Posted January 20th, 2014 — Filed in Stockdogs
During the first part of 2012 Bud started writing a series of stories about the dogs we have known in our life. The Stockdog Journal started putting them in their magazine. I intended to post each article to our website as soon as it was published, but about this time Bud became ill with the cancer that ended his life in November of 2012. Anyway, I think it’s about time that I post them for all of the folks who have told me over the years how much they like Bud’s dog stories.
#1 Published in Vol 4 – Issue 4 (Mar-Apr 2012) Stockdog Journal
I’d like to write about some of the stock dogs that Eunice and I have worked with during our lifetime together – which will be 60 years July 25, 2012.
During the last 75 years the thinking about what a working dog is has really changed. When I was young we didn’t have radios or televisions, that meant that many of our evenings were spent setting around the wood stove while the older people told stories about things that had happened during their life. Many of these stories were about dogs that were used to work animals.
My grandfather had sheep and angora goats. The goats were herded for most of the year in the mountains of south-western Oregon. My father had 3 older brothers. When Dad was 9 years old it was time for him to start taking his turn herding the goats. Each brother would stay with the goats for one week then the next brother would come with supplies for the next week and stay to herd the goats. There was three dogs with the herd of 500 to 600 nannies plus their kids. Two of the dogs were herding dogs and the third dog was their coyote dog or what would be called a guard dog today.
In the morning the herder would start the goats in the direction that they wanted them to graze for the day. The dogs would stay with the goats while the herder went back to camp and did what chores were necessary. Then he would go find where the goats were and stay with them while the goats bedded down during the middle of the day. When the goats started getting up off of the bed-ground some of the kids were still asleep. When they woke up they would often just start running in the direction that they were headed and the nanny would seldom go back to get them. It was important for the herder to wake these kids up and head them in the direction of the herd. Dad said that one of the herding dogs would go to one of the kids that was asleep, and getting the kid between the dog’s front legs, would turn the kid in the direction the goats were headed then let the kid go.
During the day the herding dogs never left the goats, the dogs would just keep them in a loose herd and let them graze in the proper direction. The herder would have to move camp, kill game, make jerky and do many chores because there wasn’t many of the things people have today to make camping easy. This meant that the dogs were on their own for several hours at a time and still would keep the goats together, going the right direction and grazing like the goats should.
My grandfather bought 200 sheep from a man that was trailing them through the country, this was before there were many ways to haul animals. It took grandfather one long day with the wagon to go to town, one day in town, one day back home. They went to town twice a year. There were 7 children in the family and two kids got to go each trip to town, that meant every two-and-a-half years each child would get a trip to town.
Back to the 200 sheep. After buying the sheep grandfather said he didn’t want the dog that was with them. The man selling the sheep said that was too bad because that dog never left the sheep. The man was right, that dog lived with the sheep and nobody could – or even wanted to catch the dog. Dad said they tried one time to catch the dog and decided real quick they really didn’t want to. Yet any time they wanted to move the sheep all that had to be done was to start moving the sheep, then go the direction you wanted the sheep to go and the dog would bring them anywhere you wanted.
This was what my father thought stock dogs were and while I was growing up we always had a least one dog and that was the way they worked. The dogs knew their job or learned their job and then did it, there were no commands except when we were done or just wanted to call them to us.
Then I grew up, got married and went to work on a large ranch in Northern California where every cowboy had two or three dogs that were nothing like my fathers dogs and my life with dogs really changed. . . . .
Eunice’s 2-cents worth …
My father herded sheep in Idaho before he married my mother. My favorite memories of Dad was curling up on the sofa beside him and listening to his stories of the dogs and horses of those times. He said that about once a month a “camp tender” would come out from headquarters with supplies and help move the sheep camp to a new area. He said that one time the camp tender told him that one of the herders that he supplied had died over a week before, but the dogs still had the sheep under control. They would take them out to graze in the mornings and bring them back to the camp at night.
#2 Blaze & Ringo Published in Vol 4 Issue 5 (Jul-Aug 2012) The Stockdog Journal
After leaving home, getting married and working at several different jobs Eunice and I went to work in 1957 on a mountain ranch in northwestern California. This was a cowboy ranch in every way and there were some really good cowboys working there. This was a whole new world to a person that was raised on a farm with mostly dairy cows and work horses. Our farm cows were gentle and the horses were kind, gentle and safe.
At this ranch the cows were really wild and the horses were anything but kind, gentle or safe. I didn’t like the way the cows were worked or the kind of horses they had and would have quit except that I really liked the working dogs. Each cowboy had two or three dogs and while the dogs were good at the job they had to do they were quite different from the farm dogs I was familiar with. After seeing these dogs work I really wanted to have some of my own and learn how to work with them.
These dogs knew one thing and that was to stop animals and bring them back or hold them until the cowboys could get there. These dogs were really good and would have tried to stop a freight train if it had cattle on it. The cowboy would send the dog with “Get Ahead” and could stop the dogs if they had a pocket full of rocks. It was mainly send the dog, then call it off with rocks. The cowboy never used their dogs to drive animals as they figured that would interfere with the dog’s ability to go to the lead of wild stock in the rough country. Right or wrong that is what their reason was – to only use the dogs to go to the lead and stop animals. The cowboys knew they could drive the animals and only needed help to stop them. They wanted to be sure that their dogs would absolutely go completely to the lead and stop everything.
We were able to borrow a dog from a rancher friend that lived in the area. Blaze was about 6-years old and was an average cowdog, not too good and not too bad. The reason that our friend was willing to let me use him was because Blaze didn’t like to work with other dogs and he was not quite enough dog to work these cows alone. We were able to get a one year old dog that we called Ringo. Ringo hadn’t been around cattle but he was from good working stock.
There were lots of deer on that ranch and before we would get to the cows (1-2 hours horseback ride) the dogs would see some deer and Blaze would just start running then turn and come back but Ringo was off to chase the deer and was gone for the day. Blaze never chased deer and it took me a little while before I realized that he was intentionally luring Ringo to chase them then he got to work alone.
There were a few other things Blaze did that made me realize how smart dogs really are. After I got Ringo to where he wouldn’t chase deer – when I’d send both dogs, Blaze who was the fastest would let Ringo go in the lead. When Ringo got up to full speed Blaze would catch up and bump his shoulder as he went by just enough to trip Ringo up and cause him to go end-over-end, then Blaze could beat him to the cattle. Sometimes Ringo would be so confused that he would just come back to me, then Blaze would get to work alone which was what be wanted all along.
Blaze was a good teacher he taught me many things about how smart animals are and how much they are able to learn on their own, because no one ever taught him to do some of the things he did. After a year I gave Blaze back to the rancher, and also gave him Ringo in payment for letting me use Blaze and for the education.
Blaze never got any better as he was way ahead of me on the knowledge scale but he did teach me a lot. Every dog that I’ve had after that was able to teach me something and I even got to where it was possible for me to teach (actually, “to let”) a few dogs learn how to get better. Some were able to get really good because of Blaze showing me that animals can learn a lot if we will let them and at the same time be careful how much we try to “help.”
Eunice’s 2-cents worth . . . Blaze and Ringo did learn to work together and we were able do a pretty good job of keeping the cows on the mountain instead of hanging on the creek all summer like they usually did.
In those days some of the ranchers would turn weaned pigs out on the mountain to fatten on acorns. Ringo really shined at working them.
#3 Baldy Published in Vol. 4 Issue 6 (Sep-Oct 2012) The Stockdog Journal
December of 1959 Eunice and I got a job to lamb out sheep on a ranch along the north coast of California. No one lived at this ranch except for the month or so during lambing, the rest of the year people would just come from the other ranches they owned to look after the sheep.
