Blackie and the Badger

I like puppies. And when I had a chance to get a cute, mostly Collie and German Shepherd puppy I was ready. After all, I like puppies. (It’s people that I have trouble with). The puppy would be at my house after work. I was excited to see her and had been thinking of naming her Sassafras because she had a reddish tint to her and then I could call her Sassy for short. But when I walked into the house and peeked into the box where the puppy was sleeping, there were two.Sleeping next to the reddish brown Sassafras was a mostly black puppy. Well, I like puppies but I had it in the back of my mind to eventually give the black one away. When they were awake I noticed a big difference in their personalities. Sassafras was aloof and would never look at me. But the black puppy worked hard to get my attention. She would whine and whimper and wiggle just as close to me as she could get. And when I tried to put the puppies in the basement so I could sleep Sassafras would stay in their sleeping box but the black puppy would jump out and wiggle her way underneath a crack in the door and whine her way into my bedroom where she would finally sigh as she laid her head on my shoe.For want of a better name I began calling the black puppy just Blackie. One afternoon I left the puppies in a box on the front porch for just a little while. When I returned Blackie was still in the box and greeted me enthusiastically but Sassafras was nowhere to be found. I searched the neighborhood and even put an ad in the paper but I never did find little Sassafras.Blackie became my constant companion. She went with me on walks and for rides and she even tried to go with me when I had to go to work. I liked the attention and faithful love of Blackie but sometimes her constant affection was annoying. The afternoon I had to do some work on my old Dodge pickup, Blackie ‘helped’ me by sitting on my lap and licking my face the whole time I sat in the dirt trying to install new brake shoes.A year later, in 1978, I moved from Illinois to northwest Minnesota and wood stoves were all the rage. To get my own firewood I secured a contract with the Minnesota DNR to cut down trees in the state forest. On a cool fall day I drove out into the woods to find my assigned plot. Of course Blackie came with me. I left my truck in a clearing and made my way down a logging road, looking for my section.About a quarter mile in I found a section marked by ribbons on the trees and a card with my number on it. I checked for landmarks so I could find my way back and whistled for Blackie. She was happily running around, enjoying the sights and smells of the woods like only a dog can do. But soon I heard an animal thrashing nearby in the grass and then I saw it. A brown badger was growling and snarling as it waddled towards me.At first I wasn’t sure just what it was or how dangerous it would be but I knew it was coming right at me. I had no weapons or tools and was wondering just what I should do. The badger was coming down the logging road I needed to go up to get back to my pickup. The woods and undergrowth around the road were pretty thick and I didn’t know if there might be another badger close by. As it was coming closer I decided that my best choice was to turn and run.I whistled again for Blackie just as I heard her barking. She came running out of the woods between me and the badger and began barking and growling back at it. The badger stopped and began backing away from Blackie. I noticed that Blackie was backing the badger back into the woods making a way for me to get past.No matter where I went the jumping and barking Blackie kept herself between me and the snarling badger. Quickly I made my way past the badger and looked back. Blackie came running up to me and joyfully licked my hand. “Good girl!” I told her. “You showed that mean ol’ badger who’s boss!” And we walked on back to the pickup. On the ride home I let Blackie sit on my lap as I drove and I didn’t even scold her when she would turn around and lick my face.

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