"Every boy should have two things: a dog, and a mother willing to let him have one." ~ Anonymous

After Rosco, our first dog, died, it wasn't long before I started to miss having a dog around. Not only was Rosco a good source of entertainment and companionship, his bark was often the only clue we had that a vehicle had just drove into our yard. (It's pretty hard to see the driveway from the back of the barn.) And, so, we adopted Annie.

Annie filled the void in our lives to overflowing. She was everything Rosco had been - playful, beautiful, great with Dan - and more. Annie was intelligent, obedient (for the most part), and a great cow dog. When she disappeared last September, our hearts broke as we tried to help Dan understand that Annie was gone.

Annie, I had decided, would be our last dog for a long time. I didn't want to go through the heartache of losing another dog.

Glen thought otherwise. His brother's dog had a litter of puppies that would be ready just after Christmas.

"Little boys need a dog," he said.

I couldn't object.

Dan's new puppy arrived on his birthday, as a gift from his uncle. I voted to name the puppy Otis, to pair with our cat, Milo (the movie "Milo & Otis" is one of Dan's favorites), but Dan overruled me. He named his puppy Little Skippy after his uncle's similar-looking dog, Skippy.

To be honest, Skippy is the epitome of what I don't look for in a farm dog - small, short-haired and purebred. Skippy is a black and white rat terrier. And, compared to our previous puppies, he's tiny. He's smaller than all the cats. Heck, there are piles of dry cow dung out in the lot that are bigger than Skippy.

You can imagine my concern that a puppy as little as Skippy was at high risk of becoming a puppy pancake in the barn, but since Skippy was born and raised in a dairy barn, he knew his way around the cows and acclimated to his new home in our barn instantly. And, since Dan had been playing with the puppies at his uncle's from the time they were big enough, Skippy took to Dan like he was one of the litter.

I believe Dan, too, thinks of Skippy as more than a pet. Not even two hours after Skippy arrived, I was trying to call Skippy to me. Dan came over, got down on his hands and knees and told his puppy, "Come on, Skippy. Come to mama."

In the past two weeks, though, Skippy has proven that it really isn't the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog. His small size is perfect for Dan; I don't have to worry about Skippy knocking Dan over. On the contrary, I spend more time reminding Dan to not squash Skippy and to be careful carrying him around. But Skippy is a scrappy little pup with sharp little teeth and it didn't take Dan long to figure out what Skippy will tolerate and what he won't.

Skippy's stature also allows him to slip between the pipes into the bull calf pen. The pen has become his refuge from Dan and his place to rest. He's taken to curling up next to the bull calves when they sleep and you can hardly tell where the calf ends and Skippy begins.

When Skippy's not sleeping, he can be found running laps around the barn with Dan. They average about 50 laps each milking. The two can occupy each other for the better part of three hours. And, if the two can't be spotted, they can soon be found by following the laughter and yips. Dan and Skippy both sleep well at night.

Glen was right. Little boys do need dogs. After four months of trying to coax the cats into playing with him, Dan finally has a just-his-size playmate in the barn. Interestingly, when Dan's not around, Skippy, too, tries to convince the cats to play with him. Since the cats outweigh him two-to-one, most of them put Skippy in his place with a nip or a swat. Some just choose to run. One cat, Calico Cathy, does neither, so Skippy drags her around the barn like a toy. Calico Cathy happens to be Dan's favorite cat, too. When all three are in the barn together the racket rivals that of a train wreck: Skippy grabs Cathy, growling playfully; Cathy screeches; Dan yells, "Skippy's got my kitty!" Cathy gets away and its quiet for a minute. Then, like a broken record, the sequence repeats. Maybe peace will return when summer comes and the trio moves outside.

I can only imagine what the freedom of summer will mean for Dan and Skippy. I think they're both going to have to wear bells. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy having a dog around the farm again.

Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 70 cows near Melrose, Minn., with help from their 3-year-old son, Dan, and their infant daughter, Monika. When she's not farming, she's writing for the Dairy Star. Sadie can be reached at gsfrericks[at]meltel.net.