Tag Archives: cattle herding

Buddy’s Retirement- April 20, 2018

Buddy as a younger dog

It was inevitable, I suppose. Retirement is part of life isn’t it, that is if we live long enough. Buddy about whom you’ve heard much lately (Buddy- The Slacker) retired from his life’s work today. His retirement from herding came suddenly or at least it surprised me.

On request Buddy declined to jump out of the bed of the pickup to help herd the mama cow about which I recently wrote (A Sad Day On The Ranch). This job in the past would have been an easy one for Buddy, merely moving one cow through a couple of gates and into an adjoining pasture where the remainder of the herd grazed.

When I called to Buddy, he merely stared back at me. Has he suddenly gone deaf? What’s wrong with that dog!

After a few moments of reflection on the statue-like, immobile Buddy, I thought perhaps his bad back might be hurting him or else he had judged after twelve and a half years he’d accomplished his limit of herding cattle. Nevertheless, pushing one cow through a couple of gates and into another pasture has previously hardly been work for our Buddy who has lived to herd. But I know twelve and a half years makes for an old dog, especially for a Border collie.

He’s been the best herder I’ve ever had on the ranch. His exploits are legion, as I tried to indicate in the Slacker piece, his first herding experience. Nevertheless, lately he has been less invested and less enthusiastic about this effort. I maintain that in his place today he urged the younger Bella to help me. Surprisingly Bella did a fairly good job but not up to the standards set earlier by Buddy.

Buddy on left and Bella on right. Photo by Ramsey

Buddy has lately spent more time napping on one of his four beds (yes, can you believe it- four beds) that are scattered strategically around our house. He never has to take more than a few steps to find a doggie bed. If a bed is not immediately available, a low chair will do just fine.

While he still enjoys riding around in the pickup, he now seems anxious to return to the house and resume his doggie slumbers.

Perhaps his life’s arc from superb and indefatigable herding dog to his current “just don’t bother me” attitude is an expected part of normal aging thatis sure to affect us all. I’ll admit since retiring, I enjoy naps more.

Years ago when I asked my grandmother Hutton when she was quite elderly what it was like to get old, she replied, “Tom, you just slow up.” This observation must be as true for Border collies as it is for humans.

I hope Buddy reneges on his retirement for at least a brief period of time. What gives me hope is that Francisco, our ranch hand of seventy-five years old has retired at least five times. Each time after his announced retirement he came back to the ranch after having become thoroughly bored with watching TV and missing “his” ranch.

The animals, the beauty of nature, and the opportunity to make the ranch better proves for Francisco an incredibly strong draw. Might Buddy one day feel a spurt of new resolve along with a strong desire to herd- just one more cow? Time will tell.

By the way, what does one give a Border collie as a retirement gift? He has no use for a watch. Your thoughts?

Buddy, the retiree, taking one of his frequent naps

Till The Cows Come Home

And the cattle did come home this morning, but not in a way I had ever before witnessed.

Let me set the stage. Our new ranch (Hidden Falls) is less than a mile from our main ranch (Medicine Spirit). Our herd of cattle has been on Hidden Falls just three times but based on today’s performance clearly the cattle know their way home.

Today I opened the gate at the new ranch and witnessed the cattle RUNNING, yes RUNNING through it. I had to speed by them in the pickup even to catch up with them and act like I was leading them. Fortunately I had opened the gates at Medicine Spirit leading to my preferred pastures.

The question in my mind is why the cattle were so anxious to return. They had water and salt at the new ranch. The grass was running out but they were getting enough to eat there. While I had a bag of ranch cubes in the bed of the pickup, they have never before run to hasten a feeding. In fact you rarely will see a mature cow run at all unless a dog is chasing her. I am unaware of any predators such as coyotes or feral hogs on the new place.

My theory is this: I think the cattle were homesick! Yes, maybe I am anthropomorphizing a bit, but what else explains their unusual behavior. The cattle drive proved so easy that the Border collies never even got out of the pickup. My ranch hand, Francisco, followed along but did not have to push the cattle. His job was limited to closing the gates.

When last seen, the cattle grazed contently at Medicine Spirit Ranch and, dare I say it, seemed over their homesickness. Life is good on the ranch.