was 1924. With supper finished, Grandpa gathered up table scraps and went
outside to feed Shep. He called and whistled several times but the Collie
didn’t come running. Worry set in immediately; Shep never failed to be
waiting at the back step for tasty morsels.
any of you kids seen Shep? He’s always here for dinner scraps,” Grandpa
hollered through the screen door. He’d not been seen since noon by any of
the six children or by Grandma.
headed towards the barn hoping Shep had not tangled with the nasty
Holstein bull. He was a wicked fella, but was registered and sired
outstanding offspring for the family dairy farm. Grandpa took to carrying
a 45 automatic when being in close contact with the critter—he wasn’t just
mean, he was evil.
Grandpa neared the cellar he heard a faint whimper from within. In the
dark, damp cellar he found Shep resting. He didn’t raise his head nor wag
his tail; he offered a weak moan, sighed, and closed his eyes. He’d been
bitten by a venomous snake; his right front leg was badly swollen and
a fresh pan of water, a few bites of food, and blankets were carried down
the cellar steps. A soft bed was made and Shep was gently placed upon
it. He refused food or drink. Grandpa spoke to him affectionately,
stroked his beautiful head, and wiped at a lone tear before leaving his
beloved Collie for the night. From the day he’d brought the tiny pup home
there had been a special bond between the two.
checked on Shep faithfully and tried to encourage food and drink. Shep
would not touch food and the level in his water pan never changed.
Therefore, after 24 hours, Grandpa gently opened his mouth and dribbled
water from his fingertips to moisten his tongue. The procedure was
repeated numerous times daily as well as wrapping the effected leg with
cool, wet rags to hopefully control the swelling. Coal oil was applied to
the actual bite area using a chicken feather, for even the slightest touch
caused extreme pain.
fifth day Shep lapped at warm oatmeal Grandma had prepared, and took his
first drink of water. His now-dull but loving eyes bore into Grandpa’s as
if to say, “I’m doing my best to hang on…don’t give up on me.”
family came running when they heard Grandpa’s whoops of excitement—for on
the tenth day he found Shep waiting for dinner scraps. He’d made his way
up and out of the cellar! The kids, who had been ordered not to enter the
cellar during his illness, all but smothered the dog with hugs and kisses.
mend, he returned to his normal evening ritual; lazing next to Grandpa’s
chair, his head resting atop Grandpa’s foot. And, bedtime found him
sleeping on a pallet in the grandparent’s bedroom. With tender care, the
young Collie gradually made a complete recovery.
a valued asset on the dairy farm and his herding instincts were flawless.
He grew to be a strong, brilliant canine that was devoted to the entire
family. As six children roamed the countryside hunting, fishing, or
exploring, Grandma and Grandpa never worried if Shep was at their side.
spring, Shep supervised most all crops being planted. Harley, one of the
teenage sons, began sowing kaffir corn one cool, crisp morning just after
sunrise. It was an arduous task handling a team of four workhorses and a
single row planter. The Collie only wandered occasionally searching hedge
rows for rabbits in need of a good chase.
morning, the temperature had risen considerably. Harley stopped the team
by the bags of seed for another load. He tossed his jacket atop one bag
and sat down for a brief rest under a nearby tree. Shep rested his head
on Harley’s leg and nudged his hand for an ear rub. They both dozed
briefly until awakened by a clanging dinner bell—the noon meal was ready.
approached his jacket; Shep clamped down on his arm, and pulled him the
opposite direction. Having never witnessed such behavior, Harley knew it
was not an attempt to play. He stepped forward slowly; Shep placed
himself between Harley and the jacket.
boy. You’re telling me something is wrong with my jacket. I understand
whined as Harley gently lifted one edge of the jacket upward. He heard it
before he saw it…beneath his jacket lay a coiled up rattlesnake, its
rattles quivering and tongue flicking to taste the air!
backed away cautiously, as did Shep. “Good boy, good boy, Shep!” They
raced to the farm house, collapsed in the shade of a cottonwood tree, and
had a lively wrestling match to celebrate Shep’s vigilance.
south Kansas plains, long before it was customary for dogs to be
considered a family member, Shep held that very distinction. It was his
from the moment Grandpa held the tiny pup in one hand and gazed into his
enchanting eyes. In return, Shep became a staunch protector of Grandpa’s
family and sentry of the homestead…
Kathleene S. Baker