dog pen for a morning pee. First time out this morning, not too bad. It was as if the cold had startled the dog into obeying our new command, “Fence!”
The after breakfast run was another matter. To the firm command, “Fence!” Toby headed directly toward the fence, then veered left and took off through the sugarbush, followed by the puppy and the old dog who is, perhaps literally, on his last legs.
Only a week ago, the puppy was not brave enough for this venture, but time moves on, and now she follows Toby anywhere, even over to Labrador Jake’s house, which is—thank heaven—on the same side of the road. I know where they go, or at least I think I do, but this habit of bolting into the woods is not one I want Baby Cassandra to take up.
In a few minutes, Toby and Cassie were back. But old Max moves more slowly, and as he medication has been tapered over the last few days, he is losing function in his back legs. I stood shivering in the northeast wind for a few bone-chilling minutes, then decided I needed to go find him, just in case he got into trouble, but first I had to get dressed. Trailing around my neighbor’s sugarbush in deer season wearing only long underwear and a purple velvet robe with my boots—just not advisable. Not warm enough for one thing.
I need to take a lesson from all those farmers who roll out of bed and into boots and heavy clothing without even thinking. And I need to figure out how to build a chute from door to fence. It’s not as easy as you might think. When the standing seam roof looses its load, small mountains of snow accumulate. There is shoveling to consider, as well as how to maintain a pathway for the gas man. There is a reason, you know, that the fence is fifteen feet from the house.
Today I am thankful I am not a farmer. I am thankful that I work with my brain and not my hands. I am thankful for my brain. And I am oh so thankful that Toby and the puppy and old Max came back. They think it is great fun to visit Jake, as he visits them. They feel compelled to follow his scent and to overlay it. I think of how easily they could stray the other way into the road.
Life is risky. Sir Francis Bacon wrote, "He who has a wife and children has given hostages to fortune." The same is true of she who has dogs. I am thankful to have them home safe. And, Toby, I will be just as grateful--really I will--if you don't take off on heart-stopping jaunts to explore the sugarbush and visit Jake.