I’ve often wonder how animals, particularly our domestic friends such as dogs and cats, perceive different situations in their lives, and if they could talk, what would they tell us about their experiences?
I’d like to tell you about a dear friend of mine. She’s a 16-year-old Border Collie named Minnie. You might wonder what is so special about her? She’s experienced hard times in her life, but then, and even now Minnie’s gentle nature never wavered. She is the sweetest, most gentle soul I’ve ever known in an animal, and I’d like to tell you her story.
When Raul and I started out in the guest ranch business, while working in a partnership on his uncle’s ranch, we met Minnie when she was 6 months old. She didn’t belong to us then. She belonged to Raul’s cousin, our business partner, who acquired her as a family pet.
Everyone who met Minnie, adored her. She became well-known for her good nature, and more importantly, her smile. At first, people were cautious whenever she raised her lips, and showed her teeth. Those who didn’t know her, assumed she was snarling at them, but sweet, Minnie would never snarl at anyone.
During the years we worked at the other ranch, Minnie accompanied us on every trail ride. When out riding with a group, people often pointed towards a distant hillside at the small, black and white figure who effortlessly bounded over bushes, and chased rabbits. When Minnie was about 8 years old, Raul’s cousin introduced a young, female Australian Shepard into the dog pack. Her name was Peckys; and she hated Minnie from the very start.
Peckys bared her teeth at Minnie, she picked fights, and growled threateningly at Minnie’s every move. The tension grew steadily worse, until one day, we spotted Minnie just outside the fence line, watching us from afar. She looked so sad, and alone out there by herself. This worried me because it was obvious, Peckys was trying to push Minnie away.
One morning when we were out riding with a group, I scanned every inch of the trail, and along the hillsides for signs of Minnie, but she was nowhere to be found. After an hour or so, we stopped, and dismounted for a short break. While I was tying my horse, Minnie suddenly appeared from underneath the bushes. Much to everyone’s delight, we discovered she was secretly following us the entire time!
Everyone in the group was aware of the tension between the two dogs, and they were as relieved as I was to see Minnie prancin, and smiling for us once again. We gathered around her, welcoming her company with vigorous belly rubs, and ear rubs which she always loved.
Suddenly, Pecky’s body sailed past me, and our euphoria over Minnie came to a speeding halt. Peckys, in all her fury, landed on top of Minnie, pinning her to the ground. She snapped, and snarled as Minnie struggled to regain her footing so she could defend herself. We tried to call Peckys off but it was impossible. One of the young men in the group tried to kick her off but that didn’t work either.
Finally, my son Ricky, grabbed Peckys by the scruff of her neck with one hand, her tail with the other, hurled her through the air, and into the bushes. Unfortunately, no one noticed our close proximity to the ravine’s edge, or the five-foot drop to the rocks below. With Peckys out-of-the-way, we thought the fight was over, but we couldn’t have been more wrong.
Fierce growling behind us forced us to turn around, just as Peckys charged Minnie again. This time, Peckys deliberately crashed into her, and sent Minnie tumbling over the edge. I couldn’t believe my eyes or ears; it sounded like a watermelon split open when she hit the ground below.
Ricky and I found her lying in the grass not far from where she fell. My dear Minnie, I get tears in my eyes as I write this. I still remember how she smiled at us, and wagged her tail, even though the top of her head was bleeding, and blood trickled through her nose, and teeth.
I was beside myself with worry, but we couldn’t carry her back. Raul reminded me, we had 16 university students with us who were our sole responsibility at the moment. Plus, Minnie wasn’t our dog, and if she didn’t want to come back with us, there was nothing we could do. Logically, I understood everything he was saying, even though it went against my better judgement to leave her there.
After the group left the following morning, there was still no sign of Minnie. I decided to saddle my horse, and ride back to the water hole, hoping I could find her. I called her repeatedly for over an hour, and I searched everywhere, but she was nowhere to be found. I seriously wondered, if she had died during the night. There was nothing more I could do except hope she was resting somewhere, perhaps healing herself, as animals sometimes do. I hoped for the best.
Three months passed, and during that time, in the summer of 2006, Raul and I moved to La Bellota. We began to build, and prepare for our new venture in the guest ranch business, this time, on our own land, with a fever of excitement like no other. We were busy, and working hard, preparing for the following Spring 2007, when our first guests would be coming to La Bellota.
One day, on an excursion into town for supplies, Raul ran into his cousin. After chatting for a while, he asked about Minnie. His cousin said she was last seen somewhere on the indian reservation, about 12 miles from his ranch. When Raul asked if he was going to get her, his cousin said no, and if we wanted her, we could have her.
Raul and Ricky poked around like a couple of detectives in a high-profile investigation, and soon discovered exactly where Minnie was living. The next day, they drove out to the reservation, picked her up, and brought her home to La Bellota.
Minnie has lived with us at the ranch for 10 years. She’s doesn’t join us on long trail rides anymore, although she takes her job as guardian of the horse coral, very seriously. When coyotes come too close at night, its Minnie who chases them way back into the dark canyons. In the stillness of the night, her faint bark assures us the coyotes are well at bay.
Minnie still smiles when someone calls her. If she’s having a good day, she’s very affectionate, and extremely social. On other days, she’s aloof, and prefers to be alone. Her sweet, temperament remains the same, but if she’s working, according to her, she’ll politely ignore your calls. She has a job to do, and it’s going to get done. Minnie is always on a mission.
Our girl Minnie, is very special. She reminds me of another time, when Raul and I first set out on what would be an incredible change in the course of our lives. I hope she senses my devotion to her. Although still shy at times, she’ll usually waits until the other dogs aren’t around, before she comes to me for a good petting session, which I gladly give to her.
Minnie has been through a lot in her life. Her shyness around other dogs, and sometimes people, shows she hasn’t forgotten her experiences. I often wonder what happened to her, what went through her mind, and what she experienced, during those three months after her fight with Peckys.
We often go for long walks, although I don’t see her much except at a distance through the trees, as she roams the hillsides, soars over bushes, smaller ones now, and chases rabbits to her heart’s content.
Like people, we are all different and our experiences, both good and bad, have played a role in molding us into who we are today. I see that in Minnie, and sometimes, I see it in myself. I’ve made a solemn promise to her that I would make sure the rest of her days are happy, and filled with tremendous amounts of love and affection. As I said before, everyone who meets Minnie, adores her. My promise is coming true.