The owner drove me up to look at where we would stay. No one had lived there for years but it was a great old house. I went back to get Eunice and the things we would need to stay at our new home. I also would need a “sheep dog” to help with the work. I had no idea where to find a dog and didn’t have much money to buy one. I asked George, a rancher friend who always had good cowdogs and asked if he knew where we could get a dog that was started on sheep. George didn’t know where we could get a sheepdog but he had a dog that he had worked a little on cattle but he didn’t have enough force and he thought he might make a dog that would work sheep. Baldy was a black and white McNab with a nearly all white head.
I’d worked with my fathers sheep and figured that lambing sheep in the mountains shouldn’t be that different. My father’s sheep were gentle and easy to work, with small open pastures. These sheep were very wild and the pastures were big and rough, with lots of brush and timber. The owner had showed me where the house was but not where the property lines were. The sheep were in every pasture and it was my job with my new sheepdog to get them together and in one pasture for the start of lambing in January. I started out gathering the sheep and figured that when I came to a different breed of sheep this must be someone else’s place. It took us about 3 days to get the 900 ewes into one pasture.
Then some of the crew from the main ranch come out and we corralled the sheep to get out about 20 lambs that were still with the ewes. They brought a small truck to haul the lambs back to the main ranch. After sorting the lambs off, the ewes were turned into a 200-300 acre holding pasture since we were going to tag them the next day. When we started loading the lambs, one got out between the truck and the chute and was now out where the ewes were. Queenie, a little Border Collie belonging to the ranch was lying by the truck and when the lamb took off running someone just made a little hissing noise and she was gone. About 5 minutes later Queenie came back with the lamb. It had run up into the middle of 900 ewes and Queenie, with no help, in fact the people paid no attention they just kept on loading the other lambs, brought it back. When someone saw her with the lamb, he opened the gate for her and they put the lamb on the truck.
This was my kind of dog and knew I just had to have one like it. Well, Baldy wasn’t that kind of a dog. He may have been the best dog I ever had, he certainly wasn’t the best working dog or even close, but he taught me more than any dog or person ever taught me about how to work with a dog. There were many days that I was ready to give up on ever having a good dog but Baldy never gave up on me. Everyday he would still go with me, it didn’t matter to him how many mistakes I made or if things were right or wrong. Baldy seemed to understand that he wasn’t that good it just took him a while to make me understand that I wasn’t that good either and that we both just needed to work together and get better.
While Baldy never did get to be a top sheepdog he was lots of help and did learn how to do his job. Eunice really liked the dogs but she almost hated Baldy. When we were working sheep Baldy had learned what needed to be done and even if Eunice was there to take care of something Baldy would work just in front of her as he didn’t trust her to do it right.
When driving sheep there were places where they would turn into the timber instead of going where we wanted. This would be where you couldn’t see until the sheep were already in the timber. Baldy had learned where these places were and he didn’t wait until he was sent to bring them back, he would go, and be there before the sheep turned into the timber. Baldy was also a lot of help when I was trying to use a young dog while moving sheep. If there were some sheep off to the side I would keep Baldy from going to get them and send the young dog. If the pup was having trouble and I would try to send Baldy, he would look at me like “How will the pup ever learn if I always go help it?” He didn’t go either, and I had to keep working until the young dog was able to get the job done. Baldy had spent many hours learning how to fix his mistakes and he made me realize that the young dog had just as well learn how to fix his mistakes right now, while Baldy and I were there to help (even if Baldy wasn’t going to help). I did finally realize that Baldy was helping even though he didn’t help get the sheep. It was interesting that even though Baldy would never quit me and he was not a real good sheepdog he was still able, in his way, to show me what was the best thing to do most of the time.
We only had Baldy for a short time, a neighbor was using him and while running down a steep hill to stop some wild sheep, he tripped and fell, breaking his neck. I’ll always remember Baldy as the dog that taught me the most about working with “working dogs”.
Eunice’s 2-cents worth . . . When we came home from working, we would tell Baldy to “Go to the barn.” We left the sliding door open wide enough for him to go in and out. There was a water trough just outside the door. In the morning from the house, we could see him looking out the door. Bud would holler “OK.” and Baldy would come out and drink and drink. We didn’t imagine that he wouldn’t come out in the night to drink. We had to put a bucket of water in the barn for him.
When it was time to mark the lambs, Charlie, one of the McBride Ranch foremen, and several others came to help us gather. Charlie always had good dogs, but he had just lost his trained dogs to a Lepto outbreak. We had a very difficult place to put the sheep into the corral. Of course we know better now, but back then we ended up with 900 ewes in the lead and at least 200 lambs on the back end. We had dismounted and tied our horses along the fence and were attempting to get the sheep into the corral. Charlie just had a couple of pups with him that weren’t much help. Often a bunch of lambs would break and Baldy would bring them back. Jimmy, manager of another of McBride’s ranches said, “Can you make Baldy Bark?” Bud would clap his hands and Baldy would bark, and we were making good progress at getting the sheep in. Charlie was pretty frustrated with his pups and made the comment that “That damned barking dog is getting my pups all excited and causing them to run wild.” Bud quietly told Baldy to “Go to the horse.” It took us another couple of hours to get the sheep into the corral. A bunch of lambs would break back and run right by Baldy and the horses but he wouldn’t even look up. Bud was young and he has always been a great walker, so he didn’t mind having to run back on foot to bring the lambs back. Charlie and Jimmy were older and were pretty pooped by the time we had the sheep in the corral. Later a friend told us that Charlie had made the comment “Bud is a pretty good hand, but you’d better not say anything bad about his dog!”
#4 Baldy (more) Published in Vol. 5 Issue 1 (Nov-Dec 2012) The Stockdog Journal
After we got Baldy and started working with the sheep was some interesting times. Baldy had only been around cattle a few times and had never even seen a sheep. I had been around sheep a lot but they were gentle sheep in a smaller area. I’d seen my father’s dog work but she knew what was wanted and just did the job on her own. I had spent a little time working with cowdogs. Baldy had to learn in a large area with really wild sheep and I had to learn almost everything that a person needed to know to do the job I was hired to do. This meant that we started out learning together, with each of us having the same amount of knowledge at the beginning.
It has been my experience over the years that animals, especially dogs and horses, learn the basic things much faster than people do. That means that Baldy learned and stayed ahead of me most of the time. It seemed that the only thing that held him back was waiting on me to catch up. When I finally started to learn enough to know I didn’t know very much, good things started to happen.
Baldy was getting much better and the sheep were working better and much easier. I quickly learned – well, not too quickly, maybe finally is a better word, that the best way for me to work animals with the dog was to let the dog use what it did best and him control the animals. When we first started it was trial and error with mainly error. The sheep would run as soon as they saw us, I would send Baldy he would stop them and the sheep would start running a different way. They would have run if Baldy had stopped or even if he had hid. When we started working the sheep they only knew one thing and that was to run as fast as they could and try to hide when they got out of sight.
When the sheep got out of my sight it would be impossible for me to direct Baldy, yet he still had to keep working or lose the sheep. This is when I started to realize why Queenie, the little Border Collie was able to go into a large herd of sheep and bring back one lamb (the right lamb) was because she knew how to work animals. This was when I started to “let” and even tried to help Baldy learn how to work animals. The “let” really helped, but my trying to help, at first, seemed to hurt more than it helped. That made me realize that I must also learn how to help – as well as let the dog learn how to work animals.
We were at this place with these sheep every day for about 2 months. By now Baldy could work these sheep fairly well, not real good, just fair. This wasn’t his fault, he wasn’t a sheep dog to start with and had to learn with very little help from me. At this time it seemed to me that Baldy was working real good because the only thing I had to compare him to was how he was when we started. Since those days I’ve had some really good sheep dogs so I do know what a sheep dog is.
