Grit Blogs > Transitional Traditions

A Dog Blog

Becky, Andy, and EllyWell, we went and did it. We got ourselves a puppy. It’s not that we were looking all that hard for a dog; this little guy just sort of fell into our laps. He needed a home by February 12th, or he was headed to the pound where he’d most likely be euthanized. We couldn’t let that happen! Plus ... the farm does need a dog ... So last week, we adopted Oreo, a 4 month old Lab/Blue Heeler mix with dark brown eyes and a tender spirit. He has quickly wiggled his way into our hearts. Here you can see him with Andy and Elly through our kitchen window.

Elly, Andy and Rio the Lab/Blue Heeler mix puppy pose for a photo

But before I begin to tell you about our new adventures with Oreo (now it’s Rio, as Andy has coined him), I must back up a bit and give honor to our farm dog that we lost this summer. Before we were sharing our lives with all of you here at GRIT, we had a few months blogging online by ourselves. I’d like to re-post one of those blogs in which I detail the life and times of our faithful friend, Candy. She made a big impact here on the farm and excluding her from our dog archives would not be right. So, from July 2008, here is the story:

Candy the shepard/heeler/who-knows-what mix farm dogIt is with a sad heart that we post this blog tonight. At around ten this morning, we had to euthanize Candy, our farm dog of 12 years. Yes, this is the same dog that only days ago was rambunctiously reeking havoc with our new sheep.

Some things aren’t always as they seem. She just became really sick on Tuesday. We took her to the vet first thing Wednesday morning, and she didn’t improve. Amongst a host of other issues, her kidneys were failing. It’s weird to hear that with a dog; but there’s no dialysis for animals, at least not that a farmer could afford. The humane thing was to put her down quietly and with family holding her.

Candy ... this little Shephard/Heeler/who-knows-what mix has been running through mud puddles for over a decade here!

Twelve years ago, I was just finishing up my freshman year of high school. The spring of 1996 was a turning point for the farm. After several years of trying to do it all on his own, my father made the tough decision to sell his milking cows and just raise heifers. It would free him up beyond words, yet always leave something wanting. In early April of that year, my long-time friend, a horse named Spark, had to be put to sleep from failed hips and old age. He was as much my father’s horse as he was mine. We both lost a true friend. (To this day, don’t get us talking about Spark; we’ll both choke up!)

Shortly thereafter, I heard from a friend at school that they had puppies to give away. We didn’t have a dog on the farm at that point....

The timing was ripe. It was perfect. But Dad didn’t want to deal with a new puppy! So I promised him that I would take care of its every need and he wouldn’t have to do anything. (How many of you have said that before?) With help from my mom, we convinced him. Not that he said yes. He just said, “Fine, but it’s YOUR dog. Not mine.”

I don’t remember how we picked her out of the litter of rolling puppies, but suddenly we had a vibrant, three month old pile of fur that we could call ours.

In honor of her golden-coated mother, Snickers, we named the new puppy Candy. She came to us as big as a large tomcat and loved us from day one. We taught her to stay off the road (more than one farm dog met its demise on that highway), to fetch and to not jump on people. Ok, that last one she never really got.

The life of a farm dog is exciting, free and often dangerous. Candy was not more than a “teenage” dog when she learned what a kick from a cow can mean. The heeler in her caused her to nip at the cows’ feet to get them moving and they did not like it! As she grew in size (and bark!) they began to respect her and moved along as she saw fit. Now, it wasn’t perfect by any means. We never really trained her much in the art of herding. A herding dog has the instinct to keep animals together and on the move, but a lot of the times, Candy had them all perfectly formed, stampeding forth ... in the complete wrong direction.

And sometimes, she really got it. If a heifer strayed, Candy would hunt her down and work her back into the group. It was beautiful to see, especially if you’ve ever had the privilege of trying to move a herd of unruly cows. (There’s lots of running involved. Seeing a dog do that part is satisfying indeed.)

A few years into her young life, Candy had an accident that we thought would end her. It was winter and my father was driving some heavy machinery around to feed the cattle. Always at his side, Candy slipped on the ice and went right under the tractor tires. She was rushed to the vet where they did surgery to repair her hips, but she was crushed so bad that her left socket couldn’t hold her leg into place. You know what? She pulled through! For ten years, she ran around the farm (and I do mean ran) with a dislocated hip and a limp.

Candy could be really annoying, too. I guess, who can’t? She would bark at the sound of thunder, fireworks and gunshots. We live in rural Wisconsin. Those noises are very common. She jumped on every guest with muddy, poopy farm paws. She barked all night over nothing. (Though she was invaluable at keeping the coyotes away.) She dug up animal carcasses from who knows where and ate them on the front lawn. And kept re-finding them even after we tried to dispose of them. She chewed through our summer hammock. She scratched up the finish on all the drivers’ side doors of our vehicles because she couldn’t wait for us to exit. She chased barn cats just to show off.

She was just being a dog.

She befriended the barn cats that had no feline friends. She shared her home under the porch with more than one litter of kittens. She had a companion with my beef steer Buckeye. And she always greeted us every morning with a wagging tail and loving eyes.

When I went away to college, she ceased to be my dog ... but in reality, she had been my father’s dog long before. For years, Candy was my father’s only companion on the farm. Through blizzards, rainstorms, intense heat and of course the balmy days, she could only be found by his side. That little puppy he never wanted had become his very best friend.

In recent years, Candy had noticeably slowed down. She didn’t always go to the fields with Dad. Sometimes she ignored the wandering cow. Many days were spent basking in the shade of our great maple trees. We all knew she was getting older and into her twilight years. I guess, though, you can never really be ready for that day.

Today was that day. And I write tonight so that the memory of a good friend won’t die with the dog that created it. She is at peace. The Bible doesn’t say if animals go to heaven. But God did create all creatures here on Earth and He knows every single one. He knew Candy. He blessed us with 12 long years to care for her. He delighted in her mischief and doggy ways.

And so did we. Farewell, old friend. Your loving eyes and wagging tail will desperately be missed.

Candy, you were a Good Dog.


Rebekah Sell lives on a small plot of land with her husband, Andy, on which they are hoping to build a sustainable homestead. With a small business and four kids, life is always interesting as Becky and Andy live fully the idea that the journey is the reward. Find her on .