Growing Up in the Midwest


The Watkins Dogs

You think those dogs will not be in heaven! I tell you they will be there long before any of us. Robert Louis Stevenson

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Most farms had at least one dog. Ours was no exception. It was impossible to establish a pet free zone in the country. If you didn’t have a dog or a cat on the farm, every few months someone would drop off unwanted kittens or dogs and they would show up at your door with a sad look and a hungry tummy. Fortunately animals just moved around from one farm to another and few died from neglect. My parents had an unspoken mantra—“If they come, feed them.” Much of the food for our pets came from our table. Many times Mom would make extra gravy to put on the bread that was getting stale. Most rural parents taught compassion and kindness toward animals that by extension reached the way children looked at other people. Or, perhaps the reverse was true. First they showed love to people and then to animals. Few, if any, rural parents were cruel toward animals. It is quite probable that most of cruelty toward animals and bullying of people comes from some type of repressed anger or desire to manipulate and control someone or something; the helpless animal or the weakest human always fall victim to such abuse. I was taught that the only way to stop bullying or any kind of abuse of animals or people was to call those people to accountability for their action by way of reporting them to authorities. I am so thankful I never had to endure any type of abuse, but it certainly happened and I wish I had been braver to assist others.

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