Eunice and I then moved to another flock of sheep to be with them while they lambed. This was in a different area but still part of the same ranch operation and a totally different breed of sheep. These sheep were just as wild but within two or three days Baldy had them figured out and the sheep were working better than the other sheep had after 30 days.
By now Baldy was working good enough that he could easily gather and work large or small groups of wild sheep, he never did get good at working one sheep. With one sheep it always looked like he was looking for where the other sheep were and didn’t keep his attention on one or maybe he just didn’t like to work a single. This was probably my fault as I had really tried to make him work one sheep like Queenie had and he just wasn’t that kind of dog.
Baldy was a wonderful dog and really smart. He only had to work a new area one time and the next time he knew just what was expected and would do the right thing unless told not to. When the sheep had to be turned at a certain place, Baldy would be there just in time to make the turn even if he had to work in front of Eunice to do it.
These sheep had spent their life trying to get away from the people trying to gather them. This country was rough and there was lots of brush and timber with good places to hide. Being almost within sight of the Pacific Ocean, there was also lots of fog. The sheep would quietly walk into the fog and then run as hard as they could to the nearest brush. That only worked one time. The next time the sheep went into some fog, Baldy could also run and before the sheep would get to the brush Baldy would be ahead of them. When we caught up the sheep would be standing with Baldy holding them waiting for us to get there.
While Baldy was helping us work the sheep and get our job done he also gave us time to get some other dogs and have time to work with them. . . . But that is another story about our continuing work with – and learning how to better work and understand working dogs.
#5 Patsy Published in Vol. 5 Issue 2 (Jan-Feb 2013) The Stockdog Journal
We worked with two different groups of sheep while they lambed. Baldy helped with the work, he also gave us time to get some other dogs and helped with their learning. You will notice that I said “learning” as I never did get to where it was possible for me to actually train a dog.
Getting a new dog is always interesting and gives a person many new experiences. At this time we had several dogs given to us, these dogs were young dogs that people didn’t like or just didn’t want. Patsy was one of the new dogs, she turned out to be the lambing dog that I had really wanted.
After seeing Queenie, the little border collie go get one lamb that had run up into a large flock of ewes and walk it back to be loaded, it had been my hope to get a dog that was able to do things like that. With Patsy it looked like that would happen and it did eventually. We had to buy Patsy for $40 which was a lot of money for us to spend on a dog or most anything else at that time. She was about 4 months old and her parents had both worked cattle and sheep. She was named Patsy after one of the dogs my father had, it was kind of a special name to me.
Patsy was totally different than Baldy in style and temperament. Baldy was constantly moving, Patsy had a strong eye and moved very little except when needed. Baldy was strong willed and nothing bothered him. Patsy was very sensitive and wanted to please all the time. Baldy had worked good in spite of me and my mistakes, Patsy worked mainly to please me and was always a joy to work with.
Patsy was only 4 months old but she wanted to work from the first day. The ranch was big and there were no sheep in close so she had to wait a little while before we started letting her work. With my experience at the cattle ranch and with the time spent with Baldy it was easy to know what I wanted. At the cattle ranch the dogs learned to work cattle out in big areas and learned on wild cattle as there were no cattle in small areas close to home. Baldy learned to work sheep in large areas and with wild sheep as there were no sheep in small pastures close to home. This made me realize that for me it was good for the young dogs to start their learning where they were going to work and doing what I would want them to do from the start.
At that time you rode a horse to the livestock or walked as people didn’t have all the vehicles that they now have. Often it was a two hour walk to the animals, work all day, then two hours back home at night. This meant that we had wait until a dog was old enough to be able to stand this much work before expecting very much from it.
When Patsy was 6 months old I started taking her part of the time. During this time we taught her to come when called, then just let her be a pup.
While Baldy or some other dog was working, I’d just keep Patsy with me. When there were a few sheep that weren’t too far away I would let her go to get them and keep the other dog with me. Patsy was young and I wanted to work her as much as possible without over-working her. She learned fast and by the next lambing season she was a top lambing dog.
When lambing wild sheep in the mountains it was nice to have this kind of dog. If a ewe was having problems and you had to catch her the lambing dog would help do this with out running the other sheep. I’d just walk toward the ewe I wanted to catch, I might be 100 yards away from the ewe, as the ewe moved I would just change my direction so it was still toward that same sheep, almost immediately Patsy would realize what sheep I wanted and she would move in and work the sheep just like a good cutting horse should work a cow. After 2 or 3 minuets Patsy and the ewe would be standing nose to nose and I could just walk up and catch her and do whatever was need. As this was happening the other sheep would just move off a little ways and would still be feeding.
If we had to bring in one of my dad’s ewes with a new or weak lamb we could just carry the lamb by its front legs and the ewe would follow right to the barn. These range sheep were a little different. If I had to pull a lamb I learned to hobble the ewe with a piece of bail twine, put the lamb under her nose and leave for a while. During this time the ewe would settle down and mother the lamb. She had also learned that she couldn’t get up and run off. When I came back to her I would cut the string then run away from her as fast as I could. If I could get far enough away before she discovered she was loose she would stay and take care of her lamb, otherwise she would run off and we would have another bummer lamb to take care of.
When working with several hundred ewes and their lambs I like to have one dog working and still have a dog with me. The one dog that was working the sheep would do everything they could and I and the other dog would just help where needed. It turned out that Patsy was usually the dog that I kept with me. She seemed to know what was needed to help the other dog even before I would. As soon as she saw the other dog needed help she would help until her help wasn’t needed, then come back to me.
One time the dog working the larger group of sheep was up the hill about ½ mile, he was having a little problem and I sent Patsy to go help. When she was about half way there the other dog had fixed the problem and Patsy turned around right there and came back.
Patsy had worked with me almost every day for a year and seemed to know more what I wanted than I knew most of the time.
I always wanted a dog that would think and I worked hard to encourage this in my dogs, Patsy was one of the best we ever had. There was very little sheep work that she wasn’t good at and if she got a chance to do something new two or three times that was all it took for her to be good at it. We were always going to new and difficult places to work sheep, that was fine with Patsy as she learned fast and new didn’t bother her. Working really wild sheep in difficult places or one sheep was what she like best I think.
At one place we worked we had a small pasture just below the house where we would keep four or five wild sheep just so we had a place for people to see what the dogs could do. In this pasture there was a tool shed, it was one that loggers used. It was a shed built on two logs so it could be pulled around with a “Cat” to where the equipment was working. The opening was about two feet off the ground and 2 feet wide. I could just go into the pasture, walk over to the shed opening, then let Patsy go, then I’d walk over to the fence and sit down and talk with the visitors. Patsy would go get the sheep and bring them up and put them into the shed. Not a word had to be said, she knew what I wanted. I had to keep changing the sheep because after two or three times it was too easy for her. If I didn’t want the sheep put in the shed all that had to be done was start going some place and Patsy would take the sheep there.
Patsy could work large flocks of sheep but was seldom used for that, she was so good on small groups or one sheep that other dogs were used for the larger groups and Patsy just stayed with me and kept things working properly.
Baldy had taught me so much about how to let a dog learn how to work animals that it was much easier for me with the new dogs and especially Patsy as she spent a lot of time with or close to me.
