Dad’s first dog
February 5, 2010
We had many dogs on the farm as I grew up, but the one I remember best was the first one my father owned. I don’t remember when Dad got him; he was there before I was born. But I remember how much Dad loved him.
Dad called him “Maddo.” I’m not sure where he got that name. My brother thinks it came from a twist on the name “Mehrer,” a pastor Dad knew.
Maddo was a big strong dog with long wavy brown and black fur. He wasn’t any special breed, more likely a combination of many. His short ears stood up straight, and his big brown eyes showed an intelligence that was obvious in his behavior.
He was a great cattle dog. He brought the cows home safely from the pasture at milking time without running or head chasing them.
Maddo tolerated us four children with love and patience. He never nipped at us if we played with him too vigorously. He was good with other dogs Dad brought onto the farm when Maddo began to get too old to do his usual tasks.
Maddo hated snakes. I think he saw them as a threat to the family he loved. He’d go right after them, grabbing them with his teeth and shaking them until they were dead.
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I don’t remember seeing Dad pet Maddo or play with him, but I can still picture Dad walking around the farm yard, busy with his daily chores, Maddo always a step behind him. You could tell they had a special bond that didn’t need words or actions to affirm it.
When Maddo was about 13 years old, he began to suffer from stiff joints. Walking became more and more difficult. Finally, he spent his days lying in the shade of the shelter belt. Then he stopped eating. It was evident he needed to be put out of his misery.
Dad just couldn’t bring himself to do what was necessary. He asked his cousin, who lived on a farm nearby, to come over late one evening after we were all in bed and do the job.
I didn’t see Dad bid his old friend goodbye, but I can imagine him stroking that broad, soft forehead one more time, not able – not needing – to say anything. I can imagine Maddo looking up at Dad with love and trust in his eyes, knowing his master would take care of him, even to the end.
The next morning, Dad told us Maddo was gone. Dad was unusually quiet for a few days after that.
We had more dogs as time went on. I remember Sport, always ready for a romp; Beauty, a timid black and white dog as graceful as her name; and Spike, a muscular dog with coloring of a collie who loved wrestling with my brother. But they never took the place in my dad’s heart that always belonged to his first dog, good old Maddo.