Warning: The following contains material which may not be suitable for squeamish readers. If you find poop gross or unmentionable, you should proceed with caution.
When you live on a farm, poop is topic of everyday discussion. We are constantly evaluating cows', heifers' and calves' manure. Manure evaluation gives us valuable information about our herd's health. When we're not evaluating manure, we're cleaning it up or hauling it out. Cow poop is a valuable addition to our cropping enterprises and an unavoidable part of animal husbandry.
When you have a toddler who's grown up talking about poop in the barn and who still needs help using the bathroom, there's just no way to prevent poop discussions in the house, either.
So, we talk about cow poop and people poop on a regular basis. Now, thanks to Skippy, our puppy, dog poop has become a topic of discussion.
The conversations aren't so much about Skippy's poop as they are about what Skippy eats. His intake wouldn't concern us if he didn't have rainbow colored poop.
Between the chunks of nitrile gloves, filter socks, vet wrap and duct tape we've seen in Skippy's droppings, anything Skippy can fit in his mouth is apparently fair game for ingesting.
Dan has these little foam letters that he puts in his pockets and takes outside with him on occasion. We lost the 'W' last fall by the hay shed. It was nearly the end of the world. Shortly after we got Skippy in January, Dan took his 'M' outside with him. Half-way through chores, Dan came running up to me, sobbing, saying his letter 'M' was gone.
I didn't know he had taken his 'M' outside, so I thought he had his letters mixed up and was talking about his missing 'W'. I reminded him that we had to wait until the snow was gone to start looking for it again.
"Ohhh-kaaaay," he said, accepting my reminder with slumped shoulders.
I didn't think anything more of the exchange until the next morning.
I was out watering the calves in the hutches with Skippy at my side. Like he always does, he did his duty right where I needed to step to open the feed door on one of the hutches.
As I side-stepped to avoid soiling my boot, something about Skippy's deposit caught my eye. It looked like red vet wrap. How on earth does he pass that stuff, I thought to myself. Then I looked a little closer. It wasn't red vet wrap. It was the remains of a red letter 'M'.
I realized then that Dan had been right about his letter being gone.
I told Glen he was never going to believe what I found outside and we both had a good laugh at the letter's expense, after which we questioned our dog's mental faculties.
I figured Skippy's predilection for ingesting non-food items would wane as he started to grow out of some of his puppy behavior, but that doesn't appear to be happening anytime soon.
The other day I saw a plastic wrapper from a piece of string cheese in one of his deposits and the thought occurred to me, this little dog is a four-legged trash compactor. The stuff he eats and passes is beyond belief. Doesn't he get indigestion? Do his taste buds work? I've known dogs who adored chewing on anything plastic, especially fence post insulators, but I've never known a dog so obsessed with refuse.
Skippy is so infatuated with trash that he will go to great lengths to obtain it. He's not tall enough to reach into the milkhouse garbage can unassisted, so he climbs up on an upside down bucket, one of the kids' strollers or anything else left nearby. From his new elevation, he then rifles through the trash for used gloves, filter socks and whatever else he finds appetizing. His peculiar behavior has led me to believe that Rat Terriers share genes with several other species, including rats and raccoons.
He's also in cahoots with the cats. The heist goes like this: the cats climb into the dumpster through the little opening between the two lids, tear open the bags of trash from the house and toss the contents out of the dumpster; Skippy waits below for the goods. His favorites are butter wrappers and the freezer paper from packages of meat, which are promptly dragged off to his cache in the bull calf hutch to be compacted later.
For awhile I thought maybe he wasn't getting enough to eat, since he had to compete with our gazillion cats for his meals. But that's certainly not the case, judging by the size and number of his byproducts.
So until Skippy learns to eat like a normal dog, we're learning to keep toys in the house, trash in the cans, and strollers away from the garbage cans. I'm just hoping that his taste buds start connecting with his brain before something he ingests gets the better of him.
(My apologies to those of you who read this over your lunch break.)
Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 70 cows near Melrose, Minn. They have two children - Dan, 3, and Monika, 1. When she's not parenting or farming, she's writing for the Dairy Star. Sadie can be reached at gsfrericks[at]meltel.net.