Dear Farm Journal,
Today, I reflect on how Balio has taught me the deeper meaning of “puppy love” and “dog loyalty”. I have only experienced one other dog in my adult life, Vega, an English Bulldog, who sadly passed away last year. He was the best, but I didn’t get to spend as much time with him as I would have liked. I had a job and a life that pulled me away from him. However, when you live on a farm, your dog is always with you. Balio is always by my side. Even if I am working in the sweltering heat of the greenhouse. He will lay in there with me, and I know he is suffering under those thick layers of polar bear fur. I am amazed at the effort he puts forth in this heat. When I watch him slowly rise from a satisfying snooze, poising his long legs beneath him, I want to tell him, “Just stay there, honey. It’s hot outside”. But he never does. I am constantly dashing across the farmstead from the house, greenhouse, garden, field, pack shed, outhouse, back of the barn, and round and round we go. He doesn’t skip a beat, my valiant protector. His name, Balio, means valor in Basque, the language where his breed originated. It means, “great courage in the face of danger, especially in battle”. Well, I guess we named him right because he goes to battle for me everyday, whether I want him to or not. He growls and barks at anything that even makes a sound in my direction. He playfully nibbles on my hand as I walk from place to place, and slams his big body down wherever I come to a halt, still eager to rise, even if he has only been resting a short moment. If I am in the house, he lays across the doorway. None shall pass. He is a true “sheep gate”, a tribute to his Great Pyrenese/Sheepdog ancestry. In the days of old, shepherds would corral their sheep into a round enclosure at night and sleep across the opening as a “sheep gate”, protecting their flock from predators at night. Best believe, if there is anything resembling a gate, Balio is laying across it…none shall pass. Balio has many nicknames, in accordance with our great affection for him; B, Big B, Beastie Boy, Big Dog. Rufus likes to call him my boyfriend. My personal and most prevalent nickname for him, though, is Bubby, a combination of puppy, buddy, and baby…Bubby. He’s my right hand man, but then…sometimes, he commits contemptible acts. Yesterday, one of my beloved Barred Rock chickens passed away, seemingly from natural causes, no sign of a struggle, no blood or injury. She seems to have just dropped dead from old age, the poor girl. Rufus took her body a good distance away from the farmstead, but this morning she is at my front door. WHY!? I must remember, he is still a beast at heart, but one that would protect me, even if he had to lay down his life. That’s love. That’s loyalty, but damn it, stop bringing me dead animals.