My dad, Ray Shepherd, with his dog Fritz, having a "talk" at the back yard picnic table. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

My dad, Ray Shepherd, with his dog Fritz, having a “talk” at the back yard picnic table. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Dear Mom,

Author Joe Weinstein wrote: “My dog is worried about the economy because Alpo is up to $.99 a can. That’s almost $3.00 in dog money.”  It’s a dog joke, of course, but if it weren’t for your dementia, I think you’d say, “Share some people food with your dog.”

We had several dogs while I was growing up, and on cold mornings I watched you make extra oatmeal for their breakfasts. And if there were boneless leftovers when we went out to eat, we seriously asked for a doggie bag. You also stirred in dry dog food to mix with the oatmeal and leftovers, and our dogs were happy and healthy.

October is ADOPT A SHELTER DOG MONTH.  I think the only dog we actually got from the shelter was Fritz. It was almost twenty-five years ago that Dad let his grandson, Nic, choose the puppy from the litter at the shelter, and he chose the furry little guy that wasn’t supposed to get very big. Boy, did Fritz surprise everyone! Fritz was your last dog, but you and Dad loved all our dogs and treated them well. Dad meant it when he said he didn’t trust anyone who wasn’t good to kids and dogs.

Our wonderful Maggie was abandoned in the back yard of a rental house, and our policeman son-in-law rescued her and gave us a call. She’d never traveled in a car when Jim and I brought her from Kansas to Colorado.  It was one of the longest trips we’ve ever made. But now she happily rides along with us everywhere, and for more than 10 years she’s been a much-loved and always-included member of our family.

The tradition continues with your great-grandchildren, Mom.  They live near Ft. Riley, and five years ago an unmarried soldier was being deployed and needed a loving home for his black German shepherd.  Grace and Gannon–and their parents–answered the call, and Duchess became a delightful addition to their family.

Gandhi wrote: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”  For anyone who wants to help but can’t take on a dog, October 27 is Make A Difference Day. Humane Societies, rescue groups and animal shelters always need donations of pet supplies, food and funds.  November is Adopt A Senior Pet Month; this applies to older pets needing adoption, but also to pets of seniors who are ill or unable to care for their pets and need assurance that their beloved buddies will find good homes.

John Grogan, author of Marley and Me, said “A dog is the greatest gift a parent can give a child. OK, a good education…then a dog.”

Mom, my thanks to you and Dad for giving us the greatest gifts.

Maggie, from abandoned to head of our household!

Maggie, from abandoned to head of our household!

Duchess, from Army life to life with children!

Duchess, from Army life to life with children!


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations, Things to be thankful for

51 responses to “THE PRICE OF DOG FOOD

  1. juliabarrett

    Oh so true! Dogs are omnivores, like us. Although many people might disagree, they can survive and thrive on people food.
    I love your doggies. What was Fritz? He looks so big next to your dad!

    • Fritz was a tiny ball of brown fur when they got him from the shelter, and his paws weren’t especially large. Of course there was no paperwork on a litter of abandoned puppies, but as Fritz grew the vet said there was obviously some sheepdog, but beyond that it was probably a wide variety of breeds.
      For perspective in the picture, my dad (who was 6’1″) is standing next to a picnic table, and Fritz is standing on the table, leaning against him. Fritz was a good sized dog, energetic and strong, but smaller than a regular sheepdog.

  2. We just got a dog that was found abandoned, hungry, about 3 months old…so I guess I have a puppy again! She just needs a lot of love and a lot of food. The vet said she was healthy except for worms (!) and she’s a sweetie.

    • Oh, and the joy of worms and ear mites in “found” animals. Maggie was a year old when we got her, but she hadn’t had any shots, so we took her to a veterinarian in the next town for first shots and physical exam. We crossed our fingers and held our breath until the tests were negative for heartworm,
      When our daughter got a barn kitten, we at first thought Munchkin was docile and quiet. Then the vet removed the ear mites, and she became an active, curious, bold cat!
      Enjoy your sweet puppy. She’s lucky you found her.

  3. Your Dad making oatmeal for your dog reminded me of my first dog, Rusty. He’d get the leftover oatmeal in the pan. Even if he was so full he had to drag his belly back to the pan, he’d rather guard it than give it up. That image always makes me smile.

    Your Dad – and Gandhi – were right. Any one who mistreats dogs, cats, children, or vulnerable folks of any age is not to be trusted.

    On Friday, some of my students expressed an interest in helping animals. I’m going to pass on your column to them. I suggested they could walk dogs at a shelter (with their parents’ approval) or donating food. Your suggestions are also excellent ones.

    • Maybe it’s because of the colder weather and approaching winter, Judy, but October and November have numerous opportunities for volunteers to donate supplies and provide walking, brushing, cleaning up after dogs, cats, and all kinds of pets. Local animal shelters, city and state Humane Society facilities, and homeless shelters seeking food, mats, etc. for the pets of homeless families are all grateful for help. I hope your students do get involved in some of the opportunities.

