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Tales from the Barks Side Column: Luke, the great red hunter

Welcome back to the bark side of life here in Ottertail, where patches of snow are scattered like little white islands in the woods. What difference a week makes (or an hour or a day around here). Last week I was extolling the virtues of a fine spring morning and we were hit with a snowfall that clearly stated something had sprung... but it certainly wasn't spring. I'm contemplating giving the weatherman some slack... he needs it.

I have shared the exploits of my rather large female shepherd, Lara Mee, with you all on several occasions, but she isn't the only conniving canine around here. Not too far away from the bark side of life live Sandy and Carl Tegtmeir of Battle Lake. They have had older German Shepherds themselves, and here is a tale about one of their lovely ladies.

Dear Mr. Ross,

In 1989 my husband, Carl, and I purchased a seven and a half year old German shepherd dog. Lady filled our lives with love and laughter for another seven and a half years. This is a "Lady" story for your contest.

When Carl was walking our dogs one day, a squirrel missed a branch and met his demise. Our dogs pounced before Carl could stop them. Lady claimed this prize, but Carl told her to drop it. She complied, but later she went back to retrieve her trophy. Carl sternly told her to leave it, adding, "I don't want to see it again."

Later, when I was walking the dogs, Lady picked up the squirrel and brought it home. She was so proud of it I let her keep it, even though I knew Carl had asked her to leave it. When we got home, Lady stashed the squirrel in her doghouse. If I took her for a walk, she brought her squirrel. If Carl took her, there was no sign of it. If she had the squirrel when Carl came outside or drove into the yard, she'd stash it in the nearest snow bank or in her doghouse.

Carl tried to catch her with her squirrel, but she was too quick. He never did see it again. I finally disposed of it and ended the game. We had a lot of laughs over how resourceful she was.

Lady has been gone for years, but we have lots of memories of her antics. We are also sharing our house with our fourth shepherd... we can't outwit her either.

P.S. I hope this will inspire readers to consider an older dog as a companion.

Yours truly,

Sandy Tegtmeir

Thanks Sandy for a great story. People need to know that older dogs are wonderful companions and will fill your life with love, affection, and joy for as long as you have them.

Well, did Lady prove that she could reason? Did she really understand Carl, literally, or was she following her instincts and hording her bounty? If you have illustrations of how your pet, or an encounter with a wild beastie, shows cognitive reasoning, write to me at Keith Alan Ross, Richville, MN 56576, phone me at 218-495-2195 or send e-mail to

The "Logic vs. Instinct" contest is in full gear and Tuffy's Dog food is my sponsor for the prizes that will be awarded to the winners.

Get on down to the Red Willow in Detroit Lakes and pick up a copy of Tales From The Bark Side (the book). It's a good coffee table or bathroom book that you don't need to read cover to cover... plus it has been printed in a larger font for those of you (like myself) who can appreciate what is actually written on the page. That does it for this week. Until next time...