Wednesday, April 30, 2008

MacKenzie Speaks

The Aftermath

I suppose it’s fair to say that my manners aren’t always perfect. Some of the people I hang out with say perfect isn’t even in sight from here. What do you expect? I’m still a puppy! I’ll be the first to admit I got carried away last Saturday night.

The problem is, I’m very sensitive. It really hurts my feelings when my folks take off to have fun without me. How can they keep leaving me behind? I’m supposed to be more important to them than anything else, and yet they keep packing their bags and heading out for parts unknown, at least to me. I’m really getting tired of it.

Anyway, a week ago Saturday, they left for Billings to go watch a bunch of dumb bulls hop around, and I was stuck here with these old lady dogs for hours. Finally about 3 o’clock, I heard a key in the lock. I ran to the door and there were Auntie Nikki and Riley, my good buddy! Of course I had to jump up and down and wag my tail while Nikki petted me, and then I had to sniff Riley from stem to stern to find out what he’d been doing since I saw him last.

But I wasn’t so interested in Riley that I didn’t notice what Nikki was carrying, so I followed her into the kitchen. She put it on the cooktop and left the room to wash her hands. I got my paws up on the oven door and I found a whole smoked chicken pizza up there! That was so nice of her! Getting it out through the dog door on its cardboard disc was sort of hard, but I managed.

I was just chowing down when I heard a shriek from inside and it occurred to me that I might have, er, misunderstood. Nikki came running outside, but by then, I’d swallowed the whole thing and was licking the last sauce up off the cardboard. I heard her telling my folks later that she couldn’t have been out of the kitchen for more than two minutes, so I guess that’s a record for carrying a pizza outside and eating the whole thing. She chased me all over the backyard, which was a lot of fun. When she went back inside, I started to follow her and that’s when I knew for sure I was in trouble. She made me sit outside for hours, till she went to bed! Not fair! If I’d known she was going to be that upset, I would have gladly shared that darned pizza with her. I bet Riley put her up to the whole thing. He always has been the jealous type.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Guilherme Marchi: An Appreciation

While nobody could be happier than I am that Adriano Moraes split the title with Dustin Hall at the Cooper Tires Invitational outside Chicago this past weekend, I have a sneaking suspicion that once again, Guilherme Marchi was robbed. His short-go ride on Malibu was amazing—he was seriously out of shape twice and had to pull himself back upright both times, but in the end, he stayed aboard. I wouldn’t argue with the score of Adriano’s last ride for all the tea in China, but Hall’s trip on Crossroads just bolsters my contention that the judges score spinners higher than jumpers. And I don’t like it one bit.

When the Cooper Tires Invitational was over, Guilherme Marchi was riding 79.25% of his bulls, an absolutely astonishing statistic. In his nine years on the tour, he has won two events, been in the top five nine times, been in the top ten 11 times, scored 90 points or better seven times, and ridden fourteen consecutive bulls before he finally got bucked off. He has finished second at the PBR Finals in Las Vegas three times. This season, no matter what he gets on, he is a serious threat to go eight seconds. He is now the overall leader by better than 2,000 points. And yet he climbs aboard a bull who does everything but jump to the rafters to get him off, and he still gets outscored by a kid on a bull that my cocker spaniel could ride. This has nothing to do with Dustin Hall, who like everybody else has to take what the bull dishes out. I can only fault the judges for this state of affairs.

By all accounts, Guilherme Marchi is a stand-up guy. In an interview a few weeks ago on Versus, J.B. Mauney said that Marchi always encourages him before he rides and praises him when he’s successful. 8 Seconds, the official PBR program (which, by the way, boys, is now woefully out of date), describes Marchi as a “dedicated husband and father, always willing to accommodate his many fans.”

It then goes on to say his English skills “improve daily,” to which I also take exception. It may have escaped your notice, but practically everybody in the world speaks a language other than English. If the PBR officials had any sense at all, they would have hired themselves some commentators who could speak Spanish and Portuguese YEARS ago, when Adriano and Ednei Camenhas showed up. Why should we expect everybody else on the planet to accommodate us? And don’t give me that “because they’re in our country” crap. We Americans go stumbling off into foreign lands ignorantly expecting that we will, somehow, make out without speaking a word of anything besides English, and we even have the gall to get mad when it doesn't work out that way. It’s a wonder any of us get back alive, but worse than that, it’s embarrassing, and it’s at least equally embarrassing that the folks who put 8 Seconds together would stoop to saying one word on the subject.

