Thunder Butte

June 15, 2005

The Dumbest Dog

Old Pard was the dumbest dog you ever saw. Somebody gave him to me when I was in about the seventh grade. He was big, even for a puppy. He was really red like an Irish Setter, except that he was bigger, heavier, and broader. And, he had more energy than could be expected from a dog his size. This was odd, too, because Pard never ate much—usually just my left over sandwich, which was more likely than not a mashed potato between two slices of bread.

I always considered Pard a dummy because he would never do anything that I told him. He just had too much energy to sit around and listen to some silly prairie kid. I used to spend hours trying to teach that dog something, but it was always a waste of time.

Pard was dumb alright, but I can’t count the number of times he stepped in to keep me out of trouble. One day, the Briscoe boys who lived nearby came over to visit. We got into a fight, like we always did. Dale was the oldest, followed by Jack, Billy and finally David, who was just a few years old. Even little Billy used to try to hit me once a fight got going. Well, this particular day, they got me down and pounded me good until Pard caught onto what was going on. Pard quickly scattered them like a flock of birds because he demonstrated fast that he was willing to chew up the whole bunch of them.

I often would explore Thunder Butte with Pard at my side. We would have a great time. We explored the cherry orchard and ate choke cherries by the handful. We explored the caves at the top of the butte where people had scratched their names and messages probably going all the way back into prehistory. On each trip, Pard would sniff out and grab a rattlesnake that I was about to step on. By rapidly shaking the rattler, he would beat it to pieces on the rocks. On most of these excursions, he would kill at least one rattler, and sometimes he would get two or three. He was dumb, alright, but he saved me from all of those rattlers without once ever getting bitten.

Another great trick of old Pard`s was catching my horse when it tried to run away. Almost every sheepherder and cowboy that I ever knew, at one time or another, had tried to teach a dog to catch their horse. Yet, never once did I ever hear of one accomplishing this feat until Pard came along. Usually, when you got off your horse out on the prairie, you would just “ground hitch” him. That is, you would just drop the reins on the ground. The horse didn’t like to walk with the reins trailing because he would step on them and they would jerk the bit in his mouth, which would snap his head back. Lots of horses could be ground hitched. Still, some were smart enough to know that if they ran, the reins would fly out to the side and wouldn’t get stepped on. Well, Pard thought that a running horse with flying reins made for a great game. Being a dog who always wanted to play, he just got right into the spirit of the thing—chasing the horse, catching the reins in his mouth, and pulling the horse to a stop. Then, he would tug and pull, eventually leading the horse back to me. Dumb old Pard! He saved me from being stranded so many times. This was something no one could ever teach a dog.

Pard died one winter when I was away in high school or college. They said he was always listless when I didn’t come home anymore. He just didn’t have anything to do. Or maybe in his own poor, dumb way, he just missed me too much.

--John Crowley
Mike Crowley Wednesday, June 15, 2005


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