Jerry Nelson: A puppy report

Jerry Nelson
Special to the Farm Forum
Bella, a 4-month-old Spangold, sits for a photo. A rubber dog toy lays where a pumpkin once sat.

People have been asking how it’s going with our newest family member, so it must be time for a Puppy Report.

Bella, our Spangold pup, is almost four months old and is growing at an astonishing rate. We hope she stops before she reaches the size of Clifford the Big Red Dog.

As with most babies, it didn’t take long for Bella’s personality to emerge. The word that best sums her up is “joyful.”                   

Almost anything will cause Bella to wag her tail like a helicopter rotor. Meeting new people is a good example. There are no strangers in Bella’s world, only friends she hasn’t met. If a traveling salesman were to stop at our place, the only hazard he might face would involve being smothered by puppy kisses.

Bella was understandably fearful when she first met our Jersey steers. After all, she was a little furball who weighed perhaps ten pounds while the steers tip the scales at half a ton.

Bella has since become buddies with the steers. She will stick her head through the fence and the curious Jerseys will mosey over to investigate. The puppy will kiss their noses and the steers will reciprocate. Bella often leaves these encounters with an honest-to-goodness cowlick in her fur.

Going for a walk is Bella’s favorite thing. She will trot a short distance ahead of me, frequently stopping to examine interesting smells in the roadside grass. Bella keeps an eye on me at all times. If I stop walking, she will run back to me and lick my hand as if to say, “What’s up?”

Playing fetch is Bella’s favorite thing. Shortly after she came to live with us, I taught Bella how to fetch a stick. The trouble is, she now thinks that she should fetch all the sticks. The lawn near our deck looks like a kindling storage area.

Chewing on stuff is Bella’s favorite thing. Even though we have provided her with an ample supply of chew sticks and toys, she will gnaw on almost any stationary object. She has perfected the art of stealthily untying my shoes.

When we took Bella to see her veterinarian, Dr. Benson, for her booster vaccinations, she covered him with kisses. Dr. Benson gave the shot with such skill that Bella didn’t even notice. She was a good girl, so he gave her a toy called a Kong.

Chasing the Kong is Bella’s favorite thing. She races after it with such gusto that she sometimes wipes out when she hits the brakes, grunting out a puppy-sized “oof!” in the process.

I recently placed several decorative pumpkins near the house. One of the smaller pumpkins mysteriously disappeared, and in its place was a Kong. The pumpkin was soon found, albeit much the worse for wear due to being thoroughly chewed upon. Bella must have thought that a Kong for a pumpkin was a fair trade.

Bella is expert at finding things. She found a plastic shopping bag and turned it into lawn confetti. She recovered a leather glove that I lost last winter and has brought us bones that our previous dog, Sandy, probably hid years ago. There would be no need for Lost and Found departments if Bella were in charge of things.

There’s a fly in the ointment regarding our cat, Sparkles. Sparkles has an extremely low “stranger danger” threshold. She won’t even talk to anyone other than my wife and me. Receiving affection from a stranger is out of the question.

Having an energetic, super-affectionate puppy on our farmstead raised an acre of red flags for Sparkles. She avoids Bella, peering warily over her shoulder whenever she crosses the yard.

But there are signs of progress in this area. I found a deceased mouse near the deck where Bella sleeps. Sparkles has routinely left such things on the doorstep for my wife and me, probably because the kitty has concluded that we suck at hunting.

I think that the mouse was Sparkles’ way of making a peace offering.

A man recently emailed me regarding how tough it will be for him to let his ailing old dog go. I replied that I sometimes wish I were a kid again, when everyone I loved – my parents, sister, grandparents, uncles and aunts – was still with us.    

But — when I was a kid — my wife, our sons, our grandson and numerous friends were off in a distant, indefinable future. I can’t imagine life without any of them.

Somewhere, I told the writer, there’s a new pal who can’t wait to meet him. And I know this is true whenever that joyful ebony blur named Bella comes running to greet me.

If you'd like to contact Jerry Nelson to do some public speaking, or just to register your comments, you can email him at jjpcnels@itctel.com. His book, “Dear County Agent Guy,” is available at Workman.com and at booksellers everywhere.