Veeder: Taking a backseat to the dogs
Columnist Jessie Veeder reflects on having to take a backseat to her family's pack of dogs. "Why?" she asks. "Because heaven absolutely forbid, we ask the dog to move. Nope. No one say a thing about
WATFORD CITY, N.D. — I have a little beef with the hierarchy of things around here and I guess it’s time to complain publicly because, well, maybe someone out there can sympathize.
Recently, I was getting a ride from my dad in the side-by-side from my house to the farmyard to pick up another vehicle. This sort of exchange is common here during this season because of the tractor moving and stock trailer moving and cow moving that comes with the change of weather. Dad hopped in the driver’s seat while me — his dear middle daughter who, at a certain dramatic time in our lives together, could be credited with saving his ever-loving life — had to balance on the end of the bench seat with half a butt cheek and one leg out the door while we tooled down the road.
Why? Because heaven absolutely forbid, we ask the dog to move.
Nope. No one say a thing about it.
Well I’m saying a thing about it. See, my dad has three dogs. They’re working dogs, cattle dogs, they have a job and they have a place and their place is inside the cab of the side-by-side waiting for Dad to come out of the house and get to ranching so they can come along.
The cast of characters is lovely really. Juno is a fluffy Aussie and border collie mix with the sweetest temperament who is nearing the end of her days here. About seven years ago she had puppies with our dog, Gus, and dad kept one and named him Waylon. And Waylon is not a pup anymore, but a giant Hanging Tree mix with one blue eye and a real aversion to drama. Then, last winter, around Christmas time, anticipating Juno’s last few years here, enter Oakley, a pup he added to the mix with the idea that the old dog would help her get wise to the rules of chasing cattle through the trees before that old dog is too old to come along.
Not like you can really stop her though, remember. They’re all waiting for him. And they. Are. Not. Moving.
Nope. Not even for a grown woman who politely asks if maybe they can scootch over just a smidge, ugh, just a little, just need to get the door closed, ah, nevermind, this is fine, I’m fine, I’ll just sit on the floor here and let my leg dangle out the door.
As it turns out, along with teaching these dogs to sick ‘em and sit and go back and stay, they’ve all mastered my dad’s art of selective hearing in times like these. Did you know that dogs have that skill?
I’ll note here, that during this recent incident, the other dogs were not along. So it was just Waylon, Dad and I and there was plenty of room for scootching. But there was no scootching. Not even a nudge. And there certainly wasn’t any suggestion that maybe the dog could get out and run over the hill with us.
Waylon was visibly making the move to ignore that I exist, suddenly forgetting his name, turning his back to me and focusing his gaze intently on the smudge on the glass of the driver’s side door. I think he even raised his left paw and put it on my dad’s shoulder, just to prove his point.
We got to the barnyard and I swear Waylon would have kicked me out before we came to a full stop if he could. “Good riddance, where we going now Boss?” And both dog and human left me to get my own ride, carrying on with their day together like this was normal.
Which apparently it is now. Just last weekend, we were loading up horses and helping in the pickup to roundup cows a ways down the road. I thought I might sit up front with Dad and my little sister, maybe be in charge of the radio dial, take in the autumn foliage out the window. But Dad cut me off at the pass to open the tiny back door for me to slide on in. With Waylon. But Waylon wouldn’t move, of course. Apparently, he couldn’t see me. He wanted the window seat. So I said “excuse me” and slipped on past to take my place in the middle tiny back seat of the old pickup with the missing fencing gloves, miscellaneous tools, half-empty water bottles and extra feed store caps. I sandwiched my body between two dogs who had just taken a dip in the stinky black mud at the crick in the barnyard, while my little sister and the new puppy sat up front, the fall breeze blowing through their hair and fur on our way to get work done.
I mean, I’m a grown woman! I’m dang-near middle aged! I have aches and pains! I survived cancer! I saved my dad’s life once (or maybe more, probably but who’s counting?)
And this is my beef. I have taken a literal back seat to the dogs.
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Greetings from the ranch in western North Dakota and thank you so much for reading. If you're interested in more stories and reflections on rural living, its characters, heartbreaks, triumphs, absurdity and what it means to live, love and parent in the middle of nowhere, check out more of my Coming Home columns below. As always, I love to hear from you! Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.