Woofstock is coming up, the 22nd of September, 10 to 3 on the Edgewood soccer fields. The town can go and see lots of adoptable pets, brought to you by volunteers and our wonderful animal control officers.

The animal control folks are the hardest working, kindest, and most dependable that I have ever had the privilege of meeting. Whether you are an animal lover or not, if you live in the country, you are going to encounter them, wild and domestic. When we first moved out here 33 years ago, yards had no fences, and people came out and dumped dog, puppies, cats, kittens and took off. We had barn cats, skunks, an occasional fox, coyotes that ate cornbread and Purina dog food fed to them by my in-laws and birds of all kinds looking for a hand out.

Then we became a town and civilized folks prevailed. Fences went up to protect our domestic pets and keep out some of the more wild and wooly type. The deer we often saw got scarce. The coyotes adapted to stealing chickens and keeping the wild cat population down. Laws went into effect about people giving animals shots, and for having litter after litter. The could not just turn them loose on the community.

But the old idea, mostly from movies of the Evil Dog Catcher can be proven to be false. The words animal control are to be taken literally: They control how animals are treated and how we are treated by animals. This summer Tim Dvorak called and said he had picked up a bull snake and did we need one. He did not kill such a good mouse catcher. We replied, “Of course, bring it over. We can always use another bull snake.” We called her Sally and she wiggled right over our five acres.

To have the protection of Animal Control is such a gift, and our safety is assured if you follow some simple rules. Make sure your dog is on a leash and with you at all times. Predators are in the sky and the land. Small pets can be taken in an instant by hawks and owls.

When you walk, take a stick with you. It not only helps over rocky ground, but if a critter comes at you, you have a weapon to ward them off. Dogs should not be allowed to roam freely. They are pack animals and will attack those who they feel threaten the pack.

We still have rabies out here. Skunks carry it; bats carry it. People need to get their animals shot for this deadly disease. Animals (and children) should never be left in a hot car. They will die, and it is a terrible death. That’s all scary, but wait, let’s have a happy story at the end.

The story of Hank or How to Judge Your Pet:

Hank was gentle, but he was very large. The people that had him were afraid of his size, so they chained him up in their yard with a big collar and a chain. They did not know how to take care of a dog and they left him outside in all kinds of bad weather. Too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. Poor Hank. He deserved better because he really was very gentle.

The people who owned Hank had to move and they did not want to take him with them. A kind man named Skip came to their house and saw Hank. He asked how they were going to transport Hank on the move with them. They said they were not going to take Hank, but just leave him in the back yard. No food, no water, poor Hank.

Skip could not let that happen to such a good dog and made a deal to take Hank with him. Hank came along just like a little lamb following Mary, who grew flowers in a garden, but that is another story. Hank could not believe how kind Skip was to him. He had a bed of his very own. He had a food bowl that would fill up when he was hungry and a water bowl that always had cool water for him to drink. How wonderful his life had become; did I mention Hank was gentle, but large?

Hank liked to have breakfast in a restaurant called Denny’s in a place called Edgewood. All kinds of people liked to eat at Denny’s.

Hank was not a service dog, but he could sit in the back seat of Skip’s truck with the windows rolled down, so it was not too hot or too cold. He loved to look at people and he loved to have people notice him. Did I mention he was gentle, but very big?

One day a couple of grandparents named White came in with a boy and girl who were their grandchildren. They both loved dogs, but only had cats at home. They saw Hank and he saw them. Their grandparents also loved dogs and carried dog biscuits with them. Each week they said, “Hi” to Skip and asked permission to give Hank dog treats. Each week Skip said, “Of course.” Hank liked the treats and put his huge head sideways to make sure he got each piece. He loved to hear those words, “Would Hank like a treat, we can save some bacon from our breakfast and share it with you.” Hank’s little tail, (the tiniest part of him) and tongue would shake, “Yes.” And so, on the morning when Ellie and Robert were with the Grandparents White, he was thrilled to see four people with leftover breakfast and dog treats. Skip let Hank out for the first time to get to know the grandchildren, and they loved to feed the gentle giant. Robert even sat down on the black top next to Hank and gave him a huge hug worthy of his size. Ellie stood right up but bent over to give Hank a final goodbye treat. He politely took it with pouty little lips and didn’t drool. Robert stayed on the ground when Grandpa White said, “Ok, Robert, we have to go.”

“But I can’t,” pleaded Robert, “Hank is sitting on top of me!” And he was. We were glad he didn’t have any pockets to put Robert in, Hank just liked him so much. He was hoping we didn’t notice he had a new play toy and he wanted him to go home with him. “No, no, Hank, you can’t keep the boy. He will see you again when we come to Denny’s next Saturday.” So, a little sorry, Hank got up and he got one more hug from Robert. But Hank was a very good dog. If you ever see a blue truck with the windows rolled down, be sure to wave to Hank. He likes to meet new friends.

What are the lessons learned from the story of Hank? Talk it over with your parents. Never touch a dog unless you have permission. If dogs are working, let them work. Dogs like Hank are rare, and you need to respect the rules. Did I mention Hank was big?