Having said all that, I don’t speak Portuguese (yet), and of course I don’t hang out in the locker room at PBR events, so I have no idea what the Brazilians say among themselves about their gringo competitors, but I was also embarrassed a couple of years ago when I was watching the documentary Beyond the Bull and I heard J.W. Hart opine that it was just about time for the Brazilians to all go home. That kind of ugly American attitude doesn’t help anybody. Every rider at a PBR event has to qualify—you don’t just walk up to the gate and pay your entry fee.

And every time I see Marchi on television, I am struck by how happy he is just to be here. This sport and this country have made him a wealthy man, and it’s obvious he’s grateful. He rides like somebody in love with the sport, and for that alone I have to cheer every time they open the gate for him.

One final note: I have only seen a handful of PBR riders in person, but when we went to the Nile Invitational in Billings three years ago, we passed Mr. Marchi and a couple of his Brazilian compatriots coming into the Sheraton (now the Crowne Plaza) as we crossed the lobby. Barn Cat is the handsomest man I have ever laid eyes on, and that’s the God’s honest truth, but I am telling you, Guilherme Marchi is definitely worth a second look. If he and I were both single, I’d do my best to strike up a conversation. And you can bet I’d learn how to say, “Whassup?” in Portuguese.

The 2008 Nile Invitational in Billings

Moonrise Over Montana

If PBR events ever started on time, we would have nearly been late to the Nile, because I had to go off on a wild-goose chase after a cosmetic bag at the last minute. Who'd have thought we’d have go to three stores before we found any at all, let alone one I could stand to stuff into my (overpopulated) purse! Then Barn Cat, in an uncharacteristic fit of tidiness, decided he HAD to buy new windshield wiper blades before we drove up to the Metra. Since we had awakened to the sight of a full-out blizzard through our fourteenth-floor window at the Crowne Plaza, and since five hours later it was still snowing like mad, he certainly had a point.

The night before, the view from the window was spectacular, even though the brightest sight was an oil refinery. We could see Montana Avenue right below us, with the railroad tracks and the snazzy new brick condos, and the eastern edge of the rims, and all the way down to Wyoming to the south. The room boasted two queen-size beds with 100% cotton bedding and about six pillows each, and leather wing chairs by the window, so you could contemplate the view at leisure. When we went to bed, we left the curtains open and watched the moon rise out of a few low clouds, full and bright over the radio towers on top of the rims.

None of that encouraged us to jump up at the crack of dawn, but despite our sudden shopping jaunts (clear over on the west side!), we managed to get into our seats well before the action started. Once you see a PBR event live, you'll understand why every true fan should go to the arena at least once, if only for a Challenger event. It’s an entirely different experience than watching it on television, one we’d been licking our chops over for an entire year.

For a few minutes, it looked like we might have two seats open on the left, between us and the aisle. That isn’t as big a deal at Metra as it is, say, on an airplane from New York to Bangladesh, but it still would have been nice. No dice. Five minutes before the lights went out, in strolled a pretty young woman and her beau, who was bearing a paper tray with about six cups of beer in it.

Now, Barn Cat and I were fully decked out in our cowboy duds, and looking pretty darned spiffy if I say so myself. (Barn Cat is the handsomest man on the planet—just sayin’.) The day before, we had wheeled off the interstate at Zoo Drive and motored on down to Shipton’s Big R, which is sort of a gussied-up farm supply store that also sells jeans and Western wear. Who knows, we might need a new bandana, right? It’s always possible somebody might end up crying at the PBR. We stop at Shipton’s whenever we’re in town and generally you could fire a shotgun inside the store without hitting anything more animated than a deer decoy.

This time, though, the parking lot was packed and we figured out immediately that we had stumbled, willy-nilly, upon a PBR autograph event. This is not something we would go out of our way to attend, but since we were already there, curiosity got the better of us. We finally shoehorned Xena into half a parking place and fought our way through the lot and inside. Right past the checkout counters was a line of people the likes of which I haven’t seen since I tried to shop at Costco at Pentagon City the day before Christmas several years ago. That was not a happy day (I think I circled the parking lot in Julia, my dear departed and greatly lamented red Ford F-150 4x4, at least eight times), and I didn’t like being reminded of it, but I was happy to see a bunch of young Indian men in line. Rodeo, in case you didn't know it, is a very big deal on the reservations in Montana.

