THE COUNTRY LIFE: Eulogy for a ranch dog

September 16, 2013 Updated: September 16, 2013 at 11:10 pm
photo - Gadget the ranch dog in a rare moment of calm.

Gadget the ranch dog in a rare moment of calm. BILL RADFORD, THE GAZETTE 

Picture a dog living the country life and you'll envision a Labrador retriever, perhaps, or a border collie. Maybe a bandana-wearing golden retriever. A hound dog. An Irish setter.

Not a feisty, snorting, 15-pound Boston terrier like Gadget, who was oblivious to the danger from horses' hooves and thought our cranky rooster just wanted to play when he chased her.

It was with somewhat mocking but still affectionate humor that we referred to Gadget as "ranch dog." She made the move with us last fall to the country along with blind "old lady" Gizmo, our first Boston terrier. Gizmo, who we had adopted from the Humane Society, was so sweet and calm that we decided we needed another dog just like her. We got Gadget from a breeder, a departure from our usual routine of getting a rescue dog, and while she could be sweet, she certainly wasn't calm. She was reminiscent of the Tasmanian Devil of cartoon fame, a whirling, black-and-white mass of canine energy.

Mention the word "ball" and her ears would perk up. Throw the ball and she would go after it endlessly; your arm would tire out long before she would. No ball around? Not a problem: She'd find a rock and bring it to you, begging for it to be thrown.

At the dog park, she refused to take any guff off of dogs many times her size. At home, she found a pal in Willie the cat. They would wrestle for long periods, Willie pouncing on Gadget and Gadget grabbing Willie's neck in a pretend death grip.

Last week, we noticed Gadget's usual frenetic state had calmed and her appetite was off. When she wasn't even interested in eating off our plates, we knew there was a problem.

The vet, after an exam and blood tests, was not optimistic; it was, she said, most likely an intestinal blockage or cancer.

We scheduled exploratory surgery; if it was a blockage, perhaps it could be removed. If it was cancer, a look inside could reveal its spread.

So on Thursday, the vet cut Gadget open.

It was cancer, the entire length of her small intestine ravaged by lymphoma. The only choice was to euthanize.

Though not a cat, Gadget seemed to have nine lives. There was the time she was chasing a baseball and it bounced, hitting her in the head and briefly knocking her unconscious. The time she choked on a meatball, writhing around in a circle on the kitchen floor until my wife could reach inside her mouth and pull the meatball from her throat.

But there was no coming back this time.

We had expected Gizmo - blind, frail - to go first. Instead, we had lost Gadget. She was eight.

Just a week and a half earlier, we had adopted a third dog, a young border collie mix named Hank. A dog that would calmly walk by my wife's side instead of running off as she fed the horses and tended to the goats. A dog that could largely live outdoors and protect the chickens and the rabbits from predators instead of curling up on our bed and snoring.

A "real" ranch dog.

But Gadget - who instantly adopted Hank as yet another play mate - will always be the first ranch dog.


Bill Radford and his wife live in the countryside east of Colorado Springs. If you have an idea for a topic for this column, contact him:; 636-0272; Twitter @billradfordiii; gazettebillradford on Facebook. Follow his blog at

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