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Published November 08, 2010, 10:45 PM

Lanky Labrador: A (ranch) dog’s life

TOWNER, N.D. — I don’t think anyone would label me a dog lover, but we’ve always had a dog or two or three here on the ranch. The majority of them were pretty worthless, but all were likable mutts. So call me a dog liker.

By: Ryan Taylor, Special to Agweek

TOWNER, N.D. — I don’t think anyone would label me a dog lover, but we’ve always had a dog or two or three here on the ranch. The majority of them were pretty worthless, but all were likable mutts. So call me a dog liker.

Dogs don’t have much to complain about here on the Taylor Ranch. Free to roam for miles around without so much as a collar on their neck. Plenty to eat in their dog dish and plenty to scavenge out in the pasture because, to be honest, not every critter here gets to meet their demise away from the ranch.

It’s hard to believe there’re dogs in town that never get out of a fenced yard, get to drag a little carrion back home or go out and about without a collar and a leash attached. For some pups, a people house and a bathroom break in the city park is the extent of their freedom.

So if you say “it’s a dog’s life,” there’s some variation. If you say someone “works like a dog,” it all depends on what dog you’re referencing. We have a border collie that used to work cattle a little, but she’s pretty much retired now. Her life revolves around going from the dog house to the dog dish to the trees and back to the dog house. Once in awhile, she’ll join me if I take a horse out to the pasture. Pretty easy life.

Then we have a hyperactive hybrid black Labrador/border collie cross. He ranges out a little farther. He runs with the pickup on every trip between our house and the ranch homestead where the shop and corrals are — a little over a mile. Back and forth, back and forth.

Calorie-burning buddy

He especially loves hay hauling season. Our hay is fairly close to our wintering pastures, but it’s still anywhere from a mile to six miles when we drive the high and dry route where we won’t get stuck with the mover. The loping Labrador will make most every trip with me. Sometimes, he waits in the field by the loader tractor until I return for another load. He logs an easy 20-plus miles a day.

It’s especially nice that he replaces a lot of the calories he’s burning while he’s running back and forth. He’s on point every time I pick up a bale with the loader. He darts under the loader bucket as soon as it’s clear for him, snatches a nice plump mouse and sends it down the hatch. Sometimes, he can get two.

He’s a better mouser than most cats I know. That saves on the dog food, and we’re picky on the dog food brands we buy. Nothing but the cheapest for our dogs. Maybe the option of eating that cheap dog food back at the house stimulates his appetite for fresh rodent protein.

When we first got this black dog as a puppy, we named him “Pudgy,” you know, like plump, chubby, slightly overweight. We still call him Pudgy, but diet and exercise has made him plainly lanky and rather svelte in his maturity.

So if anyone would ask me what they should do to lose some extra weight, I have to look no farther than my loyal Lab and say, “have you tried running 20 miles a day, eating mice and cheap dog food, and drinking slough water?”

Worked for Pudgy, should work for anyone on four legs or two.

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