February 2012
Through the Fence

Good Dog Leaves Home

My dad always said you can’t fool dogs and kids. Dogs are good judges of character. The few people my dog doesn’t like I end up not liking either. Dogs have been called man’s best friend. They’re always happy to see you and don’t care or notice when you’re having a bad hair day. But even a good dog’s loyalty can be destroyed by its owner’s negligence or cruelty. I heard a story that reinforced that fact about a teenage boy growing up in the Texas Panhandle during the early 1900s.

Jeff had a good dog — a big tan and white collie, but he was not a nice person. He constantly looked for ways to aggravate his younger cousin, Herb, whom he worked with on the family farm. He did whatever he could to make his life miserable. The younger boy’s parents were very strict, morally upright, churchgoing folks. They forbade their children to use coarse language of any kind. If little Herb ever let a bad word slip, he’d suffer a thrashing with his dad’s razor strap.

Unfortunately, like all children, he was influenced by the unsavory characters in his life. When Herb’s father bought a big wheat threshing machine, he hired a bunch of rough, uncouth laborers to run it. They abused the English language in shameful ways in front of the boy and his hateful teenage cousin. Every time anything unusual happened like a mechanical glitch or an animal mishap, they’d let out a string a curse words that would make a seasoned sailor blush. After the workday was over, the men would sit around a campfire and tell crude jokes and stories. Each one tried to outdo each other in the amount and degree of profanity woven into every story, never knowing or caring young ears were taking it all in. After years of being around such profane individuals for years, Herb learned a wide repertoire of foul words, but was careful not to let his parents hear him use them.

One day he had a chance to use some of those words when he finally got enough of his older cousin’s abuse. He let him know in the most colorful language what he thought of him. His cousin Jeff wasted no time in reporting his version of the incident to Herb’s mother. She didn’t wait to hear "the rest of the story" before she set about lashing her son’s backside.

Maybe Jeff’s dog, Tige, witnessed the wrongful punishment, got wind of the story or maybe he knew what a rascal his master was all along. If he was that mean to his little cousin, five years his junior, he was probably also mean to his dog because when Jeff got ready to return to his hometown, Tige refused to go with him. Herb was glad to be rid of his cousin, but watched sadly as the older boy chained the good dog to the rear axle of his wagon and headed out. After traveling about a hundred miles, he took the chain off assuming the dog would follow. He didn’t. The next morning, Jeff discovered his dog was missing. He knew it would be practically impossible to find him in the vast open stretch of the flat prairie land, so he continued on his journey.

A few days later, Tige appeared back at the farm nearly starved to death. His fur was muddy and matted, and his feet were so sore he could barely walk. He limped up to Herb and made a pitiful whimpering noise. The boy was brokenhearted to see the beautiful dog in such a sorry state. He took him down to the stock tank and bathed him, and doctored his injured feet. He eventually nursed the dog back to health.

From then on, Tige and Herb were inseparable. Both were relieved to be rid of Jeff. And Herb had no reason to use foul language to express himself anymore.

Lisa Hamblen Hood lives near Priddy, Texas, where she teaches English, Art and Spanish. E-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..