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I’m a normal person.

Okay, maybe a couple quirks, but all in all, sort of a regular guy.

So why do I have such strange dogs?

We had a storm over the weekend. Thunder, lightning, and a quick, hard rain. I looked through the hall window into the porch and found that the outside door hadn’t latched and there’d been a breach in security. The big Newfoundland was sleeping in the middle of the cold tile floor, while three cats curled up on her bed.

How embarrassing is that?

The dog outweighed the cats about 10 to 1, but that didn’t seem to matter. You’ve heard the slogan, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the amount of the fight in the dog?” Well, there was no hint of fight.

It’s a bit of a trend here on the farm. When I was a kid, we had a Norwegian Elkhound that chased butterflies. Now, I understand that we don’t have elk in our part of the country, so Hutch had no opportunity to pursue the prey he was bred to chase. He had to find a new purpose to his life, what with there being no Norwegian Elk in the neighborhood. I get that, but did he need to lower the bar all the way to butterflies?

After Hutch died, we got another Norwegian Elkhound. He didn’t chase butterflies. His favorite trick was to humiliate my mother. Whenever she entertained luncheon guests - usually her church circle or other classy friends – he’d flop onto his back and pee straight up in the air.

My daughter still laughs at the memory of her grandmother’s agonized cry, “Oh, OLAF!” Mom always tried to make it sound like this horror show had never happened before, and corrective training would follow as soon as the guests departed. My guess is that after a decade or so of the hairy fountain exhibit, her friends caught on.

After we moved into our house, we got a dog of our own. Our place had a history of normal dogs. The previous occupant, my Great Uncle Carl, had a dog named Skinner who rode on the tractor fender, keeping Carl company. He - Carl, not Skinner - had a threshing machine that he would tow from neighbor to neighbor during wheat harvest. Skinner disapproved of that expensive machine being left overnight far from home. Carl had to take him food and water, because Skinner stayed to guard it throughout the weekend. That’s the kind of dog I wanted.

Didn’t get it.

We stretched the envelope, breed-wise, and bought a Newfoundland, because they were supposed to be good with children. Maggie was great with children. In the decade or so that she was part of the household, I don’t think I ever heard her growl. She was kind of a lummox, though, causing travel hazards for toddlers with her massive wagging tail, and hazards to hygiene with the massive quantities of drool that dripped off her jowls.

We live on the edge of a big slough and we regularly took the kids out in a canoe. Maggie disapproved of such recklessness and would swim alongside, watching anxiously for us to capsize and prepared to tow the children to shore. Newfoundlands have skin between their toes, kind of mammalian webbed feet, and Maggie could swim forever. Once a friend was duck hunting on the far side of the slough and Maggie swam a half mile just to say hello. Sadly, having an enormous black dog splashing around doesn’t make for a quality hunting experience. Plus, her route took her through his spread of decoys. She got tangled in their anchor ropes and was soon placidly swimming along, trailing a dozen plastic ducks.

The morning after the storm, Frances the Newfoundland was a little stiff from sleeping on the tile floor, but the cats were all super comfortable.

People say normal is overrated, but I don’t know…I’d like to give it a shot.

Copyright 2020 Brent Olson

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