Cow dogs: Rancher’s best friends

Glenda Price

Well-trained cow dogs are
probably the most valuable “hands” on a ranch. When I was young, our
family had a black English Shepherd called Oso (bear in Spanish).

If a cantankerous cow decided to quit the herd, my dad would say,
“Get her, Oso,” and he’d chase her down. Before long she’d decide the
herd looked like a really nice place to be after all.

Oso was a wonderful cow dog, but he had one personality quirk we had to admire even though it caused us trouble.

Always, it seems, when you get to the gate between pastures with a
bunch of cows and calves, after everybody has gone through the gate, at
least one calf will manage to crawl through the fence and head back
where he came from. The baby can’t figure out how he did it, so he runs
up and down the fence bawling. Mama, of course, runs up and down the
fence on her side, also bawling.

When this happened with Oso along, if Dad told him to get the calf,
the dog would run up to the baby, bump him with his nose, then look
back at Dad. The message was, “He’s too little. I might hurt him.” A
cowboy can’t argue with that logic.

Years later we had an Australian Shepherd named Scottie. His job was
to put our kids’ flock of show sheep in the corral at night for
protection against nighttime mayhem.

Dogs, like people, need a job, and Scottie loved his. From
mid-afternoon until chore time he met everyone who went to the pasture,
his unmistakable body language saying, “Is it time yet? Can I pen those
pesky sheep now?”

One ranch my husband and I lived and worked on was in “brush”
country. A rope was seldom useful in the thick juniper, mesquite,