I don’t really need reminding, but Tina, the Amish dog up the hill, does help me to understand why I love dogs so much. She is the Miller’s dog, minus a leg she lost in a gas-powered saw.
I notice that most Amish families have one dog (I’ve yet to encounter an Amish family operating a puppy mill or with more than one dog), they are usually a collie/heeler mix and they are tough, hardy, and resilient.
They are much loved, but not in the way most of us love our dogs. They are not cuddled, played with or considered furbabies. They work, sleep inside, are well cared for, although they don’t go to vets any more than Amish people go to doctors.
And they don’t get a steady stream of treats, or any treats at all that I can see. The family loves it when I visit with Tina or cuddle with her, they smile and approve. But they don’t believe in treating animals in that way themselves.
Still, they bring her into their homes and the center of their lives in a way that is different from their treatment of other animals.
Tina seems an especially happy and healthy dog, she seems to focus mostly on keeping an eye on the children, following them closely as they move about the farm. She also loves to accompany Moise when he is plowing or working in the fields.
In addition, she loves to boss the horses around and will nip at their heels if they don’t respond to her. Like all of the great working dogs, she is fearless.
Moise is a skilled dog trainer, although he doesn’t train in the ways most of us do. He simply gives Tina the chance to be with him and learn from him – using her intuition and intelligence – without any shouting, threats, or tricks.
Dogs like Tina are allowed to make judgments for themselves and evolve in that way. One difference is that by trusting in God to take care of them, they are willing to take risks I might not be willing to take – Tina can run near the busy road if she wants, and roams the woods freely, despite coyotes and other potential predators.
I can report that she can take care of herself, even missing a leg. And while the family doesn’t practice outward signs of affection – this goes against their grain – she is full of love. She shows no signs of being anything but content and trusting.
I’ve arranged to supply Tina with high-energy dog food, and the family reimburses me for the cost. The food has helped with her coat and, I think, her energy. This isn’t something they would do, but they are fine with my doing it.
Running around a farm with three legs takes a lot of energy.
Tina knows my car now, and when I pull into the driveway, she is always waiting by the car door for me to come out. We do some scratching and talking. Tina is in the right place for her. She has lots of work to do and is valued.
When I come up the road, I can sometimes see her start to run for the driveway as she hears my car engine.
She has great freedom and much trust roams the farm checking on things.
Sometimes I find her watching the barn, sometimes following the kids, sometimes tracking Moise. She is definitely his dog. But this training is fascinating to watch, it is free of the anxiety and tension in so much of the dog training in the outside world.
If she is thirsty, she drinks from a nearby stream. She eliminates out in the woods.
The only time Moise ever scolds her is when she bothers the horses too much, and then he simply and softly says “Tina, leave them alone,” and she does.
I have never heard anyone raise their voice to her or shout at her. The door to their home is always opening and closing and Tina comes and goes. In the morning, a cup of dog food is placed outside, and she eats it, I think she also finds some rabbits and moles in the woods to eat.
I love dogs like Tina, they remind me of Rose, my great working border collie. And of Buck, the dog in Call Of The Wild. Left on her own, Tina could live happily in the outdoors. When it’s hot, she digs a hole, when it’s cold, she sometimes burros into the base of a tree, even though she could always go into the house where it’s warm.
The Amish do not believe in giving their dogs shots or spending hundreds of dollars on vet bills. Tina isn’t quite seen as a work tool, but something in between a working animal and a family member.
Whenever somebody would come up to Rose and talk the baby talk with her, she would growl at them and move away. Tina is more affectionate than Rose, at least with me.
We had an instant connection with each other, we somehow recognized a kindred spirit in each other. I feel great love for her and much respect. Before I got to know Moise, I had this idea that Tina might one day come to live on my farm when running around their farm got to be too much for her.
I don’t feel that way any longer. I was being patronizing and presumptuous.
She is where she belongs, respected and allowed to live the life of a dog – no leashes, no medicine, no shouting or confinement. I wouldn’t dream of moving her. But I am happy to see her and love her and receive her love in return.
I’m happy to know Tina. And proud to be her friend.