Traveling with dogs often means spending nights in cheap motels. But on those lucky occasions, I, along with other sheepdog competitors, rent a house.
The best houses are the ones that are within a 30-minute drive of the competition, are set a ways from the road and neighbors, and have an area for walking the dogs. They're also the ones hosted by people who don't blink when you mention that you and your friends are traveling with 12-15 Border collies.
If a home owner is willing to accept people traveling with lots of dogs, then I'm willing to accept to accept some eccentricities, whether it be banjo music, horses mating in the parking area or a stalker cow.
During my recent trip to northern California, our hostess asked us to close the gate after we pulled into the farm so that the cow did not get out.
As we pulled up the driveway, Jax, the cow, was awaiting us. (Jax, a housemate pointed out, is a steer, not a cow. But, for the sake of this story, I am calling him a cow).
"He's friendly," his owner said.
I gave him a wide berth. Fifty years on this earth has taught me to be wary of 1,000-pound animals that I do not know.
Jax watched as we unloaded luggage and dogs, and bellowed intermittently. To make his presence known, he defecated behind my friend's van.
In the morning, the cow was nowhere to be seen.
I walked the older dogs in the moonlight. Not seeing the cow, I got out the young dog and moseyed down the driveway. Jax appeared and followed us.
The dog and I sprinted back to the house. The cow followed and took up his usual spot near the garage.
As the week wore on, we got used to the stalker cow, always watching, often bellowing.
On our last morning at the house, he was not there to greet us in the morning.
"I kind of miss him," my friend said.
And, just like that, he appeared.