Puppy + Kitty

So this was basically my day…
IMG_2708IMG_8565IMG_8575IMG_8571IMG_8596IMG_8597IMG_8591IMG_8587 IMG_8608IMG_8615IMG_8624All I have to say right now is that getting a tiny puppy and a tiny kitten at the same time is a great idea in theory (you know, best friends forever and all that shit) until said puppy runs out to the living room with two cat turds dangling from his mouth.

IMG_8585

Annnndddd…..goodnight…

Sunday Column: The epidemic

Before I get into “the situation” we have out here on the ranch, there’s this.

IMG_7973 IMG_8007 IMG_7938 IMG_7949 IMG_7975Augustus, aka: Gus, the Most Extraordinary Cowdog, came home yesterday and now all I want to do is run around the ranch so he can chase me. And then I want to snuggle him and smell his puppy breath, feed him treats and take him with me everywhere I go.

You can bet there’ll be more on him later, but I can’t get too distracted here. We’ve got big problems at the ranch, and it seems, they’re showing up by the thousands, chewing and squeaking and scampering their way to destroying our lives. They show up in feed buckets, in grain bins, on pant legs and saddle blankets, on the shelf of the tack room, in my future brother-in-law’s nice clean pickup, in the Bobcat, and of course, clinging to the windshield of Pops’ pickup on his way to town…

mice

I tell you all about it here.

Coming Home: An epidemic has hit the Veeder Ranch and it’s coming for you
by Jessie Veeder
10-26-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

But try not to panic. It turns out I have some great readers. And one of them sent me an idea for a solution.

It’s called “Mouse-be-Gone” and I’m ordering seventy-three crates this afternoon.

And then I’m going into town to get this kitten,

Kitten

which I intend on putting through a rigorous mouse-hunting training session.

So I’m on it.

Because if I’m going to have an animal farm, I would like to have control of which animals I’m farming…

IMG_8008

Anyway, I’m sure the puppy and the kitten, they’re going to be great friends.

Peace, love and puppy breath.

Jessie

“Cow Dog,” defined

Pudge

You all know this about me, but I grew up with dogs who slept in barns and garages, on hay bales and under heat lamps. They were the first to go into the brush after a wayward, ornery bull and the first to be there to lick your face and give you a nudge when you fell of your bike and skinned your knee.

They were cow dogs. Working dogs. Partners.

They chased field mice, got in fights with raccoons, rolled in cow poop, howled with the coyotes and rode in the back of pickups.

Dogs

In various stages of my life out here we had a border collie, a blue heeler, a kelpie, an Australian shepherd and mix of a few.

This place is hard on dogs it’s wild and dangerous and full of just the kind of trouble that makes life worth living of dogs like these, so, unfortunately, some of our beloved canines, due to snake bite or bull fight, didn’t make it to old age. 

But regardless, I am almost certain they had the best lives for them out here. They were made for this place, as tough as the ground they run across.

pudge

As a kid I knew inside dogs existed, I just didn’t know anyone who had one. I knew there were dogs who wore sweaters and had their own place on couches, but, it was like how I knew a million dollars existed somewhere, it knew it was true, I’d just never seen it.

In a few weeks, Husband and I are going to bring home our first real cow dog. I am so excited I’m counting down the days.

Here he is on the bottom, left side of the pile.

I’d tell you his name, but, well, last night we had a lengthy discussion on that topic that I won’t get into, but it got pretty heated. Good thing we have a some time to get this all worked out.

Anyway, I was thinking about this little guy and how he’s going to change the make-up of this place. And how his makeup: border collie, heeler, kelpie, Australian shepherd and Catahoula, is the make-up of all of the best cow dogs a girl could ever ask for…

And how he’s the same animal as that big brown dog laying out in the garage, snoring away a rainy October day, but how they might as well be a different species.

Lab in stock tank

The biggest difference? With a cow dog in the family standing guard in the yard, a herd of cattle will find it pretty hard to stand and chew cud on my new concrete patio.

Because labs, frankly, don’t give a shit.

Lab

And I need something out here to give a shit.