Eunice’s 2 cents worth. . . . Bud brought in 8 or 10 long tailed woollies and put them in a little trap near the buildings. We usually sheared these ourselves, docked them and turned them back out, but since we just had hand clippers, and the shearers were due in a couple of weeks, we were going to wait. One of these sheep got flyblown, so we took Patsy, caught the sheep and treated it. We were getting a lot of very foggy, damp weather, which is prime blowfly conditions, and in a few days, this same sheep had maggots again. Bud and I and Patsy went out again and treated this sheep. I would carry the clippers and KRS and Bud and Patsy would catch the sheep. Both times they caught her at the farthest corner away from the gate. Three or four days later I saw this sheep was again flyblown. Since I was alone, I left the clippers and KRS at the gate. Patsy and I walked out in the pasture to catch the sheep. I intended to just tie it up and then go back for my equipment. Pasty didn’t even try to hold it up until she had taken it right to the gate where I had left the medicine, then she held it for me. This time I sheared the whole sheep and we didn’t have any more trouble.
#6 Buck Published in Vol. 5 Issue 3 (Mar-Apr 2013) The Stockdog Journal
After years of listening to people tell stories about how their dogs worked and things the dogs did, and spending many years seeing my father’s dogs work livestock the way they did, then getting a chance to see how people at the ranches Eunice and I worked on worked their dogs and then got a chance to work with some of my own.
Now we were working with sheep on the McBride Ranch located within sight of the ocean at Cape Mendocino in Northern California. We’d lambed out one herd of sheep with the dog Baldy. He learned a lot and I was able to learn a little. Then we moved on to another herd to lamb them. During this time we acquired a few other dogs. I’d work with these new dogs and as soon as they would go to the lead and bring animals back I’d give the dog to someone that needed or wanted a dog.
During that time we kept Baldy and Patsy as they would learn much more and they could teach me much more. It was my desire to have a dog that would work and do all of the jobs needed because the dog had learned how to work animals – like the old “untrained dogs of the past.”
My dogs did mind as well as anybody’s dogs. They were not allowed to run wild or do things that were wrong but they were allowed to learn what was right or what was wrong and they enjoyed doing the right things.
After we finished lambing we were going to stay on the ranch and work with the sheep. There were three places with sheep that we were to take care of, help with two other places that had sheep and help with the cattle ranches when needed. This gave me a chance to have even more work for the dogs. This is where Buck came into our life. I was looking for a dog that would be real good on ranch sheep. Baldy was good, not great and Patsy would be my lambing dog. Both dogs were good on large groups but I was sure there had to be better dogs if I could just learn how to let them be great.
Eunice heard of a place that had good sheep dogs and wanted to sell some started dogs. We went to see about buying one that might be what I wanted. When we arrived at the ranch, there were at least 20 dogs tied up close to the house that we could see. The only one home was a boy about 9 or 10 years old. He didn’t know what dogs they wanted to sell or what the price was. He said he did know that they had some puppies for sale for $5.00, so we went down to the barn to look at them. There were three pups about 6 or 8 weeks old that were about weaned. I wasn’t interested in a pup but Eunice is always interested in a puppy. There was one black pup with white markings that she picked out. When I told the boy that we would buy the black and white pup he immediately said “I wouldn’t take that one.” When I asked what one he would take, he said “I’d take that one” pointing at the black and tan puppy. I said “Why would you take that one?” He said “Because he looks just like his daddy and his daddy is the best sheep dog in the country.” Now, I was interested in buying a puppy, so we brought the black and tan pup home. That’s how we got Buck. I never did know how good Buck’s daddy was, but if he was as good as Buck he could very well have been the best sheep dog in the country.
Buck had to grow up. He was a large dog and didn’t mature early, so we had a puppy for a long time and Buck wasn’t a joy to have like Baldy and Patsy were. When Buck got old enough to start working everything changed. Now Buck knew what he was suppose to do – and that was Work Sheep. It didn’t take long until he figured out what he needed to do to get the job done. He turned out to be probably, the best working ranch sheep dog I ever saw. Buck was, for sure, the most “thinking dog” I ever saw. He never did anything without first seeming to think out what was the best way to do it. He could be running full speed and you could still see he was thinking what was the best way to do what was needed. Working wild sheep in the mountains or gentle sheep anywhere, what he did was always right. Most of the ranches in that area had some sheep that were 3-4-5 years old that had never been in to shear or had even had their tails cut off. With Buck it was easy for him to stop these sheep, work with them for a while, then drive them to wherever you wanted. When Buck was finished working with them the sheep were no longer wild or difficult to handle. When Buck was working with a group of wild sheep it may take 30 or 40 minutes before he would even start to drive them. He had worked with so many sheep like this that he knew exactly when he could start driving them. While he was learning, if he started to drive too soon the sheep would split up and then he might lose some, and Buck hated that more than any dog I ever owned. It got to where, that after Buck had worked some wild sheep what I thought was long enough, and I insisted that he start bringing them, Buck would just move back come out around the sheep and come to me, then stand there looking at me. Just like “If you think they can be brought, why don’t you do it?” Buck would never quit but he would let me know that he knew when to move them and wasn’t going to try too soon, but he would let me try. His judgment was always right and I learned to trust him, have a little patience and get the job done right.
Gathering sheep in rough mountain country was where Buck was at his best. As soon as we started gathering, Buck would leave me and was seldom even close, but he would keep bringing sheep in from canyons and areas that were out of sight. He always kept a close eye on where I was and made sure not to get behind or too far ahead of where I would be moving the larger herd. I’d keep a dog with me and let Buck work the edges at the top or bottom of the pasture. There were places where the sheep had to be brought up out of steep areas where there were canyons they couldn’t cross. Buck would work these areas bringing the sheep up to where the dog I had with me could get them, then he would move on to get more sheep from the next area like that. After we started we’d only see Buck at a distance a few time while we gathered 800 to 1,000 sheep on 2,000-3,000 acres of rough mountain country. He would get all of the sheep with just a little help from me and the other dog.
Eunice and I were gathering a large pasture with Buck and a pup that was just getting started. As I moved across the middle of the pasture Buck would gather the top and send the sheep down to me. Where he was working was out of my sight so he would often come out to where he could see where I was. It was about half a mile up to where Buck would come out to look. It was open between us, but where Buck was working was mainly brush and timber. I was working the open ground because this pup had only been out about three times and I wanted him to be able to see what needed to be done. I had gone past about five sheep that were between Buck and I. I wanted to go past them before sending the pup so that when he went to get them he would be bringing them to me, not just moving them into the herd.
Buck came out to where he could see me. He saw the sheep that we were going past and you could tell he was getting nervous about the sheep being left. Pretty soon he decided that I was going to leave them and he started down to get them. Right about then I sent the pup. Buck saw this, turned around and went back to gathering his area. We gathered this entire pasture and not a spoken word had to be said to Buck, but many things were said to him by what the pup and I were doing or not doing.
When Buck and I gathered sheep in the mountains, and he was told to go get some sheep that were, maybe across a large canyon, with brush and timber in between, it might be a half or three-quarters of a mile over to where the sheep were. If they saw a dog coming they might split up and start running in several directions. As soon as I saw the sheep I’d tell Buck “You’d better go get those sheep” (he’d seen them before I did and knew what was expected of him). As soon as I spoke he would stand there, looking at the sheep then decide which way to go. It might be to the right, to the left, or even back the way we had come, certainly not toward the sheep. In a few minutes Buck would show up on the other side of the sheep. He would move out to where the sheep could see him then just stop and stand there. When the sheep ran together he would slowly move across the opposite side of the sheep from where they had to go and start them toward where I was. The sheep would come across the canyon and up to where I was and we would then take them on to get more sheep. Buck very seldom did anything without looking it over and deciding what he thought was the best thing to do.
We’ve had other dogs that did some things really good but never had one as good in the mountains with sheep as Buck was.
