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Our home always hosted at least a couple of dogs. My parents had dogs before they had kids. All were family dogs, there to love each of us. When Lad came into our home, he also started as a family dog. But before long, he became Lad, my childhood buddy. Lad and I became inseparable through training and experience.
Meet Lad, My Childhood Buddy
A couple, probably in their 70s, stopped by my Dad’s garage one day to have my Dad check on a belt that had come loose. Dad’s garage was at our farm, making it easy for him to run his car repair and towing business and help with the farm. They noticed we had a farm and asked my Dad if we needed a dog. I remember Dad chuckled, knowing we never needed another dog but always welcomed newcomers. We were all surprised when the man opened the trunk of his car to reveal a very nervous golden and white dog, probably not even a year old. He was medium-sized and seemed quite out of place while he fit in the trunk. He seemed too energetic for them, so they headed for the dog shelter with him.
Lad Jumped out of the Trunk and Ran to My Dad. He Was Home.
Lad was like a wild teenager at first. Although he was housetrained, he preferred to run around outside. He looked part Border Collie and had the energy to support that theory. One of his favorite activities was swimming in the pond. Unfortunately, that pond was across the road from our home. I always worried about him crossing the road. But he seemed to watch for cars.
I Was Just 9 Years Old
At 9, I could finally join 4H and my sisters in showing our dairy cattle at the county fair. Nina, my show heifer, had the energy of Lad. I never quite gained control of her but gave it my best. At the county fair show, Nina decided we had to race the other heifers around the arena. I held on, barely. From that day, my parents decided I’d be better off with goats and sheep.
Lad Needs Training
One of our friends stopped by the farm on his way to a 4H meeting. He was raising a puppy for the Guiding Eyes for the Blind program, and they met weekly to socialize and train their dogs. In the conversation with my parents, Mitch explained about the dog program. That would be a better fit for me. To say I was excited was an understatement. I put a string on Lad and started working right away. Of course, I didn’t know what I was doing. And neither did Lad. No worries, we had a plan, and Lad seemed agreeable.
Mom arranged for me to join the local 4H dog groups, and we went to our first meeting. Well, I went. Lad disappeared into the pond again. I went alone, feeling quite embarrassed. But I did learn the proper way to walk a dog. Our leader was empathetic. Mrs. Thompson had me train with the group without a dog. I was a timid young girl but I tried my best. That made me more determined to make sure Lad was trained.
Monday Night Fun Night
Unfortunately, Lad soon learned that Monday nights were dog nights. He usually took off for the pond before I could get a leash on him. Sometimes he returned before we left for the meeting, but he was usually quite dirty. I learned to keep him confined early in the day to ensure I had a clean dog for our training sessions. Part of my training was also how to bathe a dog, since Lad enjoyed his pond swims so much. But the Monday pond swims were more of a game than a dread of the meetings. Lad loved the training. He enjoyed the time together. And we practiced at home every day, just as we were taught. I was awkward and unsure of myself. Lad was an energetic teen who quickly found ways to amuse himself and me.
4H Dog Show Time
We arrived at the fairgrounds ready to win a first-place award. Or so I thought. In truth, we were far from ready for competition. But this was 4H and everyone was invited to give their best. Our best that day was almost humorous. I don’t know which of us made more mistakes, but probably me. In the end, we were given sixth place. 6 out of a class of 6. It could have been worse. I looked at Lad and wondered if I had failed him. No one suggested I try basket weaving next. The other exhibitors and our leader all encouraged me to keep training and try again. I knew I could do better.
Not a Quitter
I went home and made plans to train even better. Not just Lad, but also me. I needed to learn more. I loved learning and reading, so I found some great books and began focusing on what I needed to do next. Lad and I spent plenty of time together, but not all was training. We enjoyed walks together through the woods. We’d sit by the shallow creek that ran through the woods and talk. I talked. Lad listened. I think he understood. We talked about everything. School. The farm. Our training. Our plans for the future. Lad was a good listener.
The Difference a Year Makes
Lad and I continued our training times, interspersed with plenty of buddy time. The year of growth helped both of us. And the 4H dog program grew, too. Over 70 youth entered the program that year. County 4H expanded one show into four shows. What a burst of changes. And that next year we didn’t miss any classes. Lad and I were also dedicated to our lessons and buddy lifestyle. We were inseparable pals. Did it make a difference? You bet it did! Lad and I won each of our obedience trials and took the end-of-year trophy! We won showmanship, too. What a great year! But the best part was that we had grown even closer. Lad and I were buddies. We enjoyed every minute of our time together. And we made friends in the 4H program, too. Some very close friendships that lasted in the future, too.
Ready for More!
Lad and I continued to train. We went to the district and New York State fair competitions. I wish I could say we won there, too. We did well in the district but made major mistakes at the state. It didn’t matter. Lad and I were happy just to have tried. I loved my pal, and he loved me. He was truly my childhood buddy dog. Our 4H training and competitions continued for another year. That year, my Mom bought me a registered Collie, Melinda. She joined our buddy network with Lad and I. Now we were 3, as happy as can be.
Life Throws a Curve Ball
I had trained Lad to do tricks like shake, roll over, and even sit up and pray. He was so bright, and he loved to please. I knew I was the luckiest person on earth with Lad and Melinda. Lad was only about four years old when I lost him. The one thing I always needed to teach him was to stop chasing trucks. Not cars, but trucks. No need for details about that. Although he was no longer in my life, Lad would always be a part of me. We were buddies for life. Still today, many years later, I miss my buddy and my second buddy Melinda, too. They must be waiting at the Rainbow Bridge for me and many more of my buddy dogs. But just as you never quite get over the lost love, the same is true of a canine buddy. Lad is forever my childhood buddy!