Posts Tagged ‘Jack Russell Terrier’

I was about five when Dad gave me my first pup, Shep. He was a McNab shepherd and born to work. Without any herding to do in the new suburbia of the 1950s, Shep became bored and destructive. Eventually, Dad found him a more suitable home on a sheep ranch. I was heartbroken, yet somehow understood it was best for Shep that way. Photo by Edgar Herring.

Today is the fifth anniversary of my father’s passing. He’s the one who started me on this animal-loving journey.  My first pup, a gift from him, was a McNab shepherd named Shep after my uncle’s childhood dog. I’m certain Dad also was the key to my lifelong fascination with horses.

The California farm where he and my uncle grew up during the Depression was small and diverse. My grandfather’s team of horses was key in working the ground and hauling crops of potatoes and apples to the packing sheds at the rail stop up the hill. Dad much preferred driving the hitch to milking the family cow or cleaning chicken houses. Earning the right to drive the team was a sort of rite of passage. It meant you were in charge. The horses and cargo were the driver’s responsibility.

One summer, Dad was instructed to with make a delivery to the packing house. His city cousin Jack, on his annual trip to see country kin, was along for the ride. Shep — the original one — trotted alongside.

Apparently Jack insisted on having a turn at driving and tried to grab the reins from Dad. I’ve never driven even a single-horse hitch, but I can see why interfering with control of the horse(s) would not be wise. Dad told Jack as much, but Jack would not be deterred. So Dad made his point with an elbow and a shove.

Dad didn’t intend for Jack to fall off the wagon. I picture Shep licking Jack’s wounds as Dad pulled up the team and climbed down to help. At dinner that night, Jack told my grandparents he wanted to cut his stay short and return home. He left by train the next day. That was Jack’s last summer at the ranch. Dad and Jack stayed close through the years: The wagon incident was never discussed.

I’ve always wondered what words passed between the two teen-agers standing on the dirt road after the fall. Shep must have dutifully stood by, wagging his tail low and slow as dogs do when they’re unsure. Whose side was he on? I like to think Shep sat between the cousins, like a mediator, since each had been wronged by the other.

Hoss was a pistol. A small Jack Russell terrier with a personality the size of a bison, he died April 15. Hoss was a pivotal piece

Hoss, a Jack Russell terrier, was a tether-ball playing, gopher-digging, cattle-herding dynamo. Photo by Mary Corning, Four Winds Resources.

in the lives of my horse trainer friends, Carmen and Norm.

For one thing, he was the self-appointed sheriff. He’d bark an alarm if the slightest thing looked amiss in their driveway or front pastures. He did not pretend to like giving up his usual armchair just because you wanted to take a seat there. He’d let you sit, then jump back up and burrow in beside you. If you happened to have a treat in your pocket, he knew. There was no resisting his earnest brown eyes.

Less begging and sudden weight loss were the first clues something was wrong. Turned out he was anemic, because his immune system was destroying red blood cells. Medication helped, and Hoss began eating home-cooked meals three or four times a day, begging shamelessly for more. He rallied and strutted his little-dog stuff for three more weeks. Hoss died at home, in the middle of the night, in the arms of those who adored him for nearly 14 years.

When I met him, Hoss was pretty much retired and a house dog. But he’d had his hey-day. Here are a few of Carmen’s  memories from back then. “In his younger days, Hoss was totally obsessed with tether balls and would have to be stopped before he dropped!  He would also roll balls (of all shapes and sizes) with his nose, at high speed all over the house, barns, or parking lot, until we could catch him and stop the action!  Other obsessions were chasing us through the house, or vice versa, playing tug of war, chasing cats/squirrels, and digging for gophers! He loved to help get the cows out of the arena, and they were actually afraid of him … thinking he must be an over-sized rat!”

Rest in peace Hoss and may you be nudging balls through the halls of Heaven 24/7.


Barn cat Lillie has a kitten litter — all girls and mostly black with hints of white on some toes and a tail tip. The email I received with the happy news indicated she’d had two kittens. By the time I got to the barn to ride later that day and peeked at them – there were three!

Later I noticed a note on the whiteboard we use to communicate news in and around the barn. It read, “Please keep the dogs out of the tack room. Lillie is in there with her babies, 2 (+1). Thanks.” I feel honored that she’s made a nursery out of the old fleece horse blanket I folded up for her behind my tack box.


The Buckeye hens I wrote about in my last post have done their part to keep their endangered breed alive and well. My friend Stacy reports two chicks peeking out from beneath the protective feathers of the three “moms” sharing nest duty in recent weeks. Here's one of them taking a tentative glance around the barn. Photo by Russell Shellington.


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