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Tuppence the wonder pup is, at seven months of age, feeling the instinctive tug associated with her breed. She has discovered the joy of retrieving. 

Being the smallest member of our pack of goldens, though by no means the least driven, she is often beaten to the object thrown by the bigger dogs. At first she found ways around this shortcoming. Fiddy is as meek as they come, so if he got the ball all she had to do was block his access to the Ball Thrower and he'd give it up. To get it away from Tetley she merely had to bite his lips and hang there with all her puppy weight, classic proof that where Tetley's lips go, so goes the dog. For Molson, who -- being Alpha -- has an investment in looking dignified at all times, she merely had to latch onto his magnificent tail like an anchor. He had to drop the ball before turning around to bite her, and she'd quickly scoop up the sphere and make a mad dash for the protection of Daddy.  

But then Fiddy discovered her shortness was easy to jump over. Being neutered, he had little concern that she would find anything worth latching onto as he sailed over her snapping puppy teeth. Tetley, being quite tall for a golden, found that carrying his head high put his lips out of puppy reach. And Molson quickly figured out if he lowered his shoulder and bowled the pup over in passing she was unable to regain her footing fast enough to catch him before he reached the Thrower of the Sphere.

But still, she had these urges. Primeval urges that require her to retrieve something. Earlier in the winter she had the occasional stick poking out of the snow, but they are all covered now. For a while she could be seen tugging on saplings and low-hanging branches, valiantly struggling to bring entire trees home. But they pretty much refuse to budge. But finally, she has discovered her calling. Turds.

I throw the ball. Molson brings it back. Tuppence brings me a frozen turd. I throw the ball. Fiddy retrieves it. Tuppence brings me a frozen turd. I throw the ball. Tetley scrambles to come up with it. Tuppence brings me a frozen turd. I know what you're saying. A man so highly versed in the behavioral sciences ought to be able to extinguish this habit fairly quickly. But it's not that easy. You see, she's so obviously PROUD of herself when she brings me something just like the big boys that I can't help but smile and call her a silly goose or something else equally reinforcing. And so the habit continues...

She's a smart little girl. She sees me hunting the elusive poop on a daily basis. Armed with shovel, slinking around the snow-covered yard, asking "Where's that poop?" It's quite obvious to her that my nose is not as sensitive as hers. It's equally obvious that if I'm to find all of the little gems I need her help. So she helps me by bringing them inside where I can't help but notice them. Little brown packages all wrapped in ice.

Most make it as far as the kitchen floor, though on a particularly sleepy morning when we have trouble rising to face the day she might do us the favor of carrying it all the way to the bedroom, where it blends right in with the Orientals.

I suppose I should be grateful for sub-zero temps...

Except that it makes outside chores so darned uncomfortable. Like changing the oil. Those of you who have never crawled under a car or tractor at ten below have no idea how chilling concrete can be! Worse, I still haven't overcome the Southern California habit of putting tools or fasteners in my mouth to keep them handy while working under some piece of machinery. The incredibly cold metal adheres to my skin and makes removal from my mouth an adventure! I now have numerous little scars on my upper lip in the shape of screw threads.

And of course the dogs have to help. Any time they see me on the floor they assume I'm there just for them and rush over to play with me. Only Fiddy is actually useful. If a tool is just out of my reach I can pretend to strain for it and tell him, "Get it!" Nine times out of ten he does just that, either nosing the tool closer so I can reach it or picking it up and bringing it right to my hand. Very clever boy, that dog!

Seeing all the praise her brother gets for bringing things to Dad, Tuppence is not about to be undone. This morning, while flat on my back on the frozen concrete under the tractor, she squirmed her way to my side and dropped a frozen turd in my ear. Her whole body was wagging with pride. "Look, Dad; I brought you something!"

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Stories From a Vermont Life:

Camilla Blue
Frozen Gifts
Making Wreaths
Shearing
Hobblewood
Flush
The Fourth of July
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The Farm at Morrison Corner raises Icelandic Sheep on the last hill farm in Mansfield, VT.  Learn about Raising Icelandic Sheep, Raising Chickens, Moving to Vermont and Living in Vermont on this and our other sites.

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