My Free Farm Dog


I saw three Aussie-mix puppies today.  They are ten to twelve weeks old and gorgeous! I remember Pepper as a puppy just four years ago. I am too old to house-train another puppy.  But they were so cute!

I had a Brittany spaniel/Australian Blue Heeler mix puppy way back in the day.  My future husband and I had gone to Des Moines for my girlfriend’s wedding. It was 1984.   I had just bought a tiny house in Omaha and wanted a guard dog since I lived alone.

The morning of the wedding we went to the ASPCA to get a puppy to take back to Omaha.  The volunteers informed me that I couldn’t get one since I lived out of state. Had I known that, I could’ve used my mother’s address. But I didn’t know. We left, disappointed.

The next day was Sunday, and my future husband found a classified ad in the Des Moines Register for two free puppies in Redfield, Iowa.  The farm town was just a little bit out of our way on our drive back to Omaha. We took the Redfield exit and found the farm house using the directions he’d gotten over the phone at my mom’s.

We pulled up to the farm and saw two black and white puppies lying under a rusted-out pick-up truck. They came running out, their tails wagging. They weren’t that cute, but all puppies are cute in their own way.  I picked up one and my future husband picked up the other while the farmer explained that the spaniel had escaped her crate, and the heeler had gotten her.

Back in those days, things were free, and everyone was happy. The farmer didn’t want two more dogs to feed, even though he’d wormed them and given them their first round of shots.

I picked the less ugly of the two puppies, the one with a black spot on the top of her head. She was white with black under-spots, like a Dalmatian, but not like a Dalmatian.

The hairs on the puppy were two inches long, I found out as I petted her all the way back to Omaha.  By the time we got home, my future husband’s car was full of black and white hairs.

I named her Tess. I took her to my old vet in Omaha, who charged me under $100 to have her spayed and to give her the next round of shots.

Tess fit right into my little house with the fenced back yard. The only problem was that the back door was on the side of the house to the driveway, so I had to put up a makeshift fence that I could close to get her from the back door, down the driveway to the back yard. It never occurred to me to install a doggy door on the back of the house.

Tess and I walked the perimeter of the Omaha public golf course every day after I got home from teaching school, weather permitting. I could let her off the leash so that she could run free. No golfer ever complained. Some actually complimented me on my choice of pet. Maybe it was an attempt at flirting. I was clueless.

Tess did have her bad habits. She ate socks, pantyhose and scrunchies, and pooped them out the other end. I learned not to put those things in my laundry basket in the closet. She also had stinky farts that could clear a room (related?) and would roll over on her back and pee whenever a big man came over (my future husband). But she was a lover of all people, dogs, and attention.

She talked as only Aussies can do. She told me when I’d missed her feeding time, walk time, or potty time. She rang a bell on the door with her nose whenever she needed to go out.

Tess once ate a two-layer cake on the counter for as far as she could reach. I cut off the bad part, re-frosted it, and took it to my potluck anyway.

Tess was the best (and stinkiest) dog I’ve ever had. She lived sixteen years.

Thanks, little puppies, for the memory.

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