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Dusty Dog Café – Winner, By An Ear


By D. “Bing” Bingham

Sometimes a dog’s genetic makeup is greater than the sum of his breeding. In ranch country, they call it hybrid vigor.

No one knew Bud’s exact parentage; he was referred to as a generic High Desert Heinz 57 stockdog. He came from deep in cattle country and, from a young age, showed promise.

That potential was displayed when Randy, his owner, drove the pup through a cow pasture on the back of a flatbed pickup. As they passed the herd matriarch, the youngster got overly excited, reached out from behind the cab and nipped a senior cow on the ear with his sharp little teeth.

Surprised, the old cow bellowed.

Hearing the ruckus, Randy glanced in his rearview mirror and watched his startled young dog—jaws locked on the cow’s ear—get yanked off the truck bed and dumped unceremoniously on the ground. Quickly, he stopped, scooping up the impulsive youngster before he could be stomped into mincemeat.

Years went by and Bud grew into the mantle of mature, multi-tasking stockdog. Whether it was at a branding, deep winter-feeding or keeping stragglers on a cattle drive from taking the road-less-traveled—Bud was there.

One day, Bud had an opportunity to expand his skills list on his stockdog resume’.

Bud and Randy had been in town and stopped by an old friend’s place. However, the older couple was having an ‘issue’ with a sow. This quarter-ton Princess Wannabe had gone ‘walk-about’ on a lovely fall day in the barnyard and refused to return to her pen.

The humans put their heads together and decided to make the life of the hog—who outweighed the dog by ten times and had the strength of a small bulldozer—a tad more uncomfortable outside the pen. Perhaps that’d persuade her to quit channeling her inner prima donna and hurry back to her straw hut.

“Put ‘er up,” Randy commanded.

Bud tried to push her toward the gate and she ignored him, still daydreaming around the barnyard. After several attempts, he got frustrated and sidled alongside, then chomping on her ear.

The sow squalled. Her comfort and joy session rudely interrupted, she ran off in the wrong direction.

Frustrated again, Bud tiptoed in from behind and slammed his jaws shut on her sore ear.

This time, her outraged scream echoed off the rimrock. She accelerated to full-sprint in nanoseconds with Bud—jaw clamped shut on her ear—flapping along at her side like a pair of dusty boxer shorts on a windy clothesline.

The sow realized her dangling dog-earring wasn’t falling off. She ricocheted around the barnyard, bouncing him off fencing panels, sacks of feed-grain and left a dog-shaped dent in the quarter-panel of a pickup.

Still Bud hung on as she raced towards the haystack.

The corner of the haystack exploded, eighty-pound bales shooting in all directions. Out of the falling detritus, the high-speed hog—with attached dog—appeared ready to continue her bouncing pinball run around the barnyard.

“That’ll do!” Randy shouted not sure how much more his dog or the barnyard could take.

Bud, coughing up bits of hay, dropped off like a satiated tick and the sow, shaking her sore ear, slowed from a gallop to a lope. Finally, dignity in tatters, she trotted through the open gate into the safety of her pen.

Bud never did figure out why he was showered with attention and a hearty helping of ‘Thank You’ from everybody in the barnyard. But that didn’t stop him from enjoying it.

The sow never left her pen again without carefully looking around for any lurking dogs.

Bing Bingham is a writer, rancher and storyteller. He hopes Bud rests in peace in the place where good stockdogs go. If you’re interested in more tales of the American West, check… …or would like to see the view from the porch of the Dusty Dog Cafe…