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The best cow dog I’ve ever run across was a black and white streak named “Pippi Longstocking.” (Well, what else would you expect a 7-year-old who had just read the book to call a Border Collie with four white paws?)

Pippi had a special cow sense to know when to push the herd while Dad trailed in the truck; when to hold back and let the calves go through the gate as if it were their own idea; when to nip at a bull’s heels getting into the trailer; and when to stare down a stubborn cull cow with an attitude until she changed directions.

If that Border Collie showed me anything, it’s that sometimes the quickest line from Point A to Point B is to slowly turn the group with a well-placed nudge here and there. Rather than constant barking or snapping her jaws like the neighbor’s useless mutt that ran more cattle through fences than gates, causing costly damages and lost time.

Let’s see, how might we apply that to our daily lives? Well, now, it seems to me that if folks in active agricultural production number less than 1% of the United States population then that means we’re going to have to learn a better way to get our message across to the other 99% who we rely on to consume our products.

Pippi might have been onto something.

Now, of course people are not cattle, nor are they cow dogs.

Still, there’s a lot to be learned and applied to other areas of our lives.

See, Pippi taught me teamwork. She and my dad worked as a team to accomplish a goal. Sure, separately they might have had some success on their own, but when they put their talents together, they were so much more efficient. Now I’m not naïve enough to think that overnight all of agriculture is going to get on the same chapter and verse of a message to consumers. But maybe we stop nipping at each other and trying to draw blood over decades-old arguments and instead start working on our commonalities?

Pippi also showed me that sometimes the most effective method is a quieter, calmer method. She only barked when the occasion really, truly called for an emergency response. So, because of that, we all paid attention when she let a bark loose.

I’m no expert, but something tells me that whooping, hollering and raising a ruckus as Avenging Twitter Cowboys isn’t really the most efficient way to pull that 99% toward our goals. That same 99% that doesn’t look like, pray like, love like, or sound like we do isn’t going to suddenly stop in their tracks and come toward the ruckus we raise in a post or a meme. No, instead we’re chasing them away into the arms of predators with their own messaging that’s not always ag-friendly.

Like my dad would say, I hope the commotion was worth the busted fence.

Now, again, of course people are not cattle, nor are they cow dogs. I’m just saying that sometimes, we can learn a lot from observing the world around us and applying those lessons to our own lives.

Pippi sure was a heck of a cow dog. But I realize now that I’m grown that she was an even better teacher.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or jlatzke@hpj.com.

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