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It was a bright and clear Monday morning on the Flying T ranch in Texas. Almost everyone at the ranch was still asleep, except a little Blue Heeler named Patches. She was a small dog with short brown legs and a stumpy tail. Her ears were black and she had a black patch on one eye. The rest of her strong little body was a silver-gray. She was an intelligent and spunky dog who loved to run and play. It was best to stay clear of her if you got on her bad side. Oh, and her specialty was herding the horses or anything else she thought needed herding.

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She sat very patiently by the door of her pen. Ears pointed and alert, listening for any sound that might signal the people in the house were up. Not very long afterward she heard the rewarding sound of footsteps. Up came the rancher; he was a tall handsome man with gray hair in his early sixties. He opened up the door to have Patches, tail wagging profusely, jump up on him as a good-morning greeting.

But enough of that, thought Patches to herself, there are bigger fish to fry this morning! And away she ran on her brown little legs. First she stopped by the barbed-wire fence and barked a friendly and cheery good morning to the neighbor's dogs. When she got a mind-your-own-business bark in response, Patches trotted away. See if she ever told them hello again.

Now to the horse pastures! Patches had taken it upon herself to make sure that the horses would mind every morning. She would stealthily slip under the rust-covered iron gate and nip at all of their heels a bit before Major Ed, the rancher, opened the big gate so he could take care of them.

A Day at the Ranch dogs and horses
Patches had taken it upon herself to make sure that the horses would mind every morning

That always takes all the fight out of them, Patches thought happily as she finished her daily routine. It saves the people a lot of trouble too, she commended herself warmly.

Just as she was squeezing under the gate, Joan, the rancher's pretty wife that would cook tempting tantalizing things for you until the cows came home, said, "She's going to get the snot kicked out of her some day!"

Patches puffed herself up with pride. What a compliment! She didn't know what it meant, but it must be something good. What a compliment! She was so proud and pleased with herself that she didn't look where she was going as she made her rounds around the ranch to make sure everything was safe and normal and SPLASH!!!! Water went everywhere as Patches ran at a rather fast pace, into the cold pool. If there was one thing she didn't like it was being immersed in bitterly cold water. She paddled to the steps panting, thoroughly disgusted with herself and also at the cold, wet water.

Well, Patches thought sadly to herself as she drooped her head, I guess pride really does go before the fall, or the jump in my case... She stopped short though because she heard a car coming down the quarter-mile downward-sloping driveway.

She ran around to the other side of the house to investigate, coat dripping wet and gleaming in the warm September sunshine. It was an unknown car! How dare it enter her premises! It could be a threat to her people that she had worked so hard to keep safe and happy all these years! Anger burned within her as she shook with fury and rage. She would take care of that car once and for all. Patches leaped into action as the unidentified car progressed slowly down her driveway. She ran at it with an aggressive speed, biting at the large steel-belted tires. The car slowed down almost to a stop. She was winning! Just as she thought this battle was won Major Ed came around and stared darkly at Patches, making her whimper.

"Patches! Patches, get over here! What are you doing?" he hollered.

"I'm protecting my property and you! What else would I be doing?" she barked in reply.

Before she knew what was happening she was dragged, claws dragging in the dirt, toward her pen. "Oh, no! Not that!" she begged. "I'll do anything, please don't put me in there!" Despite her pitiful cries of distress she was locked up, as the intruder stepped triumphantly out of his car and strode toward the barn.

Patches lay down her short-haired head, sighing a huge dog sigh. She had had quite a day. Why not rest for a bit? She stretched out, soaking in the golden rays that fell across her. Her eyelids drooped, almost closing, covering her brown eyes so that they could barely be seen. The next thing anyone knew the Blue Heeler was fast asleep, but not for long.

As soon as Patches woke up, she stretched her legs and neck and started barking. She must get out of that pen which restrained her! She needed desperately to make sure everyone was in tiptop condition. If anything had hurt them, they would have her to deal with! That is if she could escape her pen.

A Day at the Ranch white dog

Her owner Brad, the rancher's grownup son, heard her cries of desperation and frustration and came to her rescue. As soon as he had lifted the latch Patches took off running at lightning speed without even stopping to say hello or thank you. First, she ran around the main part of the yard twice to make sure everything was normal. Then, she searched the barn. There was Major Ed and he looked just fine shoveling out the horses' stalls. Next, she sprinted over and peeked through the short wooden fence posts that surrounded the backyard. The posts were not to keep Patches out, but the housedogs in. They were worthless. All they did was bark when they felt like it and eat treats and table scraps so that they would get fat.

But not me! Patches thought, I'm very useful and needed. I make the horses behave. I make sure no snakes and other suspicious-looking creatures of the kind enter our green lovely yard. I protect my kind people and keep nasty troublemakers out of the driveway. Yes, I'm very helpful I suppose. Not saying that to be prideful or anything though, Patches thought, eyeing the sparkling clear water in the pool.

She poked her nose through the fence, sniffing the air for anything that might be a sign of danger. Nothing, she noted as she gazed at little Lexi, who was Brad's daughter, toddling around in the tall grass, followed closely by her mother's watchful eyes.

Patches turned in the opposite direction and surveyed the sprawling lawn. She determined that all was secure on the home front. By now it was getting dark, so Patches knew that it would be time to go back to her pen soon. She was getting tired too. Patches heard Major Ed coming toward her. She yawned, showing her sharp teeth. It had been a busy day! She walked willingly into her pen and lay down. As the darkness slowly settled and enveloped her she gave a good-night bark to the ranch and then fell into a heavy deep sleep.

A Day at the Ranch Caroline Thomas
Caroline Thomas, 12
Springfield, Virginia

A Day at the Ranch Min Joo Yi
Min Joo Yi, 13
Bellevue, Washington