Eunice’s 2 cents worth: Buck wanted his sheep to walk! If they started running, even if they were running the right way, he would work the side to slow them down and then bring them on (I can’t understand why the trial handlers don’t allow their dogs to do this instead of “downing” their dog when the sheep start out too fast. I’m sure that the sheep would learn something and be a lot easier to handle when they get to the obstacles). When putting a thousand or so sheep into the corral they often speed up when going through the gate. This really bothered Buck and we had to really watch him to stop him from going up to slow them down.
We took a young woman with us one day when we were moving sheep. It was a particularly difficult area and Buck was especially sharp. I was so proud of the job that he did. At the end of the day I asked her what she thought of how the dogs worked. She said “They sure come good when you call them, don’t they?” Obviously she missed the finer points of a good working dog.
#7 Tippy Published in Vol. 5 Issue 4 (May-Jun 2013) The Stockdog Journal
While we were still at the sheep ranch Tippy came into our life. A rancher friend gave him to us because he wasn’t going to be a good cow dog and this rancher only had cows. I could see that Tippy would make a sheep dog but he was quite different from any other dog that we had.
I’d heard about dogs that people called “lead dogs.” They would talk about having or seeing dogs that would lead cattle or sheep and how valuable they were. Well, Tippy was a lead dog. At first I had no idea what he was trying to do most of the time. Then I finally figured out that after we got the sheep into a bunch Tippy wanted to work in the lead. While we were getting the sheep gathered he would work much like the other dogs, as soon as the sheep were in one bunch Tippy would be in the lead. It didn’t matter where I was, Tippy would be in the lead unless he was stopped. After we realized what he was trying to do we just left him alone and it was amazing how much help he was when moving sheep through rough country.
Tippy would take the lead and he knew exactly how to get the sheep to follow him. This made driving the sheep much easier. While the lead followed Tippy, the rest of the sheep would follow the lead. When Tippy would come to a fork in the trail or didn’t know which way the sheep should go he would just hold them up until we got to where I could tell him which way to go and we were off again.
It was easy for Tippy to hold the sheep and wait for us, then easy for him to get the sheep to follow again. These were sheep that would move away from a dog. In fact they liked to run away from a dog, but Tippy could easily get these same sheep to follow him. This was my first experience with a “lead dog” and it took a while to realize what Tippy was all about and how to best use him.
Over the years it has been my experience that many discarded dogs ended up being very good dogs for me if I would just learn what he (or she, I’m not very politically correct) did best and let him use what he does best while working. Not every dog would be a “lambing dog” or “lead dog.” Not every dog will be great but if he gets a chance many can be quite good. During my life I’ve had many good dogs and a few that were great. They were great even by other people’s standards for great.
Back to Tippy, he was just getting started good when we moved to Three Cabins Ranch, where we would work with cattle and sheep both. We had several dogs since we needed dogs that would work cows and dogs that were good with sheep. Eunice and I were taking care of about 700 cows and 800 ewes, plus doing most of the other ranch work. It was necessary to have lots of dogs and we had plenty. Tippy was a great help and got lots of work. A new neighbor moved into the next closest ranch, which was about 8 miles away. Earl had came from the Sacramento valley and thought he had good dogs, but they had no chance with the 500 wild sheep he was in charge of. He tried for several days to get the sheep in to be sheared and was getting nowhere. He came down to our place and asked if I would help.
I took Tippy and had Earl just go with me to watch. It took Tippy part of one day to gather all of the sheep and put them in the small holding pasture where his valley dogs might be able to handle then. I left Tippy there just in case his dogs couldn’t do the job. That was the last that we had Tippy. Earl liked him so well that we just couldn’t take him away from him. I tried to give him the dog but he wanted to trade me two young dogs that he couldn’t catch. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for a “running dog” and have found that most of them make great stockdogs.
Tippy did a great job working sheep for us for close to a year, made another person happy, then got us two young dogs to take his place.
Eunice’s 2 cents worth: We were living in Humboldt County in Northern California at that time. We had a lot of rancher friends in Covelo, CA that we would visit every six-months or so. They all knew that Bud would take any stockdog that was old enough to work, so instead of taking their rejects to the pound or . . . they would keep them for us. Often we would bring 5 or 6 of these dogs home with us. A large percentage of these dogs turned out to be very good stockdogs.
#8 Top Published in Vol. 5 Issue 5 (Jul-Aug 2013) The Stockdog Journal
We moved from McBride Ranch, that had only sheep, to Three Cabins Ranch near Korble, California. It was a large, rough mountain ranch that had sheep and cattle both, now we needed some cow dogs.
We’d worked on one mountain cattle ranch and I knew a little bit about what I needed to get the work done with a dog helping. Now I just needed to get some dogs and see what could be done. The people that had been working there had just quit and left some dogs, and the owner also had some dogs that he never used. The owner said I could try these dogs and use any that I wanted and he would get rid of the rest.
This is where Top came into our life. Top was a 5-year old McNab and had been tied up for most of those 5 years. I was told that Top only knew one thing and that was to hunt cattle. He would take off as soon as he smelled cattle and bay them up. Top was a big dog that was “strong willed, hard headed, single minded, determined, and tough”. The owner said Top was no good as he was always gone hunting cattle or baying up cattle you didn’t want, but I could have him if I wanted him.
The first day I took Top and headed up the mountain. It was just a few minutes until Top smelled cattle and took off I hollered at him but he paid no attention. So I just followed and soon came up to where he had some cattle bayed up. Top was just circling the cattle and holding them in a small group. When I rode up he paid no attention to what I said and just kept working. That made me change my approach to working a dog for a few minutes while I got Top’s attention. As soon as he realized that I would let him work all he wanted but it still had to be doing the job that was required, not just hunting and baying cattle, we were able to go on and work cattle that day.
Top was a really good cattle dog, When he learned that he would get to work, he wasn’t “hard headed” anymore but he was still determined and tough. After 4 or 5 days Top could be sent with another dog and when he was 100 yards away all you had to do was say his name and he would come back while the other dog went on to work. Still, Top would work all day and never quit no matter how long the day was or how tired he was. This solved the need for cattle dogs as Top would help me with the cattle work while I got some other dogs to help work the cattle.
We had arrived at this ranch just 2 weeks before the sheep were to start lambing and they were scattered over about 20,000 acres. We needed to get them together and moved down into the lambing pasture. The lambing pasture was between the county road and the river. It was 6 or 7 miles long and about 1 mile wide, with deep canyons, lots of timber and brush but it had good shelter.
We had Buck, Tippy and Patsy with two or three other new dogs for working sheep. As soon as I had Top for working the cattle, now I could spend almost all my time on gathering the sheep. This was much different than the last job where we started with a dog that had never worked sheep, now we had three really good mountain sheep dogs plus two or three that were just learning. The reason for saying “mountain sheep dog” is that to work where the terrain is rough, the area is large and there is lots of brush and timber, with some open ground, and the sheep are wild, requires a different kind of dog than where the area is small and open and the person can see the dog while he is working.
When we started gathering the sheep, we’d go to the far end of one area of the ranch. Buck would work with a group of sheep until they were working good, then Eunice with Patsy and another dog or Tippy and another dog would keep the group together while Buck and I would find another group of sheep, work with them, then take the sheep to the group that Eunice was holding with Patsy or Tippy. The sheep were in small groups of 10 to 50 head and were scattered over a large area. It was about 12 miles to the back of the country that the sheep were in. We would keep moving the group of sheep toward a holding pasture close to the ranch buildings. By evening we would have about 300 sheep to put in the holding pasture. After three days we had almost 1000 head together. The owner thought he only had about 800. Buck, Patsy and Tippy had brought in 180 head of sheep that were over 2 years old, that had never been sheared or had their tails cut off.