I need my little cow dog.

I can’t wait!

So in honor of Throwback Thursday I found this little gem: a declaration I made when I was 8 or so that used to hang on my grandmother’s fridge, ready to tug at the heart strings of all of the ranchers stopping by for coffee with a blue heeler-cross waiting for him in the bed of his feed pickup…and, well, to put the wayward city slicker in his place…

Country dog:city dogAs you can see, I was pretty passionate…

I promise to never put you in a sweater little guy.

But you might have a place on the couch…just for a little while…

 

So off you go, Pug…

Some of you have asked what has become of the pug, noticing his absence from the spotlight on these pages.

The truth is, I have been wondering the same thing for a few months now.

Because a few months ago, the pug went missing.

And I’m afraid that this time it’s for good.

Now, you’ve heard the stories of Chug the Pug’s tendencies to hike to Mom and Pops’ to visit his girlfriend, or to the nearest oil rig to see what the guys have cooking in terms of food and a warm cushy spot in the campers for him to lay and receive an unlimited amount of belly rubs from nice guys who think he’s been orphaned.

The pug, with his one eye and all, was really good at convincing those who didn’t know better that he was pathetic. But he wasn’t. He was self-sufficient. A big dog in a compact body, tortured by the limitations of his physique.

He was a pooch on a mission to sucker you into letting him on the couch, right after you witnessed him dragging a dead squirrel into the yard.

He was a wish granted to me from my husband after a particularly tough year where things appeared to be coming together, but I was falling apart.

And so he found a flyer on the bulletin board of the gas station in a small town as he was passing through. A picture of a dozen tiny black pugs in the arms of woman.

For Sale.

He was sold.

And so he brought him home to a woman under a quilt on the couch, recovering from a surgery that was meant to help her become a mother, the first of many experiments that have dissected and disappointed.

The pug was a way to take the edge off.

And he did.

Get home from a shit day at work? Watch the pug steal the stick from the lab.

Sick on the couch with the flu? The pug’ll keep your feet warm.

Grumpy because the world is annoying? Laugh at the pug barking at the dogs on TV.

Frustrated on how some things just don’t go as planned? Howl it out.

When I was a little girl we had a cow dog who had puppies and I rescued the runt. And then the runt went missing right as winter set in. I was a kid fresh out of Bible Camp and so I prayed every night that the tiny puppy would come back.

I searched for her in every culvert, old building, tall grass and hole on the place.

I cried and worried and wondered where she could be

And then one day the snow kicked in and I had sort of given up hope, dragging my sled to the hill up the road, and that little puppy jumped out from behind a rock, right toward me. A prayer answered.

Now, that puppy was sick from the start, so a week or so on her own didn’t do her any favors and she didn’t make it much longer, no matter how hard my dad tried to warm her and medicate and bring her back to life. But regardless, I sort of held on to the memory of that little border collie running back to me for the first month of our search for the damn pug, because, well, you just never know.

Every night on his way home from work, Husband would stop at a rig asking about the little black dog. We called the neighbors to keep an eye out. We drove around, up and down the roads, checked the ditches, hollered his name.

I would come down the drive expecting that one of these days he would decide his adventure was done and it was time to take his place on the rug on the floor by my chair.

He hasn’t come home yet.

And I don’t think he will now. It’s just been too long.

The pug is no longer mine. I say that, but I don’t suppose he ever really was. A creature is his own creature, we just take care of them the best we can when we decide on the job.

I’m glad I had the job. I wish I had done better.

I miss the little guy, but I can’t help but think of him tucked under the arm of a tender hearted roughneck, a guy who found a stray and took him home to lay at the foot of his daughter’s bed.

Or maybe he’s running with a pack of coyotes, howling at the moon at night, being wild inside that block of an unfortunate body.

Or he could be riding shotgun with a trucker along these backroads hauling water or crude, a bandana around his neck, his head hanging out the window, ears flapping in the breeze.

Or maybe he’s out saving stray and wandering cats. He’s always been good with cats.

Pug and Kitten

There’s no evidence to the contrary on any of these scenarios, so I’ll just leave it at that and say goodbye now pug.

