You Can’t Ride Color

With the end of February we said goodbye to Rowan, several weeks short of her 16th birthday.

True story, she was the puppy I wasn’t going to keep. I wanted a blue boy from that litter. The absolute last thing I wanted was a black-tri girl. My friend Joanne listened patiently as I told her how I needed to find just the right home for this pup because she was pushy, opinionated, and tough. She smiled when I finished and asked me what I looked for in a pup. I opened my mouth to answer, but the words that wanted to come out were all the ones I had just used to describe the pup I was looking to place.

“But I want a blue boy!” I said, ignoring the title of this post; my long held adage from my riding days.

Joanne, however, is very wise. The blue boys from that litter went to wonderful forever homes and the black tri bitch, dubbed Rowan, stayed with me.


Tough is barely an adequate word for Row, and she earned the nick-name Roweena-Meena which, eventually, got shortened to Meena. She’d answer equally well to Row, Row-row, Meena or Neena.

She wasn’t the easiest pup and we had issues when she was growing up. Early stock training didn’t go well. I wish I had known then what I know now! In the end, Row turned into a barely passable trial dog. It wasn’t until we moved that she came into her own as an awesome chore dog, and I’ll take that any day. There wasn’t much we met that she couldn’t convince to move.

The look of a happy chore dog after a morning of sorting.

The look of a happy chore dog after a morning of sorting.

Her one claim to fame in the trial world was when I entered a cattle ranch trial even though we hadn’t seen cows in over a year. Row loved working cattle, though, so I hoped to at least qualify. Imagine my surprise when she took first place.

Doing what she loved most, advising cattle they needed to move along.

Doing what she loved most, advising cattle they needed to move along.

Row always saw herself as Queen of the Pack, even when Lace was alive. I’ll share another story because it was classic Row and one of the most interesting displays of pack interaction I have ever witnessed.

Showing the boys who really had all the moves.

Showing the boys and Shaine who really had all the moves.

We were out playing in the field, the three boys, Row, and me. This was when Murphy still felt the need to remind the other boys that he was a hard-ass. Well, mostly he just felt the need to remind Grady, who outsized him by a good portion, though that never seemed to matter to Murph. The four of them were doing dog things when I noticed Quinn suddenly freeze, staring very pointedly at nothing. Roughly twenty feet or so away from him, Murphy had tied into Grady and every time Grade tried to move, Murph gave a warning growl.  The tension was palpable.

I’ll give my dogs a chance to sort things out on their own if there’s no blood and guts, or no serious grievance, but this was just Murph being a bully so I started to make my way over to break things up.

Enter Rowan. She never looked at any of the boys, but trotted a slow, purposeful circle around Murphy and Grady, then did a loop out around Quinn. She made a figure eight between the boys, repeating it at least three times and, like a pin popping a bubble, the tension left. Quinn gave a shake and galloped my way, Murphy walked away from Grady, and the youngster bounded up to find his bruncle (Quinn, his brother-uncle).

I swear Row just shook her head, rolled her eyes, and thought, “Boys.”

On her retirement from primary chore dog, Row became Dave’s constant companion. She followed him everywhere and supervised all his tasks, even if that meant doing nothing more than watching TV. If I needed to know where Dave was, I just looked for ‘Neena’.


Their Sunday morning strolls to get the paper became a mini version of The Incredible Journey: Dave, followed by Row, followed by Fiona. She was truly possessive of her time with him, and I’d get the royal stink-eye anytime I dared join in.

She may not have been the blue boy I thought I wanted from that litter, but I never once regretted keeping that puppy. Rowan became my right-hand dog on the farm and a wonderful companion, and she did it all her way, with no apologies.


  • Judy Mikkelson

    03/01/2017at9:29 pm Reply

    I’m sooooo sad for you. Sorry for your loss.

  • Amy Kinosian

    03/03/2017at11:41 am Reply

    A wonderful tribute to her, Kathi. A great dog with some great stories. We all know that old dogs have to move on sometime, but it’s still hurts when it happens. So sorry.

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