Now I finally had working dogs that were like the “old untrained dogs of the past” that people had talked about when I was young. Buck could be sent to gather sheep that would start running as soon as they saw us. He would stop them, work with them for a few minutes, then the other dogs could hold them together, while Buck was getting another group. The two dogs holding the sheep would just let them graze along while Buck and I would get another group to put with them. Buck and I could clean out a large area while the other two dogs were holding the large group together. Patsy or Tippy could stop the wild sheep and work them but Buck was better and could get the sheep under control faster. Also Patsy, loved to just hold the group together and would have been satisfied to hold the group for hours while Buck and I were gone. Now I had dogs that could gather any kind of sheep in any kind of country. I also had a lambing dog. Life was sure good.
Lambing was now simple and easy because of Patsy. There was still plenty of work for the other dogs as there were lots of trees, and trees fall over fences, and sheep that like to go where they want to go will find trees over fences and get out. Almost every day there was work for the dogs with the sheep, cattle or both.
After lambing time was over, moving the sheep out of the lambing pasture was interesting. The owner said it would take 3 people several days to get all the sheep out of the pasture. Buck, Patsy and one other dog, with a little help from me, got all of the sheep but two, in one pass through the pasture. There were several deep canyons that sheep wouldn’t cross except near the top of the pasture. There was a trail the full length of the pasture near the top of the pasture. Buck would go down to the river and gather all the sheep between the canyons and bring them up until the dog with me could see them, then Buck would leave to cross the canyon and gather the next area. The dog with me would go get the sheep as soon as he saw them and put them in the group of sheep that we were moving along the trail. The other dog was getting the sheep above us and putting them into our group. As we moved along, one dog got the sheep below me, one dog got the sheep above me and one dog kept the gathered group moving along. When we got to the end of the pasture we had all the sheep but two and went back the next day and got them.
We only had Tippy until shearing time as that was when Earl, our new neighbor, found out that his valley dogs weren’t able to gather the sheep in this rough, brushy country. After I went to his place with Tippy and Tippy gathered his sheep so easy it wouldn’t have been fair or easy to take Tippy away from him.
#9 Published in Vol. 5 Issue 6 (Sep-Oct 2013) The Stockdog Journal
Three Cabins Ranch was almost like two separate ranches. It was divided by a canyon that the animals didn’t cross. On the side of the canyon where we lived, we had 350 plus cows and 800 plus sheep, on the other side of the canyon we had 350 plus cows. It was about 10 miles to drive from the house to get to the other part of the ranch. This part of the ranch was more open and easier to work the animals than the side where the buildings were.
Eunice and I were hired to work with the sheep and help some with the cattle. That always sounds good but the owner was seldom there so we ended up doing most of the cattle work as well. After lambing was over I was interested in putting all of the sheep in one bunch and all of the cattle in one bunch and moving them every day or two, depending on the feed. This was never done on this place before. They always just let the animals feed wherever they wanted to, except for the lambing pasture, and that was saved for just lambing.
This was a perfect job. We’d move sheep in the morning and cattle in the afternoon, or move cattle in the morning and sheep in the afternoon. What with fixing fence, cutting wood and other ranch jobs there was enough work to keep Eunice and I pretty busy when we added the chore of moving the animals every day. This meant that we had lots of work for the dogs. We’d take 3 dogs in the morning and 3 dogs in the afternoon, they would need a days rest, so that meant 3 different dogs the next morning and 3 the next afternoon. This added up to 12 dogs and we needed some pups or young dogs to be learning. I always liked to take three dogs. This way I could have two working and one with me. While learning how to have the dogs help me the most, I learned that it was better for me to let the dogs do most of if not all the work and for me to help when the dogs needed help. I found that it was easier for the dogs to work and do a good job if I helped them, than for the dogs to try and help me. After a while all the dogs needed from me was “when do we start,” “where do we take them,” and “when are we done.”
The cows had always stayed where they wanted and were in small groups, now they were put into one larger herd and moved often. Since at first the cows didn’t stay in one herd very well, there was lots of work for the dogs to gather them and move them. There were several thousand acres in the farthest part of the ranch called Boulder Basin that the cattle never used. We would take the cattle back there and the next day most of them had come back to where they liked to be. By now we had several young cowdogs coming along that with Top, were a lot of help. At that time most of the ranchers used dogs. When they had a pup they didn’t like it would be given away. That’s how we got most of our dogs. Most of these dogs would end up being good working ranch dogs. I’d usually only keep a dog for a few months then would give it to someone that needed a good dog. There were a few dogs that we would keep longer just because they seemed to be able to get better and better. Whenever a dog got as good as I figured it could get with me, it was time to let someone else have it. I only remember and write about the dogs that got really good.
Back to moving the cows. The sheep were easy, they stayed in a herd with little work and we had good sheep dogs to move them. The cows were different. They were bad dog fighters and didn’t like staying together or being moved to new areas. Top was turning into a really good cow dog. He could stop a large group of cows and bring them back. To stop 200 cows that are running down the mountain or in brush and timber and then bring them all back can be very difficult for one dog. Top could drive a large or small group with me in the lead, or at the side of the group, or he could work the side while the other dog drove the group. It always took a while for a dog to learn how to work the side of a group of cattle or sheep while trailing through the mountains. On the trails in the mountains the dog working the side was suppose to work from the lead to the back of the group and keep all the animals on the trail, a large group would string out for more than half a mile and most of the time the dog on the side was where it wouldn’t see the dog at the back of the herd or see the front where Eunice or I were. When trailing 350 cows and their calves through rough country with one or two people it was necessary to have a dog that would stay at the back and bring the cows and have a dog that would work the side, because these cows would turn off the trail and try to get away every chance they got. The person needed to be at the lead to keep the lead cows going on the right trail. If the person was at the back the dog still needed to work the side as cows could easily leave the group without the person at the back seeing them. The dog working the side might be out there on his own for two or three hours without knowing anything but to keep all the cows following the lead that Eunice or I was keeping on the right trail. The dog at the back learned not to go with the dog working the side and the dog working the side paid no attention to the dog or person at the back. Their job was to keep the cows on the trail.
These were bad dog fighting cows at the start but as the dogs worked the cows more and worked the cows better the cows stopped fighting the dogs as much. While moving the cattle to the back country the dogs learned to keep the cows on the trail, how to keep the cows moving but not pressure too much. Within a short time 2 dogs could gather and drive 350 cows plus their calves ten or twelve miles to the back country with very little help from Eunice and I.
While I never did learn how to train a dog, I did learn how to let the dog learn how to do the jobs that he needed to do. The dog is born knowing how to work animals or he will probably never be a very good working ranch dog. It was my feeling that if the dog had the ability and desire to work livestock, then all he needed was time to learn how to use that ability to work them properly, and to understand what I wanted done. That meant the learning was all on me. It was up to me to find out how to help the dog learn how to best use its ability to work animals. It was up to me to help the dog know what I wanted and then the dog would willingly do it. While seeing other people work ranch dogs, their dogs knew how to work animals but seemed to get confused or they had trouble if the person wasn’t telling the dog what to do. This has always confused me because I had seen dogs that knew how to do their job right if people were there or not.
At our first ranch job on Lone Pine Ranch near Covelo, CA, Blaze and Ringo could stop cows and sometimes bring them back, that was all they did. Now my dogs could stop cows, bring them back, work the back for hours while I was at the lead, work the side without directions from me except just to start them and many other things. Were these dog smarter than the first dogs or had I just learned how to let them learn more?
