The herd mentality

Credit crunch, housing crash, endless wars and economic downturns – I know times are tight, but this is getting ridiculous. The other day, I had a woman ask me what my dog did for work.

I had stopped to admire her Australian shepherd puppy, and perhaps commiserate over the destruction of shoes, boots, toys, furniture, seat belts and electrical cords that my own pup, an Aussie-heeler mix, had left in her wake over the last few months. But instead, I was asked for a resume.

“What is your dog’s job?” she asked matter of factly and completely straight faced. I could tell by her dog’s matching hiking boots ($70 worth of plastic that my dog would have shredded to ribbons in 3.2 seconds) that despite its young age, it was already a full-fledged member of the canine work force, possibly rescuing people lost in the wilderness or teaching sign language to Third World children.

At first I scoffed at the question, mostly because I was ashamed to admit that other than herding the kids and regular trips up to the Nature Trail “jobsite,” my dog didn’t really have any gainful employment. On the other hand, this woman’s dog was a purebred, destined for dog shows, kennel clubs and agility competitions. But mine was just a mutt – about the only thing she was destined for was death row until I came along, sucked in by the one floppy ear, mismatched eyes and scruffy cattle dog charm. But I must admit that the more I thought about the prospect of my dog earning her keep, the more I liked the idea. I mean, I’ve had to get a part-time job to help make ends meet, so why not the dog? Her tennis ball, Kong and Zuke’s habit wasn’t cheap, and she was plowing through leashes like no one’s business. Sure, she may need a little help in the people skills department, but Lord knows she’s got plenty of energy and, well, a dogged determination (duh.) If only I could harness that energy, maybe there was a canine genius lurking beneath that psychotic stare and constant nervous pacing. Who knows, maybe some day she, too, would end up on the cover of National Geographic, touting her “world class” vocabulary and ability to bark in 12 different languages.

But first, a little vocational testing was in order. No sense in sticking a future doggy rocket scientist on the assembly line, if you know what I mean. So, I began observing Daisy to see just where her strengths lied. Already, she showed a strong an aptitude for letters, as evidenced by her constant fixation on the plastic refrigerator magnets. I watched as she casually bumped up against the fridge, knocked a few letters to the floor and began chewing. Perhaps it was a sign, she was trying to spell something out to me. I knelt down and examined the slobbery letters … “Z” … “X” … “R” … and what was either a “C” or a badly maimed “G.”

“Zxrc? What does it mean?” I pleaded as I cupped her freckled snout in my hands, hoping to zone in on her doggy brainwaves. But all she did was wrestle free, lick some green plastic specks from her chops and commence her hellbent destruction of the alphabet.

OK, so maybe she was more of a doer than a thinker. I started ticking off the mental checklist of employment options. Factory work? Too short of an attention span. Therapy dog? Too spazzy. Avalanche dog? It takes her half an hour to find a tennis ball in 3 inches of snow. Guard dog? Too submissive. Sled dog? Too short. Bomb-sniffing dog? Too dangerous.

OK, so maybe she wasn’t cut out for conventional work either, but I will give her this: she can fetch ball until the cows come home. Which brings me to my brilliant idea. See, as her name implies, Daisy Duke is a country dog. She needs wide open spaces, acres of sheep and a crusty old cowpoke to truly be in her element. In fact, I once watched her round up the kids at the playground in 5 seconds flat, first taking out the little one by the heels before grabbing the big one by the seat of his pants. And the neighbors’ Chihuahua doesn’t stand a chance with her around.

Unfortunately, as we all know, herding opportunities in these parts are becoming fewer and farther between. Which would explain why Daisy (formerly known by the much more rural moniker of “Blessin,’”) was found aimlessly wandering the mean streets of Bayfield, woefully unemployed without a kibble to her name. And as more ranchlands give way to mini malls, there are only going to be more like her. Rough and tumble cattle dogs, down on their luck and forced into a mundane suburban existence of Chuckits, milkbones and leashed escorts along the river trail.

But all is not lost for these misplaced working outcasts of the West (and this is where my brilliant idea comes in.) I have three words: Superfund sheep herd. OK, you gotta bear with me, but just hear me out. See, when you really think about it, it makes perfect sense. The city buys the sheep; the sheep graze the dog park, thus keeping noxious weeds to a minimum; the dogs herd the sheep, thus having a job to do and staying off the streets; young children and Chihuahuas no longer live in fear; and everyone is happy. Including all the unemployed weavers who can make sweaters for ski bum orphans with the free wool (which, of course, will come from a special, radioactive-resistant sheep breed.)

Of course, the possibilities from here are endless: goats, alpacas, llama rides, petting zoos, tourist mutton busting … the list goes on.

OK, so it sounds a little crazy, but they thought Edison was crazy at first, too. And even if it is a little far-fetched, it sure beats the doggy unemployment line.

– Missy Votel



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows