The family dog led our children into a much larger world
Author Mychal Wilmes describes an adopted dog that guarded the kids and home as a key part of the family.
Our three children were instantly drawn to puppies that were offered for free adoption during a long-ago July 4th celebration.
They picked out one for its personality and begged us to take it home. Their Dad was noncommittal, insisting we’d wait to see what the rest of the day brought. They knew from experience that it most likely meant “no” when he said, “I’ll think about it.’’
It was fortunate that they convinced me to take the puppy home. Wishbone was the best dog we ever had as a family and most importantly was the companion the children grew up with.
We lived on a long dead-end gravel road that crossed over a bridge above a creek that ran fast following thunderstorms that yielded 2 inches of rain. Far off the beaten path, we were concerned that the children might explore the creek or the corn fields that grew tall on three sides of the farmstead.
Wishbone stood watch while the children played in a weather-beaten round corn crib and rode training-wheel bikes around the yard. The foursome never strayed too far while their parents worked in the garden or planted flowers in two tractor tires that served as beds.
Sarah, Rachel, and Sam looked forward to daily walks down the driveway to fetch the mail. Our journey didn’t end until we reached a culvert a mile down the township road. Wishbone was always in the lead 30 feet ahead and as a scout chased up pheasants, Hungarian partridges, and an occasional deer. It was an ideal time to talk with them about things that were important to them.
Rachel — more than the other two — had a knack for close encounters with wildlife that were best avoided. A mother skunk and four young ones walked in single file along the driveway.
Such pretty kittens, she said, before reaching down to pick one up. The mother skunk did not notice or at the very least pretended not to notice.
We learned a great deal about each other on those walks.
Wishbone never allowed a car to drive into the yard without alerting us. He also barked when deer came to eat crabapples from our trees; when raccoons found treats in the garbage; and when cottontails made tracks in snow.
To read more of Mychal Wilmes' Farm Boy Memories, click here.
It would not be the last time that Rachel had such a close encounter.
Wishbone barked fiercely at an object on the edge of the lawn near the power line and Rachel went to investigate. She came in the house to report that the dog was barking at a snapping turtle. She had found a stick and had poked at the beast, which was the largest snapping turtle I’d ever seen.
“It’s hissing at me,’’ she said.
I thought she was making the story up. The turtle was more than a half-mile from the creek. It was in no mood to interact with humans. A scoop shovel and wheelbarrow carried it back from where it came.
Wishbone was 14 years with us when she started to decline. The children, now adults, were upset when they heard the news. The veterinarian came to administer lethal drugs and Wishbone fell asleep. We held her until she faded away as tears fell.
The plan was to bury her in the tall grass with a field stone as a marker. Sam said the body should be cremated because Wishbone loved the water. Although it was not without cost, it was the right thing to do.
We mourned for what we had lost for reasons that went beyond her death. Their childhoods were gone in the quick passage to adulthood. Wishbone will forever remain in our hearts as the best dog to help lead the children into a much larger world.
Mychal Wilmes is the retired managing editor of Agri News. He lives in West Concord, Minnesota, with his wife, Kathy.