"From the day we arrive on the planet
And blinking step into the sun,
There’s more to see than can ever be seen,
More to do than can ever be done”
I did not have any real understanding of the nature of the Smith’s business ten years ago. I merely adopted a retired male sire and returned home to live my life. I have always enjoyed working with and being around older people and creatures. The energy of children and puppies has never really resonated with me.
I returned to the dog farm again last week. I had heard of a female dog who was finished with her career as a breeding dog. Upon coming to the farm this time, however, I noticed some very big changes. The large barn that I recalled was now painted red and there were some new buildings which were designed to look older and had been carefully constructed by a group of Amish workers.
Terry emerged from his home which adjoins the farm. In his unassuming way, he greeted me and the same dog Ruben that I had adopted from him ten years ago. Terry was eating a hot dog and told me the story behind why he had named my dog Ruben. You see, Terry is one of those people that remembers everything. And in learning about his craft and the art of breeding dogs and tracking bloodlines, one would have to have a really good memory.
I had not known that it was Candy, the matriarch of the family, who had had the foresight and entrepreneurial flair in the farm’s infancy. Candy had found the land, she had carefully selected the right dogs to begin what would become a long lineage of well-bred animals. Animals who were living in a serene environment, animals who were an investment to the Smiths. After all, they still remembered my dog and why they had named him Ruben.
Terry then introduced me to some puppies. He knew each one by name and exactly who their parents were. Many of the older parents of the dogs still lived on the farm. How was he keeping track of all of this? “Candy was the driving force behind this place,” Terry told me. “But we all work together to care for these generations of dogs.” There was a bigger question that I longed to ask. How were the Smiths able to care for so many dogs who were in all different stages of life?
People who work with infants are drawn to newness and beginnings. They love the smell of a newborn’s scalp and the hardship of the crying and diapering is not complaint-worthy for such people. Teachers in Grammar School excel at guiding a group of children to the end goal of knowledge. These teachers are in it because the change of a child within one short calendar year thrills them, in spite of having to repeat themselves all day and cope with the behavioral issues of the students. High school teachers have one of the most difficult tasks…being around hormonal teenagers. But ask anyone who works with teenagers and they will tell you that they actually enjoy it. In part, because they do not have to repeat themselves, because the teenagers are not listening anyway! Finally, there are those who work with the aging population. It is not always easy, but the rewards of listening to people who lived through World War II are considerable. Now, ask yourself this question: how often have you encountered a group or organization that can manage all of these life seasons?
The Smiths are handling every single one of these stages in the lives of dogs with grace and ease. The breeding dogs are separated in small pens, the women must be in the right stage of heat in order to conceive. Terry’s daughter Erin knows how to identify the females who are ready to conceive and she consults with her family to decide which sires can mate with which ladies in order to achieve the best color markings and genetic strength of the puppies. Erin later deals with the females during pregnancy, labor and getting the pups to nurse and grow strong. Her maternal nature is suited to this task.
Every day, Terry’s grown son Jonathan performs something that he calls “The Running of the Dogs.” He takes a pack of grown canines and releases them into a field so they can play and exercise. I had witnessed this stampede of dogs ten years ago and it has always remained in my memory as a symbol of breaking out into the world. The image speaks of growing up and being free. With your kin, your tribe, your friends, your people. It is about being independent and yet also protected by your pack.
“All are agreed, as they join the stampede,
You should never take more than you give.”
Going to the Willow Spring Kennel will change you. (I will warn you that if you go, your odds of coming home with a dog are pretty high. Even if you were not planning on getting one as you got into your car and made the drive to Pennsylvania. Trust me, you will see). The Smiths are caring for many generations of creatures, during every single stage of their lives. They have “more to do than can ever be done”. And they do it. This sends a very important message to all of us. That we should not wait one moment longer to pitch in with the work of the world and move forward. To give more than we take. To be a part of the lives of those in seasons different than our own, no matter what stage of life we are presently in. The time is now to join the stampede.