There are many good dog trainers and a lot of well trained dogs. There are very few working ranch dogs like the “untrained dogs of the past” that know what their job is and how to do it, without being directed by someone all the time. I found that it was possible to have, what I thought was a good working ranch dog, even without me knowing how to “train” a dog.
There are a lot of people like me that don’t know how to train a dog but can still have a good working ranch dog if they will just let the dog learn what his jobs are.
Eunice’s 2 cents worth: It was about 12 miles from where the cattle wanted to be – to Boulder Basin. Nearly every day we’d have to take some cows that hadn’t stayed, back. Even though we had lots of dogs, most of our cowdogs were getting pretty sore-footed by the end of the summer. By this time the cattle were pretty trail-wise. Bud and I would be drifting along behind, the dogs trotting behind our horses. If a cow left the trail and she heard you say “Top” or one of the other dog’s names she would most often turn and come back before the dog ever got started.
#10 Buck (more)
Buck was a true sheep dog, the very best I ever saw for working wild sheep in rough mountain country. He didn’t work cattle and didn’t want to work cattle. He was a big strong dog but he loved his sheep.
Buck was a thinking dog he seldom did anything without thinking what he would do first.
When he was sent to get some sheep he would look at what needed to be done then decide what was the best way, then go do it. With wild sheep in the mountains Buck would work around them until he knew what worked for them and what it would take to get the sheep to work for him, then and only then would he start driving the sheep. Then it was possible for him to drive those sheep anywhere and not lose any, or even have any trouble driving them. After Buck got through teaching the sheep to work for a dog then any other good dog could easily handle them.
We’ve had many dogs that worked wild sheep, most would make just enough mistakes that the sheep would keep trying to get away or to split up and then the dog would have trouble. This was because the dog would try to drive the sheep before they had been taught to drive. At best these sheep were driven once or twice a year, the rest of the time when they saw a person they would just run to get away.
Buck couldn’t stand for sheep to get away from him. When he was young, if the sheep split up or one got away from it would really bother him. It was like if he made a mistake, he would remember, and not make that mistake again. After Buck started working, it took about three months and he didn’t make mistakes any more.
When working with a group of sheep of any kind he would work around them and learn what was needed to drive them without having any problems. This might take a few seconds or it might take 30 minuets with wild sheep. After Buck learned how to work sheep there was no speeding him up. If I insisted that he speed up, Buck would just move away from the sheep and come around to me, then look at me like “If you can do it better go ahead and try.” Most people might think that would be terrible to have a dog that didn’t do exactly what it was told, my concern was to get the job done in the best way in the shortest time with the best result. Buck had learned how to do his job and the best way to get the best result, and if I didn’t like it or thought I could do better then “have at it.” While Buck would mind as good as most any dog that works stock he still couldn’t be made to hurry if he knew that would cause trouble when moving the sheep.
One day the owner told me the rams had got out of their pasture and were going up the mountain. When I got there about 30 rams were scattered over about 500 acres and in the middle of 350 cows with small calves. After seeing what we faced I told Buck “You’d better go get them.” That was the command he best understood, because that command really said “You figure out the best way to get this done.” Buck went up the mountain and started putting the rams together and moving them out of the cows as we didn’t want the cows moved and Buck sure didn’t want to move the cows. It didn’t take long until all of the rams were together and beside me ready to go back into their pasture. One ram had gone the other way and after putting the group in the pasture I sent Buck to get the single. It was a really cold windy day and while all this was happening Eunice had stood in a shed to stay out of the wind and yet be able to watch. As Buck was bringing the one ram up to put it in the pasture he had to bring it past the shed where Eunice was standing. Buck was taking his time as the ram really would have preferred to go the other way. It was taking longer than Eunice thought it should take so she did what most people would do, she stepped out of the shed to help Buck. As soon as she stepped out of the shed Buck whirled and glared at Eunice as much as to say “You leave me alone. I know how to do this and don’t want or need your help.” Eunice stepped back into the shed, Buck turned back to the ram and moved it up to and through the gate back into the pasture.
Buck didn’t like for sheep to run and would work with them until he could drive them at a walk. It didn’t matter how wild or tame the sheep were the sheep were not suppose to run. Yet he knew how to move any sheep even a ewe with a small lamb or a group of 800 ewes with baby lambs.
Buck worked on his own time schedule. Most of the time it took less time for him to complete a job than other dogs. He still took what time he needed and always got the job done right.
Buck moved into our “Working dog ring of honor” and no dog we owned after him would get the name of “Buck” as only he deserved it.
When we first arrived at Three Cabins we had no cattle dogs, only sheep dogs. The cows were Herford and Shorthorns. They all had horns and they knew how to use them. They were bad dog fighters. Top was soon a very good cowdog but we needed more dogs so we started acquiring some to try. It was about this time Scotty came to us. The people we bought Patsy from brought him to us. Scotty was a year old male Border Collie. They had sold Scotty as a puppy to some people who had allowed him to learn to kill chickens. They couldn’t stop him from doing this so they returned him to the breeder. Scotty was a year old with some bad habits, killing chickens wasn’t all he had learned. Because of this the breeder gave the dog to us. Scotty was a large black and white dog with speckles on the white, a beautiful but worthless dog. I’d take Scotty with me every few days. He showed no interest in working. He’d watch the other dogs work even if they were 50 feet away but still just stayed with me and the horse. One time I tried to force Scotty to go to the other dogs while they were working and he just took off. When we got home, which was 10 miles away, Scotty was there and happy to see us. This caused some concern about when, if ever, Scotty would work. Because Patsy was such a good dog, we decided to wait a little longer.
We’d had Scotty now for about 6 months, he was about a year-and-a half old and still showed no interest in working. I was going to go to a little 500 acre holding pasture and move about 200 cows from there to on up the mountain. It would be an easy job so I took Scotty and one other dog. When the one dog was sent Scotty went with it and started to work. We gathered the 200 cows and moved them for 5 or 6 miles up the mountain and Scotty never quit working or even came back to me once. From that day on Scotty was a working dog. He seldom made a mistake and he loved to work. It was just like he had watched how the other dogs did things and when he understood what he needed to know, then and only then, would he work.
Scotty could work any kind of cattle, do it quiet and efficient, he seemed to know what would be needed to get a job done as soon as he was sent.
He always gave the cattle the opportunity to do the right thing. When he was sent to stop cattle, if just his presence would do the job, that’s all that he did. If not, he would give one low bark and if that didn’t do the job he had plenty of force to turn them around. Then he was willing to let them return without harassing them. The cows soon learned to respect him, but they never feared him. I always took my dogs with me when the cows were calving. Many times I’ve seen Scotty licking on one end of a new calf and the cow licking on the other end.
Scotty wasn’t the best cowdog Eunice and I ever had but he was close. He and Top were the best pair of working cowdogs we ever had. They seemed to understand what the other dog needed and knew just how to help without hurting. The dogs in that area at that time would bark some. Most of the cattle were very wild and often they were a mile or more away before the dogs could get them stopped. Since, because of the many rough canyons in the area the dogs couldn’t bring the cattle straight back so it was necessary to have the dogs bark so we could find them and the cattle that they were holding. Scotty and Top would bark some, not much, but if we were working in close with cows and small calves I’d just tell them to “shut up” when I sent them and they wouldn’t bark one time, no matter what happened.
When driving cattle on a trail through brush or timber if we and the dogs were all at the back and no dog was working the side, if any cattle had left the trail Scotty would move off the trail and look at us as much as to say “Some cattle left the trail here, do you want me to get them?” While Scotty may not have been the best cowdog we ever had he was probably the smartest.
