by Baxter Balick, Rype & Readi Contributing Writer, Flagler Sophomore College Student
The farmer’s dog, Scruff, was an all-around good dog with a rather interesting history: while he looked just like any other dog, with his eagerly lolling tongue and his shaggy black and white coat, he actually came from a long line of sheep-herding dogs on a farm in France! Scruff wasn’t even his original name, but rather Lucq. Still, he let everyone call him Scruff because it was easier.
…well, that and he hadn’t quite managed to get the hang of how to speak English yet so he couldn’t tell anyone any different, but he was still quite pleased with his new home. More than that, Scruff looked forwards to getting to work doing… whatever it was he’d be doing!
In fact, it was in search of an answer to that very question that Scruff was wandering through the fields of the farm, looking for someone he could… attempt to speak to, seeing as there was still something of a one-sided language barrier to contend with. Nevertheless, not one to be discouraged, Scruff didn’t even spare a second to lope up to Betsy once he caught sight of her, woofing in order to get her attention.
“’Ello, Betsy!” he barked happily, his tone jovial. “Dites, are there any chores aye could do? Aye am really bored!”
The brown cow blinked at the dog in surprise for a moment before she nodded with a kind smile. “Oh, of course, Scruff! Here, let me see what I can do.”
Scruff let out a bark of joy, panting eagerly as she turned around… before whining in confusion as she turned back around to show she was holding a stick in her mouth?
“What are you-?” Scruff started to question before he was cut off by Betsy tossing her head and essentially flinging the stick a foot or two away.
Betsy let out a moo of disappointment at the stick. “Ah, I’m sorry, I’m just not that good at this, no hands and all. You’ll probably have more luck if you ask one of the farmhands to play with you instead.”
“What? That eez not-!” Scruff started to yap in protest, but just as swiftly he snapped his mouth shut as he recognized the futility of the effort, settling for releasing a disgruntled snort before starting to pad away, “Bah, forget eet.”
“Good luck!” Betsy called after him as she waved a hoof, entirely ignorant as to the true reason for his darkened mood.
Scruff, meanwhile, was unhappy but not discouraged. After all, one failure to communicate wasn’t the end of the world, right? In the end, there was bound to be someone on the farm capable of parsing what he wanted to say!
“Lunchtime? That’s easy,” Hershey shrugged indifferently. “Should be around, eh… noon? Though seeing as you’re a dog, they might feed you… I dunno, more often? How often do you guys eat, anyways?”
“Ah, this eez not happening…”
“Weeeeell,” Tammie tapped a feather to her beak thoughtfully. “I usually sleep in my own coop, and I think Farmer Seb might have bought a doggie bed for you? Oh, but if you really want to take a nap that bad, I know of a tree a little ways away with a pleasant shade!”
“Sacrebleu, eet continues!”
“Er… seriously?” Cole blinked, regarding the dog before him with no small amount of confusion. “I mean, I know that humans always use that white bowl thing you like to drink out of and cats go for those boxes of dirt, but don’t you dogs usually not care where you-?”
“NOM D’UN MOI, ARE YOU KEEDING ME OR SOMEZING!?”
An hour later, Scruff was lying on his stomach in the grass, glaring derisively at nothing. Almost a dozen animals he’d tried to talk to, and not a one had been capable of properly understanding him! It was infuriating! Honestly, at the moment, if one more animal tried to talk to him-!
“Why ‘ello there, newcomer!” Toulouse, the resident farm goose honked in greeting as she waddled up. “I hear zat you are new around here! Could aye pozzibly help you?”
Scruff hastily clamped down on the growl he was very tempted to release, and instead bit out a terse comment. “Go pluck yourzelf, feather-head.”
Toulouse jerked her head back in shock, her feathers fluffing out defiantly. “Well, I never! Eef you are zis rude normally, zen I shall endeavor to leave you be! Good day, sir!”
And so the goose started to waddle off and Scruff continued to stew in his annoyance… before suddenly shooting to his paws with a yelp of realization. “Wait, can you understand what eet eez aye am saying!?”
“Eh?” Toulouse glanced back at him in confusion. “But of course. After all, I ahm French! Why does zis…?” she trailed off for a bit before chuckling kindly. “Ah, I see! You tried to speak with zee ozer animals, didn’t you?”
Scruff nodded with a miserable whimper. “Ouais, eet was a nightmare, and nobody could anzwer my question!”
“Mm, that would be aggravating, yes…” Toulouse nodded sympathetically before grinning and spreading a wing invitingly. “But now, your nightmare eez over! I am here, and I can understand you! So, what deed you want to ask?”
Scruff panted eagerly as he repeated his question. “Aye wanted to ask for a chore aye could do! Aye don’t want to look lazy, so aye’d like to start tout de suite!”
Toulouse blinked in surprise at the request, and considered it for a moment before ultimately shrugging with a sigh. “My apologies, mon ami, but it would appear zat your quest has been in vain!”
Scruff tilted his head in confusion. “Quoi?”
“Well, look around you!” Toulouse waved her arm out at the peaceful farm. “As you’ve no doubt seen for yourself, zere iz not much going on at ze moment. You see, mon ami, you were not brought here to work, but rather to be a companion.”
Scruff’s ears perked up as he started to understand what the goose was saying. “So you mean to say-?”
“Oui, mon ami, you can relax!” Toulouse waved her wing with a chuckle. “So, with that liberty in mind, what would you like to-?”
The feathered fowl leapt in shock at the sudden impact… but then smiled at the sight of Scruff snoring lazily in the grass, not a care in the world.
“Ah, good for you, mon ami, good for you.”
* * *
Editor’s Note: This is based on a true story! Scruff (Lucq) was a gift to the farmer from a sheepherder in France where they both once lived. The farmer brought Scruff to America and to the farm called Rype & Readi. Scruff loves to be busy and excels at the game of fetch.
Both the writer of this story and the farmer speak fluent French, so feel free to greet them in French if you speak the language, too!