Vet recounts a cowboy's surprise


One cowboy gets quite the calf-working experience, thanks to an excited mutt.

It was all I could do to stand there and laugh as I heard the story unfold. When one old cowboy tells a story about another old cowboy, it is positively delightful.

If you have never been to a West Texas calf working, you might need a little introduction. Allow me: The calves are gathered into a pen, usually about a quarter of the size of a football field. There are a few cowboys who rope the calf, another cowboy who catches the roped calf and takes him down, and yet another cowboy or two who give the calf its shots, brand it and castrate it.

I have been around this activity all of my life, and it's usually accompanied by a chuck wagon-type breakfast and lunch. All of the neighbors show up to help. My grandfather, and even his grandfather before him, did roughly the same thing with the process unchanged throughout the years.

But at the particular calf working the one old cowboy was describing, a bit of a different twist occurred. The calves belonged to cowboy Rick. Rick's neighbor Perry was the one doing the castrating. As is usually the case, there were a large number of dogs present for the calf working. But one dog, a skinny, adolescent 60-pound mutt, played a critical role in this story.

This dog belonged to Rick, and ol' Rick knew a secret about this rascally mutt that made it essential that the dog come to the calf working. Apparently, this dog humped everything in sight. Rick and Perry are good friends, always playing jokes on each other. So it wasn't surprising that Rick knew this dog would hump anything that stood still and he made sure that dog was in the pen whenever Perry was castrating calves. When one castrates a calf in the dragging pen, it requires use of both hands and getting down on your knees. This clearly leaves no way to fend off a very—ahem—enthusiastic 60-pound dog.

Sure enough, the first calf was roped and down and ol' Perry dove in to do his mission. The dog saw Perry assume the position and went right to work. Can you just picture an old cowboy dude bent over at the waist while on his knees, working frantically with both hands to castrate a calf? Now, add to that a skinny mutt mounting him every time he goes down, while 25 other cowboys are laughing so hard they're falling off of their horses.

Perry couldn't do a thing to stop it. He had to use both hands and all his concentration in order to get the required job done. And none of those other cowboys were going to jump in to help. This, of course, made Perry furious. And this, of course, made the ring of cowboys laugh even harder.

A few days later, Rick and Perry showed up at my veterinary clinic with their story and the skinny mutt in tow. Perry had to work calves again the next week and was getting tired of the fact that the local cowboy clan found such delight in his misery. That's when Perry informed me that he was paying to have the dog castrated, even though it wasn't his. I don't think I'll forget the look on Perry's face as Rick described the events of that calf working. What a funny, funny surprise.

Dr. Brock owns the Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas.

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