  4. There’s a reason why our dog hangs around the supper table… he knows he can’t live on dog food alone. 🙂

    Blessings ~ Wendy

    • When our son-in-law first rescued Maggie and was waiting until we could come from Colorado to get her, he and our daughter had their two male dogs in the back yard, so Maggie stayed on their front porch. When Trevor grilled, he fixed extra hot dogs for Maggie. It’s been over ten years, but each time we visit from Colorado, all we have to say is, “Hey, Maggie, here’s hot dog!” and she goes right to him. No hot dogs, except on rare occasions when we grill, and then only pieces, but she knows there’s something very special about Trevor. Dogs don’t forget.

  5. I always walk away from your blog with a smile. Thank you. xxx Huge Hugs xxx

  6. Marylin, pictures do say so much. Like your dad’s hand resting on Fritz’s back, shows such love. Maggie and Duchess are both lucky to be part of your family. But porridge–yuck. That brought back a memory. I had to eat that mush every morning before heading off to school. Now it makes me smile, knowing my mom and yours were demonstrating their love and concern. 🙂

    • We never called it porridge–which makes me think of a Dickens novel–but during the cold months we ate a lot of Cream of Wheat or oatmeal for breakfast. Unlike what the dog got, though, we added milk and raisins and brown sugar and stirred it all together, and usually there was peanut butter on toast, too. Then we bundled up and walked to school, Tracy, but it was only 4 or 5 blocks, so it wasn’t equal to my mom’s stories of walking to school in the country.

  7. Love me, love my dog – still a good motto!

  8. I liked the joke!

    My dad once brought home an itty-bitty puppy from a shelter. We named him “Tippy.” He had ENORMOUS paws.

    And I remember when our towns fanciest restaurants used to send home doggie bags that actually had, “Doggie Bag” printed on them. (People took home their steak bones, really, for their dogs…)

    • Do you really think people actually took leftover steak home to their dogs, Tracy, even in bags with “Doggie Bag” printed on it? When we had leftover steak or beef, I remember my mom taking it home but then making soup, adding beef broth, leftover vegetables and cutting up cabbage and onions and letting it simmer. And the dog never ate that soup…we did.

      • Actually, in my town, people often took the steak home in a bag (the women’s leftovers), but I wouldn’t know about that. There was a petite cut back in those days (5 ounces) and that’s what my mom ordered. The men usually only had bones left over, (the men’s steaks always came with a bone attached) and they actually put them in a bag for the dog. Really. Our dog got the steak bone.

      • Lucky dog!
        But you’re right, Tracy. Women ordered the petite steaks, while men went for the manly bone-in big cuts.
        Actually, though, we didn’t often go out for steak dinners. My dad sometimes bought the 4-H Grand Champion (or a fair winner raised by teens at our church) at the fair, and when it was slaughtered, he gave choices of butcher-wrapped packages to all his employees and then stored the rest in our freezer locker, so we usually had good grass-fed beef to fix at home and share with family.

      • I think my parents went out to steak dinner maybe once/year. When I was 10, they took me (all dressed up like the princess I was) out to my first “fancy” restaurant. My mom and I ordered the petite bacon-wrapped filet. It was my first medium-rare steak; and I was hooked for life.

        We also always had a steer in our freezer–from one of my dad’s relative’s farms. (his parents, brothers, cousins, aunts & uncles–they were all farmers)

  9. Growing up, we had a toy poodle named, Princess. I loved Princess, but I always wanted a dog like Fritz after seeing the movie, The Shaggy Dog. What a great photo of your father and Fritz…I love it!

    • Fritz did have charm. But he was also a handful to take for a walk, Jill, especially if he saw a squirrel or another dog, and we could never let him off the leash. Princess probably slept with you and followed you around the house, being a friend. Fritz had a big dog house that was his domain; in the house he would have done a lot of damage! But he was still “ours” and we appreciated his personality.

  10. What a wonderful letter to your Mom. Rescue pets are so special, our family has had several rescue pets- both cats and dogs. Your parents have certainly installed that caring nature in you, I like how your Dad said he didn’t trust anyone who wasn’t good with kids and dogs.

    • I’m glad you have rescue pets, too. When we first brought Maggie back to Colorado with us, we knew we were doing her a favor…but then we soon realized she was doing us the favor!

      My dad built several successful car dealerships, and not only did he go to work earlier than his employees, he also stayed later. He also hired his employees for their talents and abilities, AND for their character. Rudeness or unkindness in any form would be a deal breaker for my dad, but especially if it hurt or embarrassed anyone vulnerable. And of course children and dogs (cats, pets in general) are among some of the most vulnerable.

  11. Wonderful dogs. We simply couldn’t be without ours.

  12. My little dog is a big fan of oatmeal, and toast. In fact,he’s a fan of anything he notices going in to my mouth! I asked him this morning what he would do if I sat by his bowl begging him for dog biscuits but he couldn’t believe I would ask such a silly question. So he didn’t reply 🙂

  13. I love the idea of November being Adopt a Senior Pet Month – what a great idea, and a comfort for those dear folk no longer able to care for their pets. I wonder if the same thing goes on here in the UK?

