By guest author John Marble
Over the years, (decades, actually) I came to know Doc Larsen as a fine “cow doctor”. Growing up on the ranch, I got to see Dave un-twist a uterine-torsioned, backward, upside-down calf, truss up a cesarean-bound cow like a Christmas goose and saw the horns off cows until the sweat beads popped on his forehead and streamed down into this eyes. But honestly, my deepest and most reflective conversations with the Doc were actually about dogs. Not just any dogs, of course: my dogs. My red dogs.
You see, over a period of twenty years or so I had a string of Vizsla Hounds, dogs that started out as tiny yellow puppies and turned into magnificent bird dogs. Vizslas are rumored to be pointing specialists, but my dogs wound up being highly talented pointers, exceptional retrievers and long-lived companions. Damn, they were all just about perfect dogs.*
Of course, Doc Larsen took care of all of them, providing routine vet work plus the occasional disaster care that is required when you have high-energy dogs. The thing is, this kind of dog tends to run head-long into hard objects, jump off cliffs, and find porcupines and snakes from time to time. They are what an insurance carrier might call “high risk” clients.
One of those dogs was truly special. Slobodon (Slobo) was a fabulously talented, all-around hunting dog. His second meeting with Doctor Larsen was for removing his wonderful traits from the gene pool.
“You sure you want to fix him? Seems like he shows some real promise.”
“Oh hell, Doc, I never want to be in the puppy business. Anyway, there’s always more dogs out there.”
This, of course, was blatantly untrue.
Six months later, I found myself camped out on the high desert: three hunters, three red dogs, camping in early fall, hunting for endangered Sage Grouse. The irony of that made it even more fun. Slobo was a young, gangly and goofy boy dog. His old Aunty was the senior dog, and his full sister Sarah (same litter) was the third. Sarah’s owner, my young companion Joel, was terribly proud of his first dog, and we were excited to be hunting together. As we were driving to camp, Joel mentioned that he thought Sarah might be coming into heat. No problem, I said. Slobo was snipped six months ago.
“Still, kind of keep an eye on her, if you can. Make sure she doesn’t get in any trouble if there are other dogs around.”
When we arrived at our camping spot we let the dogs out to run and Joel’s dad and I began setting up the tent. Joel, a very young and soft-hearted fellow, was doing the heavy lifting, unpacking the truck. It was a lovely fall evening on the desert, the sky was all purple and red. As I finished pounding the last tent stake in, I looked up to find my boy dog Slobo locked up in full-on coitus with his sister, Sarah.
“Hey, Joel, can you get your little slut dog away from my hound?”
Joel was embarrassed, terrified, in fact. He began apologizing immediately, saying how he had planned to watch her closely, but she just slipped out of sight for a moment.
I told him to relax, that it would be alright, and to remember that Slobo was fixed. Next, I walked to the nearest cooler,extracted an ice-cold can of beer, shook it violently, aimed it at the juncture point of the two dogs and popped the top. I remember Slobo looked at me with a face of pure humiliation and after a few moments slunk away to pout.
The next time I happened to be at the clinic I explained the entire scenario to Doc Larsen. I remember asking,
“Doc, how the hell can a dog with no working parts be a successful…companion in sex?”
Dave looked at me for a moment, pondering, then told me something I will never forget:
“Well, I guess this just goes to show that there is more involved in romance than just the hardware. Something to think about, you suppose?”
Words to live by, I’d say.
*Keep in mind that all hunting dog owners tacitly accept a singular definition of the “perfect” dog. It is always the one they currently have.