While Barn Cat proceeded to pick out every single (ugly) orange plaid Western shirt in the place, I worked my way to the back of the store, staying away from the line so nobody would think I was cutting in. Finally, back by the Carhart overalls, I managed to get behind some people who were even shorter than I am (no mean feat) and peek out at the table where the riders were signing programs. My interest petered out as soon as I saw that the participants were Ross Coleman, Brendon Clark, Wiley Peterson, and Sean Willingham. Not that I have anything against any of those boys (not all of them, anyway, and generally not all of them at the same time), but none of them are (or ever have been) at the top of my hit parade. For a few minutes, I debated hollering out, “Brendon, where’s Anna?” but I figured that might get me in Dutch, so I headed back to the boot display in search of a pair of navy blue ones. Ladies, if that’s what you’re looking for, I’ll save you the trouble.

I managed to get Barn Cat out of there, clutching a nice canvas (not plaid!) shirt, which we bought. And downtown just a little later, at Lou Taubert’s, he bought a Rockmount Ranchwear shirt that might be the nicest Western creation I’ve ever seen, a cotton taffeta in a deep bluish purple, with double points on the pockets and a bazillion pearl snaps. Despite all these sartorial choices, however, he chose to go to the Nile in one of his five million orange plaid cowboy shirts, his Wranglers, and his black Luccheses. I wore a burgundy Carhart shirt with pearl snaps, my Wranglers, my new brown belt with the bucking bull buckle from Montana Silversmiths, and a pair of brown boots I bought in Albuquerque last Christmas, before I found out I was going to have to pony up a hefty deductible to get my house back in order.

But Little Girlfriend next to us was a sight to see. Not that she was wearing anything particularly striking, except her low-slung jeans, above which peeped a lavender polyester thong. I got to see it for quite a few minutes, as she got situated in her seat and accepted the first cup of beer from her boyfriend, and then the lights went out and the pyrotechnics commenced.

If you’re a regular here, you know this part of the show makes me cringe, and not just because it’s ear-splittingly loud—it’s just dumb. And of course we have upgraded since last year—instead of resting on the ground, the flame-throwing bull heads are now bolted to the chutes and they spit out bolts of fire that look to be about twelve feet long. Then a million Roman candles explode in the dirt and ignite the big “PBR” that’s been written there with something flammable, and then the smoke machines start up and the cowboys wade out through it, tipping their hats to the crowd. The top-ranked cowboys get spotlighted on planks straddling the chutes, except for the number one rider, Mr. Marchi himself, who rode smoothly up on a lift that looked suspiciously like something you might find down at the Chrome Shop Mafia’s garage. One shout-out: L.J., for God’s sake, get rid of that wad of the snoose before you go out there! Watching you moving it around between your cheek and gum is revolting. I suppose we should be grateful you didn’t spit while you were at it.

The bucking finally started and, to my chagrin, the first three riders stuck, but by the third group, enough of them were hitting the ground to cheer me right up. I had actually waited too long to buy our tickets, since I wasn’t sure that the premium seats would be that much better than the ones we had last year, but a few minutes into the action, I was convinced. Next year, I’ll get them sooner so we can be at least one tier lower. We tried taking some pictures, but we were still so far up, the riders and bulls looked like ants, so we gave that up.

Among the best buckers were Blue Boy, who I’m thinking might be a Bell’s Blue baby; Sand Trap, a white muley who gave Brian Canter a run for his money; and Salty, who pitched Clayton Williams off right smart and then, as Barn Cat observed, “Did a little hop, just for fun.”

I invite you to check out the entire photo gallery at the Billings Gazette website:

Big Red Truck and Rez Dog looked especially good.

I was keeping score in my program and I noticed that Little Girlfriend would look over once in a while to see what was what. That is, while she wasn’t daintily swigging down her beer. During the long round, I’ll bet she and her boyfriend both made half a dozen trips down the stairs. When she got up about halfway through the second flight of riders, Barn Cat looked over and spotted her lovely thong. He immediately gave me the look that said, “Please don’t say anything.” Me? I wasn’t about to say a word. I had debated popping the strap and then accusing Barn Cat of doing it, but I really hate it when little girls beat him up and I have to jump in and save him. I probably could have taken her, but her boyfriend looked like he might have been tougher, and I didn’t feel like breaking any nails.

And who am I to complain? Her adorable fanny aside, Little Girlfriend was more covered up than the Cooper Tire girls, who looked to be freezing their asses off down on the arena floor. The stock pens are outside the Metra, and the hallway to the chutes is kept open, and it was snowing like midwinterfrom time to time, the cameras would cut away from the action to show us some adorable bull completely coated in snow. I couldn't blame Flint for complaining about it. I'm sure it was a perfect river of cold air funnelling out to him.

