HOME & HEART: Country Canines

Beginner

My husband Bob-O and I have lived off-grid for 31 years. Nearly the entire time, we have owned dogs—always a spayed female Airedale, and always only one at a time. When you live in the country, two or more dogs become a pack and have a tendency to go running. We are our dog’s pack, and she is family.

Terrier-ist

Just about everyone who lives in the country keeps a dog. Airedales are very active dogs and the wide-open country suits them well. We have lots of country to hike with our dog. Most of our dogs have been Oorang Airedales, which is a larger breed, weighing 80 to 110 pounds. Out here, a dog that’s too small becomes part of the food-for-wildlife program.

The mere fact that a dog regularly lives (and piddles and poops) on your property is enough to deter some varmints. We like the terrier breed because they are varmint dogs. If it’s a varmint, our Lucea will chase it. Lucea is so exuberant it is like having a two-year-old toddler in the house. She puts everything in her mouth, she loves attention, and if she is quiet, I better go see what she is up to. In our house, no shoe or squeaky toy is safe. Sometimes Lucea has some ‘splaining’ to do.

There is the occasional run-in with raccoons or skunks. Once, we were taking care of Max, a friend’s big Labrador retriever, who had been friends with our third Airedale, Emma, since puppyhood, when I woke up in the night, smelling skunk. I found Emma, who had been stink-blasted on the side of her face and was trying to rub off the stench in the dirt. She was a stinky, muddy mess at two in the morning. Her buddy Max was unscathed, looking innocent, wagging his tail. I cleaned her up and went to bed.

The next morning I told my friend, “Well, at least Max was smart enough to stay out of the spray.” She replied, “Don’t kid yourself—if someone had chucked that skunk in the air, Max would have been the first on it.” Terriers like our Airedale were specifically bred to hunt and kill varmints. Max, on the other hand, is a helper, not a hunter. Historically, Labrador retrievers were a fisherman’s friend, helping bring in nets and fish, and fetch ropes.

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