Despite living in Texas, I keep a fairly close watch on my Montana news feeds. I enjoy the photos of sunsets, of gathering up cattle, early snows, and kids on horses. But the ones that caught my eye–and my heart–were those of Morris Bauwens and his dog, Missy.

Morris Gives Missy a Well-Deserved Scratch --photo credit Jodi Bauwens

Morris Gives Missy a Well-Deserved Scratch
–photo credit Jodi Bauwens

Morris lost his eyesight over a year ago to glaucoma. He tried the eye drops and the laser surgery, but unfortunately, neither worked, and his eyesight worsened to the point where everything has gone dark.

That is where Missy comes in.

Five years ago, Morris and Jodi lost their previous cattle dog to an unfortunate well-placed kick by an unhappy cow, and they knew they needed to get a replacement dog. Jodi went into Billings to Help for Homeless Pets, thinking that might be a good place to find a new cow dog. A new batch of pups had come in, Aussie Shepherd-Blue Heeler crosses, she was told. Well, let’s see how they do, she thought, and she put the pup she wanted on the ground with one of its litter mates. One cowered and hung back while the other was an explorer, curious as all get out, poking her nose into everything. That curious pup was the one that Jodi took home, and she turned out to be Missy. Life has a funny way of giving you the dog you’ll need instead of the dog you think you want.

Missy is five now, and although she started out as Jodi’s dog, she now belongs to Morris, heart and soul. While she was thought to be an Aussie Shepherd-Blue Heeler cross, one look at her shows that there is more Labrador Retriever in her than anything. She is an absolute character and very attentive to Morris. She keeps one eye on him at all times and will even let him rub her fur the wrong way. Missy is a very gentle soul. She goes in with the cows, laying amongst all the calves. The cows aren’t bothered by her, seeming to know that she is no threat. “Missy brings so much light to his dark world,” says Jodi. “She lays at the foot of his chair, attentive and watchful. She spent the other day listening to the cattle auctions online with him. I think Morris had to have her approval before he could buy any of them,” said Jodi.

For a long time, I’ve watched how animals–be they dogs or cats or horses or rabbits or birds–help people who seem to need them most. Children with disabilities get a service dog, and they blossom because so many people want to talk to them about their dog. People that have difficulties talking and relating to other people have a much easier time giving love to or receiving love from a therapy dog. Dogs and cats are becoming commonplace in nursing homes as they provide tactile love and affection to those that are lonely. I’m happy to see animals being included. They may be trained as service animals, but what I think they really give is love.

As for Missy, I couldn’t resist adding a few more photos of her in action. She really is quite a character, and it’s easy to see why she is such a big part of Morris and Jodi’s lives.