February 16th…...”DID YOU EVER WITNESS THE DEATH OF A PET WHILE GROWING UP ON YOUR FAMILY FARM NEAR KIESTER, MINNESOTA?”
Perfervid pinwheels of puppy pain spun “Pebbles” (a black cocker spaniel) in circles as BB rifle ammunition found its marks in his furry backside. There, in the tree-lined streets of this little village in south central Minnesota, some nasty town boys had decided to use that innocent dog as their unwise target practice. Now don’t get me wrong, this gentle hamlet was (and is), overall, an idyllic community where good, Christian morals pervaded everyday life and all the churches in town were full on Sunday mornings. It’s just that the old adage, “Boys will be boys” came into play sometimes, and this was one of those moments.
Coming to “Pebble’s” rescue was his compassionate owner and our town’s highly respected veterinarian, Dr. Henry Jasper Blohm. “Doc” Blohm had witnessed those ill-willed boys treating “Pebbles” badly and, after chastising them, knew something had to be done to protect that pup.
Whether it be a caring, canine custodian, or serving on our local school board, the heart of this dear man was always in the right place. As a Medic, during World War II, Henry had cared for his fellow brothers in arms in Europe. Then, upon returning home after the war, Henry used the blessings of the G.I. Bill and attended college; graduating from the University of Minnesota in 1952 with his doctorate in Veterinary Sciences.
It was on one of Dr. Blohm’s numerous veterinarian visits to our farm, that he and our father, Russell, chatted about “Pebbles” and that “Doc” was looking for a more peaceful country home for the dog to be able to enjoy life at leisure and away from unkind meanies. We, as a family, were in between dog ownership at the time, so our daddy said, “Sure!”, and “Pebbles” came to live with us on our 120 acre spread of farm life.
“Pebbles” obviously had been trained well, in his days as part of the Blohm family household. In unison, our whole family welcomed this black, curly-haired pal as part of our Noorlun clan. That pooch was bright, fun, and even politely obedient. Our dear mother, Clarice, was even impressed with “Pebbles” in that, upon entering our farm’s kitchen, she’d just have to say, “On the paper, Pebbles!”(because of his wet feet) and he’d be obedient to stay on the newspaper by the refrigerator until Mom saw that his paws were all dried off. It was then she’d give the command, “O.K., now you can go in the Living Room.” Then, and only then, did “Pebbles” happily trot into the Living Room to join us in our evening television watching time.
Maybe it was a propensity to protect his family’s territory, but “Pebbles” had a proclivity to chasing cars and tractors that passed by our farm. Sometimes, he ‘d hide in those shallow, grass-filled ditches along our home place, and then launch out at a car driving by. Thankfully, in most of those incidences, the car was way too fast for our black puppy dog to get more than a run and a bark in as he “scared the bad guys” away from his territory along the front of our farm proper. Unforeseen dangers, though, were hidden in the farmers coming by on their tractors that gave “Pebbles” a slower target to harass with barking and biting at their wheels. Sadly, it was on one of those tractor chasing occasions that “Pebbles” met his demise. As usual, he sprinted up from the camouflage of his shallow ditch and began his usual barrage of barking and biting at the front set of “tricycle” tires at the front of the tractor as it rolled along that gravel road. As a family, we did not want “Pebbles” to engage in this unwanted habit, so, when we saw this bad behavior we yelled out, “Pebbles, COME HERE!”. Well, as usual, he was obedient to the call alright, but, as he stopped and turned towards us, the giant, chevron-cleated back tires of the tractor rolled over our puppy dog and crushed him to death!!! “Pebbles” had been obedient to our call, but it meant his death by not taking into account the wide-mounted tires of that tractor still rolling along. We were all devastated and crying profusely from what we had just witnessed. Even our nice neighbor farmer, who owned the tractor, got down and cried right along with us that day. “Pebbles” was gone.
Days rolled into weeks as we returned to life on our farm without a dog of our own to enjoy. It was then that sorrow was turned to joy when that same kind-hearted farmer, whose tractor had rolled over “Pebbles”, knocked on our back kitchen door one day with a brand new puppy to replace the one we had lost. He was black, like “Pebbles”, and even a cocker spaniel, just like “Pebbles”. We were all elated at our neighbor’s tender and generous heart to have found us a new playmate to take the place of “Pebbles”!!!
Now, it was the task of naming this little black fur-ball. Being that he was so tiny, Dad allowed him to live in the house with us till he was old enough to live outdoors on his own around the farm. Little Mr. No Name, like any puppy, would do his bathroom duty as he pleased. Our parent’s rule was, “Whoever sees it (the mess) first, needs to clean it up!!”. Like most kids, in those young, spry days, I spent a lot of my time laying on the floor watching TV, etc.. Sure enough, I’d roll over and look under the Living Room couch and there’d be another “puddle” (or worse) to have to clean up. I can still hear our dear family friend, Harry Bauman, roar with laughter as I’d moan……….“WHY DO I ALWAYS HAVE TO BE THE ONE TO SEE “IT” FIRST!?!?” That’s when the new dog’s name was christened as “Puddles” by this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!!! 😉