Farm dogs have to earn their keep. When I was a boy in NE Kansas, our dog “Tippy” barked whenever a visitor came into the farmyard, he hunted mice and rats around the barn, chased away wild animals that endangered the chickens, and kept the cats on their toes…
For this we fed Tippy table scraps and all the rabbits he could catch for himself. Tippy was given an occasional pet and we removed any ticks he picked up… but that’s about all. He was never allowed in the house because dogs “ just don’t belong in the house”.
When Judy and I were first married we lived in Honolulu (I had a study grant there for a year). Our landlord had a large German Shepherd dog named "Moki". When Moki joined us on walks he carried a large coconut (still in its husk) the entire distance! He slept on our doorstep.
At the time when Judy and I got out first dog “Muffin” I must admit that I was still under the belief that dogs were not for inside the house. Muffin got an old mat to sleep on in the garage – and plenty of good pelletized dog food. His main claim to fame was that he was a Houdini dog – He could climb fences and could dig holes to escape from our yard better than any dog I have ever known… Good old raggedy Muffin!
We had friends, Dave and Geri Runnels, who lived on a small ranch in the Central Valley… they had no children but a thundering herd of big dogs! The dogs would run loose through the brush and come roaring into the house all at once – such a presence – they came in and shook, scattering dust and sand evenly throughout the house. The house always had that special character of those big sweet dogs coming and going!…
After our son Peter and his wife Marila got married, we visited Marila's parents home sheep ranch in Northern California. They maintained a kennel of working dogs – mostly Australian Shepherds – incredibly smart dogs that more than anything loved herding sheep.
My in-laws sheep working dogs
They also had 3 small housedogs that were free to came and go - in and out of the house. These dogs were treated like part of the family - They would sit quietly by the fire at night, calmly asked for pets and hugs from whoever was present, and were treated with affection. I thought, “Huh! – having dogs in the house really is kind of nice. “
The Jack Russell of my son and his wife, and Roxy ( our dog)
Then when we saw the Jack Russell Terrier that our son and his wife acquired– We decided that it was time for us to get a dog too. We went to an Olive/Sheep farm near Peter’s in-laws and picked out “Roxy”. Now if one dog is good – why not two? – So we got “Willy” for good measure.
They are now part of our life - I take them for long daily walks, then sit with us in the evening as we read or watch television…
Me walking with Willy and Roxy along the Alameda Creek Floor Control Channel
I have taught Willy to howl like a coyote (it’s a great bonding experience for the two of us to howl together). We have a daily tussle on the floor with the three of us play with a rope toy (sounds like a deadly dog fight - but they keep their teeth sheathed).
Willy and Roxy having a tussle
Jack Russell terriers are bred to be great hunters – but our dogs just don’t get the idea of hunting for gophers – too bad! However their sworn enemies are all the squirrels of the world!
Well out peace and harmony were broken this week – when a friend called up to ask if one of our dogs were out – I checked – they were both present… She had found a young Jack Russell that appeared to have lost his owners. We said “Oh we’ll take him until we can locate the owner!” Willy is totally bent out of shape by this interloper coming into the house – he says, “I’m the top dog here and you don’t belong”. It is now day 5 – and despite putting up signs and telling everyone we know to help us find the owner – the pup is still with us… And the worst thing he is worming his way into our affection… A sure sign of how serious the problem is - we have named him "Rusty" (for his reddish hue).
Having three Jack Russell’s underfoot is like having three little dervishes in motion around us… This is not a breed that sits calmly by, passively wagging tails. Our rational side still says that three dogs is too many. The thing that bothers me most is that I have heard that people select a dog to live in our household that matches their personality… if that true I am in big trouble.