I recently took our puppy to the veterinarian. Also in the waiting room were two other people with their pets –– a stately golden retriever obediently sitting there and a cute little pooch patiently resting in his kennel.
And then, well, then there was Lulu.
Our blue-eyed Heinz 57 was awkwardly splayed in the middle of the floor, bucking and flopping like a trophy bass that’s just been hooked.
“You’ll have to excuse her behavior,” I sheepishly explained to the other dogs’ owners. “She’s a farm dog, and this is her first time on a leash.”
I can’t prove that farm dogs exhibit any more colorful personalities than their town-dwelling counterparts, but given this farm’s history of larger-than-life canines, it would take some compelling evidence to convince me otherwise.
I can’t exactly say why, but maybe all that freedom encourages farm dogs’ idiosyncrasies to branch out and blossom. Perhaps it’s because farm dogs know nothing of soul-crushing indignities such as regular baths, teeth-brushing or someone standing over them with a plastic grocery bag while they do their business. Or it might just be that so many dogs who’ve passed through this place were not handpicked by us but unceremoniously dumped here in the middle of the night. It usually isn’t difficult to figure out why their owners were so desperate to unload them in the first place.
Whatever the reason, there’s no denying this farm has seen many a four-legged iconoclast in its day.
We still talk about Jody, a tiny poodle who belonged to my brother- and sister-in-law in Denham Springs. He didn’t live on the farm but seemed to catch the free-ranging spirit of the resident canines whenever he and his owners visited. Not once but twice, Jody disappeared from our farm. Each time he was miraculously returned to us days later, filthy and ragged but with a happy gleam in his eye. As my husband, Harvey, put it, Jody had the look of someone who’d been to an all-night poodle whorehouse and spent his whole paycheck.
Another character we won’t soon forget is Hoss, a border collie-blue healer cross and, true to his namesake, a character straight out of the Wild West. Back when this was still a dairy farm, Hoss rounded up 150 milk cows twice a day. He was lightning fast (we clocked him at 30 miles per hour), could leap 3 feet off the ground and exhibited a fearlessness that verged on nuts. He did not hesitate to nip at the ankle of a 1,500-pound bull that was refusing to budge. In his leisure time, Hoss chased dragonflies and heavy equipment with equal fervor. He took on and whipped fierce nutria and raccoons. He hurled himself at birds nesting in the top of an oak sapling so many times that the tree remains disfigured to this day.
It was no great surprise when Hoss got himself killed trying to bite the wheels of a moving tractor. We coasted on his crazy cowboy reputation for weeks. Long after Hoss was dead and buried, Harvey could stand at the edge of a dark field pretending to give our late herd dog commands and the cows would nervously scamper to their feet and head for the dairy barn.
Then there was Black, the gentle giant. When my sister-in-law found him wandering on the edge of the highway, Black was a starving handful of black fuzz. Within months, that little caterpillar weighed 85 pounds and had a head the size of a cantaloupe. Black –– as our very literal 3-year-old niece christened him –– was, from all indications, a full-blooded black Lab. He was also one scary-looking beast.
When strangers drove up, they’d take one look at Black and blow their horns for curb service, too intimidated to step out of the vehicle. All Black had to do to command this kind of respect was stand there and wag his tail, which was convenient because he would never have been so ill-mannered as to bark at anyone. If he had, it would only have been to say, “Come on in, and I’ll show you where they hide Grandma’s silver teapot!”
Black looked like one of those terrifying devil dogs in The Omen, but he was about as dangerous as Gomer Pyle in a dog suit.
I once saw the overgrown galoot bolt in terror when a kitten arched its back and hissed. And he was the only Lab I ever heard of who not only failed to take to water like a duck but also was too scared to swim. Black? He preferred to wade, thank you.
Still, I’ll challenge anyone to top the saga of Snoopy, the rat terrier immortalized in Franklinton legend as the dog who held up the liquor store.
Snoopy lived under the saddle-style toolbox affixed to the bed of the farm’s white work truck –– or perhaps I should say Snoopy’s white work truck. Most of the time, you never knew Snoopy was around unless you unwittingly approached the truck.
Never mind that he spent his entire life looking up at kneecaps. The way he rushed out from underneath that toolbox, you’d have thought you had rousted Godzilla.
That truck was Snoopy’s ticket to adventure. More than once while traveling some back road, Harvey would take a curve too fast and sling Snoopy off the toolbox. He would later discover his dog MIA and have to go back knocking on doors. Typically, Snoopy would come sauntering out and casually hop back onto the truck like he knew the drill. Once, Harvey was rushing to catch a plane in New Orleans when he realized that his faithful companion –– or as he tells the story, “that little bastard” –– had stowed away in the back of the truck. He had no choice but to turn around and take Snoopy home.
In his single days, Harvey bought his cold beverages at a drive-through convenience store. When the store clerks would reach through the window, Snoopy would come lunging and growling at them from his perch behind the cab. Finally, the clerks banned Harvey from the drive-through.
One time, Harvey parked and went into the store to make his purchase as usual. He happened to be driving past a few minutes later when he spotted the clerks standing in the street frantically flagging him down. Harvey stopped, and they rushed over to his truck window. “You’ve gotta do something quick!” they beseeched him. “Snoopy’s done took the liquor store!”
Little did Harvey realize that Snoopy had followed him into the store a few minutes earlier. After Harvey left, the ornery little cuss chased the employees out into the parking lot and wouldn’t let them back inside.
Snoopy’s raging Napoleonic complex did pay off one time, however. Not long after the standoff at the liquor store, the Bienvenus’ farm was burglarized. The thief stole tools and rifles and hot-wired the F-150. The tools and firearms were never recovered, but the truck was found abandoned the next day. When the sheriff’s department arrived, there was Snoopy still hunkered down in the back, unharmed and as noncompliant as ever.
Committing a brazen home invasion was one thing, but even hardened criminals could see that you just didn’t mess with Snoopy’s truck.