Work that is well worth doing ...
This is not true for my friends, John and Suzanne, who have a farm in upstate NY. If you follow my blog, you already know some of the residents - Flag and Shrimp, Cash, Otter, and if you remember the Puppy Envy posts, the incredible Stone. There are also three horses, another donkey, a total of 11 adult dogs, 3 puppies, a pig, a herd of Scottish Highland cattle, and sundry others dwelling there. Needless to say, it's rare that these folks get away from the farm together and find some real down time to just enjoy.
So, when Suzanne sent an email out to a small number of recipients, asking if there was anyone who might be willing to come and farm sit for them so they could just get away for the weekend of their anniversary, I replied that I wasn't doing much that weekend, and yeah, I could help.
I had some idea in advance of how much work this was going to entail. I also knew that Wendy, another friend, would take care of the barn animals. While I love them, I don't have the expertise to handle all of the different animals. Wendy knows and loves the cows, and takes excellent care of them. And then there's the boar, Spot, pictured here as a piglet.
Now he's the size of a large office desk with legs. I love Spot, but watching him pick up and move his entire pen because his breakfast is a few minutes late makes me very glad for Wendy and her abilities. I would have primary responsibility for those in the house, and would only help picking out the stalls in the barn. I had no doubt that I could and would be able to handle it; I also knew it would be tiring, but since I personally know how priceless an opportunity to get away is, I was glad to offer.
What I never could have foreseen was how deeply gratifying it would be, not only to do something nice for good friends, but simply to spend time with and get a chance to deepen my relationships with some old friends (Otter, Grizzly, Bee, Bird, Rain, Ruby - all German Shepherds, and Badger, an amazing Chow/Lab mix with whom I've often had the privilege of sharing a bed,) and to get to know and appreciate some youngsters I had met, but never gotten to know well (Cash, Monk, Stone and Jax, all German Shepherds.)
This is Stone - my new buddy - a dilute blue sable.
It was wonderful to walk all these dogs, in four separate groups, and to watch them flow like a living stream through the woods and out into the pastures. On Saturday, Otter only wanted to come with me for the first and last walks I took with the others, opting to stay home and rest while I took the more rambunctious hooligans out. On Sunday, however, Otter came along for all of the walks. Having this thirteen year old trot along beside me, sometimes catching up from the rear and nuzzling my hand as I walked to let me know she was there was a quiet pleasure I can't describe. It was like walking with a very old friend whose company is familiar as an old chair, and just as comfortable. Though it took more than 2 hours to give everyone their walks, it was time well spent, and work worth doing.
I spent Saturday morning up in the barn, stripping out the winter coat on Joey, a 30+ year old Thoroughbred. After about 2 hours, I realized I was standing in a pile of horse hair that came up to the middle of my calves, and made a circle about 8 feet wide all around us. I was sneezing it. I was wearing it. I was chewing on it and spitting it out. It was in my eyes, and up my nose. But it was, most importantly, off of Joey, and his deep gratitude as he lowered his big head into my arms for me to finish combing through his forelock and currying his face, was palpable. I've known Joey since 1998 or so. On Sunday morning, when I walked into the barn, for the first time ever, he nickered to me. Work well worth doing.
At the end of the day, when I collapsed into bed, with 6 of the German Shepherds sharing the room with me, 3 of them opted to hop up on the bed with me. When I finally put my book down and prepared to turn off the light, Monk jumped down and curled up on a blanket on the floor next to me. Cash curved along the back of my legs and turned to lay his head over my ankles.
That's Cash on the right - possibly the sweetest, silliest German Shepherd I've ever known.
Stone, however, leaned over my face, surveyed me with a wrinkled grin, and searched for my eyes. When I reached up to rough up his head and thank him for a wonderful day, he proceeded to give me the face-washing of a lifetime, and then, with a satisfied groan, laid himself down in my arms and put his head on my chest. He had the softest eye, and the kindest expression, and when I told him he was a good boy and how much I'd enjoyed spending the day with him, I knew, without asking, that he had had a good day, too.
I told him "good night" and rolled toward him slightly. He nestled his head on my neck, and I knew. I had done a good day's work.