My parents’ pack of canine comedians–Pearl, Ruby, Bob, Mattie, and the part-time Zeke–are big fans of the following: daily hikes, dog beds, dog toys, biscuit time, and chewies.

Dog hikes…Mum is really good about taking the dogs on a hike up into the hills behind the house provided that the snow isn’t hip deep and that the snakes aren’t out, but this is for her own sanity as much as their waistlines. Tired dogs do not constantly want in, want out, want in, want out or stare at you until you lace up your boots and grab the hiking sticks. Honestly, it’s just easier to go for a hike.

Dog beds…There are so many dog beds in their house that you can nearly leap from one to the next without touching the floor. Bob has a favorite dog bed, however, and prefers a brand called Fat Boy. The covering is extremely durable, and provided that you can withstand Bob turning six times to ensure a just-right collapse into the Land of Nod. During colder days, you can see Bob and his cat, Gepetto, curled up together on a Fat Boy. If Bob is off barking at coyotes, Gepetto might wait on the Fat Boy for him, at which point Ruby will stare and stare and stare at him, just in case he should move. (Gepetto ignores her and pretty much thinks that Ruby is a ditz.)

Dog toys…There can never be enough dog toys, and those with a squeaker to be extracted are a favorite. That house often looks like FAO Schwartz at Christmas. The best toy, of course, is one that another dog is currently enjoying.

Biscuit time…All the dogs know that if they’re at the house at 3:30, it’s biscuit time. The giant Tupperware box of biscuits and dog cookies comes down from the top of the freezer. Sometimes Ruby sits in the pantry and stares at the freezer. She knows the source of 3:30 yummies. She knows that if she stares long enough, one of us will take pity on her and bring down the biscuit box, 3:30 or not.

And chewies…Oh, but the chewies. They love the small rawhide twists, the small bones, the medium bones, the rawhide squares. If it’s a rawhide chewy, they’re fans. But then Jeanne came to visit for Christmas, and she busted my mother. “You’re feeding rawhide from China?” she squawked. “Are you crazy?” (Right about here in the conversation, I have no doubt that mum was glad that I wasn’t there for the Christmas holiday because I would have issued some smart comment in agreement.) Who knows what chemicals and processing and the like went into creating them.

Mum hung her head in shame and agreement. And then she went to work on doing better.

Instead of automatically buying the big bag of rawhide chewies from the box store in Billings, she went and spoke with the butcher up at the local (and only) grocery store in town. As luck would have it, mum is not the only dog lover in town, and he’d already been cutting and setting aside bones. She could partake in the bounty, too!

So instead of buying the big bag of rawhides of unknown or foreign origin, make friends with the meat counter at your local grocery store or the rancher selling fresh steaks and chops and such from the back of his truck at the farmers’ market. Odds are good that they have bones, and odds are even better that they’d like to send you home with those bones.

Zeke Counts His Dog Bones

Zeke Counts His Dog Bones

Small towns are funny places. They may not have convenience, but they have a lot of ingenuity and resourcefulness and willingness. So, thanks to Alex, Zeke now has plenty of bones to hoard and count!