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Tom Cotton gave the slightest of shakes of his head, his attention on his daughter’s husband. Sam sat on one of the kitchen’s sturdy chairs. He was leaning forward, his feet separated and flat on the stone-tiled floor, his hands clasped between his knees, his own attention fixed on his daughter and her new pet, an indulgent smile lighting up his face. Ah, but there was no doubt that Sam Gamgee was little Elanor’s most willing slave!
“We was lucky, I’d say. The mother’s a mid-sized dog, at least; and this one was the runt of the litter. But from the first she saw him, Elanor was certain as this was the dog for her. Cute, ain’t he? Not too big, the stars be praised. I suppose as we’ll do well to keep a stock of knuckle bones on hand, though, to give him right things for him to chew on. Good thing as us Hobbits don’t wear shoes—Lord Strider’s said as his newest pups have been the death of his boots!”
“Nubbin wouldn’t eat shoes, Sam-dad!” Elanor gave her father a reproving look while her grandparents shared amused glances.
Marigold came in from the farmyard. “There you are, Mistress Ella! Come out now, and we’ll go see the new calf. No, leave the doggie behind with your dad for the moment—we don’t need the cow anxious when she’s just dropped her babe. I know he’s but a babe, too, but your Nubbin could still be seen by the cow as something likely to hurt her calf, and she might just try to kick him to protect it.”
Elanor was reluctant to leave her own pet to go out to the cowshed, but at last she gave the pup into Sam’s arms. “See to it him doesn’t get hurt, please, Dad?” she said as she followed her aunt out the door.
Sam struggled to keep the wriggling puppy from escaping his arms to follow Elanor out into the farmyard. “No, youngling! No, you’re goin’ to stay right here with me. You could get hurt out there.”
Nubbin stopped and looked up into Sam’s earnest face. Suddenly he was lunging upwards to lick the Mayor’s cheek, his tail wagging at a furious pace. Sam laughed and turned his head, trying vainly to guard against getting puppy tongue in his eye, leading to the dog seeking to wash out an ear instead. Tom grinned at Lily, who responded, “Well, that’s one pup as knows who to make up to so as to assure itself it keeps its home!”
“I do think you have the right of it, my beloved wife,” Tom said. “I don’t know as what your dear Mister Frodo would of thought of a dog residing in Bag End, though,” he added to Sam. “Don’t know as any dogs ever lived there since it was dug.”
Sam scratched Nubbin’s ears. “Well, old Mister Bilbo told me as there was a dog in the hole back when him was but a faunt, a black terrier as his mum brought with her from the Great Smial. Her name was Charcoal, and was quite the scamp from what he said. But as she grew older her become as staid as any old lady, and wouldn’t let his friends grow loud or run through the smial. Bilbo said as him was sure as his cousin Dora Baggins took lessons from that dog as to how folks ought to behave. Later there was another dog, a small, brown scrap of fur as Mister Bungo took off a peddler as had been beatin’ on the poor mite. They called it Roe, and if that dog didn’t follow its Master everywhere he went for what time it had with them. It wasn’t a young dog, so it was with them only about four years, or so him said.
“He’d thought of gettin’ a pup for Frodo when him come as a tween, but realized as that wouldn’t of gone over particularly well. Frodo’d not been brought up with dogs, after all.”
“No?” Lily Cotton asked. “But I know as there’s dogs about Brandy Hall.”
“But none to speak of near either his mum or Master Saradoc, is all,” Sam explained. “You see, Master Sara and his Aunt Primula would start sneezin’ every time them was near dogs, so others kept their dogs well out of the way of either one. So it was as Frodo wasn’t close to any of the Hall’s dogs most of the time him was growin’ up, and didn’t have any when him was still a little’un. When we stopped for supper with Farmer Maggot, there in the Marish when we was leavin’ the Shire, we learned as the dogs of Bamfurlong Farm had scared my Master, back when him was a teen, chasin’ him away from the Maggots’ mushrooms. He said as he realized that they wasn’t likely to truly hurt him, but the fear of them kept him on the straight and narrow after that.”
“So, that was why Mister Frodo was happier with our dogs outside, then.” Tom rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
Sam nodded. “In the end, they didn’t even have a cat, seein’ as both Mister Bilbo and my Mister Frodo loved goin’ walkin’ all over the Shire. Said as it wouldn’t be fair to a dear puss to leave it alone so much of the time. Frodo was surprised to find hisself lovin’ up to our Nasturtium as him did. Am so glad as you sent the kitten home with us that time, so’s him could know the love of an animal other than his pony, Strider.”
Nubbin gave a slight whimper, and wriggled uncomfortably in Sam’s arms. In response to a puzzled look on the puppy’s face, Tom cautioned, “Oh, but Sam—I suggest you get him out into the yard so’s we don’t have him widdling in the kitchen.”
Sam swiftly held the pup away from himself as he hurried to his feet and out into the dooryard, although a few drops made it to the floor before he made it quite outside.
Lily laughed helplessly as she rose to fetch a rag. “Poor Sam! Doesn’t know quite what him’s in for does he? He’s not been around pups, has he? Thinks as that one him calls Nubbin’s goin’ to be small, does he?”
Tom laughed along with her. “So, you noted how big his paws are, too, did you? Oh, when Nubbin grows into them, they’ll realize perhaps them ought to have seen the sire as well as the dam! Our Nubbin’s goin’ to be big as a pony, I’ll wager! I’ll fetch the vinegar so’s our dogs don’t try to mark where the pup’s been.”
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