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It's nice to be an old dog, lying in the sun on a warm autumn day.

Hi, my name is P.C. and I'm a dog. At the moment, I'm on top of a steep knoll above the river on our farm. The knoll is covered with tall lemon grass, and I can see over the whole property but nobody can see me. I'm in my hidy-hole, warm and cozy and safe.

My people, Chris and Stuart, are gone. This morning they loaded two of the horses into the horse trailer and took off with three of the younger dogs, Dyna, Turbo and Jewelie the puppy.

When they go on these rides, the people are the only ones who get to ride. The horses walk and trot and run the whole way. And what about us dogs? We're expected to keep up, even though our legs are a lot shorter than a horse's. Sometimes, even though our people don't seem to realize it, we dogs get exhausted. I'm glad they put me in charge of the ranch today and left me home.

I had drifted off. I was in the middle of a dream about this giant steak bone that was running away from me. Every time I was about to bite onto it, the bone would squirt to one side and take off again.

Suddenly, I was startled awake by Acari's loud cry. Acari is one of Chris' horses. Acari is a Peruvian Paso horse. Chris likes her because she has such a smooth ride. Acari doesn't move up or down when she trots, not even a little bit, and Chris is comfortable riding her for miles. I like Acari because she is the only one of the four horses who sends out an alarm when she sees something wrong, and she was sending out a big-time alarm now.

I looked to see which way Acari was heading. Now I could see what she was upset about. On the outer driveway, approaching the ranch was this very large man wearing blue overalls, the kind that have straps over his shoulders. The man had a huge pot belly that swung from side to side when he walked. He was nobody we knew. This man was a stranger!

The stranger approached the gate. If he went through the gate he would be trespassing on the property that I was sworn to protect. He went right through the gate and started walking straight towards the tractor. I got there just before the stranger and placed myself between him and the tractor. He kept coming. I growled and bared my teeth. He pulled up short like he'd seen a rattlesnake.

He put on his hand and said, "Nice doggie-doggie. Be a nice doggie-doggie." Then he stepped closer.

Well, this doggie-doggie wasn't buying what he was selling. Although I probably don't bark twice in a year, I started barking then. And between every bark was a growl. No way is this stranger even going to touch that tractor.

The other dogs heard me and came to help. First came Sassie--she's a Rhodesian Ridgeback like myself. She lined up at my side, looked the stranger in the eye and said, "Make my day!"

Then came Jasper and Breaker. These two are Belgian Sheepdogs. They look like a matched pair of black wolves. Jasper got in front of me and growled at the stranger. He looked like a buzz-saw; nothing but teeth from ear to ear. The stranger backed up for the first time.

Meanwhile, Breaker was off to one side barking and running around in circles for no apparent reason. Breaker is not one of the great intellects of dogdom. You might even say that Breaker is a bit slow. For the last 10 years, Stuart has been trying, unsuccessfully, to teach Breaker to sit on command.

When a new person comes to the house they often can't tell Breaker from Jasper. They'll point to one of them and ask, "Is that Breaker or Jasper?" Stuart will say, "Tell that dog to sit." The person will go up to the dog and say, "Sit . . . sit . . . SIT! . . . Stuart, the dog won't sit."

Stuart will reply, "That means that this dog is Breaker. Jasper knows how to sit."

The stranger now turned and walked away to the shade of a nearby tree. He mopped his sweaty brow with a red kerchief, while plotting his next move. Breaker's running and barking was starting to get annoying.

The three of us dogs laid down between the stranger and the tractor. Breaker came over and laid down with us, he asked, "Hey, I done good, huh? I did good didn't I?" Yes, Breaker, we think you annoyed him into submission.

Now the stranger picked up a stick and came at us waving that stick, as if to wipe us away.

Bad move, Mr. Stranger. Jasper hates sticks. Jasper started growling and barking at him so hard that all four feet were coming off the ground.

The stranger got the picture that his stick was not a good idea. Instead of just dropping the stick he threw it at us hitting Sassie on the rump.

I thought Sassie was going to come unglued! She barely restrained herself from attacking the stranger.

Meanwhile, Breaker ran over, picked up the stick, and returned it to the stranger. "Fetch" is the only trick that Breaker knows and he is really proud of it.

Then the stranger turned on the garden hose and started spraying us with it while shouting, "Move aside--move aside dogs." This didn't do one bit of good. The Belgian Sheepdogs are totally waterproof. For Sassie and I the cool water felt good on such a hot day. The stranger should have turned the water on himself--he was looking overheated.

Just as the stranger was turning off the hose, we heard the electric gate start to open. Thank heavens, Chris and Stuart were back. We all expected the stranger to start to run away. Instead, he walked over to greet Stuart as he pulled up in the truck.

"Stuart," he whined, "These dogs of yours won't let me anywhere near my tractor. I've been standing here for an hour. You owe me for an extra hour's work. I thought those dogs were going to kill me." The stranger's face kept getting redder and redder. He looked ready to explode.

Chris said to him, "Jack why don't you come up to the house with me and have a nice cool glass of lemonade while Stuart takes care of the dogs."

As Chris led Stranger Jack away, Stuart came over to us dogs. He told us gently, "Good job, guys. You did a good job of protecting the tractor. It's just that I don't own a tractor. That is Jack's tractor. He owns it. Still, you were only following instructions--if it's inside our fence, it's your job to protect it. So, good job guys, you sure made a believer out of old Jack." He then gave each of us a pat on the head. I felt so proud.

This ownership concept is a hard one for dogs to understand. Dogs don't own anything and don't want to own anything. We feel that the Great Provider of all Things gave us the earth and everything on it to be shared.

So if people enjoy taking part of the world's things and keeping them for their exclusive use, well, that's their business. The only thing a dog wants to own is his dinner. And he really doesn't even want to own it--he wants to engulf it. But that's our instinct, that's what keeps us alive.

Meanwhile, Jack was coming back to talk to us dogs. He got down on the ground with us and said, "Hey dogs, I now understand that you were just doing your job, and I must say, you did it beautifully." He continued, "Over on my ranch, I have three dogs who just lay around all day. I'm going to go home and train them to be guard dogs, just like you. Chris said that she would help me train them."

Jack then reached into his overalls and produced Doggie-Bone-Bones. He gave one to each of us. Breaker licked him on the face.

I took my Bone-Bone back up on the knoll and laid down in the warm sun to eat it. It is a beautiful day. It is a beautiful world.

Keep it waggin'
Your friend,
P.C.

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