THERE ARE cow dogs, and then there are cow dogs, and Brandy was one of the latter. She could work either end of a cow, nipping the heels of a slow-moving steer or grabbing the ear of a wild runaway. She had helped me gather four hundred steers out of a five-section pasture in one day and pen cattle into corrals with gates only on the outside corners. If I needed to count cattle through a gate, all I had to do was start the herd, then simply sit back and count as she pushed the rest through on her own.
When I moved into town to train horses, she would follow me everywhere I went. If I left her home when I went out in a friend’s vehicle, she would be waiting in the back of my truck when I returned. On the rare occasions when I took my truck somewhere and left her home, she would always be waiting for me faithfully at the door when I returned.
Then, two days before Thanksgiving, a couple of friends stopped by to take me out to dinner. During dinner a fierce wind roared in out of the north, destroying everything which wasn’t nailed down. I returned home to find a small metal shed torn apart and pieces of the barn roof missing, as was Brandy. The wind was blowing too hard to call her, so I looked in the barn and around the farm. For the first time in the six years I’d had her, she was gone.
Over the next two weeks I searched daily. My dogs come to my whistle better than to their names, so I whistled as I rode searching for her along the river and down unfamiliar side roads. Every time I saw a Blue Heeler from a distance, I would have to get a closer look. After two weeks, I had to concede to myself that my faithful companion of the last six years was gone. I could only speculate on what had happened. The wind and blowing tin must have terrified her so badly that she ran away, but then what? I knew she had not been killed by a car because I would have found her body, unless she had managed to crawl into the brush to die. She had not been taken to any of the local veterinarians or to any animal shelter. I would never know the final resting place of my faithful companion.
The night before Christmas Eve, I went to a party with my friend Rachel, and when we returned, there was a message on her answering machine for me. It was my landlady, who lived next door to me. I was thrilled to hear, “Bob there are a bunch of dogs on the porch, and I think one of them is Brandy!”
I jumped in my truck and drove straight home. There I was greeted by none other than Brandy herself, squirming on her side, thumping her tail, and literally grinning from ear to ear. It was as if the other dogs had brought her home for Christmas, for, like Santa, they were nowhere around. I wish dogs could talk so that she could have let me know what had happened to her. She couldn’t use one back leg and was a virtual skeleton from having to fend for herself while being hurt.
The next day at work, she was in her usual place, seated in the middle of the arena watching me ride. I guess miracles do happen around Christmas time, don’t they?
This story is an excerpt from my book Cowboy Romance (Of horseweat and hornflies) available on Amazon