Working Animals

We didn't really have pets when I was a kid. We had animals that lived with us and did work in return for bed and board. That doesn't mean we didn't love them, but they earned their kibble.
Me, my sister, Laddie, & Ching-a-Ling

The cats were there to keep the mice away (probably rats too, but that never occurred to me. Ick!)
Each of our two farmhouses had a "house cat" that lived inside and was quite pampered compared to the "barn cats" who lived in the barn and multiplied freely. Each new batch of kittens was a treat for us girls, and we hunted them down in whatever spot their mothers chose to hide them by listening for their mews.What fun to move a bale of hay and find four or five little balls of fur to play with. We didn't even mind that their tiny claws were sharp enough to leave bloody trails down our forearms.

The family dog was responsible for helping to herd the cows from and back to the barn. Looking back, I realize that our beloved Laddie wasn't the brightest of cow dogs. He was a collie, but now that I've seen the trained dogs in Scotland do their magic, our Lad was just...kind of willing. And lovable. Luckily, cows aren't that hard to herd; you just get one or two going in a direction and the rest follow.

Of course the other farm animals served a purpose too. The cows gave milk. The horses were draft animals when I was really small, but they gave way to tractors, and then we only had riding horses. The chickens provided eggs (and Sunday dinner on occasion).

I think it's great that people love their pets, but I come from a time when pets weren't just something to pamper and fuss over. They were partners in the work of the household.


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