Ranch life in the Big Sky state through the eyes of one who has lived through it...so far.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sly Dogs

There is no dog quite like a rodeo dog. And there’s never been a rodeo dog quite like Stein.

He was some random conglomeration of breeds, with the slick hair, long legs and squared-off head of a hunting hound, and the classic black and white markings of a Border Collie, which was where he got his name (Short for Holstein. Get it?). Technically, Stein belonged to John, but he considered himself a family dog, and was more than happy to jump in with Will or Jennifer if they invited him. Or left the pickup door open for a heartbeat.

Any mutt can be loaded in the rig, but true rodeo doggery is an art. No rodeo dog worth the name would be caught dead in a leash. They are quite capable of fending for themselves, thank you very much, and would never be so gauche as to wander off and require finding. Upon arrival at the fairgrounds, they immediately stake out their turf—otherwise known as the space beneath the truck and trailer. Our dog remains ensconced in that space for the duration of the rodeo, emerging only to vigorously defend said turf against canine interlopers via sneak attacks from behind the tires. Which can be a tad startling for any person who might be walking beside the interloper.

Did you know a steer wrestler can jump flat-footed from the ground to the hood of a pickup?

Stein was a more free-wheeling kind of dog. He would hop out of the truck, make careful note of where it was parked, then set off on his rounds. First a swing through the contestant parking lot to greet his favorite cowboys and cowgirls and collect the requisite ear scratchings. A leisurely examination of the underside of the bleachers, in search of half eaten hamburgers and stray popcorn dropped from above. Finally, a loop around the concession stand, always with one ear on the action in the arena so he could hightail it back to the truck as soon as the roping was done.

A good rodeo dog is always waiting at the truck when it’s time to leave.

Stein was a very polite dog, other than his penchant for rolling in foul-smelling substances, most of which were organic in nature. He didn’t pick fights or sniff crotches, and never set foot inside the arena (a major rodeo dog faux paw). He had only one real flaw—he considered any item of food held within his reach to be an offer to share.

The parents of the children whose ice cream and hot dogs he filched were of a different opinion.

One March, we went to an indoor rodeo in Lewiston, Idaho. The concession area was at the end of the bleachers, surrounded by a sizeable space that held a few picnic tables. I was seated at one, sipping a Pepsi and contemplating the half-finished cardboard carton of nachos someone had left on the next table. Can a human body really digest that glutenous yellow glob of cheese? My childhood affection for dog food seemed mild by comparison.

And speaking of dogs…

Stein ambled past, in full scavenger mode. He stopped dead, eyeing the leftover nachos. Looked right, then left, then right, wondering if perhaps the owner had only stepped away for a moment. No one in sight. Stein sidled up to the table, reeking of canine innocence, and propped both front feet on the picnic bench.

At this point, a normal dog would have started wolfing down nachos and been nabbed by the ladies manning the concession stand. Not Stein. He grabbed the edge of the paper tray in his teeth, slid it off the table, and trotted away with his prize, straight out the back door where he could savor them at his leisure.

I polished off my Pepsi and headed for the roping chutes. I met Will along the way, wallet in hand and a gloomy look on his face.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

“I assume I owe someone money,” he said. “Stein has cheese in his whiskers again.”

19 comments:

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Sounds a bit like Ole Yeller. Dogs are more clever than most of us give them credit for being.

Laurie Lamb said...

Stein sounds like a treasure. What good table manners! My one dog tries to help me muck out the barn by eating the horse poop. The other thinks mice are candy.

Kari Lynn Dell said...

I WISH my dog would go after mice. She won't even chase a gopher. Really miss my husband's old dog, she was a rat-killing machine.

Ron Scheer said...

Thanks so much. Really enjoyed this.

ArkansasCyndi said...

I've never had a mouse-killing dog. Cat? Sure. But I had a MOLE-killing dog. A dobe, of all things. She was so patient...wait until the right moment to snatch her prize. Hate moles in the yard. I miss Alexis (the dobe) more than I can tell you.

Right now, I have a 15y/o Border Collie. I have really been sad as I'd notice her slowing down, sleeping alot, etc. We started her on meds for hypothyroidism. OMG! New lease on life. Always on the go now. BEGGING for more food. It's like the clock has been turned back to about age 7. BC's are SO smart, so be warned if anyone wants to get one. They need lots of stimulation and play.

Kari Lynn Dell said...

Ron: Glad you enjoyed.

Cyndi: Our rat-killer was a Border Collie, as is our current dog, who's thirteen. Starting to wind down a little.

Laurie Lamb said...

My dogs are Boxers. The first Boxer I ever had also loved to eat mice. When we took the hay off the field, she'd follow along and gobble them up from under the bales. Maybe there's a predisposition to eat mice in this breed.

Kari Lynn Dell said...

Laurie: I love boxers. I wanted to get one, but I'm not allowed to choose the dogs around here since the great coon hound debacle.

midgetviking said...

Such a great description! Can I put a link to you from my own blog?

Linda G. said...

LOL! One question -- were there jalapenos on those nachos? Because that might've given Stein a surprise.

Kari Lynn Dell said...

Midget: Please feel free!

Linda: I've never noticed that hot spices have much of an effect on dogs. Have you?

Carol/Red Dirt in My Soul said...

Fed my guy, Lucas, a jalapeno by accident the other day... you'd thought he'd got sprayed by a skunk, wiping his nose repeatedly and sneezing... it was hilarious! My bunch is a mole killing pack... as per my entry from a few days ago... and mice, yup, them too, though my Aussie is faster at catching them!

Bill Kirton said...

Interesting. I was expecting a 'rodeo dog' to be something that did unspeakable things with steers or performed magical tricks as calves and horses bucked around him. This portrait of a refined, well-mannered, sophisticated hound was a delight.

Kari Lynn Dell said...

Bill: Rodeo dog can also refer to the hot dogs sold at the concession stand, in the same way a Dodger Dog is the one you buy when attending a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game. Same goes for rodeo burgers, which vary widely in quality and digestibility.

Linda G. said...

Kari -- Actually, I suppose not. Our late dog, Buster (aka "Boober Dog") used to pluck hot peppers right out of the garden. I always blamed it on him being dumb as a post, but maybe he just didn't feel the heat.

pseudosu said...

We had a dog that used to get all excited about broccoli stalks (i know, weird). You haven't really had fun though until you've tried to carve a ham in a kitchen with 5 cats in it.

midgetviking said...

Hi again! Link set up.
As for hot and spicy food - that's a total no-no for our dogs! Mischa (Husky-Alsatian-Labrador-Collie) who is ten ends up with major diarrhoea, and Orion (Alsation-Greyhound - also ten) has had two stomach operations to sort out a twisted bowel and has to spend the rest of his life on food for sensitive stomachs. Both dogs still eat anything they come across. And as city dwellers we are required to pick up their poop. Don't dwell on the image... :-)
Have a nice day -- and weekend!

Laurie Lamb said...

I'm curious. What was the great coon hound debacle? Do you have a post on it?

Kari Lynn Dell said...

Laurie: Actually, no, Weezy hasn't made the blog yet. I need to work on that. It's a matter of figuring out where to start.

For now, suffice to say that I owned a six month old red tic coonhound when I met my husband. At some point, he got on her bad side, and she dedicated the rest of her life to making his miserable.