Anyway, she wasn't wearing that thong for my benefit, and I had my hands full trying to add up the scores, although that wasn’t as hard as it might have been. The bulls were in the house, as they had been all weekend, and only a handful of cowboys had ridden three bulls. The overall buck-off rate Sunday was 60%, and I was a happy woman.

When she came back, she picked up her half empty beer cup, took a slurp, and turned to her boyfriend. “I don’t want this,” she said, holding it out to him like it was a dead mouse. “Go get me a cold one.” He hopped right up and sprinted down the stairs, so I guess she has him trained right. They both stayed put after that till the first round ended, and then they took off. She came back before he did, and she asked me who would get to pick first in the bull draft.

Now, the answer to that question was Zack Brown, and you’d have thought I’d have known it immediately, since the Zack Brown story was the talk of the town all weekend long, but for some reason, I was thinking Helton Barbosa had outscored him. We scrambled through my program and sorted it out, and then the bull draft started. Little Boyfriend showed up and asked me if anyone had picked White Water yet. “No,” I answered. “None of them are that brave.” Boyfriend looked at me approvingly. In the end, Mike Lee picked White Water, which just confirmed what I’d been thinking since last season, that he’d come back too fast after his last concussion and didn’t have his wits about him. Mike Lee probably has more guts than most bull riders, but nobody ever claimed he was a Rhodes Scholar. I am no fan of his, but I am worried about him. The sport isn’t well served when riders seem so punch-drunk that they can hardly string two sentences together, and for sure the athlete and his family aren't well served, and that's way more important.

Little Girlfriend settled back in her seat, sipped her beer, and proceeded to chat me up about her previous attendance at PBR events—four years running! “My friend is dating Shane Proctor,” she told me, “but he’s not here tonight.” I can never hear Shane Proctor’s name without thinking about the time when a certain red-headed bull threw him off and stomped on him. One of the guys hollered, “Somebody get a doctor for Proctor!” The bull was thenceforth christened “Dr. Proctor,” and he is one rank son of a buck. I could watch him all day long and never get tired of it.

Of course, Shane Proctor hails from Grand Coulee, Washington, and he went to college on a rodeo scholarship in Powell, Wyoming, so he is practically a hometown boy. Even with gas prices hovering near $4 a gallon, PBR fans out here are serious—some of them drove eight-and-a-half hours, from Boise, Idaho, and others from South Dakota, to attend the Nile. Flint Rasmussen comes from Chouteau, Montana, and he told the Billings Gazette that he works harder at the Billings event than just about any other, because he feels like he knows the people in Montana personally. There are less than a million of us out here, so it’s not that farfetched.

And what drama we had at the end! I thought for sure Soulja Boy was going to toss Zack Brown off at least a dozen times, but Zack would not be denied. There was a close call (and some controversy) when the judges scored Mike Lee’s ride on White Water lower than the crowd would have liked, but I can’t imagine anybody begrudged Zack his victory. He was literally carried out of the Metra on a stretcher in 2005 after a bull got the better of him—he ended up with more than two dozen stitches in his belly, to say nothing of the bumps and bruises that go with the territory. He retired from the PBR after that, and stayed away for a couple of years, but at the Nile, he was back, and in rare form. He was one of only five cowboys to ride all three of his bulls. I believe he will be around for a while.

At one point, I looked around at the crowd and realized that though all most of us might have in common is an interest in professional bull riding, that might be enough. Little Girlfriend and her man probably aren’t people I’d have much to say to outside the Metra, but who knows? Under other circumstances, I could have found them really irritating, but instead I was just amused. I even caught myself thinking that Flint in his gilly suit was mildly entertaining, although the pickup man’s horse (for the second year in a row) didn’t like that one bit. The whole experience gave me hope that perhaps we can all finally agree about something, even if it’s just that a Sunday afternoon at the Nile is an afternoon well spent.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The 2008 Nile Invitational in Billings

The Yellowstone River at the Springdale Bridge. Photo courtesy of Big
Sky Fishing.Com

On the Road to Billings

We had a great time at the Nile Invitational in
Billings this past weekend—for me, it ranks as one of the best weekends of my life. Considering where we started from on Saturday morning, it was even more amazing. We had both had very busy and somewhat difficult weeks at work, and when finally we staggered out of bed, neither of us really felt like going anywhere, especially since we had to hustle around and do some last minute housework so the divine Nikki, the most resourceful and generous dog sitter alive, wouldn’t open the front door and, as my mama would put it, fall back. But we managed to get everything spruced up and our gear packed and ourselves bathed and reasonably presentable, and about noon we loaded up Xena and headed east.

