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Photos by Jim Rockwell ork like a dog By Pamela Mayo Clark “A good ‘catch dog’ was prized as highly as a good horse. There were dogs so well trained and so intelligent that upon sighting a bunch of cattle they would single out the only maverick in it and hold it by the nose until a man arrived and roped it.” -J. Frank Doke, in The Longhorns Cry if you will for the long-gone days of the open rangethere are no more mavericks for a dog and a horse and a man to find and rope. But the old catch dog’s descendants are still highly prized . by their cowboy, and they’re still at their job of rounding up the cattle. It isn’t every cowboy that relies on his dogs to keep his herd in line, but one who does can’t imagine working any other way. His dogs may be mean, they may be ugly, and Lord knows their lineage is none too pure; but he’d sooner part with his wife than themor at least he’ll say he would. One thing’s sure: he’s been interested in dogs a lot longer than he’s been interested in women. I’ve been traveling around Central Texas talking to men who swear by their cowdogs and they all tell me they got introduced to their first ones early in life. Here’s C. P. Johnson of Bastrop: “I got my own pet dog, named JoeI don’t know what breed he waswhen I was eight years old. I used to take him with me every _evening to bring in Daddy’s milk cows. That was one of my daily chores. Pretty soon, Joe got to understand that when I appeared in the pasture in the evening, it was time to bring the cows home. After awhile, all I had to do was tell Joe, ‘Go get the cows!’ and he’d bring them in for me.” Forty-three years later, Johnson is still using dogs to help him tend cattle. Or Earl Blundell of Waelder, who at 66 vividly recalls his first dog: “I must have been six years old, and I got that shepherd dog before his eyes opened.” Blundell’s light blue eyes twinkle as he describes his Shep rounding up the cattle every evening or catching a chicken chosen for the frying pan. “I would put my finger on the chicken that I wanted Shep to get, and he would follow that same chicken under the barn and all around until he caught it. And Shep would never bite the chicken; he just jumped on top of it and held it.” The cowdogs they own now aren’t pets, but indispensable parts of their workaday lives, bred and trained for their jobs. You can’t categorize the men or their methodsa variation discarded by one as worse than useless is another’s daily routinebut you can categorize the dogs: catchers and headers and heelers. A catch dog does just that: the cowboy points out an animal and the dog goes after ithe holds it by the ear or nose or ‘ 10 NOVEMBER 17, 1978