You helped me through. I’m gonna be fine now.

So off you go…

Spring is…

Sometimes the day is so lovely, you just have to go out in it.

Sometimes the moon shows up before the sun goes down and lines up just right in the blue sky hovering peacefully over golden grass.

Grass that was hiding under all that snow, snow that’s melting because it’s 50 degrees ABOVE zero now, so you decide to pull on your muck boots and splash around in it a little, feeling so good you don’t even mind the little hole in the right one that lets the water in to soak your socks.

It doesn’t matter. It’s summer now.

Your feet don’t get cold in the summer.

And you took your camera, because you need to document what a beautiful mess it all is when the thaw comes.

You need to photograph those tiny bubbles.

You need to capture those trees standing nice and tall and straight.

You must preserve the memory of that rushing water cutting its way through the stubborn ice in the shade of the valley.

You have to show everyone, shout it so they can hear you above the babbling streams…

“Spring is springing!”

“Spring is springing!”

“Spring is…”

pooping

Dammit dog!

If it’s peace and tranquility I’m looking for out there…well…

Happy thaw out everyone!

The Pug: A Christmas Montage

Well, it’s official.

Chug the Pug has outgrown his Santa Suit.

He’s full grown now after all.

An old man.

Five years old.

As you can see it hasn’t stopped me from forcing him to wear it.

No.

For all of the times I’ve chased his ass out into Prairie Dog Town, down the road to a rig, over to Mom and Pops where he’s visiting his girlfriend, for all the barf I’ve cleaned up and farts I’ve endured, and for that unmentionable time, you know, with the cat… this is his yearly penance.

Oh, take it like a man…

That and the Halloween Pirate Hat.

So I suppose it’s no wonder his chest got a little too broad, his belly a solid barrel of meaty muscle pushing the hem of that funny little suit I bought when he was much younger, cuter, had two whole eyeballs and was less defiant.

It’s all that damn running around. Those hills and coulees.  All that death defying has created quite a physique.

So stand still pug. Don’t look at me like that. This is the least you can do for me for all the trouble you’ve caused.

For all the leftover bacon I fed you.

For pug sized muddy footprints you leave on my newly mopped floor, miraculously in the middle of winter where there’s no mud in sight.

For that weird, unidentifiable animal you drug to my doorstep just in time for the UPS man’s delivery.

So smile.

Because this is your Christmas suit montage.

Christmas Pug

Pug in glasses

You’re welcome world.

Peace, Love and Christmas Pugs!

Jessie

What the dog thinks.

Yesterday the dogs ran away.

Now, don’t get all panicky. This is not a new thing. Those damn dogs run away at least three times a week, or, if I rephrase it to sound more like the truth, every damn chance they get.

Why?

I ask this every day.

I mean, they have everything a pooch could need within paw’s reach in our yard –all the sticks to chew on, all the mud and poop they could possibly need to roll in, a stock dam for swimming and drinking and splashing, plenty of squirrels and turkeys for chasing, a big moon to howl at and a nice warm basement for sleeping if they just scratch at the door.

But, apparently that’s not enough.

Since we’ve moved back to the ranch, that’s never been enough.

The snacks taste better at Mom and Pops’.

Or on the highway where construction workers are dropping sandwich crumbs.

Or at the neighboring oil site where they might land a steak, a night on the soft cushions of a camper or a shot at getting into the building where the lunches are stored.

You’ve heard this before. Since we’ve moved back to the ranch, all we ever do with these damn dogs is look for them. Go and get them. Cuss them and then load them in the back of the pickup and bring them home.

Someday we will build a fence around the yard so they can’t get out, but first, well, we need to finish building our own house, dammit.

But this is all besides the point. Because I’m having a moment here. A confusing moment where my annoyance at my wandering four-legged friends is mixed and muddled in with something else.

See, when I brought these dogs to the ranch three summers ago, all of us, humans included, didn’t quite know where we might fit in. The pug was pleasantly blindsided by the transfer from sidewalks to dirt trails, having only been alive and under our care and management for a little over a year, but Big Brown Dog, the lab I bought for my husband a month after we were married, had been with his crazy couple for a long series of misadventures and these days, I can’t help but wonder what the hell he’s thinking.

