Bill and Old Shep

( Intermediate Level )

Bill is a simple man. He has a wonderful wife, Cheryl, and four children. Two boys, Bill Jr., and Frankie, and twin girls, Maggie and Elizabeth. They have a small five-acre farm in Oklahoma. Their farm was their livelihood.

He raised enough livestock for his family consumption and grew a variety of vegetables. They owned one milking cow, one rooster, and several hens that would keep them in plenty of eggs. All other animals on the farm would be raised until it was time for the freezer.

Whenever his children asked for a pet he would say, “If it is not useful or we cannot eat it, we will not have that animal on our farm.” His eldest son always insisted his family needed a dog. “You said if it is not useful or we cannot eat it we cannot have one. A dog is the most useful animal on a farm. It will protect us and our farm.”

His dad couldn’t think of a rebuttal. He simply didn’t want another mouth to feed. In the end, he gave in and allowed them to get a dog. Before his dad could change his mind, Bill Jr. hurried to town to see if anyone had puppies.

He was told that Mrs. Green, at the corner store, had a litter of puppies ready to go to new homes. He quickly ran down to the store and asked. Mrs. Green told him there was only one left. She went into the next room and picked up the last of the litter.

Jr. looked at this small black and brown fur ball and smiled. “He is perfect!” Mrs. Green smiled, “So what are you going to name this little guy?” Jr. Looked at the puppy and said “Shep. I will call him Shep.”

Jr. Ran out of the store yelling back to Mrs. Green, “Thank You!” He wanted to get home before dinner. He took a shortcut through the neighboring farmer’s fields. He wanted to show off Shep to the family.

Bill was out at the barn getting the animals up for the evening when he saw Jr. He couldn’t quite make out what he was carrying but he obviously had something in his arms.

Jr. met his dad at the barn proudly showing his dad Shep. “Hm, I thought we were getting a dog, not a small tiny rat. What good will he be to us now? He is too young to protect us.”

Jr. wasn’t going to let his Dad’s words damper the moment. “Don’t worry dad. I know this one is the smartest of the bunch and he will catch on quickly. He will be protecting us quicker than you think.”

Jr. headed to the house to show his mom and his siblings Shep. His sisters and brother loved on Shep. He, in turn, began licking each of them on the cheek. “Alright you four, it is dinnertime. You need to put Shep up somewhere and wash your hands,” Mom said as she watched her children’s faces and smiled.

Bill had come in and was washing his hands at the kitchen sink. “So what do you think about Shep?” Bill answered, “I agreed to get a dog to help keep the wolves or big cats coming onto our farm. That guy will be a snack for any of them.

“Shep has made the children happy, Bill. You know how much your first dog meant to you when you were a kid.” Bill looked at her and smiled, ” Yeah, I guess you are right.

Two years had passed and Shep has turned out to be an excellent protector of the farm. He actually spent most of his time with Bill while the kids were in school. Bill’s thoughts had softened regarding Shep after the first month. He noticed Shep was a scrapper and wouldn’t back down from anything.

Shep would sit and watch as Bill worked. He never missed a thing. When a bird flew by or a neighboring cat would wander onto the farm he was right there chasing them away. Somehow Shep knew this was his job.

Bill was busy mending the gate to the pasture that he hadn’t noticed the wolf scout walking adjacent to the fence. It hadn’t escaped Shep’s notice. He began to growl. As the wolf came in closer Shep’s growl became deeper.

This had caught Bill’s attention now. Something was upsetting Shep. He looked and saw Shep was looking in his direction. Bill turned around to see the wolf within a few feet of him.

Shep sprang into action. Whisking by Bill and on the heels of the wolf. The two had run off into the hills. Shep’s barking was heard in the distance.

Some time had passed and Shep hadn’t returned. Bill had finished the gate awhile ago but he had stayed waiting for Shep to return.

It was getting close to dinnertime and the kids were home by now. Bill picked up his tools and headed towards home. Looking back a few times to see if Shep was coming. Nothing.

Jr. had seen his dad heading home through the kitchen window and headed out to come out to meet his dad. “Where’s Shep?

Jr. had taken full responsibility of Shep since he was a pup. The two were inseparable. Only being apart when he was at school or at church.

Bill explained to his son what had happened. “You left him out there? How could you? What if he is hurt?”, Jr. was visibly upset. “He will be alright son. He had done his job and protected me and the farm. He will be back. Now, let’s head in and get ready for dinner. Your mom is waiting on us.”

Everyone was eating and talking about their day during dinner except for Jr. His thoughts were on Shep. Wondering if he was hurt. This had not gone unnoticed by Bill.

Dinner had finished. The children’s homework was completed and still no Shep. It was getting close to bedtime for the children. They had school tomorrow and had to be up early.

