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Life and Times of a Working Cowgirl

Dog Days of Summer

June’s oppressive heat has finally faded into past and July is gracing us with hot days and afternoon monsoons. Our sunset rides are spectacular with temperatures in the low 70’s. The heavenly New Mexico light bounces off waning thunderheads to wash the mountains in hues of red and golden not seen anywhere else on earth. In a few more weeks the native grasses will start to grow and the desert will again look like a prairie, with tall grasses swaying in the gentle summer breezes. These long warm days are filled to the brim on the ranch. There are tourist to take on rides, cattle to check on, hay to bale and put in the barn, fences and loafing sheds to fix and as always horses to feed. This summer we have an additional item on the list. Dogs to tend to, four of them to be exact.

We’ve shared our lives with dogs for years. I’m a bona-fide dog person. I’ve had cats off and on over the years but I’ve always had a dog or two. I care deeply for my canine companions and they are very well cared for, as a result they live very long and happy lives. A few years ago I thought my old dog Smokie was nearing the end of his time with us. He has Lupus and it has taken a pretty significant toll on him. I didn’t want our other dog Lou to be alone when she lost her long time companion so when my youngest daughter had the opportunity to rescue a border collie/heeler cross I said okay. I knew three dogs was a lot but after all how long could old Smokie hang on? Well to my surprise four years later Smokie is still with us.

Last fall Amelia went off to college and took Lou with her as her Diabetic Alert Dog. Lou and Amelia had a stellar freshman year gaining knowledge and self confidence. Lou attended class with Amelia and became a well know fixture on campus. By the second semester however, it was becoming clear that college life was physically a little difficult for an 11 year old dog. Sore hips and tired toes were becoming all to frequent. So in February we found Merlin another border collie in a shelter in Utah. hoping he would allow Lou to retire we brought him home.

We enrolled Merlin in the Assistance Dogs of the West’s owner self training program and took turns taking him to scent classes and public access classes. Before long Amelia and Lou were home for the summer and Amelia has taken over Merlin’s training. Merlin is at the top of his class and will graduate in time for Amelia to take him to school with her this fall. In the meantime we are sharing our home with all four dogs. I’m incredibly grateful for the brick floors this summer!

I could complain about the hair, the dirt and the constant picking up and the endless trips to the trainer and the vet we’ve been making all summer, but in all honesty I love it. My house is full, over full with kids and dogs, there is chaos, confusion and zero privacy. There is also love, happiness, exuberance, hope and kindness. I may never get to go to the bathroom alone but I will certainly never feel lonely. In another month Amelia, Merlin and Livi will be back at school, all the vet and trainer appointments will be over, the tourist will be waning, the hay will be stacked in the barn, and the house will fall quiet except for the faint sound of Smokie snoring at my feet. There will be plenty of time to clean the floors and tidy the house and I will finally get to take a shower alone. All the while missing the dog days of summer.



  1. I know what you mean about the dogs. We have 4!! And yes, they create quite a mess but they give back so much. Glad your having a splendid summer. I would still love to come and ride with you, maybe when things settle down for us both this fall?

  2. Perhaps my memoriy bank is failing, however i recall how as a young cowpoke, you had this brilliant idea on how to do dishes. “Dad just nail the plates to the table and let the dog(s) do the dishes”. Well I am so proud that you continue to get love and “work” from your dogs. Oh now I know what those holes where in your table. The lovely part of “sometimers”, you remember at the most inapproiate times.