I’ve been fortunate to have had a handful of good dogs throughout my lifetime. Some have been good stock dogs, while others have simply been loyal and loving companions. My current best friend is Bernie, who would have to be described as a so-so stock dog, but close to the top of the list in the “always-by-my-side” dependability rating…until last week.
Bernie has called our farm home for the past eight years. She is a cross between an Australian Shepherd and a Bernese Mountain Dog (hence the name, Bernie), which explains her huge size. I can only assume that the Aussie blood is the reason I can sic her on to any cow, bull or other critter, regardless of their size. By the same token, I’m blaming the Bernese blood for her seemingly, inability to stop chasing the animal until SHE decides it’s time to quit. But, other than that minor flaw, she is always by my side, regardless of the heat, cold, snow, ice, wind or water.
Every single one of the outside dogs I’ve owned over a span of 40 years have loved to ride in the bed of the truck or the back of the Gator – but not Bernie. She HAS to ride in the passenger’s seat, right beside her favorite guy, and she sits up on the seat, looking out the front windshield with the confidence that she could drive, if something happened to me. I can’t tell you how many neighbors have asked, “Who was that with you this morning, when I met you on the road?”
Last Sunday was a beautiful, early spring day, with the grass turning bright green, that looked even greener under brilliant, cloudless sunshine. I had just finished a huge supper of one of my favorite meals – super hot chili with beans. I needed to make my last check of the cow herds, before dark, as I still have about 20 left to calve. As usual, Bernie came running the moment she heard me start the Gator. I opened the door, and she jumped in and took her usual place beside me.
All cows were accounted for at the first farm, but at the second, I was a cow short and had to walk the woods to find a cow with a new calf. Bernie was no farther than 10 feet away from me the entire search. She’s always got my back, in case any cow with a newborn might take offense at me being too close.
At the third farm, the cows were scattered across 150 acres, requiring me to make several passes to get an accurate count. I guess Bernie tired of me taking so long, and laid down in the seat, with her head next to me. The longer I drove, the more my stomach began to churn from the effects of the delicious chili upon which I had gorged. At that point, I repositioned one leg in order to…well…erm…get more comfortable. At that point, Bernie jumped up, gave me a look of total disgust, moved to her side of the Gator, and stuck her head out the window.
Jerry Crownover farms in Lawrence County. He is a former professor of Agriculture Education at Missouri State University, and is an author and professional speaker. To contact Jerry, go to ozarksfn.com and click on ‘Contact Us.’