Sage and Montana

Mother Nature stepped in last evening to let us know fall is underway. We woke up to 30 degree weather this morning with a light snow near the middle of September. My wife and I had two furry guests; Australian Shepherds named Sage and Montana. They were spending a couple of nights with us while their owners drove another furry friend, an English Bull Dog named Andy, across country to Washington, DC, to reunite her with her parents, my son and his wonderful wife. We put our dark jackets on over warm clothing to take our two guests out for their morning constitutional. It was not long before we were able to come back in. But not before all four of us had our dark coats bespeckled with a dose of Mother Nature’s white frozen flakes.

Our son and his wife, married for two years now, were doing very well in Portland, OR. He had just graduated from the University of Portland with a Political Science Degree and she had a well-established position with a great company. But then our son was accepted to attend the American University Law School, in Washington, DC. They both agreed they would make the move and fortunately, her talents made her extremely valuable to several companies and three attempted to make her offers that were quite good. She settled on a position located near Washington, DC.  The offers included an agreement to fund her move to include household goods, two cars and all transportation. It must be nice to be so much in demand during our current economic times where many people found it difficult to find work. But she really is very talented at what she does.

Because of Andy’s flying restrictions, her parents volunteered to drive their daughter’s car across country to give Andy first class accommodations with her own personal entourage caring for her every need. The airlines do not permit English Bull Dogs aboard their planes because of the potential for breathing issues associated with her breed. Our daughter-in-law flew in from DC, to meet Andy along the way to help with the drive eastward. Yes, Andy is their first baby raised from a pup, and she is very special to us all. She is my grand-puppy. And she can call me her Grand-doggy, too, anytime she wishes.

And now back to our doggy sitting adventures. Montana and Sage live out on a ranch near us and after two days, we took them back to their home so they could get back to running the property in hot pursuit of any critter crazy enough to cut across the property. On our way, we reached a point in the road where a sign appeared. “Dear Crossing.” And sure enough, here they come. A Doe and her Fawn followed by the Buck in the family began crossing the road. We pulled to a stop as they slowly made their way across. But I think they were moving too slow to satisfy Montana in the backseat because he began barking instructions telling them to get moving. But that didn’t cause them to move any faster. After all, they did have the right-a-way; the sign said so. It’s not Montana’s fault, he can’t read signs.

When we reached their home, the leashes were detached the moment I opened the rear door and they hit the property on a dead run, barking, immediately going on 4 foot patrol searching every inch of land surrounding their home. They also managed to catch up on another constitutional break during their casing of the land on which they considered themselves to be the primary protectors. It was still in the low 30s so it was a little on the cool side. My wife and I were due another  visit later on in the day so we stayed a while letting them in and out so they could keep up on their security duties but not get too cold in the process. I brought a book to read and got in a few chapters. By noon, and according the weather reports, the temperature was still in the low 30s. So it was time for us to go take care of some errands. I called Montana and Sage into the garage where they had warm accommodations and a good supply of water. Montana was not too cool to that idea so I had to use my “I’m real tough” commands to get him to sit next to Sage and wait for me to close the garage door; showing a stern palm that stayed in plain view until the door got within 6 inches of the ground which meant I was serious about those sitting instructions. That was a pretty difficult task trying to get them to stay put.

My wife and I came out again in the evening to give them their evening meal, a few more minutes of security duty and; it is off to bed they go. They can’t be out at night because that’s when the not so friendly foxes, skunks, porcupines and raccoon begin their nocturnal rampaging. Those guys are another story when it comes to security. It is best to let those guy do their thing during the night without interruption. Montana and Sage could really get themselves into a serious mauling, or if they happen onto somebody who can put up a serious stink, they may be looking at a prolonged scrubbing in a location far from the house out of nose shot. They could also find themselves coming home yelping with pain looking like industrial pin cushions. That would get them front row seats to a dreadful special event; a trip to the vet and his tweezers where they get called up on stage, the operating table, to become the stars. Ouch.

Why go through all the trouble of trying to keep them in the garage when a neat trick would do the trick. All I had to do is get one of their treats; a peanut butter tasting biscuit in the shape of a flat bone, break it in two and have them sit and then lay down. Then I would simply hand each a half and they would ignore everything going on around them while I pushed the button on the control. They looked at me, still in the lay down position, and the door going down, but they couldn’t concentrate on that; that half of a cookie tasted better than a trip to the Outback Restaurant for a steak dinner. Well, they don’t know about that since they have never been there; but I have. That steak and baked potato tastes better than a dog biscuit. At least I bet it does.

The next morning was interesting. As I pulled up to the garage door to let Sage and Montana out, I got out of the car and delayed as long as I could in eager anticipation to see what was about to happen. They knew I was their but didn’t make a peep. The door only got up about 8 or 9 inches before Sage and Montana crawled out screaming with joy to see me, made a few spins and prances in circles before constitutionals and security duty called. Like darts they were out on patrol making a counter clockwise trip around the house. That took several minutes which gave me time to prepare their breakfast. I stayed awhile so the garage door ordeal would not come to quickly. I fixed their bowls with the meals they liked best and changed the old water to being fresh again just inside the garage door to the house, in the mud room. I called them. One after the other ran into the room, and I closed the door behind them. Sage, given the chance, would eat both bowls, so I had to watch her while Montana nibbled at his food as though he still had patrolling on his mind. He moved back and forth from bowl to door. I had to keep reminding him that he would have to eat before hitting counter-clock wise patrol again. I would let Sage out first since she was done eating and give Montana more time to finish eating. Then out he went on a dead run returning to where he and Sage left off.

