No(em) Country for Young Dogs and the Death of Mr. Freckles (2024)

No(em) Country for Young Dogs and the Death of Mr. Freckles (1)

ByCam Edwards |1:31 PM | April 29, 2024

No(em) Country for Young Dogs and the Death of Mr. Freckles (2)

If South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem was hoping to drum up some free publicity for her new book, she's certainly succeeded. Ever since The Guardianrevealed an excerpt from her upcoming memoir "No Going Back: The Truth on What’s Wrong with Politics and How We Move America Forward" that featured her shooting one of her hunting dogs that had become aggressive as well as a “nasty and mean” male goat, the governor has been one of the chief topics of conversation on social media, and Noem's defenders have been few and far between. Even fans of the governor, like my colleague Jazz Shaw at HotAir, have taken issue with Noem's actions, including her decision to tell the story as evidence she can tackle "unpleasant" jobs.

In a way, I suppose I can understand why Noem would choose to share this story. She's trying to make the point that she is "willing to do anything, difficult, messy, and ugly if it simply needs to be done." That can be true at times in politics to be sure, but as a leader, character also counts for a lot. As I've written here before, my wife and I first met volunteering at an animal shelter. Dogs mean a lot to us and we've had many over the decades we've been together. If you have a dog that you're raising for hunting and it doesn't work out, you can find a new home for the dog, particularly when it is so young and "the picture of pure joy."

Even if you can't manage to find a new home yourself, you could take the dog to a shelter. If all else fails, you might feel you have no other choice, but you should euthanize the dog humanely. We've had to take too many of our dogs to be put to sleep but they were all suffering from extreme old age and/or painful, untreatable diseases. (We probably could have paid off our house five years earlier with all the money we've spent on veterinary bills.) If the Noem family was operating a farm, they obviously knew and had access to a veterinarian. It's a requirement for such an operation. You don't just drag the dog to a gravel pit and shoot it.

In all fairness to Noem, it wasn't just that Cricket "didn't work out" as a hunting dog. According to the governor she'd become aggressive, to the point of biting her. Pawning her off on someone else might not have been the best option. But speaking from experience, when I was faced with a similar situation several years ago I chose to have our vet come out to the farm and euthanize one of our dogs who'd become extremely aggressive towards my youngest son rather than putting him down with one of my firearms.

We spent thousands of dollars on training for Booker, who was billed as a Lab/Pyrenees mix when we got him as a puppy. It wasn't long before I realized that there was no Labrador in him. Instead, he was the result of an illicit encounter between a livestock guard dog and a hunting hound, and the hound dog genes were strong. I learned quickly that he could not be off-leash or else he'd attack our chickens and go after our goats, a habit that persisted even after months of extensive work with a trainer. Still, I wasn't going to give up on him. We continued to work on his training, but after the second time he bit my son my wife and I reluctantly concluded that he needed to be put down. It wasn't right to pawn him off on someone else, given his aggressive and unpredictable behavior, so even though it was one of the toughest things I've had to do, we made the decision to call our vet and have him come out to the farm. Booker died in my arms, and to this day there's a part of me that feels like I failed him despite all of my efforts.

Rehoming wasn't an option when I didput down one of our male goats with my 9mm. Mr. Freckles, like Noem's buck, was an uncut male, but he wasn't aggressive in any way. In fact, of all the goats we've had, he was by far my favorite. A Nigerian Dwarf, Mr. Freckles was small enough to hop on my back and stand on shoulders like a furry parrot as I walked around, and he was one of the friendliest critters we've ever had. He was also prone (as many male goats are) to kidney stones, which can be fatal if the stone blocks their hair-thin urethra.

One winter day, I noticed Mr. Freckles acting strange; shivering, walking stiffly, and unable to relieve himself. I was able to get my vet on the phone and he explained that there was really nothing he could do at that point, including come out to euthanize Mr. Freckles himself. Instead, it was my responsibility. I don't need to get into the details here, but suffice it to say it was one of the hardest things I've had to do since moving to my farm more than a decade ago. After the deed was done, I found a spot in a pasture where the violets and buttercups bloom every spring, and buried him deep so that he wouldn't become food for scavengers.

Mr. Freckles wasn't our last buck. He was replaced by Chico, who I promise was every bit as “disgusting, musky," and "rancid” as Noem's goat. Chico, for instance, delighted in peeing on his own face and then trying to rub himself on your clothes. He would hump anything with a heartbeat, and when the does were in heat it was almost impossible to keep him from terrorizing them, even when we kept him in a separate pen. Still, we kept him around until my wife finally acknowledged that her fight with cancer had left her too weak to milk our girls on a daily basis, so we had no need or reason to maintain our small herd. We ended up finding a new home for all our goats, including Chico, who may have been stinky but had a penchant for producing doelings; a valuable commodity for livestock.

Killing is something that happens on a regular basis on a lot of farms, even hobby farms like mine. I've killed and butchered chickens, goats, and hogs, and it's never become easy or routine, even when there's food on the table as a result. I'll kill predators that go after my livestock, but it's never a casual thing. Even when my wife or I dispatch a groundhog, it's because of the damage they're doing to the foundation of the outbuildings on my property. I believe that life is precious, which is one of the main reasons why I'm a gun owner. I've tried to give all of my livestock the best life possible for as long as they're under my care, and when it's time to harvest them I work hard to make their demise as quick and painless as it can be.

I think that's what Noem was trying to get at, both in her book and her follow-up explanation on X/Twitter over the weekend.

I can understand why some people are upset about a 20 year old story of Cricket, one of the working dogs at our ranch, in my upcoming book — No Going Back. The book is filled with many honest stories of my life, good and bad days, challenges, painful decisions, and lessons…

— Kristi Noem (@KristiNoem) April 28, 2024

Noem's problem is that what she describes doesn't sound like being a responsible dog owner to most folks. What she did wasn't illegal, and it's probably more common than a lot of us realize. I'd go so far as to say it's preferable to simply letting your untrainable dogs loose, which sadly isn't unheard of where I live. Noem clearly sees it as a good thing that she shouldered the responsibility for putting Cricket down herself rather than call on a veterinarian to euthanize the aggressive animal. I do understand her perspective and I don't think it makes her a monster, but when confronted with a similar situation I chose a slightly different route, and I don't have any regrets about having a vet euthanize my own aggressive dog rather than taking him out back and ending his life with my pull of a trigger. Part of being a leader is knowing when to delegate responsibility, and Noem's political future would look a lot brighter today if she had called a veterinarian 20 years ago instead of grabbing her rifle and taking her critters down to the gravel pit.

No(em) Country for Young Dogs and the Death of Mr. Freckles (3)

Cam Edwards has covered the 2nd Amendment for 20 years as a broadcast and online journalist, as well as serving on the board of directors for the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. He lives outside of Farmville, Virginia with his family, three dogs, two barn cats, a flock of chickens, and an undisclosed number of firearms for their protection.

Read more by Cam Edwards

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No(em) Country for Young Dogs and the Death of Mr. Freckles (2024)
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