Woman of the West

Hank the Cowdog

Venture out to any farm or ranch across the Canadian West, and you can be sure to meet a happy, hard-working cowdog. 

At this very moment, I am sitting here writing with my cowdog, Hank, who is sleeping at my feet, dog-tired, after a gruelling day of work on the ranch. After a long morning of checking cows in the mid-June heat, he has earned himself a rest. 

To give a little background on the farm favourite, Hank is a nine-month-old Australian Shepherd/Golden Retriever cross-breed, commonly known as a Golden Aussie.  This dog’s intelligence, kindness, and agility was shown almost immediately after picking him up from the breeder in early December, learning commands promptly. After all, he needed to be a quick learner if he was going to be around cattle and farm machinery.

Hank did come to us as a bit of a surprise, and my boyfriend Marvin and I hadn’t really been planning on getting a puppy; however, when we went to look at the litter of Golden Aussies, we didn’t choose Hank, he chose us. I remember being surrounded by all of these fluff balls, and Hank came right up to Marvin’s pant leg, tugging at the bottom of his jeans and hopping up with excitement. For the next half hour, Hank had shown no interest in anything else besides Marvin and myself. 

Hank at seven weeks old

In the following the months after bringing Hank home, he was tested in more ways than he could have imagined; from being chased by angry cows protecting their calves to keeping up alongside the quad checking crops, his learning curve was steep and fast. 

Recently, Marvin and I were talking about books we read as children. Marvin explained that the only book he had ever taken an interest in as a kid was one called ‘Hank the Cowdog’, and it made me smile knowing that he chose the name Hank for our dog based on this children’s book. 

Dogs play a crucial part on a ranch, from herding and protecting livestock- to being a loyal companion. Hank has truly earned his keep around here, and the ranch would not be the same without him.

I find that a house is not a home without a dog, and growing up with a dog in the home made me realize this as I got older. The tail wagging greeting you each time you walk through the door is the best serotonin boost.  

“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” – Roger Caras

Story and photos by Chelsey Becker