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The Last Windrow: Sparky the farm dog

I was going to submit another of my “Classic” Last Windrow columns this week, but for the life of me I can’t find the column I was looking for. Computers are wonderful things unless you misplace something somewhere never to be seen again. 

At least when I wrote on a piece of paper, I had some physical evidence that I had been there. 

Alas, I will have to do this the hard way; I’ll have to earn it!

The classic column I was looking for had to do with the first dog I had ever laid claim to. His name was Sparky. 

What made me think of this subject was the fact that I had our current canine, Jada, to the dog doctor a couple of weeks ago for some minor surgery. When the vet asked me how old Jada was, I told him what I believed to be her age, 7 years. 

He looked down at his file notes and said, “Sorry to tell you this John, but Jada is now 10 years old.” 

How could that be? Where did those other three years go? 

“But,” the vet continued, “she’s in good shape and should last a few more good years.” 

That made me feel a little better, but not much. 

Sparky had never gone to a vet. I don’t think farm dogs back then even got rabies shots on any regular basis. Farm dogs were expected to “tough it out” and money was meant to be spent on farm animals that could produce a dollar. 

Dogs, although loved and treasured, came in low on the priority list. 

And, Sparky never really endeared himself to the point where you would want to spend much money on him. He was a white, shepherd/collie cross with sparkling blue eyes that looked friendly. He also had a set of canines that could open a can of beans with one puncture, and he knew how to use them. 

Sparky had bitten just about everyone except members of our family. The milkman made a hasty entry into the milkhouse to pick up his cans on his pick-up days. The mailman never got out of his car to deliver a package. He just honked the horn and we would go get the package from him, Sparky trotting at our side and looking harmless.

The guy that delivered bulk gasoline always called first to make sure Sparky was locked up in the barn. He had scar tissue on both his lower limbs as a result of Sparky’s tenuous defense of the farmstead. Sparky put him up on the gas tank stand more than once until we could pull the dog away. 

One nice summer day a nicely dressed saleslady came driving into the farmyard. I don’t know what she was selling, but she did smell good. She was standing just outside her car door, putting something in her briefcase, when Sparky spied her from behind. 

In one fell swoop, the dashing dog separated her from her nylon stockings without even tearing the skin on her calf. Now that takes talent! 

I don’t know what she was selling, and we never found out. She departed in a cloud of dust. Sparky stood watching her from the doorstep of our house with a piece of nylon stuck between his teeth. 

I don’t know how long Sparky lived. I think he could have been considered middle-aged when he tagged along to the graveled road with my Dad and me one afternoon. A couple of our neighbors, Fritz and Herman, stopped on the road to visit. They didn’t get out of their car; they knew better with Sparky standing in the ditch nearby. 

They visited about the looks of the fall crop, the price of hogs and some other farm-related items and then bid Dad and I a fair adieu. As their tires began to turn on the gravel, Sparky rushed out of the ditch, bit into their front tire, punctured it and one turn of the tire did the trick — broken neck, dead dog.

This was a traumatic experience for me! There he laid, my protector, my hero, my companion. Done in by a car tire and by his own stupidity. Fritz and Herman offered their apologies to my dad and me, but I didn’t think they looked too sad as they finally stood outside their car, staring down at Sparky. 

Fritz said, “Boy, it takes a lot of power for a dog to bite through a tire.” 

We all had to agree. 

Dad and I put Sparky in the bucket of our tractor’s loader and carried him over the hill to rest above his favorite rabbit roost. I knew he would have wanted to be there. From then on, it seemed we had a lot more company on the farm. Everyone got out of their car without looking over their shoulder. 

Sparky was gone. It was a sad day. But, not for everyone.

See you next time. Okay?