J.C. Mattingly: A Socratic Rancher 5-14-12 | TheFencePost.com

J.C. Mattingly: A Socratic Rancher 5-14-12

J.C. Mattingly
Moffat, Colo.

If swallowing an super-bouncing ball wasn’t enough to get the dog Bandit into the Canine Hall of Fame on the first ballot, what he did a few months later confirmed his election to that hallowed Hall For Extraordinary Dogs.

To understand what Bandit did, you need to recall that he was, by nature, a retriever. Toss something – anything – and Bandit would get it, and bring it back to you. That’s how he accidentally swallowed a ball: pursuing it with such vigor that he gulped it down.

Bandit’s skills as a retriever reinforced his ability to catch rabbits. In addition to a natural gift of speed, Bandit’s sixth sense about the direction of flying objects came in handy when anticipating the zig-zagging flight pattern of a rabbit.

When a rabbit zig zags, it makes a pattern – when seen from above – that creates two legs of a triangle, of which Bandit had the ability to anticipate the hypotenuse, thus shortening the distance between the business end of his jaw, and the rabbit’s hind legs. Basically, when Bandit was out and about, rabbits were not safe.

One day, my friend was going to his fields and had Bandit in the truck with him. Bandit usually traveled in the cargo bed, or in the back of the crew cab, but on this occasion he was perched on the passenger’s seat, ears pricked and nose pointed straight ahead. As my friend pulled out of the driveway, a big jackrabbit burst from the barrow ditch, right in front of them.

Bandit lunged at the jackrabbit, failing to remember he was inside the truck. The resulting collision with the windshield did not fare well for the windshield. It shattered into a ragged mosaic of random pieces, some falling into the cab, others onto the hood.

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Bandit wasn’t sure what had happened, but whatever it was, it didn’t matter if a jackrabbit was on the loose, and in range. Bandit shook off the glass shards that clung to his neck as he torpedoed across the hood of the truck in pursuit of the jackrabbit, who, momentarily confused by the sound of the shattering glass, had doubled-back on his original path.

Bandit took advantage of the jackrabbit’s miscue, and with a yelp came within a whisker of the rabbit’s hind legs. But mercy this day was with the jackrabbit, as he ducked into the culvert from which he had emerged.

Bandit did the Dance of the Disappointed Dog – similar to the Dance of the Lunatic Dog, which involves random leaping, yelping and running in frantic circles – and in this case, Bandit stopped dancing long enough to offer an incredibly fierce barking interlude into the culvert – all to no avail with regards to convincing the rabbit to come out again for another run-around.

After cleaning up the glass, my friend eventually convinced Bandit that this rabbit’s destiny had to wait for another day, and they went on about farm business without a windshield, which Bandit found far superior to an open side-window.