All of the photos in this blog were taken on the same day – and day not unlike many other days at Dunrovin Ranch. Jewel is our official trail scout and she takes her responsibilities very seriously.
As soon as Jewel gets a hint that is it time for a trail ride, her world narrows down to a few essential things: making sure that she in on the trip roster, reserving a seat to ride in the truck with the people, and conning anyone in the vicinity into a game of fetch.
The minute I pick up my riding boots and start strapping on my spurs, she is a burr on my pant legs and becomes totally embedded in my side. Until she is sure that she is going, she will allow nothing to come between me and her. The sure sign that she has a ticket to ride, is her trail bell. It’s her trail riding badge and is essential for the horses to keep track of her as she jets around in the bushes. All Dunrovin dogs are required to wear bells when accompanying the horses. Once I have affixed the bell to her collar, she know she’s on the job and headed out.
Her next ploy is to find a ball or a stick to entice people as we are getting the horses ready at the barn. She understands that we are busy, BUT she wants to be sure that should someone come by with an empty hand, she is there and ready with her ball and “THE LOOK” that beseeches a game of fetch. This happens before every ride. Clearly, she has been rewarded a sufficient number of times to make this a habit.
Once she sees that the horses are all saddled, her next obsessive mission is to avoid having to ride in the trailer with the horses – she is, after all, more of a person than livestock and she feels that no amount of crowding to ensure her a seat in the truck’s cab is less than she deserves. The minute someone opens the back door to the truck, she jumps in and tries to hide her presence. She has the mistaken impression that if she doesn’t make eye contact with you, that she is not really seen and she can just inconspicuously stake out a seat. As soon as a person gets in, she cuddles up next to them and ingratiates herself in the hopes of acquiring an ally in her quest.
It on the trail that Jewel really shines. She rightfully considers herself an essential part of the operation. It’s her job to run out front and clear the path of any ground birds such as turkeys or grouse that might jump up and startle the horses. The horses really do take pleasure and confidence in her going first down the trail. They have come to know and trust her, feeling more secure in following her across the bridges and through the bushes. They notice when she is missing and are much more alert without her guidance.
When Jewel gets thirsty, she comes up along side of me and looks up, wanting me to get the water bottle out so that she can stand up with her front feet on my stirrup and drink from the bottle. What a low maintenance canine scout! What a great trail companion!
While she is happy to take a short rest during our lunch stops and give me some warm snuggles, as soon as she senses that I have finished, she finds a stick and presents it to me – as if the exercise of the ride were not enough. NO is not an option. It should be totally apparent by now who has trained who in this relationship. I must admit it. I belong to a very nice dog. She generally treats me well.
With all this running around, Jewel sometimes has trouble keeping her ears in order. I tease her that I really shouldn’t be caught in the company of an animal who is so disheveled as to have an ear flopped back. It is rather unbecoming and beneath my standards. My words fall like rain on a pool of water and make not the slightest impression on her. She could care less about looks. She is all about living the good life – and well, come to think of it, that’s how I feel as well.
If Jewel is really lucky and we don’t have a full house in the truck, she gets a front seat position, next to me. This is her idea of heaven – riding home in the truck, next to her person after a long day’s ride in Montana’s back country. She even fancies herself a great conversationalist, turning her head back and forth as we talk.
Once back at the ranch, the days activities finally catch up. Jewel sits quietly in a lady like position with her legs crossed and gets a little shut eye while we take the saddles off, groom the horses, and put things away. It’s another day on the job of being Dunrovin Ranch’s main trail scout.
Around here we refer to her as Joyful Jewel. It is not just that she leads a life filled with great joy which she so readily expresses, but it’s the joy she brings to us. Dunrovin is a happier, healthier, and safer place because of our Joyful Jewel.
I jokingly tell people that when I die I want to come back as my own dog Jewel. I must admit to having some difficulties in figuring out the necessary logistics.