He came into my life just when I needed him most. I was
living alone then and welcomed the company. Just weaned and
best described a ball of fuzz, the little blue merle seemed
just as happy to be with me as I was with him. Like two new
friends do when they are both young, we played constantly
and had the best of times. On occasion, however, my new
friend would tire of our games and hide. Needing a break
from me, he would disappear. I would search the house to no
avail. Finally, I found him hiding way back in the countless
stacks of my books that were piling up in my house in those
days, and I remember thinking, “Well, if my books don't
sell, at least my dog will have a really nice place to
hide.” Fourteen years ago now. There is no way the
previous sentence can be true. Can't be fourteen years.
Somewhere in those early days, I saw a trainer on
television using small pieces of hot dog wieners as rewards
for his dog. I thought that was the coolest thing. (I had no
idea training a dog would be so easy.) So as soon as
possible, Rowdy and I were the proud owners of his own
personal package of weenies. Next thing you know, we are
heading down the road to a roping - with the Row Cow in my
lap eating the entire package. Like most bad decisions in
life, it seemed such a good idea at the time. (To say Rowdy
got sick is one of the funniest understatements of my life.)
Hey, no one told me you can't feed an entire package of
weenies to a puppy. Trust me when I tell you our vet, Dr.
Kyle Pratt explained that little piece of knowledge in a way
that I could really understand the complete stupidity of
such an act. Dr. Pratt kept him for three days. Every time I
called him to see if the pup was going to make it, he would
say, “Like I told you before, Rowdy will tell us. We don't
know yet.” Two days later I'm driving home from Atlanta,
Georgia to Oklahoma when my cell rings. Dr. Pratt says, “I
know you are driving 80 to get here. Just slow down.”
“The pup didn't make it?” I asked.
“The pup made it,” he says. “I'm going to keep him one
more day, so slow down.”
“Any other advice when he comes home?” I said.
“Yes,” he says. “Try to keep him away from his owner.
He's an idiot. And don't ever give Rowdy another weenie!”
And Rowdy grew to be a fine cow dog. Fearless, he went
after cattle with wild and reckless abandon. If he got
kicked by some big bull, while flying through the air you
could see him moving his body fighting to get back to that
bull and mix it up some more. Skilled trainers say their
dogs can recognize eleven commands. Rowdy had one down
pat... “Get him!” The other ten not so good. I decided at
least one of us should learn some manners. We signed up for
a stock dog clinic in Amarillo conducted by the master, Oren
There were twelve participants in the class. Six women
and their dogs, and five guys with theirs. These 11 dogs –
and their companions – had won a number of competitions, and
these dogs were so smart they could do algebra. And then
there was me and Rowdy...who did not know one thing about
math or training a dog. Nothing. No problemo. Not knowing
how to do something never stopped Rowdy and Miguel from
doing anything. But there was one thing. Even though we
lacked any skill at this herding dog business whatsoever,
Rowdy had a black wild rag around his neck tied just
so...and so did I. We looked great! We both thought that was
important because we just assumed you have to look good to
work cows good. Clinic starts and well, things pretty much
went down hill from there.
Mr. Barns began the day with a fascinating lecture
about the history of working dogs. Then he says, “Today, we
will begin with a young dog who is aggressive, and hasn't
had much training.”
I'm thinking, “Man, how cool is that? I have a dog
just like that. Rowdy and I can learn all kinds of things.”
Then Mr. Barnes says, “Okay, Michael bring Rowdy in.”
I almost fainted.
There were 12 Barbados sheep huddled together in the
center of the large round pen where Mr. Barnes was standing.
Feeling like a parent at a recital, I walked in with Rowdy.
He immediately bolts breaking free from his collar. With one
soaring leap, Rowdy lands in the center of the huddled
masses and sheep butts go everywhere. Rowdy has them on the
run now. After free-wheeling around the pen for several
minutes, Rowdy comes over and sits down right in front of me
and says, “Pretty good for my first time, huh, Pop?”
I wanted to die.
With the kindness of angels, Mr. Barnes took control
and soon all was well. The day proved to be one of the best
in my life and in Rowdy's, too. At the end of that day –
only because everyone else was so much better than us -
Rowdy and I were named “Most Improved Team,” and presented
with a 50 pound sack of dog food. One of my most cherished
awards I've ever been given...until Rowdy ate it all in the
next few days.
And the days went by and they gathered speed. Rowdy and
me flying down the road headed to too many ropings to
remember. I wish I had written them all down. Well, not all
of them – just the ones when I won something. That way I
could sit on the porch and read them now, and by using that
process, become in my own memory a much better cowboy than I
ever was in real life.
He went everywhere with me. I would tie him to the
trailer at ropings so he could sit outside, and ask some
child sitting in a lawn chair - by the arena fence watching
her mother and dad rope - to keep an eye on Rowdy for me.
They were only too happy to oblige. Once after about two
hours into the roping, I rode over and asked a little girl,
“How is Rowdy doing?” She stood up and after smoothing her
dress, said in her best “third grade class presentation”
voice, “I've been checking on him frequently, and I'm happy
to tell you that Rowdy is doing very, very well-ly.”
And the days went by and they gathered speed. And now?
Now I come to the place where I break my vow. When I began
some 20 plus years ago, I was saddened by the unhappiness in
the world. I decided that when I would write, the words
would be uplifting for people. I would not write about the
negative things in life, but rather stories of hope about
people, and horses, and dogs who helped me in my life.
And now I break my vow. Now...
Nino Que Amo
(Child that I Love)
Dec. 1, 2005 – Dec. 8, 2019
“To see the light, we must endure the burning.”
-- Alfred, Lord Tennyson
BLUE and MIGUEL