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Posted 2/15/12 (Wed)

I’ve told you about Vern. Vern Baker. He’s a dog. Like that old song, “He’s a dog.” Well, maybe it’s not just like that song, but he is a dog. You know he came from Baker, Mont. That’s how he got his last name. His first name, Vern, came from a previous owner. I’m not sure if his original owner died, decided he had to kill himself or the dog, or just abandoned Vern.
I rescued Vern Baker from an animal shelter a couple of years ago. They said he was five. Really, I think that is his IQ. Five. That’s not very high even in dog talk. Oh, my daughter says he has abandonment issues. He’d spent a year and a half in the pen. A little kennel in the shelter. Vern was surrounded by mad, barking dogs day and night. Because of his age or his IQ Vern never got picked to go to a new home. He just lay there and dreamed of chasing cows. He’s an Australian Shepard. They are bred to herd sheep and cattle.
When he got to our place he quickly began living his dream. He chased cows. He chased horses. He chased cats. He chased roping steers. He would grab them by the tail, and on some, he could actually bring them to the ground.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not eulogizing Vern. He’s not dead. Not yet. But I have threatened him a few times. Have you ever tried to sell cattle with their tails pulled off? Have you ever come home and found your house ransacked? Your drapes pulled down and shredded? Your towels strewn about the house? Your garbage dumped all over the kitchen? The lining of the roof in your pickup chewed up? See why I was concerned about his previous owner.
And when I go out to feed horses in the morning, I begin by screaming, “Back, Vern!” When I want to move a heifer, “Back, Vern.” When I am trying to load cattle in the trailer, and he is hiding under the trailer, biting their feet as they get close enough to load, it is really, “BACK, VERN!”
Once in awhile he will have a flash of brilliance. He will gather the calves in the lot and help me push them in the alley. He will guard the gate while I hay the bulls. He will lie peacefully under the table while I visit in a local saloon that pretends they don’t see him. And the manager will slip him a piece of jerky. Which he shares with me. “Good boy, Vern.”
And he pretty much lives in the house and guards us at night. Oh, he wouldn’t attack anyone. And he wouldn’t bark if 17 burglars came in with machine guns and machetes. But he’s nice, quiet company who doesn’t care when I go to bed, and is always ready to go check heifers or do chores. Or go for a drive in the pickup. Vern understands English. He know cows, horses, and pickups.
But maybe I’m going to have to change a little. Yesterday Will was playing with his son RJ. They had a herd of toy cattle, a couple of plastic cowboys, and a set of pens. Will took two small dogs and said they were his cow dogs. RJ (three years old) went and got a bigger dog.
RJ says, “This is Baboo’s (that’s me) dog.”
Then he begins screaming at the top of his voice, “Back, Vern! Back, damnit! Back, Vern!”