As far back as I can remember, there has been a dog near me on the farm. Pictures of me as a toddler include a spunky pup named Molly, whom I don’t technically remember, but her name is on the back of the photo. Then along came D-O-G, a stubby legged, black and white creature, who traipsed after us kids as we went hither and yon through the pastures on adventures. Looking back now, I wonder how that short-legged mutt of a dog had the energy to make it up and down all the hills and across the creek bed. Tristan was a pup from a litter from the well-loved D-O-G. He was my 14th birthday present and we were inseparable when out and about on the farm. He saw me through my teens and first two years of marriage. Bessie was a true farm dog. By the time she began to call the farm home it had grown in size, but she seemed happiest when in the parlor by the action or playing an endless game of catch, rather than by the house. Then there was Bull; I have written of him before, but this dog will forever hold a place in my heart. The biggest, calmest, sweetest, most loving of all the dogs I have had. He set the bar pretty high, as far as farm dogs and dogs for children go.
    We said goodbye to Bull and Bessie this past summer, and now they rest eternally in my daylily bed at the farm. The farm sat quiet for months. There was no barking, no padded feet following me to and from the barn. I was so accustomed to looking over my shoulder to check for Bull’s bulky frame following me at a slow pace, I caught myself doing it for months. The farm has all sorts of creatures, yet without a dog, it felt like something was missing. The chickens weren’t altogether too excited about being petted, and some days you just need to pet something to set the world right.
    Lynzie, Peter’s wife, has been known to bring home the occasional premature calf or two, or even a few goats. Occupational hazard, one could say, as she is a veterinarian with a big heart. Late last fall, she brought home a tiny Golden Retriever puppy. Eight weeks old and still small enough to fit in her hand. He was a little brown peanut, so Peanut became his name. Peter and Lynzie nursed him back to health. He thrived under their care.
    As the days grew colder, and he became more rambunctious, Peter started bringing him to the farm. Cora had never been around a puppy; her life had always had old, gentle dogs in it. The learning curve was steep. She was convinced he should be able to sit nice and listen to her read him a book. Peanut had other ideas. Eating the book was the first one. Climbing all over Cora was the second. From my standpoint, the best thing was that they wore each other out and would nap about the same amount of time each afternoon.
    From the get-go, Lynzie told me that Peanut would be my (our) dog, and as he grew, she was certain that there was no way she wanted to haul around three big dogs in her vet truck. I will readily admit that taking care of a puppy worried me far more than it probably should have. Peter and Lynzie asked if Peanut could have a few sleepovers here while they were out of town, knowing full well that I needed a nudge to do it. Now, he is my sidekick. He goes where I go – farm, home, town.
    I was never going to have a dog in the house. Nor was I going bring home a dog that loves to nibble on calf manure. I was also not going to have to walk a dog in the morning to go the bathroom. I was definitely not going to have to look over my shoulder constantly to see what is getting chewed up this time. Yet, two months later, here I am. Typing this as this furry brown 6-month-old creature sits at my leg contentedly chewing on a stick – which is an improvement from chewing on the chair legs. Sometimes I think I must be mellowing as I age.
    Peanut invokes much laughter, provides many needed smiles, and causes a great deal of mischief. All things considered, he’s not much different than a toddler. Messy, lovable, snuggly and hungry for things they shouldn’t put in their mouths. The boys delight in building snow tunnels that he can follow them through, and Cora has learned that “duck and cover” is the best way to handle him when he comes at her full force. He loves sledding, as it gives him things to chase and a chance to show off his good, loud bark. This Peanut puppy has a great look of innocence when he knows he did something wrong. He has yet to figure out that helping the new mother lick her calf isn’t always seen as helping from the mom’s point of view. He has thick fur that loves to be petted, and a bit of that everyday does seem to right the world, if only for a little while. I’m definitely looking forward to the rest of this Peanut chapter and all of the memories that will fill it.
    Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and run 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wis. Her children, Ira (14), Dane (12), Henry (7) and Cora (4), help her on the farm while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. If she’s not in the barn, she’s probably in the kitchen, trailing after little ones, or sharing her passion of reading with someone. Her life is best described as organized chaos – and if it wasn’t, she’d be bored.