Puppy Boom

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Well, it seems to be a baby boom at the Veeder Ranch, and I tell you, I can’t get enough.

On December 29th, just in time for the weather to get good and cold, dad’s dog Juno gave birth to a big ‘ol batch of puppies.

I got a text from dad early that morning telling me that there were “4 pups so far.” Later that morning, when mom stopped over to snuggle our baby, she said she thought there were five. But it was hard to tell, because she had them in the dog igloo and it was dark in there.

Five pups was my guess. That’s what I thought she would have and that was a nice manageable number.

I called my little sister to report the news and then headed over to mom and dad’s when Husband got home to take a look for myself.

We pulled into the yard just as Pops was pulling in from work and Juno ran up to welcome her favorite human, giving him the opportunity to shine a flashlight in the igloo to see what she made.

“They’re so loud in there,” he said.

And then he found out why.

“Holy Cow!” he hollered.

“What?!!” I asked nervously “What’s in there? Are they ok?”

“There’s a whole pile of them!”

And indeed there was….

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A little more than five I guess. I tried to get a good count on them while they were wiggling and squirming all over each other.

I thought I counted nine.

I was confident. But I counted again.

Yup. Nine.

Nine’s a lot. That’s a lot of pups there.

The mat they were laying on was a little damp. These pups were brand new, so I decided to get a couple towels to put underneath them and help absorb some of the moisture.

So we took the pups out one by one.

And we all counted out loud, Pops, Husband, my niece and I.

“1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9!!!”

“9,” I declared. “Perfect!”

“Oh, we’re not done yet,” said Pops.


“10, 11!”




That’s a lot of pups.

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“Good idea we had here huh dad?” I said to him.

Because it was our idea, to breed our Gus with his Juno the best cow dog ever.

Because cute + cute = so damn cute…

But also, because they will be really good dogs.

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Baby Gus 

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Baby Juno

After Pudge died this fall we thought we needed to get another young pup to start learning the ropes.

And we thought maybe someone in the neighborhood might be interested in a good cow pup too.

But eleven? ELEVEN?! What were we going to do with eleven puppies?

Well, first things first I had to pick one out for Edie.

The Litter

Which wasn’t an easy task, except I liked the brown border collie. She was the only one like that in the batch. And I haven’t seen many brown border collies in my life.

So she was my favorite.

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It seems like Edie liked her too..

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But this one is also my favorite because she’s so little and she has brown eyebrows that match her brown feet and I just can’t take that sweet face I want to smush her and put her in my pocket…

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And this one is my favorite too because of his speckled little feet and speckled nose and he seems like he’s going to be really smart and I just can’t take it I want to scoop him up and put him in my cereal bowl.

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And this one breaks my heart because, well look at him! Those ears! That look! He’s so beefy and rolly-polly. He’s also my favorite. I really like him. I like his white face. I can’t even take it, I want to wrap him up in a blanket and snuggle and watch re-runs of Seinfeld together. He seems like he’d like Seinfeld. He seems like he has a good sense of humor that way.

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And be still my heart. This one is my favorite. Look at her! Look at the brown on her. She looks like she’s going to be SO FLUFFY I COULD DIE!!!! Look at her feet, with the little speckles on her toes. And I just can’t take it I want to buy a pink purse and put her in there and walk around the mall with her peeking out, smiling while everyone declares “What an adorable pup!” and I would say “I know right?!”

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And this one is my favorite because of his brown legs and white face. He looks smart. And snuggly. And I just can’t take it I want to tuck him in bed and read him bedtime stories.

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And this one is Husband’s favorite, but I think he’s also my favorite because he looks like his dad Gus and Gus is my favorite. I like that he’s solely black and white and he has a cool big black spot on his side and he’s going to be beautiful. And I just can’t take it I want to teach him the best tricks and enter him in one of those frisbee catching contests that you see on TV. We would win, because, well, just look at him.

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And this one. This one’s my favorite because he’s going to be fluffy and I love him and I just can’t take it I want to comb his hair and put a bandana around his neck and name him Scout.

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And this one is my favorite because of his white legs and spotted nose and I just can’t take it I want him riding shotgun in the pickup with me anytime we go somewhere so he can stick his head out the window and really get his ears flapping.

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And we’ve established why this one is my favorite…But it looks like she’s going to have curly brown hair so I think we’ll be able to relate…

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And this one. Look at this guy! He’s going to be smart I can just tell. He’s got the look of a perfect ranch dog and he’s my favorite because he reminds me of the old dog we had growing up named P.V. and she was the best. I just can’t stand it I want to bring him inside and let him lay on the rug in front of the fireplace.


And this one is my favorite because he’s classic and he knows it. He looks like he could be in a movie where he herds up lost sheep that got out on the highway and headed to town so he grabbed his brother and saved the sheep and the day. And I just can’t stand it I want to give him an extra bowl of milk because he looks like he’s going to do such a good job someday.

