To operate, a dude ranch needs many things, included in these are such things as horses, pastures, good food, and, particularly, a good dog.
Chelsea was our answer to this requirement. During her younger years, she followed the rides, but as she became older, her ambitions were much lower. Although not highly energetic, she was always willing to walk a guest to their cabin or spend ages with them as their best friend, so long as they had food, or at least something perceived to be yummy for a dog. Her weight reflected her championship status in begging. Those soulful black lab eyes, that look that says "gosh, I'd love you forever if you'd give me just a little bite of that..." It was almost impossible to keep her on a diet.
Kind and gentle, constantly trying to walk away from the children hanging on her (unless they had cookies), Chelsea epitomized a "sweet old dog." Dogs have been bred through the ages for a variety of reasons. There are working dogs, which herd cattle or sheep, hunting dogs for a variety of game from waterfowl to bear, and there are little yipping dogs that are good mostly for giving headaches. Chelsea is no exception to this purposeful breeding: loved by many, only moving when necessary, she was bred for sprawling.
One evening Tom, a corporate client, told me he was very concerned about the dog. Tom was a human resources executive for a regional bank that held a series of training sessions here at Rock Springs, during our corporate season. He had been a guest with us several times, and had become a friend to all of us. He seemed both worried and a little embarrassed as he began his story.
He pulled me aside and in a hushed voice said that he had been out soaking in the hot tub that afternoon and Chelsea had been acting very strange. First, she came over sat very close to him. He had spent much time around her, and this did not seem too odd. But, soon she scooted closer and closer to him, and put her nose very close to his cheek. He turned to her, and she was staring at him intently through soulful eyes. He thought her affection was odd but was not yet alarmed. Next she started nuzzling the back of his neck, and put her paw on his shoulder. Now, this was well beyond her usual sociability. If she weren’t a canine, he would say she was being fresh with him.
Having known Tom for some time, I was aware of his fondness of the arts. His long-term girlfriend was even employed by the symphony. Tom often likes to listen to music when he is alone here, regrouping after sometimes-intense meetings. I ventured a guess: "I wonder if Chelsea heard the music from your headphones and thought you were crying or hurt."
Tom burst out laughing, "Headphones, hell, I was singing! I guess that should tell me something."