Scotty went to work after watching the other dogs work for 6 months. He had been taught to come when called and that was all the teaching that was done with him, as I wanted to see him work and then figure out what he needed to learn if anything. After starting to work it was like he had watched until he understood what jobs he was expected to do and then just started doing them. Every other dog that we had worked with needed some help to understand what their job was and how to do it. From the first day that Scotty decided to work at all he seemed to already know what was expected of him and how to do the jobs he needed to do.
What we wanted was a dog that wanted to work, that knew how to get the job done, whatever it was, and at the same time work the animals properly, even if we weren’t close or in sight of the dog or what it was doing. The dogs we had must mind as we were constantly working animals for people that didn’t even want a dog around their animals and we must do this while working animals they had problems with. Scotty was able to do all of these things and do them well, yet the only thing that he was taught by us was to come when he was called.
Eunice’s 2-cents worth:
Scotty was given to us because he killed chickens. Three Cabin Ranch, where we were working at the time had LOTS of poultry running loose. One day, after Scotty started working, I was changing the hay bedding in his dog house and found a nest full of eggs where a bantam hen had been going everyday to lay.
About a week before Bud died of pancreatic cancer (November 25, 2012) he said, “I wish I had kept writing dog stories while I was able, there are so many more dogs who deserved to have their story told.” Mitzy is one that I’m sure he would have wanted to write about.
Bud & I were at the Fortuna, CA livestock auction when a guy that we didn’t know came up and asked if we knew anyone who would take a dog that he was trying to give away. He said he had moved into town and she was absolutely digging up his whole yard. Bud was always willing to take any dog that was old enough to work and give it a chance. We had no idea what breed she was. Mitzy was a light-boned, slick haired dog, droop ears, blue merle color. She came closest to resembling a Catahoula, but at that time no one had even heard of them in that area, and her style of work was not like Catahoulas that we worked in later years.
It quickly became apparent that she wanted to work cattle, and also that she had a definite mind of her own. Bud really liked her right from the start, but she was a handful. She was a very dainty dog and could work all day and still come home clean. This resulted in her being the chosen “house dog.” At that time we had about 10 dogs that we kept tied in a big old dairy barn. Every evening we would go down to turn them all loose for a run while I was cleaning up after them. Then we’d tie them back up and feed them. Mitzy loved to go to the barn with us. She especially liked it when we tied the others up and she got to go back to the house with us. If she did something miserable during the day, Bud would tell her “OK, little girl, you’re going to be tied at the barn tonight.” This might be first thing in the morning and nothing more was said the rest of the day, but that evening when we started for the barn, she didn’t want to come.
Mitzy was a very quiet dog when she was in the house, you could forget that she was there. But no matter what was going on, if Bud was going outside she was standing right beside him at the door, ready to go along. I don’t know how many times Bud would try to trick her and pretend like he was going out but she wouldn’t even lift her head up. He’d head for the door saying “Eunice, I’m going to the barn.” No Mitzy. “Maybe it’s when I get my hat” so Bud would get his hat and go to the door. No Mitzy. After awhile he’d get tired of the game and remember something that he left in the pickup that he wanted to get. By the time he got to the door, Mitzy was standing there ready to go, too.
As Bud has said in his earlier articles he likes a “Thinking Dog.” Mitzy certainly was that. I remember one time when Bud and I and the boss were taking about 175 calves that had been weaned for three days down a lane and into a five-acre pasture. Just as they started through the gate, a flock of birds dove into them and spooked them. They were on the dead run when Bud sent Mitzy. The calves were running down the fence line to our right, Mitzy was swinging around them on the left. I said “She’ll put them through the fence.” Of course, if she didn’t do something pretty quick, they were going through the fence straight ahead anyway, a five-acre pasture isn’t very big. When Mitzy got to the lead, she didn’t even try to stop them, but went right on around to the fence, then turned back and took the lead in a circle to the left. The calves made about a half circle and stopped dead in the middle of the field.
Humboldt State University was just a few miles from where we had about 2500 stockers pastured during the summer. Often some of the college girls (never any boys) would come and ask to see the dogs work. Some of them were really interested and so Bud would let one of them take Mitzy out and let them gather a pasture. If the girl sent Mitzy correctly, she would work for them as well as she worked for Bud or I. If not, she would run out about 50 feet when they sent her then stop, turn around and wait for them to send her right.
For several years, Bud and I would place yearling cattle on Eden Valley Ranch, a mountain ranch in Northern California for fall and winter grazing. We could only haul them to the south border of the property, but we wanted them to start the season on the north slope. This meant a trail drive of about 20 miles. This was through the mountains from 1100 feet to 4100 feet elevation and back down to about 1000 feet. These were just auction yard calves in various stages of health. It seemed there would always be some that got down while on the truck or for some other reason were not in the best of shape, and always a few that wanted to take off and leave the country. We would take about 300 at a time, twice a week for five or six weeks until we had the 3,000 or 4,000 head they wanted for the season. We did this for three years in a row. The calves were counted out of the south pasture and counted into the north pasture. We never left one along the way.
This was after Bud had perfected being able to keep the cattle in a bunch and rotationally graze without the need for fences, so in between the twice weekly cattle drives, we would be moving the cattle daily that were already on the ranch. Most of our dogs could only work about every other day. This was before the days of hauling horses and dogs to the stock so they put in a lot of miles in a day. Mitzy could work every day. She never took a step that was unnecessary. She seemed to know where she would be needed and was always there ahead of time and could fix the problem before it got too big.
I always led the cattle for the first 10 miles or so, to keep them going the right way, and to keep the leaders from going too fast. At the top of the mountain we’d let the calves rest for a while, then start them down the other side. By then, it usually wasn’t necessary to have anyone in front. As Bud and I and the dogs were loafing along behind the calves we could see them turning off of the trail. Bud sent Mitzy up the side. She only went about half way up then stopped and looked back. Bud was pretty sharp with her and told her to “Get Ahead.” Mitzy reluctantly went on to the lead and was just dancing in front of them, not trying to turn them back when we finally got up to where we could see what was going on. It seems that the calves we saw leaving the trail had curved right around and were back on the trail by the time Mitzy got up to where she could see them. Normally, if you told any of our dogs to “Get Ahead” they went to the lead and you quickly had cattle in your pocket, but she knew that that wasn’t what we wanted in this case. Bud told her he was sorry.
Since this is the last of the stories of Bud’s stockdogs I’d like to finish by giving you a picture of Bud leaving the buildings one morning. He was riding a mare named Cleo. When we moved to Eden Valley Bud told the boss that he needed 2, really tough horses. The ranch owned one that would do and they told him to go buy another. We knew a rancher in Covelo who had tough horses. We’ve found that “tough and hard-headed” go hand in hand with horses as well as dogs. The rancher said “There’s no trail too long for this mare, but you’ve got to prove to me that you can handle her or I won’t sell her to you.” After a test-drive we loaded Cleo in the truck and headed back to Eden Valley. The rancher was right, Cleo was as tough as they come but crazy as a pet ‘coon. Back to the picture of Bud starting out. This day he was taking Blue, a blue heeler pup that he had just started working, and Beau, a sensitive little Border Collie that Bud had started a couple of years before and gave him to another guy who worked for the same ranch. This guy worked him with another dog that the guy thought needed a lot of yelling at and nearly ruined Beau. First off, Cleo starts acting up and Bud spins her around, this gets Blue all excited so he goes in and heels Cleo. Bud is saying “Damn it Blue, stop that!” With all of the commotion Beau decides to go back to the barn so Bud’s now saying “That’s OK Beau, come on now.” Then “Stop it, Blue! Come on Beau” while Cleo is going round and round. In a few minutes he gets Cleo straightened out and he heads up the mountain with both dogs for a day of moving calves to a new area to graze.