J.C. Mattingly: A Socratic Rancher 4-16-12 | TheFencePost.com

J.C. Mattingly: A Socratic Rancher 4-16-12

J.C. Mattingly
Moffat, Colo.

One of Don’s two dogs had a mid-life crisis.

When humans are stricken with this affliction they buy red convertibles, go skydiving, enter running contests of absurd lengths, go ice climbing, or indulge in any activity that is thought to be slightly out of their league, or, in some cases, completely off-the-wall.

Because Don didn’t name his dogs, the dog of this story is the smaller of The Two Dogs, though, having some Labrador in his blood, he’s no runt. He is also the one of The Two Dogs who, in my opinion, was less apt to go looking for trouble.

But, in spite of his relatively easy-going nature, and in spite of this dog having the affection of three old men who fed him all the raw, and cooked, meat he could eat, and gave him the best medical care he could hope for, and a warm house in winter followed by cool shade in summer, this particular dog felt the need to challenge fate: The dog attacked three badgers.

Don happened to see the battle begin from a distance. He dashed over and made an effort to break it up, but three badgers are a match for any dog, even if the dog has a human armed with a stick on his side. The dog ended up with an injured nose and diminished left eyeball, and numerous flesh wounds. But worst of all, the dog’s right hind leg was so badly mangled that it had to be amputated.

Don was broken up about it, but managed a wry smile when the dog went through six months of physical therapy, emerging as a highly functioning, three-legged dog.

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“It sounds cruel to say it,” Don told me, “but I think he’s actually faster on three than he was on four.”

I’d never thought of the dog as a speedster, but I had to admit the dog was more nimble than I expected.

One day we were looking out over a pasture where the The Two Dogs were playing, when suddenly, a gopher and a rabbit appeared on the scene. The four-legged dog took out after the gopher, the three-legged dog after the rabbit, the latter, obviously, being the more difficult target, as once a gopher goes subterrainian, a dog simply has to wait quietly by the hole in hopes the gopher will become curious enough to stick its head up.

Meanwhile, the chase between three-legged dog and rabbit kicked into high gear, with the dog yelping, the rabbit zig-zagging like crazy in its retreat, forcing the dog to make unexpected sharp turns. At one point, the rabbit made a hard right turn, that being the direction of the dog’s amputated leg, yielding an imbalance that sent the dog into a comical tumble, tail over ears amongst the dust and brush.

“Three-legged dog, four legged rabbit,” I said. “The odds were against him, but he sure gave it a good run.”

The dog gradually came to his feet as he shook off the dirt and sticks, then returned to Don, looking up with his tongue hanging out, his eyes yearning for appreciation. Don gave him an encouraging rub behind the ears as he said, “Well, this ol’ dog don’t exactly put the ‘b’ in subtlety.”