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Oh Lord. It’s been hard on me. All this cuteness. It’s giving me cavities.


But it turns out it hasn’t been hard to find these babies homes. No. One little social media advertisement and they were homed in a matter of hours to some really wonderful families who will probably not put their puppy in a pink purse and cart it around the mall, but might let them ride shotgun in the pickup. Or sleep on the rug in front of the fireplace. Or, most importantly, give them a life where they can do what they were meant to do…chase cows and roll in poop and drag bones from gawd-knows-where all over the yard.

And be unconditionally loyal.

And fluffy.

So fluffy. Just like their mom.

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And so annoyingly smart, just their dad.

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Because that’s what’s running through their blood.

And I can’t take it.

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Now, does anyone have any name suggestions for our new little girl? I would ask Edie, but I don’t think she’s old enough to make these sort of decisions.


Ugh, life must being going good when too cute becomes a problem…

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This seems like a good time to share my music video “A Girl Needs a Dog” again, featuring baby Gus and the photos you all submitted of you loving on your favorite dog. Enjoy!

If you need me I’ll be snuggling something.

Peace, Love and Puppy Breath,


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Sunday Column: Goodbye old friend


We’re quickly coming to the end of another season out here on the ranch.  School has officially started and my friends are posting “first day of school” photos of their kids, some sending their first borns off to kindergarden for the first time.

I’ve been spending time picking peas and beans, cucumbers, carrots and every red tomato I can find out of my garden, fascinated always by how time can transform dirt into food, just like that.


Fascinated by how time has made it harder for me to bend over and pick those beans every day, made those little flutters in my belly turn to jabs and hiccups…and then, soon, an actual tiny human that breathes this air.

Life and time are twin sisters it seems, conceived at the same moment and moving through the world together hand in hand. And just as time creates and grows life in one breath, it quiets it and takes it away in another.


And so it goes here on the ranch, the circle of life we’re made so aware of every day among the growing and withering things, reminding us that to everything there is a season.

Last week our faithful ranch dog, Pudge, gave us the gift of living until old age took her away in her sleep.

My husband came home to tell me the news, then went out to the big oak tree where we were married and dug a deep hole in the hard, dry, gumbo packed earth and buried our old friend.

“One day you will hear the sound of time rustling as it slips through your fingers like sand.” Sergei Lukyanenko

Yesterday I was just a kid shaking dirt off the carrots in the garden.

Tomorrow I turn 32.

Today I count the kicks in my belly, make plans to assemble the new crib in the box and miss that old dog…

Coming Home: Goodnight, Pudge, the sweet, tough cattle dog
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications

Lately the coyotes have been howling outside our open windows, slicing the black silence with chilling wails. Inside the garage, our domesticated dogs rise from their beds, lift up their heads and howl back to them, long and dramatic cries, an unnerving message sent between the wild and the tame.

Last weekend, while I was out on the highway heading for home after a late show, my husband opened the windows to the house to let in the night air, turned on the porch light and laid his body out on top of the covers of our bed.

Somewhere between his dozing and me cutting through the dark miles, down the road at my parents’ place the oldest cow dog on the ranch took her last breath, and quietly, one of the most familiar lights on our ranch went out.

We knew it was coming. Pudge, an Australian shepherd with thick, wooly fur, one blue eye and one brown eye, came to us on a hand-me-down after her owners moved to town. Pops, who had lost his previous cattle dog to a snakebite, needed a new animal to help him get cattle out of the brush and to accompany him on rides.

We think she was 4 years old when she came to us. Lately, the topic of her age had come up often. I was in college, or on my way there. Could it be that she was 15? Fifteen and no longer possessing the strength to go for long rides with Pops, but holding on to the spirit of her job by making the walk with him to and from the barn.

That was the last walk they took together it seems.

And now we’ll no longer find her snuggled up in the her spot under the heat lamp in the garage in the winter, in the pickup box in the summer or trying desperately to make her way through the window screen and under the covers of my little sister’s bed during a thunderstorm.

Pudge hated thunderstorms. That might have been the dog’s only flaw.

Because it turns out she was just the right combination of sweet, smart and tough enough to be one of the few cattle dogs on this 100-year-old ranch to get the chance to die of old age.

This place can be hard on the strongest, most cared-for animals who live a life more in tune with their primal instincts than the couch-dwelling suburban pet.

Pudge tried out that life with me once. I took her back to live with me for a little while in college when life was overwhelming me. I’d take her for bundled-up walks on sidewalks and she would sit in the sunshine by the door and watch the cars roll by, comfortable knowing she had a purpose in helping me find my big girl legs again before I brought her back to her ranch where she belonged.


Before my husband came home to tell me she was gone, I was pulling carrots in my garden and singing to myself, “To everything turn, turn, turn … there is a season, turn, turn, turn … and a time to every purpose under heaven.”

If you can’t see that manifest itself out here, if it doesn’t become known to you as morning turns to night and summer turns to fall and the hair under your husband’s hat turns silver, you’re not paying attention or you don’t want to know.

