For nine days I’m in charge of what I call a doggery. It consists of my friend’s big black dog and his new friend’s nondescript small dog.

Although I’ve raised a lot of cattle over the years, I’ve never owned a dog, so this is a unique learning experience for me.

I’ve known the big black dog since he was a shoe-chewing pup, but the little white and black dog, who bit his kindly keeper this morning, is a visitor who presents his own set of challenges.

To begin with, feeding two dog friends at the same time is a logistical problem. It is not like feeding cows, where you throw down the grain or hay and let them all have a go at it. Big Dog and Small Dog have to be compartmentalized or Big Dog will eat his food and then rush over, nudge Small Dog out of the way and eat Small Dog’s food – if not Small Dog himself.

Here I should mention that Big Dog is a German shepherd, who is an equal opportunity eater, and Small Dog is about the size of an emaciated cat. Big Dog runs with the grace of a wolf. A human being with his physical prowess would be the No. 1 tennis-soccer-football-basketball player in the world. If you are lost in the woods, this dog and his trainer will find you. Small Dog is a finicky eater who doesn’t seem to run but hops along with the curious gait of a lame rabbit.

Small Dog tries to jump out of his skin at the drop of a pin and is afraid of his own shadow. He stands well back out of the way when Big Dog chases a ball. Everything he looks at is bigger than he is. He doesn’t bark, but has a hoarse squeak reminiscent of Marlon Brando in “The Godfather.” I identify with Small Dog.


My first problem on the evening of Day One was reading in the carefully penciled directions that Small Doggie was to get a cup of kibbles. I’m familiar with the Dutch word “kriebels,” but it only seemed to apply if you could get excited at the thought of eating dog food. I read every word on the can of the exotic dog food and every word on the bag of pellets, but nowhere did I see the word “kibbles.” So, wanting to do things right, I looked up the word on Google.

Each dog has his own diet. Small Dog does not eat his food gladly. Both eat the best doggie food that money can buy, but Small Doggie’s owner leans to vegetables and Big Doggie’s owner is a red-meat man.

The difference in diet was called to my attention this morning when I saw Small Doggie eagerly wolfing down the two or three pellets left in Big Doggie’s dish. He bit my hand when I reached down to carry him into my office, where he could refuse to eat his own food in peace and comfort.

Having finally had a taste of Big Doggie’s meaty kibbles, he discovered he’s been terribly shortchanged for a long time. As I write, Small Doggie is sleeping at my feet, only 3 feet away from food that he will occasionally sniff at half-heartedly but not eat.

Here I identify with Small Doggie again. His kibbles are probably the human equivalent of quiche or enchilada, which no old Maine man could eat, while Big Doggie’s dry food is probably laced with prime rib.

Are there any similarities between pet dogs and pet steers? Yes. One is able to converse with either of them in any language. They are sounding boards should man want to articulate his problems.


From my limited experience, I have observed that dogs are more likely to be anthropomorphized than cows. Some people are horrified at the thought of their dog sleeping on a soft bed in a garage instead of on a soft bed in the house. I’m sure that during the winter months more than a few of my European ancestors slept upstairs and let the cows sleep downstairs in the living room. But we have central heating now and tend to get away from that sort of thing.

If you have read the ad for our bed-and-breakfast you know that, way down on the bottom in fine print, it says: “Your pet is always welcome here – as long as it is wrapped in small packages and is ready for our freezer.” After two days of running a happy doggery, I still think a man’s best friend should be a thousand-pound steer.

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at his website: MainePrivateRadio.html

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