The Farm Bleat: If momma ain’t happy

"It was a dark and cold night, hazy under a three-quarter moon, when I went to retrieve Chloe from the farm."

Julie Buntjer/The Globe

I know "ain’t" isn’t a word, but the familiar phrase, “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” just seems to fit this story I’m about to share.

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It was a dark and cold night, hazy under a three-quarter moon, when I went to retrieve Chloe from the farm. The “teenage” Shichon is, in my eyes, still a baby at the human age of 2. In dog years, she’s 16 — a point co-worker Kari continues to make when I get exasperated by Chloe’s failure to listen.

Chloe is generally ready to go home after a day at the farm, and so I’ve occasionally left her off-leash to follow me to the car when my hands are filled with her tote of food, toys and treats.

On a recent Friday night, Chloe became enamored with a scent. For an 11-pound lap dog, she acts more like a 40-pound hunting hound. In the past week and a half, she’s scared up a rabbit, chased a mouse and cornered an opossum. More about that last critter farther down in this story.

Julie Buntjer
Julie Buntjer
Tim Middagh / The Globe

As I put the tote in the car and called for Chloe to hop in, she pretended not to hear me.


I gently asked her to come, and when I walked around the car toward her, she bolted. Like a rabbit, she raced across the driveway, through the row of trees and onto the adjacent Pheasant Run property. That’s where I lost sight of her.

My pleading, “Chloe, come here girl!” became a somewhat angry, “Chloe, you come here, NOW!” I know, I know, I’m not supposed to sound angry — what little dog is going to want to come to momma, only to get a good scolding?

My change in voice commands weren’t only due to her running off, but also the unmistakable howl of a too-close-for-comfort coyote. If Chloe hadn’t heard my plea to come back, that coyote on the Worthington Wells WMA sure had! As did the coyote pups who answered the adult howl from the north side of the farm.

My stubborn little pooch was somewhere between the coyote and the pups, and visions of Chloe being a snack for hungry howlers filled my overactive imagination.

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Still wearing my office attire, I walked over hard-packed snow drifts with a flashlight that never shined upon the reflective parts of Chloe’s harness. She didn’t make a sound. I thought she was gone.

I even drove to the neighbors, holding a flashlight out the window as I traveled down the road, calling out for Chloe. I’m still sorry for scaring the neighbor girl by shining a flashlight through their trees. She thought I was a cop. Nope, sorry, just a newspaper editor who lost her stubborn little dog.

I returned to the farm, regrouped my emotions and grabbed a dog treat. As I shut the car door, I noticed movement along the cattle yard fence. Walking toward the machine shed, I called out for Chloe. My flashlight found her, nonchalantly scaling snow drifts and looking north, toward the source of those puppy cries. She wouldn’t come to me.

Panicked, I yelled, “I’m going to visit Piper!”


Piper, who belongs to Amy and Dana Oberloh, is Chloe’s friend from the Puppy Park.

Instantly, Chloe stopped in her tracks, looked at me and considered her options. I turned to walk back to my car, repeating, “I’m going to visit Piper!” and Chloe was soon at my heels.

The treat still in my hand, I held it out to Chloe with plans to grab her harness in exchange for the treat. My fingers, though, were cold and stiff and, suffice it to say, Chloe got her treat, and I didn’t catch my dog.

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She still followed though, and just as we approached my car, she bolted. This time, something else captured her attention and she began to bark incessantly.

Turns out an opossum was hiding behind a garden gate against the side of the house. The critter was trapped, as was Chloe’s attention.

I enlisted my mom, who kept an eye on the opossum while I attempted to catch Chloe. The snowdrifts made it a difficult task, and at one point my foot sank in and I fell backward — way too close to that opossum to be sure!

Then, Mom had the grand idea to use Dad’s fishing net — on Chloe, not the opossum!

One attempt and Chloe was captured, and none too happy about it. In fact, she wrangled an escape, but by this time she was too cold and too tired. That made two of us. She hunkered on the ground to be picked up, and I strapped her in her queen seat without a word.


I remained quiet the entire drive home — too angry to yell at her and too mad at myself for not putting the leash on her before we left the farmhouse.

Another Dog Mom might have put Chloe in the kennel for the night, but I’m too soft-hearted for that. I think we both needed the silent treatment!

Two days later, I went into a mandatory five-day quarantine after a positive COVID test. Chloe had forgotten about her teenage antics long before then and was once again my shadow. She soaked up a week of lap sitting with morning and afternoon naps on my torso, and eyed me with adoration even though I sneezed, wheezed, snored and coughed my way through last week. I'm getting better, and Chloe, well, she won't be going sans-leash until the puppy park reopens.

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Opinion by Julie Buntjer
Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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