It all happens so slowly and then so quickly, as if all at once the time has passed and then it’s up.

I listened to those coyotes howl last night and thought about Pudge, who would sit out at night under those stars, just on the edge of the light that flooded into the yard from the garage. When it was time for the people to lay down and pull the covers up, Pops would call to her to come in and she would pretend not to hear him, preferring a cool bed of grass under that sky to her fluffy bed.

And if Pops gave in and left her out there, she would wake him with her barks and wails to that dark sky for hours on end.

Sweet turned wild in the night.

Goodnight, old friend.



The littlest cow dog.

Meet Juno, Pops’ new cow dog.

Aren’t you just dying. She’s so fllllufffffaaaayyyyaaaa!!!


Ok, look beyond her absolute cuteness and you will see one of the most important elements in our ranching operation when spring comes. Every rancher has to have a good dog made to help get cattle out of a brush patch, move them through a gate or push them along to different pastures and Juno is a little mix of some of the best cattle breeds out there.

Take a look at the white markings around her neck and you will see a bit of border collie.  Her little brown eyebrows and fluffy fur is the Australian Shepherd in her.  Mix that with the speckled feet she got from blue heeler blood and it looks like Juno has all the makings of a great ranch hand.

Errrr, she’s so darn cute!

When I was growing up we always had a female border collie ranch dog. Usually we would have that female bred and keep one of her pups to learn from her momma so that when the momma was too old to work, the pup was at her prime.

Pops’ current working dog, Pudge, was a hand-me-down dog looking for a good home. She is one of the best dogs we’ve ever had on the place;  loyal, sweet and always willing to go along on the longest and most grueling of rides. Her only weakness is a thunderstorm.

And time.

See, we’re not sure how old this lady is, but she’s definitely slowing down. We needed to bring Juno home so that Pudge had a chance to teach her some things about life on the Veeder Ranch come spring.

I’m a little concerned that Pudge may not make it that long, but she’s got a lot of spirit and a heated bed, so the chances are good.

In the meantime we will just love on them this winter, feed them up, scratch their bellies and let them know that this ranch is a good place for a dog.

Even worthless pugs who pee on your Uggs.

Yeah, that’s right, I know what you did…

Ah, Juno, you don’t know what you’ve got ahead of you little girl. It’s a good thing you have big paws and a fluffy coat, because there are going to be adventures, cows for you to chase, mud to slop in, grass to roll in and poop to sniff.

It looks a little cold out there now, but trust me, you were made for this stuff.

Welcome to your new life little girl!

And whatever you do, don’t listen to that one…


I’ve been meaning to tell you some things about the pug. You’re all so supportive of him, the dog who, despite his sins and misadventures, still somehow finds a way to sleep on the couch.

Anyway, I figured you might be wondering how he’s been adjusting to this new life in his new home over the hill.

I’ll tell you, at times, it hasn’t been pretty…

And sometimes, his ear does this.

I’m guessing it’s probably due to the wind whipping through his fur as his short, stubby legs take his barrel shaped body across the pasture to try his luck at hunting down this guy:

Nope, not much has changed. Despite the new four walls the pudgy canine is still shitting on floors, hitchhiking to the nearest oil sites to see what’s cooking, working on taming the new feline in his life and exercising his delusions of grandeur.

And every year those delusions get, well, grander.

Don’t tell him he’s not a horse. He won’t believe you.

He will also not accept that he is not a cat.

Or a 110 pound cow dog.

Which is working out really well, now that Husband is on board with the idea that this dog could actually become something… well…helpful.

And so Husband has decided to work on it, you know, making the pug the best cow dog on our place. Which I realize doesn’t say much for the other dogs at the Veeder Ranch, but based on what we have to choose from, I’ll tell you, it could be true.

But it’s definitely weird.

Because the pug’s newly-honed talent has allowed for a fat little pug-shaped space in the corner of my husband’s heart.

A bond 4 years in the making…

Now I wasn’t aware this new role and relationship was occurring until I witnessed the pug stare down a small herd of cattle that had found their way to our front yard, pleasantly munching on what was left of the green grass poking out from under the fallen oak leaves and acorns.

Anticipating that damn dog’s next move, I hollered his name.
I hollered “no.”
I hollered “get back here!”

The pug turned his good eye toward me in confusion while Husband came up behind me, scolding me for yelling at the pooch.


He then proceeded to inform me that lately he had been working with the pug on the whole cow-chasing thing, because, well he seemed he was brave enough, and when told to “sick ’em”  the lab just runs for the first big stick.

So it’s either Husband or the pug who is destined to perform the task of getting those cows out of the yard.

And it seems the pair have found their common ground.


The only cow dog on the ranch

This is Pudge.

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.

I really can't imagine why...

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.

Oh, he'll get over it...

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.

Maybe not.

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.

Need more puppy love? You’ve come to the right place

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