Jr. asked his mom if he could take the flashlight and go outside for five minutes and call for Shep. Mom looked at him then at Bill, “Sure, five minutes. I am sure he will find his way back home. Your dad says he is a smart one.”

Jr. grabbed the flashlight out of the cupboard in the kitchen and ran outside. His voice was heard inside. “Shep. Come on boy. Where are you.? Shep. Shep”

Bill stood at the window watching his son. He felt guilty for not staying and waiting a little longer for Shep. He could have looked for him before he headed home.

Jr. reluctantly came inside after five minutes of calling for Shep and whistling. He looked at his mom and dad. His face is sad with despair. “Good night.” With his head hung low he headed to his bedroom.

Cheryl finished the dinner dishes while Bill sat in the living room looking out the window. Somehow he felt he let his son down. “Cheryl, I am going out for a bit. Don’t wait up. I am going to try to see if I can find Shep.

He grabbed the flashlight his son had used, his truck keys and gave his wife a quick kiss. He headed out the front door with a mission to find Shep.

He didn’t want to admit it but he, too, liked that dog. He was a great companion for him when he worked. He shared his lunches with Shep. He talked to Shep as if he understood everything. “It is hot out here today boy, isn’t it? Shep would look and wag his tail.

Bill had traveled along the fence line where he saw Shep and the wolf. He got out periodically shining the flashlight off into the distance calling his name. “Shep. Come here, boy.” Still nothing.

He was about to give up when he spotted what looked like a pair of eyes off in the distance. He stopped the truck and got out. He shined the flashlight towards the eyes.

Shep, Is that you?” There was movement giving Bill the hope that this was Shep. He started to walk towards the figure. “Shep?” Again movement. He walked a little faster. Then the walk became a run.

It was Shep. He was lying on his side in a tuft of long grass. Bill dropped to his knees surveying what he said. Shep licked his hand as it brushed his muzzle. It was too dark to see much of anything so Bill picked him up carefully and placed him in his truck on the passenger side.

Bill hurried home. Cheryl had seen the truck lights coming and met her husband outside. “I have Shep. Help me inside with him.

Cheryl had tended to Shep’s wounds. Actually, there weren’t as bad as they both thought. Once they cleaned him up they saw a few deep puncture wounds on Shep’s front legs and hindquarter and a few scrapes along with his ears.

Shep, most likely, found the place where Bill had found him to regain his strength and rest. Bill offered Shep food and water. He drank a little. “You will be alright boy. Thank you for protecting me. If it wasn’t for you I might not be here.

Cheryl did all she could for Shep. She washed up and told Bill she was heading to bed. “I will stay here with Shep tonight,” As he grabbed the afghan blanket off the back of the sofa. “You head to bed and I will see you in the morning.” Bill curled up next to Shep and drifted off to sleep.

Morning came and Bill rolled over and Shep was not by his side. He sat up to see Shep with Jr. licking his face as Jr. hugged him. “Don’t ever scare me again Shep. You were brave to save poppa. I knew you were useful. Poppa just had to realize this.

Jr. looked over to see his dad watching the two of them. He smiled. “You were right, son. Shep belongs here. I cannot imagine our lives without him.

Now let’s have breakfast. I hear momma in the kitchen and you have to get ready for school.” The two-headed to the kitchen with Shep gingerly following a few steps behind.

Written by: Angel

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Vocabulary:

livelihood – noun: necessities of life

consumption – noun: using a resource

rebuttal – noun: argument

litter – noun:  animals born at one time ( a litter of kittens, a litter of puppies )

neighboring – adjective: next to or very near

obviously – adverb: understood

proudly – adverb: pleasure or satisfaction 

damper – noun: subdue

protector – noun: a person or animal that protects

scrapper – noun: fighter

back down – phrasal verb: withdraw

mending – verb: repairing

scout – noun: ahead of the main group so as to gather information of strength

adjacent – adjective: near, next to, or joining

sprang – verb: move or jump quickly

whisking – verb: move in a direction suddenly and quickly

on the heels of- phrasal verb: following closely after

visibly – adverb: noticed

unnoticed – adjective: not noticed

despair – verb: without hope

mission – noun: the important assignment

companion – noun: a person or animal that spends a lot of time with you

periodically – adverb: time to time not routine

dropped to his knees idiom: literally falling to one’s knees

muzzle – noun: nose and mouth of an animal

puncture – noun: small holes

hindquarter – noun: the back half of an animal including leg

regain – verb: use of again after losing it

afghan blanket – noun: blanket (throw blanket) crochet or knitted

gingerly – adverb: in a careful way

Question ( s ):

What do you think about the relationship between Bill and Shep?