I mean, when I brought him to Husband, the poor guy’s little paws barely hit the ground before I disappeared for a two-week tour and he was alone with a tired man who smelled like oil and ate an unhealthy amount of Dinty Moore portable meals. He must have been terrified. puppy on bootsI look in his droopy brown eyes and wonder what a dog like him has thought of our decisions through the years. I mean, we have never been a married couple without that brown dog at our feet, so if I could ask him, I wonder what he’d say?

Would he thank us for adjusting our lives around him? Would he appreciate that we searched longer and paid more for the only decent duplex with a yard in town that would allow dogs?

What would he say about our long jogs along city sidewalks and the only time he ever showed his teeth at a stranger? How would he explain that? Would he say he was protecting me?

What about our fights in the kitchen, the ones where I said he was wrong and Husband said I was too emotional and I threw my hands in the air and slammed the door, leaving the brown dog laying on the linoleum and my husband shaking his head. Would he say we were crazy? Was he wishing to be let out and away from the tension an animal like him can sense for miles?

What’s it like when it’s so close to him?

And what about the night we left him alone and he destroyed one of our good pillows, leaving a sprawling feather explosion covering every inch of the apartment and every inch of that brown dog.  How would he explain that? What possibly overcame him? Was it for fun? Was that pillow threatening him somehow?

Oh, and our movie choices. Yes, I’d love to hear his opinion on sitting through an argument between vampires and Ryan Gosling. Somehow I think that brown dog would pick neither and then ask if maybe there’s room for him on the couch between us…all 105 pounds of him.

And all the times I cried so hard, out of frustration or sadness with only him to know what it’s like to see me so vulnerable. I don’t have to ask. Even if he could, I know he wouldn’t tell.

Then I would want him to tell me about the time he heard my song come on Husband’s iPod when I was away and he spent the entire duration searching the house, searching for where my voice was coming from, whining and wondering where I was.

Hondo the Big Brown Dog has a gray beard now. This is what I’m saying. He’s seven years old and these days the years are showing themselves a bit louder in the creaks in his joints and the slow way he rises from his spot at the foot of the steps in the morning.

Last week, after a particularly long journey away from home, Hondo’s attempt to jump in the back of the pickup left him tipped over backwards on the scoria driveway with a shaken confidence and no desire to attempt the feat again.

So I had to lift him. The day came when I had to lift him.

I tried to tell him that he’s getting too old for traveling so far from home. I tried to ask him why he wanders.

But to our dogs our voices are muffled, words cloaked in nothing but the emotion they can feel radiating from our bodies. I knew he couldn’t answer. I knew he didn’t understand, the same way I cannot understand what it is that he’s looking for when he roams.

I suppose it doesn’t matter anyway and I suppose I know what he would say.

He would say he’s a dog. My dog.  And sometimes a dog just follows his nose, the same way, sometimes, his human gets in that car and drives away.

We all need to see what’s over that hill, he’d say…

And then he’d thank me for the lift.

The making of a dog.

Remember this little girl?

OMMMGEEEE she was so fluffaaaayyy I could diiieee!!!

Yes, that was Juno, The Littlest Cow Dog last winter when we brought her home to the ranch in Pops’ pickup. I held her the whole thirty-some miles while she drooled all over my arm and shook with fear or anticipation or nervousness or whatever it is that goes through a little puppy’s head when she’s taken away from her momma.

We had high hopes for that puppy that day. Our old cow dog, Pudge, limpy, gimpy, faithful, storm fearing, fur tangled, sweet as sugar, gramma Pudge is getting a little too arthritic to make it on long rides or up into the pickup box by herself. She has retired to sleeping on her soft pillow under the heat lamp and occasionally accompanying us to the barn or down the road to get the mail. It’s tough to admit that any day now Pudge will take her last 4-wheeler ride, but it’s clear looking into those sweet ancient eyes that it’s the truth. And without Pudge the Veeder Ranch would be left cow-dog-less.

