Ow my leg hurts! Dogs

By Larry Rettig (LarryR) on April 6, 2019



Dogs were considered free range animals.  No one walked their dogs on a leash.  No one cared if someone else’s dog relieved himself on the lawn or on a wash line post.  We all knew to which household each dog belonged.  If a strange dog showed up, we assumed it was a stray.  If it hung around long enough, someone would invariably adopt it. 




That’s how Prince came to live with us.  One day after my father had quit his job at Amana Refrigeration for the first time and went into the chicken business, he was spreading straw on the floor of an old warehouse where he kept some of his chickens.  As he went to get another straw bale, he noticed what looked like the tail of an animal appearing from behind one of the bales.  To his surprise, it was a dog, a large male German Shepherd mix.  The dog appeared friendly, but didn’t get up to greet him.  As he got closer, Dad noticed blood.


Someone had shot the dog in the neck.  Eventually, Dad was able to coax him out from behind the bale.  Fortunately, the wound appeared to be a superficial flesh wound and seemed not to have penetrated any underlying organs.  Somehow, Dad got the injured dog into the car and brought him home.  We cleaned and treated his wound.  We also decided he needed a name, so together we settled on “Prince.”


Prince and I bonded almost immediately.  We played together for hours.  On hot summer days, he would head for Mom’s asparagus patch.  At that time of year, asparagus plants produce tall stalks with thin branches bearing small ferny leaves.  Prince would force his way to the center of the large roundish patch where there was enough space to dig shallow holes.  His digging exposed the moist, cool earth that lay beneath the top of the soil.  This earthen bed provided a perfect antidote for the heat of the day and was shaded from the sun by the dense asparagus foliage above.


I often joined Prince in his cool summer hideaway, where he became a soft pillow for my head.  Together we would while away the hot summer afternoon in relative comfort.  Prince would occasionally groom himself.  If I got in the way, he graciously groomed me as well.




During my father’s foray into the chicken business, he rented some pastureland west of our village.  He fenced it with chicken wire.  It kept the chickens in but not humans out.  Someone was stealing his chickens.


Dad found an ad in the Des Moines Register for a Doberman Pinscher who had been retired from the Des Moines police force.  He drove all the way to Des Moines, bought the dog, and brought him home.  He named him Fritz.


It was Fritz’s duty to guard the chickens at night.  During the daytime, he was at home with us.  As with Prince, Fritz and I quickly bonded.  He was very protective of me.  Shortly after Fritz came to live with us, my favorite uncle stopped by for a visit.  I ran to him with arms outstretched and he scooped me up in his.  In a flash Fritz attacked from the back, biting my uncle on the seat of his pants and ripping them. 


Dad quickly grabbed Fritz’s collar and led him to an empty henhouse where he was barricaded for the duration.  My uncle conducted the rest of his visit standing up.



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About Larry Rettig
"An enthusiastic gardener for over 50 years, my first plant was a potted Ponderosa Lemon tree ordered from a comic book ad at age 15. I still have it, and it’s still bearing lemons! My wife and I garden on 3/4 of an acre, both flowers and vegetables. Our garden, named Cottage-in-the-Meadow Gardens, is private and is listed with the Smithsonian Institution in its Archives of American Gardens. It is also on the National Register of Historic Places. We garden organically and no-till. Our vegetable garden contains a seed bank of vegetables brought to this country from Germany in the mid-1800s by my ancestors. My latest book, Gardening the Amana Way, is available at Amazon.com.

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