Andy Noble was a seasoned farmer who had won prizes in the local fair seven times for 'best in category'. Some of his cows, pigs, and horses who never carried home the #1 Winner's Trophy had taken second or third place.
Moving the animals back to the farm was a challenge, even with Andy's help, but it was also a learning experience. Before leaving home eight years ago, Dustin's position on the farm had more closely resembled that of an assistant or even an onlooker.
Milking the cows was a job he had mastered. It gave him a chance to be of some real help to his Grandpa, but he had always been warned of too much interaction with Old Bart. Now, with Andy Noble's help, he would get better acquainted with Old Bart in the process of bringing him home.
Andy had taken courses in Animal Husbandry at the local Community College. He told Dustin that learning to transport had been his biggest challenge in the course and the part that presented the most risk.
The Henry farm and the Noble farm were only about thirty minutes apart by vehicle, although it would take longer to transport than to simply drive the distance.
The two of them moved Old Bart back home first. Bringing the cows, pigs, and horses home proved to be a smaller challenge, but on each transport, Andy modeled a degree of patience, skill, and compassion for the animals than Dustin had never witnessed.
By the time each animal was settled in its own niche of the barn, stable, or pen, Dustin felt that he that he had begun to make a connection with the animal that he could build on in the future.
Dustin and Jenny had chosen November 25th as their wedding date. Jenny had to decide what to do with her house. She had inherited her Aunt Ellen’s house when her aunt passed away three years ago.
She discussed it with Justin and he suggested keeping the house and renting it out. That would give her some passive income and allow her to come and go freely with him in the early days of their marriage.
Once Jenny decided to rent the house, she began deep cleaning and moving things she wanted to keep over to Dustin’s house. Things she didn’t want would go to the public dumpster or local thrift shop.
Dustin assessed the repairs that needed to be made and started putting everything in like-new condition. A “House for Rent” sign in the front yard and an ad in the classified section of the newspaper opened the way for would-be renters to contact Jenny.
October days passed quickly as the weather grew cooler and Dustin and Jenny passed many evenings building a fire in the big, old fireplace in the den and cozying up on the sofa.
One evening, Jenny brought up a subject to Dustin that she had been thinking about for weeks.
“You know what I would like to have?”, she said teasingly.
Dustin replied, “No, my dear, what would you like to have?”.
“I’m afraid you will not want it as much as I do. We already have so much to keep up with. But, Dustin, I want a dog. I have wanted a dog since I was a little girl. I could never convince Mom and Dad or Aunt Ellen to get me one.”
“My love, you are in luck”, said Dustin. “Andy’s golden retriever just had puppies - eight of them. How about we go over there tomorrow and you can pick one out for him to hold for you until the pup is ready to leave its mother?”
“Oh, yes, let’s do! How long with that be”?
“About six or eight weeks. He will let us know as the puppies progress. When yours has learned how to eat soft food and drink water from a bowl, you can bring it home”.
“Oh yes, let’s go see them tomorrow. I can hardly wait!”.
The next morning, bright and early Jenny was up fixing breakfast so they could go over and reserve her puppy.
She walked over to the wall calender, picked up the pen lying on the table close by, and wrote in today’s date square, “Met _______ today!”.
Dustin walked in the kitchen grinning and she said to him, “By the time we get back home, I want to have a name to put n the blank space.”
“I can’t wait to see what you name the new addition to the family!”.
Jenny was too excited to eat much breakfast, but Dustin told her she shouldn’t go hungry when she had such a big decision to make. She ate her eggs and toast and drank her juice and coffee.
“Alright I am ready to go now!”. Jenny shrilled.
“Come on then”, replied Dustin. “We won’t have any peace until we do!”.
Andy greeted Dustin and Jenny with a knowing smile. Dustin had told him on the phone how enthusiastic Jenny was about getting a puppy. He escorted them into the laundry room where there was a box full of Golden retriever puppies and their mother. Without hesitatiion, Jenny said, “I want that one”, pointing to the smallest, lightest colored puppy in the box. It looked more like a furry ball than a dog, but she was sure it was the one.
After the puppies finished nursing and the mother dog got up to walk around and stretch, Andy reached down and picked up the furry ball and handed it to Jenny for inspection.
The furry ball stretched out and looked like the tiniest dog she had ever seen. It grabbed her finger in its mouth and tried to bite her finger, but there were no teeth…it was just ‘gumming’ her finger.
Jenny fell in love with the little boy puppy and told Dustin there was no question. They would be coming to get this puppy as soon as Andy said it was ready.