I have probably driven to Billings, Montana, more than to any other city, and from more different starting points. When I lived in Cody, Wyoming, I was in Billings about every other week on press checks, and generally I would shop for groceries or clothes while I was up there, because the fine merchants in Cody saw no reason not to fleece the local populace while they were doing likewise to the tourists who stopped in town on their way to Yellowstone. Since we moved back west, I have gone over there on business several times a year. Three times this past year, I drove back down to Billings from Poplar, which is, for those of you who are a bit foggy about Montana geography, damned near in Canada. There’s nothing between there and the North Pole but one string of barbed wire, and it’s down about half the time.

And yet I am never bored out there on Interstate 90—there is always something new to see. This time of year is particularly nice, though spring up here is not so dramatic as it was in Maryland, where the redbuds and dogwoods busted out into bloom and the daffodils and tulips hurtled up through the soil like they were rocket propelled, and one weekend every spring, hundreds of robins would appear and spend several days digging worms up out of the leaf mold in the forest behind our house. I do sometimes miss those early signs of spring, just as I miss the 100-year-old beech and oak trees I could see from my office windows, and the songs of the spring peepers looking for love, but I am not sorry to be where spring makes a more subtle, and often more teasing, entrance.

Probably the first signs of spring in the Rockies are the calves, who start to appear while there’s still snow on the ground. We saw what seemed to be hundreds of them on this trip, in the pastures by the highway, little Black Angus and Hereford babies, sleeping or nursing or capering among their mothers. Then too, the grass in the fields has started to green up, ever so slightly, and the willows along the Yellowstone River are turning bright yellow. There is still ice along the edges of the river, and some ponds are still completely iced over, but if you look closely, you can see the dark spots in the ice that bespeak the spring thaw.

Just before you get to Springdale, the road cuts through a draw between two hills, and veers very close to the river. This trip, we saw fishermen boating along that stretch, and the water was running swift and clear and very cold. That spot always puts me in mind of Holy City, in the Shoshone National Forest between Wapiti, Wyoming, and the east entrance to Yellowstone, where the Shoshone River swings in at the feet of crumbling towers of red stone, and where, if my request is honored, my ashes will be scattered.

Practically the only good thing I can say about my ex-husband is that if it weren’t for him, I would probably never have seen this part of the United States, let alone lived out here. After we had been separated for a few months, it suddenly dawned on me that the job I had been using as an escape hatch wasn’t all that great. The fact that my office was right across the street from his might have had something to do with my discomfort. Despite this revelation, I was too busy staying afloat emotionally to look for another job right then, but fate in the form of an old boss and good friend intervened on my behalf. Less than a year later, I packed up and headed out for Wyoming, and I haven’t looked back since.

And I am pretty sure that had I stuck it out with my ex, I would never have seen the PBR in any incarnation, let alone have become a fan or had the chance to see the action in person. My great and gracious BFF Elisabeth, with whom I lived for a few weeks when I had first moved out, and with whom I have since shared many hair-raising and gut-bustingly hilarious adventures, has not yet been to a PBR event, but she has entered into the spirit of the sport with as much enthusiasm and good will as she has always entered into any mess I have gotten her tangled up in. And there have been a bunch of them, believe me. Just one example: In a tip of the hat to Flip Wilson, Elisabeth christened the backward and repressive religious institution in which I was incarcerated while growing up the “church of what’s happenin’.” One night not long after my ex and I split up, Elisabeth drove me past the local branch of that establishment, and I tossed out the window, Frisbee-like, one of my ex’s gifts: a red leather hat with ribbon streamers, rather like those once worn by Parisian schoolgirls. It came to rest on the front lawn, where the very next morning the faithful were destined to stroll in for the weekly sermonette. Had they caught us, there probably wouldn’t have been anything left for the police to arrest.

Last week, I sent Elisabeth an e-mail telling her we were going to Billings for the Nile, and she replied, “I must say, I get a tremendous boot out of picturing the Evil Captain picturing you as a PBR aficionado. Mebbe I ride over to the COWH and see if I kin locate you red leather hat. You kin plaster it with PBR stickers and then I dee-liver it to the hole where the Bancroft Ranch once stood, yahoo.”

