When we lived on the farm, we always had a dog and sometimes two. Sam, Moose and Jake were all good farm dogs. They stayed outside and slept in the barn.
Sam was smart and good with the cows. He liked to bring them in from the pasture and help get them in their stalls. Moose was a lovable dog, but not very smart or good with the cows. He tried to help, but usually ended up chasing a cow the wrong way. Jake just liked to be petted.
On a mission
Thirteen years ago, when our twins were 13, a dog we had gotten a couple of years earlier from our priest’s secretary died of cancer in February. That was our only dog at the time. Nathan and Matthew hounded me for six months that they wanted a puppy. I gave them every excuse in the book and told them that with my mother in the nursing home, I was too busy to help train a puppy. When my mother died the end of July, I ran out of excuses.
The boys learned from our next-door neighbor that another neighbor had a dog with 11 puppies born on 07-07-07 that were 7 weeks old. The puppies were mostly black lab and a mix of border collie and Rottweiler. They cost $50 each. I told the boys if they wanted a puppy, they would have to feed it, train it and pay for it themselves. I figured that would discourage them.
Undaunted, the next day they got their 16-year-old brother, Ryan, to drive them to the farm while I was an hour north interviewing a farmer for a story for the magazine. Together, they picked out a cute black-and-white puppy that weighed about 8 pounds and could barely get his belly off the ground. When I got home, they were all excited to introduce me to their new puppy. They named him Scooter.
We had never had a dog in the house, so they made a doghouse for him and kept him in the shed. On Sundays, they would bring Scooter in the house for a few hours. I was impressed that he was a very clean puppy, and he didn’t have any accidents in the house.
December was extremely cold that year, and I agreed to let Scooter stay in the mudroom and basement at night. Soon, his territory included the kitchen and, as you probably guessed, by Christmas he had free run of the house. Since we lived on a highway, knowing where Scooter was at night kept us all from worrying about him getting hit on the road.
In 2009, my husband and I made the difficult decision to quit farming and buy a house in Brandon, a half-mile from our farm. Scooter made the transition from farm dog to village dog with no problem, although he missed playing with his best friend, Emma, the dog next door.
As the boys graduated from high school and went off to college, Scooter became my husband’s and my responsibility. I didn’t mind. Scooter had a great sense of humor, he loved attention, and he was the cleanest dog I have ever known. He was a big dog. He weighed 103 pounds. We spoiled Scooter with a basket full of dog toys, marshmallows and table scraps.
We went on lots of walks in town together, and he loved to ride in my SUV, usually resting his head on the back seat so he could look out the rear window to see where we had been rather than where we were going. He even went with me on a few farm interviews. On the rare occasion when he had to stay home alone for several hours, he would pee in the cats’ litter box in the basement — something he figured out on his own.
Last summer, we went on a five-day camping trip to western Wisconsin with our sons, their girls and our dogs. We rented a house on a lake. We toasted marshmallows, hiked in the state park, kayaked, and played cornhole and bocce ball. Scooter had the time of his life.
He loved firetrucks, and every time he heard a siren, he ran to the front door to see if it was a firetruck, a cop car or an ambulance going by. Every year we walked a half block to Main Street to watch the Christmas parade together so he could see the firetrucks with their lights and sirens blaring.
On May 13, Scooter and I heard sirens. We went out on the front porch and saw five firetrucks and about 30 cars. I noticed that some of our neighbors were sitting on their front porches getting ready to watch a teacher appreciation parade that was going to go right by our house.
Scooter sat on the porch overlooking our steps between two flower baskets I had bought the day before. About 10 cars drove past our house filled with kids holding signs expressing love for their teachers and honking their horns. Just as the first firetruck turned the corner to come down our block, Scooter keeled over into one of the baskets of flowers. I jumped up and asked him if he was OK. Startled, he got up, lurched toward the front door and collapsed again — Scooter died in less than a minute as the first firetruck drove past our house, siren blaring.
I called our four sons to tell them the sad news. Three of them came home to dig a grave and bury Scooter in our backyard within two hours after his death. We planted hydrangeas and several other perennials on his grave.
After three weeks of missing Scooter, I’m finally able to start remembering some of the things he did to make me laugh without crying. Our vet started warning me when Scooter was 9 that big dogs don’t usually live much past 10 years old, and I had better prepare myself. I didn’t listen because Scooter seemed so active and healthy and was always happy.
I thought he would be alive on July 7, but he died a few weeks shy of his 13th birthday, and so did a piece of my heart. I’m grateful for the time we had with Scooter, for the great life he had and for how much he enriched ours.
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