I've never had a dog this long - Alabamas13.com WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

I've never had a dog this long

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By Mike Royer

My dog Jessie is a good dog. When I pull in the driveway, my wife says, “Dad’s home," and Jessie comes running to the door and as soon as I open the door she’s all over me wanting me to pet her and let her lick me. I’ve noticed it doesn’t really matter how long I’m gone. To Jessie, I could have been on a world wide tour and have been gone for weeks, she’s just so glad to see me. No one else comes running to the door and licks my face, which is fine with me, but still I feel special and I am to Jessie.

Jessie doesn’t know it but she’s flirting with an all-time record. Thinking back, I don’t believe I’ve ever had a dog this long. Best I can figure, the life expectancy of a dog back on the farm in Indiana was about 3.6 years. Jessie was born on the 4th of July and if she’s still licking my face come this Independence Day she’ll be 5 years old.

We had a lot of dogs on the farm. My favorite was probably Blackie. He was mostly a Lab and mostly a good dog too. Blackie had a special corner in the barn where some straw and old rugs collected. Even in the harsh Indiana winters, Blackie seemed to do just fine. He’d just curl up in his corner, out of the winter wind and always seemed toasty warm. Blackie’s downfall wasn’t old age or some dog disease; no, Blackie succumbed to a tractor tire. Blackie, like most good dogs, didn’t see danger in farm equipment. The folks who petted him and fed him were driving the tractors and trucks and he just wanted to be close, be part of all the activity. Even a good dog can fail to pay attention all the time, and one day Blackie was looking left when he should have looked right, and he got run over by a Farmall 400 Tractor. If you’re gonna die by being run over by a tractor it ought to at least be with a good one. He's buried about 50 yards out in the field in front of the home place.

A neighbor man called Dad one time and asked if he’d like to have a good dog. I went with him to look at a dog unlike any I’d seen before. The man said it was a purebred Doberman. It was skinny looking and sort of nervous acting. Its ears looked funny but Dad said we’d take him. As we were leaving, the man told my Dad that as a purebred dog, this one wouldn’t eat cheap dog food and was more accustomed to a certain more expensive brand that you could only buy at special veterinarian businesses. My Dad thanked the man for the information, and on the way home we stopped at the Farm Bureau and bought a 100-lb. bag of the cheapest dog food they had. The man was right too. That dog turned his nose up and wouldn’t touch the food at all. That was Tuesday, but on Friday the dog ate that same bowl of food like it was filet mignon. I’ve never forgotten that.

I didn’t know Shasta very well. She was a pretty German Shepard that was light colored. I was off at college during the Shasta administration, but my Dad loved that dog and still misses her, I believe. Shasta was running alongside Dad’s truck and they met a tractor or something and Shasta ran under Dad’s truck. I wish someone else had run over her. I wish no one had.

This may sound sort of cruel to have good dogs live such short lives being around such dangerous equipment, but that’s just the way it was, and I suppose the way it still is. You don’t live free on a wide open farm and chain up your dog. And, on the farm, dogs live outside and people live inside. People are people and animals are animals and you don’t blur the line between the two. If I was a dog, I believe I’d rather run and keep up with everything than to be chained up by the house. At least you’d live before you die.

When I get home tonight everyone will be asleep. But, Jessie will be waiting near the back door, glad to see me and hoping we might sneak a treat before bedtime. She’s a good dog and I’m thinking she’s got a great shot at seeing the fireworks again this year.

See you tonight at 5:00, 6:00 and 10:00.

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