J.C. Mattingly: A Socratic Rancher 3-19-12 | TheFencePost.com

J.C. Mattingly: A Socratic Rancher 3-19-12

J.C. Mattingly
Moffat, Colo.

One day, Don told me, “The Two Dogs need to go on a diet. Not a huge diet. Just a little off the bottom … and the top.”

It was true that The Two Dogs were overfed and fat. But they were also sleek, as Don fed them only cooked meat, an instruction he’d received, and followed, about feeding the dogs when he decided to take responsibility for them.

When Don started the new diet, The Two Dogs became more restless than usual. One day, they took off to the south and didn’t return for four or five hours. Don worried about this the first time it happened, but when it happened on a regular basis, he decided the dogs were off about their dog business, and it was good for them to have a life outside of the one he provided.

The Two Dogs were very regular about these particular excursions. Don let them out after lunch, they scampered off, returning just about the time he came home for supper. It was like clockwork. Don asked the dogs what they had been doing while they were gone, and, of course, the dogs made it seem as if they were off doing the equivalent of public service.

The dogs, however, did not lose weight. In fact, they seemed to be getting bigger, which defied basic logic. Don was feeding them less and they were exercising more. They should have been trimming down, at least a little bit.

Curious about what The Two Dogs were actually doing, Don tracked them one Sunday afternoon, where he discovered that they were going over to the neighbor’s farm, that of Mr. Roy Becker. With amazement, Don watched from behind a tree as Roy, well into his 90s, met The Two Dogs on his porch and gave them fresh, raw meat, which they devoured in haste, and then sat at Roy’s feet, looking up with great appreciation.

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Don didn’t have the heart to break the dogs away from Roy’s feet, so he went home and waited for the dogs to return. This time he asked them sternly where they were going on their afternoon jaunts, but the dogs, so effective at both self-deception and the deception of human beings, persisted with the story that they were not engaging in gluttony, and were doing only what dogs were inclined to do.

But Don pointed out that they were gaining weight, to which the dogs had to admit something was fishy. Don explained, in simple enough terms for even a dog to understand, that if they were going to be two-timers, he was going to cut back on their cooked meat.

Which he did. And, realizing he needed a little help with this strategy, given the extraordinary deceptive talents of The Two Dogs, Don called Roy and explained the situation. With a good-natured chuckle about what was really happening, and earnest thanks that Don was willing to share the dogs, Roy also cut back on the raw meat he fed them.

This seemed to be working until Roy called Don one day to say, “Well, Don, the dogs are leaving me about three o’clock instead of five, and heading over toward Fred Wilkins place.”