Raised by a Very Good Dog
Son Lane was home for a few days from USD and agreed to take the newest member of the family in to the clinic. When he walked into the door of the Belle Fourche vet office, the kindly receptionist asked him a telling question.
“Are you Elgin’s Boy? In all of my years working here, he was one of my favorite animals. “
It had been more than a dozen years since he had last been in and Elgin has been gone for seven, but she still remembers.
So much research has emerged recently quantifying the health benefits that children receive when they are raised among animals. There are reduced incidents of allergies and other health ailments and there is an increased tolerance and sense of joy that children are taught to share when raised by a very good dog.
Airedales have had so much written about their natural abilities in the field for hunting and rescue, but so little has been written to describe their innate character. Pup Fin is the fifth of their breed to be raised in our home and he has a kind heart that is balanced with a love for battle. He has been raised alongside our gentle-giant Angus who has the heart of a servant and loves all things with feathers. He has been taught not to bother other farm creatures, nor the deer, elk, and antelope, but he so loves to pester the cat. Fin is a delight and we look forward to another decade of his company.
But the clinic’s question brought Elgin home to us one more time after many years and he was special.
Guard dog brings to mind images of ferocity; snapping teeth and barking. Elgin was more of a secret service agent than an angry belligerent. He met every soul at the yard and inspected them with the best interests of our family in his heart. He assumed good of all men but believed in vigilance. Once you had proven yourself a benefactor you had a friend for life and many a tired hunter sat with him in the evenings to share their day. So many who returned, looked forward to his attention as much as they did mine. He was a silent minster who never judged.
Elgin taught the children to pay attention. He put himself between kids and cars, snakes, and all manner of horses and mules whom he did not trust. While man was to be guarded, horses were simply an irritant that carried hunters. To Elgin, horses were too heavy and high strung to be trusted around his boy and he treated them with disdain while respecting the damage their hooves could administer. More than once he was rousted from a pasture by the mule and he hated being forced to retreat.
Strange dogs above a certain size were never trusted. Several had to be rescued from his wrath if they dared come near his family. He never allowed personal risk enter into his calculations and carried the broken ribs from being kicked and snake bites as merit badges to testify that the lives of his family mattered much more to him than his own.
Elgin’s boy is now a man, but the clinic kept a special thank you picture on their wall for years. In it, Elgin stands guard while Lane sits beside him with one arm up over his shoulder. Elgin had gone in and it was discovered that he had a swelling around his heart. Always too big for his massive chest, it now crowded out the air from his lungs and he was unable to breath.
I told him it would be ok and he trusted me. I had pulled hundreds of porcupine needles from his face and mouth and he had accepted the pain knowing I meant well. When the vet slipped the large needle through his chest and into the infection around his heart to drain the fluid, he never even flinched.
He had a boy at home to raise and no little needle prick was going to hold him back. By the next morning he was a new dog and spent three more years at his duties.
Yes Mam, my son sure was Elgin’s boy.