Arts & Life

Spill the Beans: Going to the dogs

When I moved to the farm after 13 years of living in the city, my grandmother suggested I start small. You know, small garden, only a few chickens, don’t bite off more than you can chew…I didn’t really listen. Maybe I should have. But now, almost three years into my prairie farm life, I think it might be too late to heed her wise advice…

Spill the beans is a weekly column chronicling my attempts at a self-sufficient life on this small prairie farm.


After a few failed attempts at having a dog in my city life, it became clear to me that perhaps I just wasn’t a dog person. I mean, I liked dogs. I understood the companionship and exercise that having a dog could offer. But it was always more work and responsibility than I could handle.

Our first dog came to us as a puppy. We were at a farmer’s market and a man was selling the most adorable puppies. My very young, newly married self just could not resist. So we bought a pup for $25 (which seemed like a lot to us at the time, given our limited, student budget). And that pup gave us nothing but headaches.

Fuzzy puppy
Photo credit: Jamie Dyck

Of course, it was completely our fault.

We had no business with a dog during those student years. That poor dog spent a lot of time in her kennel. We had no idea how to train her and had no money to get someone to help us. Eventually, we gave her away to a lovely couple who lived on an acreage outside of the city. I’m sure she had a wonderful life after us. She was a smart dog with lots of potential.

About eight years later, we thought we might try again. This time we figured we should adopt a dog from a shelter. Nothing too rambunctious or too big. Something that would get us out of the house, you know. We ended up adopting an older dog, who could barely make it around the block in the winter. Basically, that dog slept and ate. She was perfect. But when we moved to Toronto we knew that we couldn’t take her with us, as our living situation was really up in the air. So that dog moved to my brother’s country property, where she continues to have a happy, quiet, relaxed life. Perfect for an old dog. In fact, she appeared to get younger, slimmed down to a very healthy weight and experienced a renewed youth for a bit.

And I kind of thought that my days of being a dog owner were done.

But when you move to the country, you need a dog. You need a dog to let you know that there might be something lurking in the bushes down by the creek, which they had better investigate. You need a dog to keep the deer out of the garden and the raccoons out of the garage. You need a dog to alert you that a strange vehicle is on the yard. You need a dog to keep you company when you’re working in the garden all day, so you don’t appear to be talking to yourself.

We adopted a dog from our local shelter when we moved to the farm. She was a beautiful St. Bernard/Boxer cross. She seemed to like people and other dogs, but had to chase cats incessantly. She also chased deer and basically anything else that moved. She loved going for walks in the bush and cooling off in the creek. We imagined that we would have her for years. She seemed like the perfect farm dog. When she suddenly turned aggressive and bit our unsuspecting neighbour, we knew that she couldn’t be trusted. Unfortunately, the vet agreed that we had to have her put down. And we were really sad. She was part of our family.

Isla Fall 2014
Photo credit: Jamie Dyck

We didn’t know if we would get another dog or if we wanted another dog. But as this spring turns into summer, we notice the canine-shaped absence in our country life.

We decided to look for a puppy. And that’s how we got Marigold.

T and Marigold
Photo credit: Jamie Dyck

There are a lot of puppies for sale or giveaway in our local online classified ads especially in spring and early summer. So we kept our eyes open until we found some puppies that looked like what we were after (a calmer breed of medium-sized to large-sized dog). And now she’s at our farm, and we’re back in the game of raising a pup. Wish us luck!

Marigold sleeps
Photo credit: Jamie Dyck


Jamie Dyck is hoping the puppy sleeps for just a little longer. Follow her on twitter @jndyck.