She’s an Australian Shepherd.
She’s approximately 107 years old, give or take.
She has one blue eye and one brown eye and it freaks me out a little. So do the large twigs that occasionally get stuck in the wooly fur of her backside while she’s traipsing all over the countryside looking for something to chase. Because this is Pudge and age only slows her down when it comes to work.
When it comes to chasing things she’s not supposed to chase, she’s only 85.
Anyway, this is Pudge the Australian Shepherd and she’s sitting on the 4-wheeler waiting for Pops to come out of the house and do some fencing.
Pops is her human…her human who lets her ride with him on the 4-wheeler.
I can’t be certain, because the two haven’t specifically let me in on the agreement, but I think she gets these special privileges because Pudge the Australian Shepherd is the only legitimate cow dog on this place and Pops needs her sometimes to actually chase a cow out of the brush on command (instead of on a whim) or to herd a few strays toward the open gate.
That is my assumption anyway, given the fact that I’ve never seen Big Brown Dog or the One Eyed Pug enjoying the breeze that bounces through their floppy ears as they scoot and bump along the pastures on the cushioned seat behind Pops.
Nope, they are left at the mercy of their own legs when it comes to tagging along, while Pudge continues to ignore them and pretend that they never came to eat her food, tear up her beds, sniff her butt and all out ruin the good thing she had going when it was just her and Pops.
Anyway, I just wanted to introduce her to you because the girl is an underrated fixture on this place. She’s a pet, yes, but also an actual necessity. She is timid at home, lazy even. But when it comes to doing her job behind cattle, she is fierce and holds nothing back. Pure instinct.
Pops got Pudge on hand-me-down when I went off to college. Her previous owners moved to town and couldn’t keep her anymore and Pops needed a new cow dog. She happily fit in and found her cozy spot under the heat lamp in the garage in the winter, in the pickup box in the summer and through the window screen and under the covers of little sister’s bed during a spring thunderstorm.
The dog’s deathly afraid of thunderstorms, so when mom heard the crash and nearly had a heart attack thinking some insane burglar had finally managed to locate her house and had broken in to steal all of her crystal, potted plants and her diamond earrings only to open little sister’s bedroom door to find Pudge nudging her way under the covers, we cut the dog some slack.
And poured mom a tall glass of wine.
Because that thunderstorm thing, I think that might be the dog’s only flaw.
And don’t tell the pug, but I think Pudge might be my favorite.
See, the dog didn’t have a say in where she ended up in life. She’s a dog and dogs generally don’t go house shopping. But Pudge has this reputation of showing up where she needs to be at the right moment and shining her fluffy little light. I think she did it for Pops when she jumped in his pickup to head to the ranch.
And it turns out she did it for me when I came home one winter from college in Grand Forks, lonesome, overwhelmed and a little depressed. My family’s solution? To bring Pudge with me back to college. She’ll love the attention and I’ll love the company.
So I did. I brought her back to my duplex in the middle winter in the windswept, freezing cold college town, introduced her to her food dish, the clipper for her out of control coat (another reason we can relate), and a leash as I bundled up for long walks with my new therapist.
Once the dog got used to the idea that she couldn’t just wander off looking for squirrels like in her previous life at the ranch, she settled into her new role with ease. She slept on the cool wood floor at the foot of my bed, sat at my feet as I plugged away at research papers or strummed my guitar, left fluff-balls of fur all over the carpet, laid in the winter sunshine on the front stoop quietly watching the cars pass by, and in general eased my nerves and made me feel closer to sane as I got my big girl legs back under me.
I eventually brought her back to the ranch, back to her pickup box and back to where a dog like her belongs. But every time I returned to the ranch for holidays or summer visits after that I made sure to linger a bit longer outside to give her an extra scratch.
Maybe she knows why.
But now that I’m back at the ranch, sometimes she makes the trip between the two houses and shows up at my door.
I like to think she’s checking up on me, making sure I feel better now.
I do Pudge. I do.
And I like to think maybe I’m her favorite too.
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