by Michelle Coleman, Ag Proud, January, 2020
The line between a good cowdog and a public menace is a real thin one. Our family does not claim the ability to teach a dog to run sheep trials, perform for company or cook dinner. If we can just get him to run the cattle where we need them when we want them there, and if we can keep him from nipping at the heels of the kids and killing the cats, we’re happy. A year of so ago, my college-aged daughter brought home a puppy from the sheep ranch where she was working. He was priced right – free – though the idea of a free dog is to laugh. He was almost cute, and he had the right pedigree: a mix of sheep and cattle dog that promised he might amount to something. After a lot of debate, we named him Bo, a good name to attach to necessary monikers like Bo-dacious, Bo-regard, Bo-diddly and Bo-nut. And Doug. Our son calls him Doug.
The first year-and-a-half with a dog – well, you just have to buckle up and face it full on, and Bo has not disappointed. He’s chewed up everything that can be chewed on the place – hoses, new boots, old boots, gloves, rope, dog dishes – and several things that are just impressive – swings, fenceposts and multiple deer racks.
As far as learning his trade, Bo is so smart and so dumb at the same time it is hard to calculate whether he is a profitable addition to the operation or not. He’s 17 months old, which puts him at roughly the same frontal cortex development as my 16-year-old-son – getting past the gangly but several brain cells short of rational. To his credit, he’s finally coordinated his front and back legs so he can get down the road and, man, can he run. He’s outpaced Molly, our 6-year-old Australian-cross matriarch, and he can’t get over how wonderful he is.
He’ll pass her within the first hundred feet of the daily motorcycle run, just so he can show her that he’s sportscar-Indy-500-super-dog, and then he’ll fall back behind her legs so he can nip at her heels and drive her right out of her mind. It’s a wonderful sight to watch, though, when he’s running full tilt, making a mock of everything on two legs, dodging motorcycle wheels, circling cattle, sniffing after ground squirrels, jumping over irrigation pipe. And then – WHAM – he’ll run right into a tree. Or a fence. Or a parked bike. It’s like watching ballet turn demolition derby.
One afternoon, I was driving my car down my father-in-law’s driveway when Dave and the dog posse turned onto the lane. I stopped 500 feet uphill to let them and their dust roar by, Bo in the lead as usual, and sure enough, as they went to pass, Bo face-planted his muzzle in my front fender. The car snuck up on him by holding perfectly still. Bo is 100% committed to the chase, though, because he took the reverberation in the teeth, picked himself up from a sideways road-rash slide and sped off down the road to steal the glory from Molly again.
Bo has a special kind of hunting technique that is worth mentioning. This summer, Molly spent three days out in the old chicken coop worrying a huge rat until she killed it. She left her trophy in the middle of the driveway for my edification. I was looking at it, wondering why God ever made anything so ugly, when Bo came running around the corner, totally uninformed. When he caught sight of the rat out of the corner of his eye, he went vertical, screamed and ran for cover. Ten minutes later he emerged, growling viciously, his back hair up, shaking all over.
He spent the next two hours barking the dead rat into submission. He’d run up to it, retreat, sneak up on it from behind and retreat again. I got worn out with the whole drama and never saw how he finally brought the dead rat down, but when he did, he couldn’t have been prouder if he had actually done something. He carried that rat around for three days until it was so chewed up and decomposed there was nothing left to pick up. He couldn’t understand why we wouldn’t let him lick us up on side and down the other in celebration.
Yes, we’re hoping Bo amounts to something. Sure, he barks all night at owls and blowing leaves, and admittedly he eats manure and afterbirth, and then throws it all up on the laundry room floor. But when it comes down to it, we’re just happier having Bo-diddly around. Hopefully, he won’t be run over by a speeding barn or taken down by zombie rats.
-Michelle and her husband, Dave, live in southern Idaho where they boast an extensive collection of irrigation boots by the back door. If you can navigate to boots, the door is always open (mostly because her children don’t know how to close it, and the screen was sprung several windstorms back).