Gwen Petersen: In a Sow’s Ear 1-17-11
Big Timber, Mont.
Bailout, the Cowdog, is a thinking canine. Full of hyperactive ambition, she is wired so tightly I suspect she has attention deficit disorder. She takes her job as livestock manager, deer and antelope chaser and cat herding very, very seriously. I’m pretty sure she has a checklist of tasks she must attend to each day.
Bailout’s duties start at dawn. As the sun sneaks up over the horizon, she can be found sitting like a small gray sphinx on the deck watching for interlopers such as a half dozen deer strolling across the lower pasture. In a nano second, Bailout is on the job – off like a shot to make sure the critters get the heck off her premises.
Once that chore is completed, Bailout then makes a long circle around the property surrounding the house. Spying a rabbit, she goes into a murderous rage. The bunny saves its life by diving under a shed. Satisfied that the lop-eared critter has been properly chastised, Bailout returns to the house and spots a pair of magpies dipping into the bits of food left in her dish. Bailout loathes magpies. Teeth snapping, she sends the black and white thieves popping into the air.
Inside the house, I am absorbing my morning dose of caffeine, checking e-mail, making a to-do list, reading a paper – all those foolish things that Bailout considers totally unnecessary. After all, it’s morning and time to go feed the horses!
As I step outside garbed in chore coat, hat, gloves, and muck boots, I must be sure to hang on to the hand rail. From her lookout post, Bailout has heard the screen door bang. Like a furry bullet she throws herself toward me. She knows it’s against the human law to park her paws on said human, so instead she rears up on hind legs and smacks front paws onto hand rail just ahead of me. I have no choice but to give her a hug. Bailout loves hugs. She whimpers softly until I say, “let’s go feed the horses.” With a yip, she tears away. I climb into my pickup. Bailout won’t ride in the truck unless forced. She’s been that way ever since I took her to the doggie Doc for her no-puppies operation. She’ll ride on the four-wheeler, standing on hind legs, front feet on fender, nose into the wind – but get in the pickup? Her expression says, “No way am I falling for that again!”
She runs ahead of the truck, a furry gray streak. At the corner where the road either continues toward town or veers to aim for the corral, she stops, looks back, head cocked, making sure that I turn in the correct direction.
From inside the corral, Sugarbuns the saddle mare, nickers a greeting and whacks a wood panel with a front hoof. Bailout rushes forward. Two sharp woofs tell the mare to stop that! I debark from pickup, enter hay barn and commence forking hay to six horses. Meanwhile Bailout checks the territory around the corrals and barn. It’s another of her serious responsibilities because under the barn there may be some nasty rabbits in need of discipline.
Once that task is properly taken care of Bailout joins me inside the haybarn. Duty calls her to climb to the top of the stack, leap from bale to bale, sniffing any hole, space, or gap. Who knows what evil may lurk within? Overhead, pigeons lingering on a rafter, must be told in dog-language to fly off.
Having taken care of that routine to her satisfaction, Bailout rushes out again. As mentioned, she is a thinking bow-wow. She has stashed goodies in spots only she knows. This morning as I was breaking ice in the watertank, I looked up to see Bailout carrying what appeared to be the hind leg of a deer – a long dead deer. Head held high to keep the leg from dragging on the ground, she trotted into the haybarn, dropped the leg in front of the spot where I’d been pulling off bales. The terrain was deep in loose hay. Bailout dug a shallow trench, shoved the leg into it, then proceeded to cover all, using her nose as a shovel.
Bailout lets me feed her at the house after chores are done so I assume she’s saving the deer leg for a later snack. I didn’t ask and she didn’t say.