June 2007
On the Edge of Common Sense

Boomer and Bernie

by Baxter Black, DVM

There’s been a gradual change in the way we cowboys do things. It’s come over a period of years and coincides with anti-smoking regulations, a healthier diet, mandatory seat belts, bull riders wearing helmets, gentle horse training, improved cattle handling techniques and not allowing our dogs free run of the pickup bed when we go to town.

It was a long time before I conceded that chaining my dog in the back was the right thing to do. It was about the time I quit speeding, chewing Copenhagen and started taking an aspirin a day. As the loss of my individual freedoms began piling up, I felt less need to let my dog enjoy one of his favorite things, riding unfettered in the back of the pickup.

Bernie, too, had faced the same decisions to do what is begrudgingly safer, but usually not as much fun. In his case, he lets his good cowdog, Boomer, ride in the front of the cab with him. Boomer liked it as long as he could have his window down far enough to hang out his head.

One fine New Mexico morning they were driving down the Dexter highway, Bernie on the cell phone and Boomer taking in the scenery. Traffic was busy and Bernie was smack dab in the middle of a verbal therapy session with his banker. Suddenly the cab filled with a blizzard of old receipts, magazine scraps, ear tags, Maalox pills and a roll of survey tape!

His first thought was that Boomer had hit the electric window all the way open at 45 mph! But no, Boomer’s hindquarters from the neck down was a furious flailing of limbs scattering everything on the seat and dashboard into the air! He realized immediately that Boomer had stepped on the electric window button, but he had closed it on his neck!

Bernie fought for control of the vehicle, the cell phone and the mad dog amidst the hurricane of trash that filled the air! Then, Boomer lost control of his bowels. Digested dog chow, in several stages of viscosity joined the airborne contents in the dog blender.

Swerving onto the shoulder, Bernie jumped out, raced around and jerked open the door! Boomer was still attached and smacked him on the face! As Boomer dangled momentarily, a passing motorist screamed "Dog abuser!" and made an obscene gesture.

Well, Boomer got saved and Bernie now chains him in the back. He bought a gross of air fresheners to hang on the rearview mirror that smell like cooking broccoli, and he is a changed man. Kinder and gentler, but more practical.

Yet, the profound question that lingers in his mind every time he climbs into the pickup is, ‘Why didn’t I lower the window from the driver’s side?’ Maybe it was some deep man-animal bonding conflict, or perhaps simply his vision was blurred.

Baxter Black is a former large animal veterinarian who can be followed nationwide through this column, National Public Radio, public appearances, television and also through his books, cds, videos and website, www.baxterblack.com.