    • You know, Jenny, if you call Hospice or Elder Care centers, or if you call nursing homes, you’ll probably be surprised how many seniors are more worried about who will take care of their parents than they’re worried about who will take care of them. I have a feeling it’s a universal problem.

  14. Great photos Marylin especially of your Dad….

    Most dogs are great, it’s the owners around here I have a problem with don’t hey me started I think I have ranted somewhere on my blogs about them in the past but don’t go there ….

    Never had a dog as a kid but then we got Trudy a tiny wee thing’ who stayed tiny throughout her life, when I was about 13 and then of course as you know I left to join the Army when I was 15. I won’t mention names but one of my siblings, who I still don’t speak to to this day, never liked Trudy and was always giving her a hard time. Seven years later after Ishbel and I got married and we were posted back from Germany to Inverness my Moms health had started to deteriorate and she was unable to look after Trudy we ‘adopted’ her. Her favourite two places were our bed when with us at night, why is it even small dogs take up so much room LoL and in front of the fire ….

    In 1978 after Marie our eldest was born Ishbel used to put a towel down on the rug in front of the fire place (it was an electric one, no fireplaces built in homes by then) to change Marie’s nappy (diaper). She did this once placing Mar. On the towel and then forgot something. I was sitting on the sofa reading the dapper at the time and Ishbel says watch Marie, yes says I and the defect thing I see is Trudy plodding in from the hall, obviously had had enough of the bed, stops halfway through the door looks through her shaggy yes at Marieon the rug, ignores me, and then wanders over getting between Marie and the fire, turns around a couple of times, isn’t happy and the chest her nose under the baby’s back and proceeds to nudge and roll her out of HER spot.

    It was so funny I couldn’t even shout at her to stop!

    god, did I cry when the vet said a year or so later, that it would be best if she just went to sleep……

    A few years later we got Scamp another cross breed but much larger and Justus much of a character, he too is sadly gone now, but maybe I’ll see them again, soon…. xxxxxxxxxx

    • Oh, Tom, I love the way Trudy nudged and rolled baby Marie out of her spot! And I’m sure that now Marie likes the story, too, and tells her own children. Some dogs leave paw prints all over our hearts, but the vet was probably right (and I like how he said it) that sometimes it’s best if a special dog just goes to sleep.

  15. Don

    Beautiful post Marylin. As I read it I couldn’t help thinking about all the dogs we’ve had over the the years and the stories attached to each one of them. wonderful memories; and then the one we have now and the joy he gives us. Thank you.

  16. Nice post. Dogs are the best! I miss having one, but just not sure I am ready to take on the responsibility again yet. Had dogs for 32 of our married years…just loving our grand-dog right now.

  17. Diana Stevan

    Enjoyed your post. We’ve wanted to get a dog, but since we travel so much and don’t have anyone to leave our pet with, it’s been out of the question. Our daughter who could help out became afraid of dogs when she saw her friend attacked by one when she was young. The attack left her friend scarred and our daughter forever afraid of dogs. Though we don’t enjoy having one, we enjoy those we meet on the road.

    • Oh, Diana, I am so sorry about your daughter’s friend, and now the fears they both have of dogs. As much as we love our gentle Maggie, we still did not let her play alone with our grandchildren when they were young. There were too many possible unforeseen dangers, so we always stayed with our dog and with our grandchildren, just in case. And now, when we’re hiking with Maggie and meet parents with children who want to pet Maggie, we’re always glad when they ask and we can make sure it’s a happy experience for everyone.

  18. Molly

    Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh many of the doggies that I love are mentioned in this story….LOVE IT! With Grace’s experience with the neighbor dog, Sammy, biting her very badly on the hand I am still amazed how much she loves all dogs. Perhaps she really live out her dream of being a vet!!! I remember when Grandpa and Nic first got Fritz, and they were trying to choose a name, Grandpa suggested the name FRIEND, sincehe would be a friend. I mnot sure how they landed on Fritz, but it was a good fitting name in the end.

    Great story mom, with a a great message!

    • I thought about Sammy and the awful bite on Grace’s hand. But she did handle it so well in the ER and afterwards, and the most surprising thing was that she wasn’t mad at Sammy. She might decide to be a vet after all…or any number of other careers… The kid has a lot of talents!

  19. Molly

    By the way……HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!!! 37 YEARS YOUNG!!!! 🙂

  20. Marti Benson

    What a beautiful post, Marylin!

  21. Pets truly do leave pawprints on our hearts! Thanks for jogging my memory about all the dogs I’ve had and loved.

    • Oh, I know, Nancy. I focused on our pets that “fit the theme,” and suddenly I’m thinking about Abby, my little toy Manchester, and Stardust, our Samoyed, and our German shepherd, also named Duchess, from when I was a little girl.
      Dogs have a way of wiggling into our hearts and minds.

  22. Hi Marylin, yet another beautiful story about your mom!
    How fitting is Gandhi’s quote in your post. Today, marks the 144th birth anniversary of this peaceful man, the great Mahatma Gandhi.

  23. Thanks for the like on !

    You have a very touching concept for a blog here. And those dogs are beautiful!

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