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Published March 11, 2013, 09:49 AM

Doggy doctoring

Tender care for the tender paw.

By: Ryan Taylor, Agweek

TOWNER, N.D. — Being a dog on the Taylor Ranch may not be the easiest life, but if you’re an energetic, adventurous sort of pup, most would bark in agreement that it’s a pretty darn good life.

These days, our family has a lanky Black Labrador cross “friendly neighbor” dog we call Pudgy. He looks like a Lab even though he has some wandering cow dog or who knows what in his heritage.

He was kind of pudgy in his puppy days, but a daily routine of 10 to 20 miles of running on the ranch has him looking more svelte than pudgy, but we called him Pudgy when we started and we continue to do so. Besides, Sveltey doesn’t have much of a ring to it.

He’s pretty much a free-range dog. I never did tie this dog up. I tried to once, but his neck is about the same size as his head. He slipped out of the collar and he hasn’t been tethered since.

We noticed, though, that his freedom to range was being hampered a little with a bad paw, or, more precisely, a bad toe. We decided to do something out of the ordinary for this ranch dog — seek veterinary care.

It’s not that we don’t believe vet care is a good thing, it’s just that our ranch dogs don’t need much of it. They get lots of exercise and a steady diet of cheap dog food supplemented with a variety of high-protein pasture fare. It keeps them pretty healthy.

So I took Pudgy into the big city for some doctoring; only his second trip to the city and the vet. The first trip he got one of those procedures that Bob Barker was always promoting, the neuteralizing thing, but Pudgy must not have remembered. He jumped right in the pickup.

He’s a little embarrassing to take into town. He had just killed a skunk a few days before and he hadn’t aired out completely. He’s not a keep-the-collar-on kind of a dog, and not knowing if he’d want to get in a scrap with a poodle in the waiting room, I slipped an OB calving chain around his neck for an extra measure of security.

So there we are in the examining room in the big city vet clinic waiting for the doc. Pudgy smells like skunk, hasn’t had a bath since the water holes froze over and he’s sporting a calving chain for a collar and leash.

Just to bring the contrast full circle, I picked up an issue of Dog Fancy magazine that was sitting in the room to read while we waited. I read up on doggy dental care, canine allergies, learned about Chinese Shar-Pe and Bichon Frise dog breeds, and pondered an offer to enter their “Dogtown USA” contest. All while sitting with our skunky smelling mutt held by a calving chain.

Turned out that Pudgy needed to have a tumorous toe amputated. I know veterinarians realize they’re dealing with a different kind of customer when every medical suggestion they offer is returned with, “how much will that cost?”

Pudgy was a free dog, and the kids really love him, and I like him too, so I sprung the negotiated charge to get the toe removed and put the old spring back in his step. I declined the $70 lab analysis of the discarded digit, and took them up on the suggestion that I could take the stitches out myself in two weeks.

And Pudgy seems pretty happy back on the ranch with his family. He figures every time he goes to town they cut something out of him or off of him, so he’s going to try and keep the 81 pounds he’s got left at home on the range.

He may not be “dog fancy” but he is pretty smart.

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