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Not very ladylike

In to the Wind

December 7, 2011
By Mike Gilchrist , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

She is a bit overweight. Her blonde hair is shiny and she appears well kempt. She is a beautiful creature but often doesn't sit like a lady. She has a somewhat game leg, and will favor that leg when she stands up. She is not a particularly picky eater either, and will binge on the oddest things.

We didn't name her; she arrived here bearing the name Holly. She was rescued. Holly is a yellow Labrador retriever. Her previous humans lived in town and tried to keep her in a kennel. Holly wanted no part of that. She would dig under the chain link and make her escape. Escape to Holly was to find the company of other dogs. Amazingly, she would make her way to the Animal Rescue League north of Marshalltown. Staff would find her outside one of the fences commiserating with the other dogs. They would let her in and place a call to her humans. Twice her owners paid the fifty dollar ransom, and took Holly back home. Each time the punishment for her behavior became more severe.

Holly's spirit was broken. When she ran the third time, her owners decided to just leave her and not bring her back to their home kennel.

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I met Holly and fell in love with her. It was apparent to me she was a gentle soul who just needed a place to run.

Holly could never be a show dog. Her teeth aren't perfect. The top and bottom rows do not meet correctly, and she has a rather large overbite. Still, I would not want to be in the way of those massive jaw bones. I have seen Holly dispatch the most amazing things with those teeth. Once I saw her devour a rabbit she managed to catch She ate the whole thing, bones, fur and all in about three minutes. Crunch, crunch, crunch. Holly can turn a steak bone to powder faster than any canine I've ever seen.

It was a long time before I had built up enough trust with Holly where she would look me in the eye. It is still rare she will make and keep eye contact. As is usual with an animal whose spirit has been broken, she will divert her eyes and take a submissive stance. Even with the other animals, Holly will defer and allow them to dominate her, in most things.

Frankie, the chocolate Lab, enjoys "steering" Holly around and cutting her off when they are walking together. Holly, who is way more massive and powerful than Frankie just submits and lets Frankie dominate; that is in everything except food and eating.

Holly gains a certain assertive posture whenever food is available. I have never heard her growl, faux or real, but she will muscle Frankie out of the way if she is hungry, and food is available.

One warm summer night I watched Holly at the bottom of the driveway under the yard light. She was eating June bugs attracted by the light as quickly and efficiently as if she were a vacuum cleaner. She ate so many bugs that night, and got so engorged, she vomited them back up. That didn't stop her however; she went back for more.

Right before Halloween this year, we took a trip to Rural Wellsburg to walk through a haunted corn maze. I brought home a couple ears of corn from that field to use as seasonal decorations on the front porch. They lasted a day. I noticed the cobs out in the yard, and wondered what happened to the kernels. A few days later I brought up a couple more ears from the corn field adjoining our lane. I put them on the porch and arranged them with the gourds and small hay bale comprising that holiday prop.

Later that afternoon I saw what was eating the corn; it was Holly. She had perfected a new skill. She had learned to position the cob on the ground and with her side teeth rake the kernels from the cob. She chewed them with abandon. A couple days later I noticed yet more cobs in the yard. Holly has now taken to perusing the corn field looking for errant ears not taken in the harvest. Holly appears to love the corn, and I am not surprised.

Here is a magnificent beast, not driven by vanity, but by a seemingly unquenchable desire to eat, and eat in large quantity.

Up near the head of the lane there is a large oak tree. We call it the Gilly Hollow Oak. It is a magnificent tree, even after loosing a couple major branches in the wind storm this summer. Under that tree sits a bench. It is a slab bench much like you'd find in a park or a cemetery. When the dogs take me for a walk, I will often rest on that bench and take in the scenery.

Every few years that tree will drop a large crop of huge acorns. It was while sitting on that bench with the dogs in the grass in front of me I submitted to an urge to pester and annoy the dogs. I'd pick up an acorn and toss it at one of the dogs when they weren't looking. I thought it funny to see them looking around trying to figure out where it came from. I wasn't however prepared for Holly's reaction.

I thought Holly would look around and try to figure out why that acorn just pelted her. Instead, she must have thought I was tossing her a treat, because she picked it up with her teeth and crunch, crunch, devoured the acorn. I tossed several more at her, and she reacted the same way. After eating several acorns I tossed to her, Holly figured out what I was tossing to her was the same thing which littered the ground around her. Crunch, crunch, crunch, more succulent acorns fell victim to those massive jaws. I was however surprised to see Frankie mimic Holly and eat them too.

Maybe I shouldn't be surprised they like acorns. I do know wild pigs will eat acorns with absolute abandon. I won't be surprised at this point to see Holly eat anything. She might not be too ladylike, but she is still a magnificent animal; all one hundred and twenty pounds.

Until next time--

You can read past columns by visiting and clicking on "view all" next to "Local Columns."

In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2011 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342.



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