Elisabeth, by the way, is one of the most literate human beings on the planet, a journalist and an editor of great renown, but when we are corresponding, we both adapt a sort of countrified patois that we find so funny we sometimes literally roll on the floor, though not everyone thinks it’s that hysterical. Too bad about them. The Evil Captain is so-called not because he was genuinely evil (not all the time), but because he fit perfectly Bette Midler’s description of the Queen of England, “her royal hinney,” “the whitest woman in the world.” The Captain was (and probably still is) one of the whitest men in the world, unless he was (and is) sunburned lobster red. It occurs to me now that he almost certainly missed his calling—he should have been following Lillibet around, five steps behind her, toting her purse while she shook hands with foreign dignitaries. They’d have made a perfect pair.

But had I stuck with him, I would have missed my calling, too. So, Evil Captain Hinney, just this once, my hat is off to you. It is a privilege and a blessing to be able to do what I do and live where I live, and for that, I suppose, I must thank you, even though it was only by getting away from you that I managed to become the person I was born to be.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

MacKenzie Speaks

Hello—my name is Sir Alexander MacKenzie and it’s about damned time my parents let me say a few words here. You’d think they were ashamed of me or something. I am the world’s most handsome Australian shepherd and I would really like to visit the land down under, though people keep telling me that my forebears actually hail from California. Go figure.

Anyway, my folks have been racing around like hamsters on wheels for months now, ever since they got back from visiting their friends in Albuquerque over Christmas and found out that some doofus had plugged up the toilet on the second floor and caused a flood that wrecked a whole lot of stuff and generally screwed up the lives of every creature here for a good long while. I was plenty mad at them for not taking me along on that trip, but I got to stay with my Auntie Nikki and my good buddy Riley for more than two weeks, so it could have been a lot worse. I got to race around the back yard with Riley and tear up the pillows on Nikki’s bed and chase after her when she went riding on her new ATV—that was fun! My only complaint about Riley is that sometimes he gets tired of me chewing on his ears and biting him on the butt and then he just about knocks my block off. My mom says it serves me right, but I really prefer to play with dogs I can push around.

After all, I’m a shepherd, right? When my dad comes home from work, I’m awfully glad to see him and I just about wiggle my abbreviated tail into another dimension, it’s moving so fast, but then I have to go outside and sit on the deck and make sure nobody escapes on my watch. After a while I come back in and start trying to get the other dogs into their correct positions, but man, that is hard work. It was a lot easier before I got so tall—now the little dogs just walk right under my belly and about half the time, they bite me as they go. I haven’t gotten to herd any sheep yet, but I’m pretty sure they don’t bite, so that’s got to be an improvement. And my mom won’t let me chew on Belle’s head much anymore. She says Belle is too old and fragile for that kind of roughhousing, but I’m telling you, most of the time Belle starts it. My mom isn’t impressed with that argument, either, and anytime we start to get loud, you can bet she’s going to grab the spray bottle and start shooting me with cold water. I hate that! And I’m pretty sure she plans to ruin all my fun with it from here on out.

So my folks are going to the Nile Invitational over in Billings, which really ticks me off because even though Auntie Nikki and Riley will be coming to stay with all of us while they’re gone, I really think they should take me with them this time. I’m a cow dog from a long and distinguished line of cow dogs. Just get a load of my great-grandpa, Champion Las Rocosa Little Wolf! Here’s his website:

Isn’t he beautiful? Of course, he has a lot more white on him than I do, but I think he’s nearly as handsome as I am. I have to tell you, I think it’s stupid that almost all the Aussies you see in dog shows are blue merles. I am pretty glad I don’t have to go to dumb dog shows, though—I hate taking a bath and I’m afraid of blow dryers and hair spray makes me sneeze. My mom commented to my vet (hi, Dr. Dawn!) that I don’t have that long coat you usually see on show dogs, and she replied, “That’s because he’s a working dog—he has some brains. Those models don’t know a thing!”

Even though I love my Auntie Nikki, and Riley is great fun to tease, I think it stinks that I have to stay home when I could be a lot of help to the cowboys. Look at Little Wolf biting that cow’s heels—he even got to herd bison in Yellowstone National Park one time! I bet I’d be as good at it as he is. If Cody Lambert would just give me a try, I’m sure I could get those bulls out of the arena right smart. Then maybe my mom wouldn’t have to always be yelling, “Open the g**d***** gate, you pussy!” I’m sure my dad would like that a lot.