Max snarled as Farmer Jake swung the long gate shut, latching it behind him. A sharp, corrective yip from the Collie’s mother silenced him until the farmer was out of sight.
“A lot of nerve he has, locking us up like criminals. I know. You’re going to say it’s for my own good.”
Mona sighed. “If you will simply stop this nonsense of running around with the weasels, Farmer Jake will start leaving the gate open again.”
“Get off my case. I’m not giving up my friends for you or anyone else.”
“But Max, it’s not natural for dogs and weasels to be friends. Our job is to protect the farm and the livestock. Weasels are thieves and murderers.”
“There you go, judging my friends again. You don’t even know any weasels. You can’t accuse them all just because you’ve heard terrible things about them.”
“I didn’t want to say this, Max, but you’ve left me no choice. It’s not just what I know about weasels that bothers me. It’s the changes I’ve seen in you since you started running with them.”
“Give me a break,” Max growled.
“Just hear me out, Max. For one thing, your attitude has changed. You used to nuzzle and play. You were never disrespectful. Now you snarl, growl, and talk back. Whatever were you thinking, snarling at Farmer Jake like that? Don’t you know his hands are the ones that feed you?”
Mona shook her thick mane before continuing, “You used to take pride in your work around the farmyard, but now you sleep all day and run all night. I don’t even want to think about the trouble you and your slinky friends must be getting into. And that stench! Do you have any idea how bad you smell? You reek, just like one of them! No wonder the dogs want nothing to do with you.”
“They’re just jealous. I’m the one having all the fun. I’m eating better, too. All Farmer Jake gives us is dog food and table scraps. Bor-ring! I’ve developed a taste for fresh food. I like to eat it while it’s still warm.”
Mona shuddered. “Son, I fear for you –for all of us. At least you won’t be prowling tonight; or anytime soon, for that matter. I’m glad Farmer Jake has put a stop to your foolishness.”
Mona curled up in a nest of hay near the barn door, keeping one eye open and trained on Max. As soon as she was convinced he was asleep, she began dreaming of sheep in rolling green meadows. A commotion brought her quickly back to the barn and up onto her strong, narrow legs.
Squawk! Squawk! The disturbance was in the hen house, on the other side of the fence. The other dogs were awake now, too, but the gate remained locked. Screeching and yelping sounds could be heard along with fluttering and squawking. Mona began to bark, and the others joined in the woofing, howling chorus.
Finally, Farmer Jake flung open the farmhouse door and the yard was flooded with light. One long, masked critter streaked out of the hen house and disappeared in the field beyond. Brandishing a shotgun, the farmer stormed into the hen house. Two shots rang out, silencing all but the nervous clucking of a few chickens.
Farmer Jake kicked the door open. Two lifeless weasels hung over one arm, while four dead chickens dangled by the feet from his other hand. He dropped the still forms into a barrel, then re-entered the hen house.
This time he emerged with a limp, shaggy form draped over his arms. Max! Mona searched frantically for him inside the fence, finding only a few tufts of his coat snagged on the wire above a freshly dug hole.
“I’m guessin’ ya got more than ya bargained for, Max,” said Farmer Jake. “Those weasels did a number on ya. If’n ya live through it, maybe it’ll teach ya somethin’, ya thick-headed mutt.” His harsh words were spoken with gentleness.
The wounded dog whimpered then, and Mona replied with a long, mournful whine. She hoped that her wayward son would survive and be a better barnyard dog for the experience. But she couldn’t help but wonder if Max’s pleasing puppy heart had been exchanged for that of a murderous, two-faced weasel.
“He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 13:20 (NIV)
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