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No Bones About it

Story ID:4203
Written by:Kathe M. Campbell (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Broken Tree Ranch Montana USA
Year:2005
Person:Me 'n my dog
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No Bones About it

No Bones About it

No Bones About It
by Kathe Campbell

Somewhere it's said that if we give dogs space, time, and love we can spare, in return dogs will give us their all. It's the best deal humans ever made.

Corky Sue Campbell is my handsome and charming silver and black treasure. Forget the "Sue" part, for his middle name is uttered only when he's in rare trouble. He merely asks that I talk to him often, teach him to work, allow him sit close, and love him unconditionally. If you look into a dog's eyes and see nothing but an icy stare, you're probably not a dog fancier, but when you look into Corky's eyes and see his very soul, your heart will melt.

Corky is the second precious Keeshond to come into our lives when we needed him most. My husband was critically ill, so Cork spent months seated close to the wheelchair while gnarly old fingers stroked the pup's head. They both looked forward to afternoons upon our deck as pops spoke of bones and truck rides, though Cork longed for him to toss his ball. Then one day my beloved pops was gone, so peacefully, so silently, shattering our lives.

Family came in droves to scatter pop's ashes upon our mountain. Our pastor led us in prayer, I read my special poem, then all journeyed to summer's blossoming summit to say good-bye, except our dog. Corky brooded against his master's pillow for days, not eating or drinking as I spurred him on - comforting his grief despite my own. Sharing our sorrow was healing, my colloquy finally raising us both out of desolate depression.

Toeing up a chunk of early snow while journeying out to feed the stock, I spoke aloud about caring for our ranch with my crippled old body. Rheumatoid arthritis and the loss of an arm left me listing as my Dutch barge dog pathed our way to morning chores. Would I remember all pop's had taught me about proper care of the animals and equipment? Bent on lifting my burden with his wide smile and love-light shining, Corky slurped cold tears as I knelt to open a bale of hay. With virgin flakes swirling wildly outside the hay room, 'twould be the beginning of our first trying year together.

"I need to sound cheerful, huh, Cork! This pity stuff has gotta go, so I'll make a list and get organized. We're the head honchos now and I promise not to cry until I'm in the shower, for I know how it upsets you."

March roared in with Chinooks and old sol goading up patches of green in-between snowstorms. Contentment finally embracing us, I felt like whistling, even with another boot-full of snow...until the thefts began. Seven ducks were mysteriously disappearing. Coyotes had wandered near Duck Soup Waterfowl Refuge, but upon confronting Mother Goose's impressive wing span, they hastily retreated. Cork habitually bushwhacked the egg-sucking fox, but now my pup was forced to take up serious sentry duty. Shortly, in the midst of a wild blizzard, there appeared a neighbor dog sloshing through the pond, threatening the flock. Although half the thief's size, Corky plunged into the half-frozen water to defend feather and fowl. The mystery solved and neighborly measures taken, there was nary another caper.

After a final May snow, spring emerged with sheets of rain, lightening, and earsplitting thunder bumpers driving Cork crazy. While Mother Nature put on her show, he dogged my every step as I locked up at night making rounds with cheery chatter and song. It calmed him and the kitties as they clung close on our big bed, shuddering at old Thor's crashes and rumbles in the twilight. Let a bear wander through these parts, Cork is all macho and full of heroics keeping us safe and sound. Let there be even one little boom on high, he melts into a puddle of terror.

Torrents of rain finally gave the roof a rest and we relaxed, indulging in our nightly chin-chopper and tummy time. But just as I gazed the TV news between my toes, we began to jiggle and shake. Terrorized kitties darted away as I held Cork close, quieting his fears. "It's okay kid, just a little earthquake. I've got you--we'll be fine," and yet both our hearts pounded like trip hammers.

Summer at last and Corky prances and wags at dawn's pink glow, licking my knurly old toes peeking from under the covers. "Come on mom, it's time to get moving," as he woofs and wiggles. His grin sets the tone of our days as I jump into my sweats and ponder plans. He can tell by my shoes, or lack thereof, if it's going to be a stay home day, a work day on the ranch, or a day in town. He patiently watches while I put on my face, waiting for the best phrase in his burgeoning glossary . . . . "Wanna go in the truck, Cork?" He whines and rushes for the laundry room to remind me we must feed that bunch of fraidy cats that pop in and out the doggy door. His worst word, of course, "Stay."

"Corky . . . did you remember the donkey's breakfast? Let 'em out, Cork," and he unlatches their gate into our lush, green acres where their graze keeps this place in fine fettle. At night he herds them home, skilled as any herder, even though he hasn't yet mastered closing the latch.

Our weekly days in town are the best, starting with a treat at the bank window and a pat on the head from the grocer's box boy. But not before I ask, "Cork, did you go potty?" He rushes from tree to tree in search of the one that conjures up his best pee. "Good boy," and he knows his favorite seat in the truck is his. Of course, there are long days when he must stay home to take care of business. Although not keen on baby sitting, he knows my promise, "be back soon," and has never followed our truck off this place.

Engaging his all with a resident mouser's every encircled caress seems to be Cork's bummer job. Our ancient yellow cat lost one eye, is near blind in the other, and balks at the new doggy door with its curious flip-flop. "Here he comes, Cork," as I gently shove the old guy out onto the deck. "You watch him for awhile, okay?" And as if by second nature, Cork still jockeys the kitty's skinny old carcass away from deck's edge and sure disaster.

And so our first uncertain year as the sole keepers of the ranch flame ended on a good note. Family and the neighbors were here when needed, but my faithful best pal has quieted my fears and saved some ranch bacon more than once. There's no bones about it, my body English and tone tells my dog when I am in need, and conversely. It's a perfect arrangement. Our road to mending began in a valley of defeat healing our sorrows, but Corky keeps the bond, still soothing a heavy heart when tears sometimes glaze my eyes.