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.
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.
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 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!!!!
Don’t worry. I won’t tell Pudge.
Or the Pug.
Oh Juno, you’re doin’ good girl!