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Posts Tagged ‘Skipper’

I kept the right side wheels of the low-slung 1957 Ford precariously balanced on the mound between the two deep ruts constituting the road into the ranch. The left side wheels made a new path. If the car fell into the deep ruts, I would lose an oil pan, or worse.

My still new bride let out a gasp and I slammed on the brakes. We were on the crest of the hill, the Jones’ place spread out before us.

“What?”

“Oh Dave,” she sighed. “It’s so poor looking.”

The track ended in an acre of dirt yard. To the right the dilapidated barn struggled to maintain an upright position, a sturdy looking corral on the north wall of the barn seeming to hold it up. A windmill and stock tank were north of the corral. To the west, insolently weather beaten but standing proud and stark against the massive horizon was a two-story frame house. Patches of tenacious white paint clung to wind petrified siding. There were no trees. Brown prairie grass spread west and north while east and south were tan dirt mounds endlessly rearranged by the wind. Parked in front of the open barn door, the driver’s side door ajar, was John Jones’ 1949 Chevy pickup.

I eased the car down the hill into the yard. Kathy and Jenny came down the steps from the house, their blonde hair pulled back in identical ponytails. Ferdie raced around the corner of the house. Skipper, eyes focused, herding him.

“Look at Skipper running. Looks like she’s doing very well after her ordeal with the mowing machine,” I observed.

Rosalie patted me on the arm. Her first introduction to surgery had been helping me put Skipper back together.

“Don’t get the big head, you got lucky.”

Bent over in the doorway to the barn, John held the left hind leg of a bay gelding between his knees. He had a mouth full of horseshoe nails and held a horseshoe hammer in his right hand. He smiled around the nails and waved the hammer as I got out of the car and came around to open the door for Rosalie.

Kathy, the kids, and Skipper all came to the passenger side of the car. When I opened the door, our German Shepherd Mister forced his way out before Rosalie could move.

The two dogs performed the requisite sniffing of each other’s sites of identification. Mister circling stiffly, ears pointed forward, Skipper making quick, jerky movements. They circled each other three times, noses buried, then Skipper rushed off with Mister following, determined to keep her close.

“Honey”, I said, “this is Kathy and Ferdie and Jenny. Kathy, this is Rosalie.”

John finished with the horseshoe, dropped the horse’s leg, and came over to the car.

“And this is John,” I added.

Rosalie extended her hand. The rancher took it, pulled her in close, and gave her a hug.

“Welcome,” he said, “please feel you are with family here.”

If this sounds interesting, you can read all about the Jones family in my memoir; “Animals Don’t Blush”.

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It was my first weekend on the job. The middle of June 1960 and I told my new boss that I would be happy to handle the Saturday calls and any emergencies that weekend.

I was on the last scheduled call of the day when Dick Mathes, our office manager/ receptionist/call scheduler, reached me on the mobile radio.

“John Jones is bringing in his cow dog, got caught by the mowing machine. His ranch is about thirty miles from here, in the badlands. He called about three so he should be here soon.”

A petite, young woman, blonde hair, dressed in clean but worn Levi’s, a denim shirt, and cowboy boots jumped to the ground from the passenger side of the pickup. She turned to lift down a young girl, her blonde hair almost white. An older boy, another towhead, jumped out unassisted.

The way the rancher carried the dog into the hospital told of his gentle nature. I noted his weathered face, thickly callused hands, and massive chest.     I held the door open and directed the Jones family into the exam room. Skipper, a two-year old Border collie bitch, black and white with wide set, expressive brown eyes thumped her tail on the stainless steel of the examination table.

Skipper raised her head, the rancher patted it and the dog lay back down on the table with a sigh. Both front legs and the left hind leg were lacerated, it appeared that metacarpal and metatarsal bones were broken. The upper portion of the left hind leg looked strange. When I palpated it the dog flinched. There was dried blood, dirt, and hair contaminating all the wounds.  I detailed all the damage to the family and explained what it would take to repair it.

“How much Doc?”

“Three dollars to put her to sleep, probably at least a hundred if we try to save her but here’s the deal, I’m new. I’m anxious to prove what I can do and I want the challenge of trying to save this dog,” I glanced at the two children. “It appears to me that Skipper is pretty special.”

The boy couldn’t stay quiet any longer. “Please Dad,” then he clenched his mouth shut.

The little girl chimed in. “Yeah, pleath Dad, we have to.” She was missing front teeth.

The rancher sighed. “OK . . . you guys understand this means no Christmas or birthday gifts this year?”

I called my new bride and convinced her to come and help with the surgery. I needed a “go-fer” since I was all alone. Several hours later, we finished. Skipper had her fractured hind leg in a Thomas splint and both front legs in casts. The next morning she was frantically banging around in the cage, but calmed down immediately after I took her out to treat her. When I tried to put her back in the cage, she became frantic again. I finally realized she was a ranch dog that had probably never seen the inside of a house, let alone been in a cage.

She was happy as could be in a stall in the barn and there she stayed, content, for almost two weeks recovering. Then on a very hot evening, we left the barn door open for ventilation. Somehow, Skipper got out of the stall and was gone. While out on farm calls I searched the sides of the road for the next week and a half, hoping to see her, nothing. The Jones family also searched, put up posters, called into the radio. The radio station made numerous announcements about Skipper and the newspaper ran an article about her, nobody reported seeing her.

As I walked through the door to the clinic, the phone rang. It was John Jones announcing Skipper had arrived home, a thirty-mile trek on one good leg, the previous evening. He brought her in and I was able to repair the casts and Thomas splint and dress all her wounds. She was terribly thin but happy to see me and eventually made a full recovery.

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