In spite of the excitement and anticipation over the puppy, Jenny’s mind turned its full attention to November 25. There was a wedding dress to buy, bridesmaids and ushers to choose, flowers to coordinate with the florist, and the church and dining hall to decorate for the 4 p.m. wedding.
In the evenings now, Jenny and Dustin often made a picnic lunch and climbed to the barn loft to look out over their farm while they ate. When the wedding was one week away, their nerves were so high-strung one day that they decided to take a long walk around the lake and then around the pond which was off to the opposite side of the barn.
They took off their shoes and tiptoed into the edge of the lake water but it was so cold, they quickly retreated, put their shoes back on and walked around to the pond area.
To their complete surprise, the pond was almost completely frozen over. Just barely past the middle of November…that was a bit early for almost total ice-in of the pond.
“I didn’t expect this!”, said Dustin. “By our wedding day, it will probably be frozen solid. We can come out here with our ice skates on during our “honeymoon”. I’m glad you agreed to just stay here for a couple of weeks and then take a honeymoon trip.”
“It will be perfect”, said Jenny. “We should take the trip when the time will be best, not according to a preset timeline. Besides, we will have little Scooter to take care of. Let’s just take one day at a time and do what we want to. It has been a long time coming!”.
The wedding was flawless with Jenny radiant in her dream dress and Justin handsome in his black and white formal suit.
A few weeks later, little Scooter joined them walking in the woods and on the frozen pond every afternoon and evening.
He could not have been more perfect. Scooter loved to eat and quickly cut teeth and began eating regular dog food, plus a bit of this and that off the table.
One day melted into the next and their world consisted of the Henry farm and the surrounding community that had nurtured them from infancy to adulthood, marriage, and the fulfillment of their dreams.
December seemed to come more quickly than any December Dustin could remember in his 27 years. The job of getting the farm back up to a level of productivity that was close to matching Grandpa Wilbur's accomplishment took more work, tenacity, and endurance than he had known existed.
But it had all been worth it because he was not alone. He had Jenny by his side and each day passed by faster than the one before.
The work never let up. It was arduous and relentless, but it was never drudgery because they knew that after it was done, there would be a warm fire, the cold woods, and the frozen pond to skate on while Scooter slid around in ecstasy.
Then came March, and everything stayed the same, for about three more weeks.
Then the ice-out cycle began.
Scooter knew nothing about ice-out.
He kept coming to the pond and sliding around while his puppy howl split the air with joyful noise.
Jenny tried to keep him in the house, but he would dash outside any time the door was opened, and the door had to be opened sometimes.
They took Scooter to the pet shop to buy an extra long leash to attach to his collar.
They had to put it on him before they opened the door to go outside. If they were not ready to go out and they had to open the door, they attached his long leash to his collar and tied it securely to the dining room table leg.
Jenny was determined to watch him constantly until the ice-out was complete and the water began to warm up a bit.
They simply would not let him out alone.
One early April morning, Jenny was about to attach Scooter’s leash to his collar when the doorbell rang. Scooter went wild with excitement.
Dustin thought the leash was already attached and opened the door for Andy to come in.
Scooter exploded out the door like a rifle shot. Andy, still in his knee-high boots, and Dustin in his farm boots took out after him with all the speed they could muster.
Scooter must have thought it was a game. The faster they ran and the louder they called him, the faster he ran, straight toward the partially frozen pond.
Scooter hit the thin ice going fast and then shot out across the ice-cold water in projectile fashion. Andy and Dustin shed their coats and boots and went in after him.
Little Scooter kept bobbing up and down in the frigid water, trying to find a foothold on something…anything.
Dustin reached him just as it looked like Scooter could not last much longer. He lunged and grabbed him, pulling him close to his body and started back toward the bank.
Andy helped Dustin and Scooter out of the water and supported Dustin in walking back to the house.
Jenny had gotten dressed over her pajamas and started running towards the pond, but met the two men and the wet, shocked, confused puppy about halfway back to the house.
The heat from the log fire had NEVER been more welcome, or more needed. Jenny grabbed some soft towels, hung them near the fire, and soon had her puppy, her husband, and their neighbor warm and dry.
From then until the pond was back to normal, Scooter was safely deposited in the laundry room behind closed doors before either outside door was opened.
Jenny and Dustin spent the spring loving and training Scooter as he turned into a thriving, exuberant, healthy puppy well on his way to becoming the guardian of the Henry farm.