As I sit down to write this post, tears well up in my eyes. I just dropped my beloved border collie, Seven, off at the vet and I’m not sure what else to do other than tell you all what has transpired. Yesterday while in the mountains gathering cows she somehow dislocated her leg. Bad. Mr. Meet Your Beef doesn’t know how or why (they were in a brushy area and he could not see her) only that it needed immediate attention. He brought her down the hill to our veterinarian who took x-rays, told us the news, and to bring her back first thing in the morning so he could put her under general anesthesia and try to place it. He also said that putting this joint back in place on a dog is very difficult. Being around livestock my whole life, I took these words for face value. It’s very possible Seven’s cowdog career is over. We will be lucky if he can put it in place without any further action. Although I chose a career that requires me to be in vet clinics daily, it’s a different feeling when you step through those doors as a client with an emergency.
Many of you have probably heard horse people say “you only get one really, really good one in your lifetime”. I’m not sure if that is also true about dogs but I do know that Seven and I have a special bond. She is the first dog that I consider mine (although I share her with Mr. Meet Your Beef). I had multiple dogs growing up but they were always family dogs and ranch dogs. However, Seven is mine and she knows it. As a puppy, I remember thinking I would NEVER tame this beast! She was aggressive around other dogs and got in trouble virtually daily. Border collies are known for testing patience, being overly energetic, and are certainly not their best selves if they don’t get the ample exercise. I can’t count how many sprinkler heads and drip lines she chewed as a puppy. I’d imagine Mr. Meet Your Beef could probably tell you the exact amount though :). As soon as she was old enough (read big enough) she was trained to work cattle. The herding instinct that this breed of dog is born with is second to none. She picked it up immediately. If I could accurately portray to you in words how much she loves herding cattle, it may possibly cause you to stop and question the passion you have for your own path in life. Oddly enough, after she found this passion, the poor behavior subsided. Since then, she has turned into the most loyal, kind, loving, and eager-to-please dog I have ever been around.
People who own working dogs are often scrutinized for how they treat their animals. Examples of this would be: “Why can’t they come inside? Aren’t you going to put him/her in the cab of your vehicle? Isn’t he/she tired? Why can’t I pet him/her?” Fairly recently there was some local social media buzz going around about how “cruel” it was for working dogs to travel in the back of the truck or in what we call a ‘dog box’. For those that don’t know what a dog box is, here is a picture.
Seven is just over 2 years old and I’m quite confident she has assumed the ‘7 lives’ motto of her not-so-favorite fur friends. Some may choose to demonize how we care for our cowdogs but I can honestly tell you IT SAVED MY DOGS LIFE. Last May Mr. Meet Your Beef was headed to work and crossing a dangerous intersection when a truck pulled out and t-boned (no pun intended) him sending his truck many feet out into a field and flipping it, landing tires up. I thank God that all humans walked away from that wreck with minor bumps, bruises, and soreness. I also thank God that my husband had put Seven in the dog box that morning just like he does every other day. I’m not sure if you can tell in this photo but the dark spot underneath the truck is Seven. And although the truck flipped and landed upside down, the dog box allowed her enough room to not be crushed by the cab but was also small enough to keep her contained so she didn’t slam against the sides. It saved her life. If she was tied in, she would have either been crushed by the cab or sent flying further out into the field. She walked away from this wreck unharmed.
My point in all of this is that just because these kinds of dogs have a serious job, are expected to work and behave, does not mean they aren’t loved just as much as what we would consider a house/family dog. Cowdogs take risks for us humans not because we force them, but because chasing cows is their passion.
There’s a good chance that by the end of today Seven’s working career could be over. And as much as that crushes me, it’s the reality of this situation. I love this dog as a member of our family. And I want it to be clear that most ranchers aren’t abusing their animals at all. In fact, their income and lives depends on the relationship they have with these cowdogs. If you don’t understand something, I’d encourage you to ask a few questions (I’d be happy to answer!).
I will keep you all updated on her progress… as long as I can muster up the courage.
UPDATE: the vet was able to put her leg back into place without surgery although he decided that some pins/screws were needed to keep it there. She gets to come home tonight! We will spend the next few weeks keeping her movement to a minimum and as comfortable as possible. Thank the Lord!