I was raised with dogs and cats on our farm in Todd County, Kentucky. I think people are sometimes suspicious that perhaps I was raised by dogs and cats. I don’t know if they think that because of my personal grooming habits or because of the way I shed. Neither is sufficient evidence for the suspicion, I think, but people have a long history of choosing to ignore any evidence that doesn’t support their conclusion. It’s sometimes necessary, I suppose, given our need to hold to a particular belief long after any supporting evidence has dissipated. Current Kansas tax structure being one particular example.
But anyway, back to the dogs and cats.
The dogs were never allowed in the house, at least so far as my parents knew whenever they returned from town. As to the cats, Sunbeam was a regular visitor to the old kitchen in the morning hours when Dad was still at the milk barn. She eventually became an old yellow tabby. So far as I can remember, she was always a yellow tabby but the old part came several years later. Ultimately, she spent her ninth life in the close proximity of a warm car motor on a cold day. This was not an uncommon demise for farm cats consigned to outdoor life in the winters of southern Kentucky. As most any insurance underwriter knows, there are certain risks associated with quaint rural life. These sometimes involve partial dismemberment by a variety of farm equipment, with the old-time corn picker being notorious for grabbing up hands that should have shut the tractor off before they started grabbing corn stalks jammed into the rollers.
Keeping my distance away from those rollers, I’d sometimes head out across a field or into the woods or along the creek with my border collie, Sandy. Sandy was a male, a point of some consternation to my now adult children. He was black and white and kind of a, well, sandy color. So, not knowing that the fine grit bordering much of the earth’s great oceans was of feminine gender, I named him “Sandy.” He was born on the farm when I was nine years old, the only member of the litter who was not allegedly given away. I say “allegedly” because I know that sometimes “given away” is a farm euphemism for a decidedly non-adopted demise for puppies.
Sandy and I stayed together after we left the farm, including the time that I lived alone at Browns Grove while I was going to high school at Farmington. I believe my parents told everyone that I’d been given away. Everyone that knew me and my parents well agreed that was probably best for all of us. It enhanced my already keenly developed sense of responsibility and increased my maturity and self-confidence.
As part of that new-found maturity and confidence, I would sometimes bring Sandy into the house at night. I had this romantic image of my faithful canine companion, sleeping by my bed and keeping me safe from the monsters underneath it. Sandy would lie there faithfully for all of three or eight minutes and then whine to go outside. I tried to convince him that it was okay, but I’m pretty sure he expected Mom or Dad to come in and find him inside the house.
Other than that, we had very few disagreements and a great many good moments together. That’s about as much as good friends can hope for.