“I wouldn’t take any amount of money for that dog,” were my dad’s most often spoken words when referring to our family dog, Lady.
He and my younger sister, Sandy, picked up the young German shepherd pup from our veterinarian in Colby. Lady was a replacement for our Irish setter, Red. This old gal retrieved her last pheasant during the fall of ’62, shortly after my 13th birthday.
Lady spent many years on our farm and became a major part of our family. We all loved her.
True to her name, she conducted herself like a lady around our family but this sleek silver and black canine struck fear into the hearts of anyone who drove up to our home. She was a guard that protected us from door-to-door salesmen and other unwanted guests.
I remember a particularly pesky Fuller brush man who Mother couldn’t persuade to leave. Once he finally did, I sicked Lady on him and she chased him for nearly 30 yards before he jumped into his car with her ripping at his drawers.
One of Dad’s best friends never stepped foot out of his pickup while Lady patrolled our property. This neighbor cussed Lady, swore he’d shoot her but he never messed with her.
This dog was a constant companion throughout our childhood and played many different roles. She was the scout that trotted out front as we explored the western Kansas countryside. She was the horse that pulled Sandy in the wagon. She was the vigilant lookout that waited patiently for us to return from school. She was also that “silly creature” who slept in our wheelbarrow filled with fall leaves.
But most of all, Lady was the dog that worshiped my dad. My father couldn’t drive his pickup anywhere without this four-legged passenger seated to his right.
“She got so she could almost drive,” Dad used to tell us with a smile.
This dog would do anything for my father – and she was a joy to watch working cattle.
“She could tell if there was cow out (of the fenced in pasture) a half mile away,” Dad said. “She’d put her head out the window and when I’d stop the pickup she’d round them up and head ‘em into the (open) gate.”
We enjoyed many happy years with Lady before she became old, tired and feeble. When that day came, we took her to our vet to have her put to sleep.
This was particularly painful. Lady wasn’t just our dog – she was a member of our family. Dad gathered her in his arms, placed her on the seat to his right one last time, and drove her home.
We buried Lady near mom’s garden in the back yard. She often played in that garden and it was there she buried her bones.
Yes, we all missed that dog and while it’s been a long time ago, I still remember my dad reaching down beside his easy chair to pet the head that was no longer there.
Dad couldn’t be without a dog for long and within a few months he brought home another silver and black German shepherd. We called her Lady too.
Whenever we used to visit my folks, we’d bring our little Sheltie, Lorna Doone, home with us. Seeing her race through the grass today takes me back to western Kansas and memories for my father and his dogs. Dad enjoyed the company of his dogs until a few years ago when he passed into the “Great Beyond” as he called it.
And if wishes come true, I know my dad is sitting in his easy chair in heaven with one, or all of his “Ladies,” next to him. I can see a smile spread across his face as he pets each and every one of them and listens to the thump, thump, thump of their tails.
John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.