Our visits would last about 6 days after which the owners would return home by air and we would pick them up. The routine became comfortable for my wife and I and and all indications were that Sage and Montana were happy seeing us each time. It even got a little mysterious for us when we walked out the door to the garage to notice that one of their two sleeping pads was missing. They are about 3-4 feet across and about 4 inches thick. We got ourselves into a mild panic wondering how could one of those pads come up missing. All kinds of ideas flashed through our minds as to how something light this could happen. We went outside looking for a missing pad. It is a three car garage with a large cement circular form driving way big enough to turn around it with a car. We walked out to the road entering the circular driveway to find the missing pad under a tree with a few puffs of cotton padding spread around a hole that seemed to be getting larger. We had notice initially that there was a small hole when the pad was in the garage. We knew at that moment, that either Sage or Montana had moved the pad out under a tree to probably have something soft to sit on in the shade or just have something to chew on in between jaunts around the house on patrol.

That pad problem would have again. But this time, two pads where missing. I looked out to where the pad was following the previous theft and it wasn’t there. Wow! One of these canine robbers was playing a mischievous trick on me. This time I had to go out to the road before I saw one of the pads. It was across the road laying in the field with large cotton balls surrounding it. But that was only one pad, when two were missing. I had to look farther. But then I saw it. It was laying under another tree around the side of the house blending in the landscape making it hard to see. I gathered them up and returned them to their proper place in the garage. It didn’t happen again in the six days. But I was ready for it should it again. I still don’t know which one, Sage or Montana, was playing this cat and pad game with me. My guess it was Montana. He gave me the impression that he would do something like this. Sage was older and little less spry so Montana gets the blame in my mind. He is the pesky one; the leader of the pack.

I would stay at the house for awhile to give them a chance to get in more doggy activities. On one trip to the house and after they had eaten and gone out for awhile, we went out to check on them. In a few minutes they returned. Sage was all wet like she had just taken a bath. We were curious as to how that happened and we began making the rounds around the house, too. But clockwise was our route. There were small bodies of water to our left as we downed the steps around to the back yard. And sure enough the evidence revealed itself. There was a small pond at the foot of the steps and a flat rock pathway passing it. A few steps further down was a hot tub with its cover on. We looked across the lawn to see tree large bowl like receptacles with water bubbling over. At first we thought maybe Sage has gotten into one of them for a quick dip in the cool water. But that was ruled out a short time later when we noticed the rock pathway had a streak of a wet water mark leading from the small pool and the grass. She had been in the pond at the foot of the steps. These two happy go lucky shepherds were probably frolicking around and Sage probably accidentally fell in. But it was time to go for us. But we waited a few minutes so Sage had a chance to dry off in the warm sun.   It was back to the garage where they eagerly following me convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt a half of a doggy biscuit was about to brighten their day. There was no room between me and these two beggars as they took a sitting position on their blanket next to the two pads. It reminded me of the old homeless guys sitting at an intersection holding a sign which said they would work for food. But in this case, the sign said “I will do tricks or follow any command you want, just give me a peanut butter flavored biscuit.

Finally, I gave the down command and they each did an instantaneous belly flop knowing for sure the long awaited time had come. I handed each their share and with garage door opener control in hand just walked out side and pushed the button. I watched as the door made its way down but they stayed in the prone position chomping away. They peered at me as I went out of sight but did not fail to keep chomping and check around them for any scrape that might have fallen. We had been told that getting them to stay in the garage was going to be extremely difficult but the treat trick was even better than stealing mattress pads. But before we resorted to this approach, we were told we could leave them out all day. We tried that but as we left heading for the remote controlled gate about 100 yards down the hill, they two made stealthy attempts to follow us. We would tell them to go home but they would just make larger loops making their way to the gate about the same time we got there. We opened the gate and drove through and the gate closes automatically. They just passed by the gate through a narrow path designed to permit people to walk past the gate. We drove up the road farther. And they continued to follow.  It was clear they were going to follow us regardless. We had another gate to get to which was about a quarter mile away opening to the road way. We just got through the first gate a up the road another hundred yards or so and turned around. We had to return to the doggy biscuit method of control in the garage. We would try that again.

When I was young I had a Australian Shepherd named Buttons. But she was little more passive than Sage and Montana, probably because we had a warmariner who made it his sole purpose in life to steal the show. Buttons would just sit and watch as Pete the Warmariner made prancing around in a perpetual frolic his primary form of enjoyment. He never learned to not do that around Sam the Terrible, a black cat we also had. Several times Pete would forget what happened before and pull his frolicking routine up next to Sam who would fire off with blinding speed several punches to both sides of Pete’s face, claws extended. The yelping in pain was part of his routine, too.  Buttons, I am sure, was just sitting watching Pete learn that history really does repeat itself, over and over again. But his memory seems to be lacking. Buttons was probably thinking, “gosh, how dumb can these Warmariners be?” My time spent with Sage and Montana was a lot of fun. It reminded me of the good old days when I grew up on a ranch with our dogs and Sam the Terrible in Southern California. Sage, Montana and I had a good time frolicking ourselves. Now back to life with humans. Oh how boring. I wonder if they might like peanut butter flavored biscuits?

I wrote another story about Sam the Terrible! (click here) and enjoy the fun I had with the furry friends I grew up with.


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