Cowgirl Sass & Savvy: Old dog memories

Julie Carter is a New Mexico writer and author whose column appears weekly on Rio Grande Digital.

Julie Carter

Good stories from country folk are the heartbeat of the lifestyle.  Hitting the top of the charts are tales of horses, snakes and wild cattle events.

And like any lover of animals, there are always great stories about at least one special dog in their life.

Favorite dog   memories certainly aren’t limited to rural living but it is often in those settings that you will find those memorable canines in larger numbers. Acres of living space allows for the accumulation of an assortment of critters. Happens before you realize it.

At one time, my family had five of those absolutely worthless mutts that they loved, fed and nurtured until they went to doggy heaven.

Bridgett, a Saint Bernard, was quite the “nanny” of the bunch, but she did look a little out of place on a dry high-desert ranch in New Mexico.  Her most unpopular day was when she broke through the door into the house to steal a roast that had been set out on the counter to thaw.

Poppy and Puppy were the watch dog/guard dog committee. They would bark you in the door then Puppy would leave to his guard post and Poppy would stand and “smile” at you. She had a muzzle and teeth that looked like she was perpetually smiling.

Tiny was just that– very small on a “compared to” basis. He was some sort of terrier dog with big bug eyes. There was nothing special about Tiny except he was always there. He had joined the herd of mutts that had been dropped off or deserted and had eventually found their way to a middle-of-nowhere ranch.

And then there was Rupert.  Rupert was a small red, long-haired mutt that, until his dying day, thought it was his job to bark and bite even when he was deaf, blind and had no teeth. He’d lie under the kitchen table and when an unsuspecting guest would move their feet the wrong direction, he’d make an attempt to “gum” their foot off.

There were more dogs after that — Jessie, Mike, Murphy and Pepe among others. The point is we all have memories of a special dog, be it mutt or purebred.

We cuss them, love them, and call them names. And we miss them more than we can explain when they are gone. They are doormats, babysitters, guardians and companions. Often completely worthless pain-in-the-rear buddies, they mark a place in our hearts that lasts forever.

We identify a dog with his owner and vice versa. When we lose a loved one, their dog is a cherished link to them in the days ahead. When we then lose the dog it’s like losing the person all over again.

Dying of old age is the ultimate we can wish for our pets. Rural living brings with it other dangers for them that can shorten their life span including snake bite and predators. It’s hard to tell a dog with a tendency to hunt to not be sniffing around the bushes because he might find a diamond back.

I’ve lost some pretty special dogs over the years that hurt my heart deeply.   And always, I swore I’d not get another one to avoid the pain. Then somewhere along the way a roly-poly blue heeler puppy would catch my eye and I’d cave to the cuteness.

And the cycle would begin again.

Julie can be reached for comment at And no, don’t send me your puppies, blue heeler or otherwise. Visit her website at




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