19 April

The Story Of Tina, An Amish Dog With A Back Story

by Jon Katz

When I first saw Tina, she was sleeping in the midst of horse carriages, people digging, people plowing, people chopping and sawing wood.

She was unfazed by the nose, the big horses trotting practically over her, the activity all around her. I couldn’t imagine how any living thing could sleep in the middle of all that activity.

At one point, she got up, and I saw that her left front leg was cut off halfway down. I went over to say hello to her, but she ignored me and walked away.

My relationship has changed. Tina and I have bonded big time, and I think she knows the sound of my car now; when I drive up the hill, she is waiting for me just outside the car door, demanding a belly rub or kiss on the nose.

Tina came with the Millers from their previous home way up near the Canadian border. Her leg was partially sawn off on another farm; they took her, helped her heal (I didn’t ask how.)

Moise tells the story of Tina and her chopped-off leg simply and without emotion or drama. He does not say she was abused or suggest she’s had terrible luck.

Tina hangs out with the children when they work, sleeps inside the house by the woodstove. There is plenty to do and explore on the Miller farm for a smart and active dog.

I was curious about Tina, as I was already getting regular e-mails about how cruel the Amish are to animals. The hard-core animal rights people are not always hopeful about people or optimistic about their humanity.

They sometimes see too much.

They were warning me that the Amish – they never use the word “some” – run puppy mills and shoot their horses in the head when they get old. They assumed I would discover these horrors for myself and turn on my neighbors.

So I was curious to see how they treated Tina, who is, basically, a rescue dog.

The children paid attention to Tina but rarely spoke directly to her or reached down to play with her.

She followed them around the farm, devoted and watchful. I noticed that nobody touched her, or made those cute dog noises around her, and she kept herself in the background when there was work.

She wasn’t quite a pet, but she wasn’t a working tool either. She would pop up, then say hello, then disappear, much like Moise himself.

I think Tina is somewhere in the middle between a pet and a farm animal, but she was anything but abused. She was not afraid of people, didn’t cower or tremble when touched.

People were always going in and out of the temporary farmhouse, and Tina could always get in when she wanted to.

Tina was my kind of dog in many ways, sweet, smart, busy, and a little crazy. The sawed-off leg didn’t seem to slow her or bother her at all. Her eyes were full of love, like Fate.

One day I sat down next to my car, and Tina, curious, appeared out of nowhere and came over to me, slowly and carefully. I sat still, waiting for Tina to study me and decide if she wanted anything to do with me or not.

I talked with her, let her smell me and get used to me, and then when she approved, I found her sweet spot at the bottom of her chest.

She swooned and fell in love, not before a careful sniffing of every inch of my body. I fell in love too. Those eyes.

Tina decided I was all right, and after that, she comes running whenever I showed up.  After a few joyous licks and scratches, she would take off and get back to work, whatever work was.

At one point, Moise came up to me and asked me what I was feeding my dogs.  I told him and then asked him what he was feeding Tina, and he said it was food from the Dollar Store; he wasn’t sure what to call it. He looked a bit abashed.

Okay, I said, how about if I bring up some dog food, you and Tina can check it out, and if you like it, I’ll supply it, and you can pay me back for it, of course.

It was a deal. I’m not sure Moise was ready to go out and buy premium dog food, but he had no objection if I did, and they could try it out.

I’m never entirely sure what Amish are and are not permitted to do, but I’m figuring out how to approach things.

Moise was clearly not somebody who didn’t care about his dog.

I asked him what work Tina did – at the Miller farm, everybody worked. Her job was to notify them immediately if she ever smelled smoke – which she did from time to time – and sound the alarm if stray animals came around, which she also did.

Moise said he plans to get a border collie to handle the sheep he hopes to buy this year. He asked me if Fate could teach a new dog how to herd. I said, er…no, not really. He looked puzzled.

I went home and brought him half a bag of the special Purina premium food I give my dogs, all three; our vet recommended it and sells it.

I didn’t hear anything for three or four days, and then when I showed up, Delilah came out to the car and said Tina loved the dog food and they were running low.

Moise came out to say hello and told me the same thing; he asked if I could bring some more, “she really loves that good food,” he said, and I said sure.

“I will pay for it, of course,” he said, and I agreed.

Moise doesn’t like to take things for free, and I don’t need to be paying for Tina’s dog food for years out of my own pocket. So it was a good deal all around. I was so glad he was accepting my advice.

The next morning, which was this morning, I went out to the vet (that’s where I buy it) and got a large-sized bag of dog food, salmon, rice, and oatmeal formula.

I brought it up to the house, and little Sarah, who doesn’t come up to my knees, walked up to the car, smiled, picked up the bag, and walked it into the farmhouse as if she were holding a stuffed animal.

Barbara came out with a stack of one-dollar bills and counted out the cost. We went over the instructions – one cup in the morning, one cup in the evening.

Tina, no fool,  was eyeing the bag as if it were a slab of steak. Being at least part border collie,  she figured out exactly what was going on and gave me several spirited tag wails.

She jumped up for a hug, scratch, and belly rub, tail wagging furiously. I’ve never heard Tina bark, but she was about to.

So I am the official Miller farm dog food supplier.

I fell in love with Tina and told Moise I would take her in a second if she ever needed a home. Oh, he said, we’ll take good care of her. She has a home here.

And yes, it is obvious to me that this family of Amish people – I can’t speak for them all – does not have puppy mills, or oppress their horses or work them to death. These are just no puppy mill people.

I don’t know how they euthanize sick or old horses; I don’t see it as my business.

I happen not to believe a bullet in the head is the worst way for an animal to go if the shooter is experienced, especially a farm animal.

Done properly, it is quite humane.

I was happy to hear that Tina has a good home on the farm. I’ll never fully understand why we fall for the dogs we fall for, but Tina went right to my heart. I’m a sucker for those eyes.

I am pleased she has a home where she is loved and cared for.



  1. Jon, you are a kind-hearted man. I can picture Tina and Minnie together on the farm … two sweet souls each with a missing part but together making a whole. You’ll make a good wildlife rescue person.

  2. my vet, a wise & compassionate man has been a clise friend and healer to my family for over 25yrs. He just attended a seminar devoted to humane euthanasia. Its MOST HUMANE and KINDER to shoot a horse than euthanize by injection. So my aged horse will be able to die in peace when his time comes.

    1. Wise vet…the farmers do this with dogs, they all say they want to be more humane than letting their dogs die on a strange linoleum floor..

  3. Certainly the eyes are a window to the soul of a dog too. That is how I fell in love with Edgar–the look in the eyes of this otherwise bedraggled mess of dog flesh.
    As for a bullet properly placed when an animal is old and in pain, I am a firm believer that it is the best way to end a life.
    Large animals especially, horse, goat, (I have personally done these and also one old dog with cancer) is quick. They know no fear-have no time to process, in whatever way animals do, that their demise in approaching.
    Great article in defense of the Amish life style.

  4. dear Jon, thank you for another chapter of your “Amish Chronicles”.. your sweetness and connection with Tina is heartwarming. she’s a beauty. having had a Queensland Blue for over sixteen years i see a lot of resemblance. truly a special breed….. but then our Aussies, Border Collies and Pointers and Standard Poodle were too. btw, what is the size of the Miller greenhouse? a work of art, too.

  5. That Tina looks like a sweetie, and now that you’re the bringer of the bag of good food, she’s got you tagged like a kid and an ice cream truck. And I got a good chuckle at Moise thinking of enlisting Fate’s tutelage of shepherding skills, she not being a student of the School of Rose.

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