Because, contrary to the pug’s delusions he doesn’t quite fit the bill.

And so we found Juno. Part border collie. Part blue heeler. Part angel and part acrobatic, magical boot sniffer-outer and chewer-upper. (Seriously. It doesn’t matter how you put those boots on the shelf, she’s gonna get them and she’s gonna eat them).

When Juno found herself on her new ranch she was a bundle of energy, fur and timid playfulness. Everyone fell in love.

My mom wanted her to sleep in the house.

I wanted her to sleep at my house.

And Chug the Pug wanted to move to mom and dad’s house.

pug and puppy copy

Even Pudge, who had been getting up slower and slower every day found a new swig of youthfulness that she occasionally employs to chase her new garage-mate around the yard.

Funny what a wave of youth and fluff and plain cuteness can bring to an old place.

But Juno was meant to be more than a cute companion. That’s the thing here. Cow dogs have many important responsibilities, and when you’ve got a pup on your hands who’s only interest seems to be digging holes, spilling the food dish and chewing the fingers out of your best leather gloves, a large part of you wonders what you’ve got on your hands here (besides fingerless gloves).

Yes, cow dogs have a punch list and Juno, cute as she was, wasn’t an exception. She needed to grow up to be:

Gentle with children but rough on varmints who might wander into the yard.

Sweet and obedient but brave enough to convince a 2,000 pound bull to get his ass out of the brush.

Vocal and adventurous,  but only with the cattle.

Athletic and smart and sensitive to commands.

Quick

Fierce and loyal and friendly with a work ethic and an eager to please attitude.

Instinctual. As in: know what to do even without being told…and while we’re at it..

Bur and tick repellent

Not too much to ask right? Not too much pressure from an eager to please baby who hasn’t even seen her second winter…

But here’s the thing, a good dog is an invaluable asset around here. I joke about the expectations, but if they emerge, if they are even remotely met out here on the days when it’s just  a cowboy against 100 head of cattle heading in the wrong direction, that cowboy won’t trade that dog for a mansion in the mountains.

And so we’ve been watching that pup closely, wondering how she might emerge from puppyhood. Will she be too timid? She’s a sweet little thing. Will she ever want to jump in the back of the pickup on her own? Will she come back when called? Will she be intimidated by the ornery cows? Will she come along on a ride? Will she become more than a pet?

Will she be what we hoped she would be?

Well, take a look here friends. It’s Juno.

And there she is way out there alongside of Pops and his horse, bopping and jumping and trotting through the long grass on our way to move some cows.

Take a look at how she’s grown up, that little sweetie.

Then take your coat off, take a seat and let Pops pour you a fresh cup of coffee because if you’ve stopped over you’re gonna hear it.

And it’s gonna be a while.

Because he’s proud.

Like Trail-90 proud.

Like grandkid proud.

“Can I tell you about my dog?” he’ll ask.

And before you can answer he’ll tell you how last night she would have taken that bull all the way home on her own if he would have let her.

He’ll tell you she’ll little but she got instinct.

He’ll tell you she’s sweet but she’s tough enough.

He’ll tell you how she’s so smart she comes back with one ask of one command and this morning he thinks he might have actually heard her say a word, like “hello” or “hi there” or something that sounded like a greeting, and, well, he’s not quite sure but she just might be bur repellent too…

And then he’ll tell you he’s pleased and that she just might be…could possibly be…if he doesn’t screw it all up…

 

The Best Cow Dog He’s Ever Had in His Whole Entire Life!!!!

Ever.

Don’t worry. I won’t tell Pudge.

Or the Pug.

Oh Juno, you’re doin’ good girl!

 

About the pug (I apologize in advance for this)

So you’re probably wondering about the pug.

I know.

Usually I have something to say about this animal who’s always peeing, farting or pooping on something. Usually I have a weekly update in the form of his latest shenanigans involving quests for missing cats, hitchhiking treks to oil sites, porcupine fights, poop eating, a mysteriously broken curly tail or his latest attempt at becoming a cow dog.

Usually I have a complaint about his incessant snoring.

Usually I’m trying to sell the damn thing.

Usually I’m “lovingly” annoyed.

But yesterday Husband and I were outside wandering around talking about all the projects we need to get done, throwing sticks for the dogs and contemplating the meaning of life and the man turned to me and said “Hey, you know, the pug hasn’t really had any adventures lately.”

My mind played through the list of “Pug pain-in-the-ass scenarios” and, not counting the days he sits in my office and farts incessantly while I’m trying to work, I could come up with nothing recent.

Really.

So I said, “Well, you know, he’s four now. And when a dog hits four he’s full grown.”

(And by full grown I mean one of the finer pug-like specimens in the tri-state area measuring 2.5 feet high and weighing-in at 48 pounds of pure agility, athleticism and muscle).

“Yeah,” said Husband. “I guess that’s true.”

“Yeah,” said me. “Maybe the guy’s finally grown up. Maybe he doesn’t have the energy for it all any more. I mean, it takes him like a good 45 minutes to be convinced to wake up in the morning. Maybe he’s seen all he needs to see of this countryside, smelled all he could smell, chased all he could chase and ran his miles. Maybe he’s accepted he’s a pug and put his wandering, cow chasing, raccoon terrorizing, porcupine slaying days to rest. Maybe we won’t have to go out looking for him so much anymore. Maybe we can stop trying to give him away. Maybe we can stop wondering…. “

Satisfied with my theory, I turned around to look at the newly-appointed noble creature we successfully raised through the hard times and on into the good…

And he was humping the cat…

Crocuses and how it could keep getting better…

It’s officially crocus season, and that’s good news out here on the edge of the badlands where we’ve all been patiently waiting for them to arrive, as if the blooming of the first flower gives us permission to pack away our sweaters and pull out the short sleeves.

Well, that’s what I did anyway. I made a mountain out of the sweaters shoved in my closet. I pulled them out ceremoniously flinging them to the floor, purging my room of winter before I stood back and seriously contemplated throwing them out the window and lighting a match on the whole damn pile.

But that would have been crazy, and, well, let’s be honest, I’ll need them again in a few short months. Anyway, I didn’t have time for that. Little Sister was coming over and she had plans to soak up the sunshine and I had plans to procrastinate painting the bathroom.

So we grabbed our cameras and the herd of dogs…

One…

Two…

Three…

Four.

and went climbing around, scouring the ground for the purple flower.


Turns out we didn’t have to go far.





When you become familiar with a place in all of it’s seasons, you memorize where the crocuses bloom in the spring, where to go to pick chokecherries and raspberries in the summer, and to always, no matter the season, watch out for cactus.

We know these places because prairie people like us have vivid memories of hunting for crocuses with our grandmother, sisters, mothers or fathers, bending over to pull them from the tangle of brown grass while the warm spring wind picked up the loose hair that escaped from our ponytails.

I’ve been living back at the ranch for three springs and I will be here for the rest of the springs I am given. I will never forget what it felt like to climb to that hilltop and pick the first crocus of the year as I stood with my husband we looked down at our home.

And we were happy to be together, happy for summer to arrive and happy to stand on that hill for a moment that we were sure couldn’t get much better from here.

Then my Little Sister moved to our hometown and now the whole family is together and close and on Monday mornings I can expect a call asking me what I’m doing this weekend. Because my Little Sister plans ahead and I’m glad to be consulted on those plans.

So Saturday’s plans made room for crocus hunting in the warm sunshine next to a girl who used to follow me on my after school walks up the creek to my fort. I used to wish she would leave me alone then. I used to holler at her to stop following me and when we came in the house crying and fighting, our mom would promise us that someday, we would be best friends.

Funny how moms are usually, most likely, pretty much, always exactly right.

Funny how some things change, but I still haven’t mastered the art of convincing Little Sister to help me with my chores…like, oh, you know, painting the bathroom.

Funny how she still doesn’t listen to me.

Funny how the crocuses bloom on the same hill every year and someday we might have a chance to watch our own children run to the top and pick us a purple bloom.

Funny how it could possibly keep getting better.