About once a year I give myself permission to do a Mindful Midweek on one of my dogs. It’s a tradition. I thrive on the appreciation they show me and will do anything to keep it rolling in.

Wyatt Blue came to Sherry and me from the Carson City pound. He was still a pup, maybe three months old. He was labeled German shepherd, part wolf, with a little Labrador mixed in to sweeten him up. We assumed the Lab thing was just a marketing ploy to heighten his appeal because Wyatt Blue was western tough from the get-go. He joined our two adult dogs, Ponce de Leon, a black, thick-chested mutt and Larry Redbone, a wonderful mix of redbone hound and Doberman who ran like the wind.

Wyatt Blue took his early knocks with the older dogs with a sense of pride. He thought he was the alpha from day one and soon assumed the role for real. Most weekends, the five of us, “the pack,” would head out from Dayton, Nevada, into the Pine Nut Mountains, following old paths made by rail workers from over a century and a half ago. It was a marvelous time for dreaming about an earlier point in history and watching our pack work as a team along the forested, mountainous slopes.

One stretch was rattlesnake country, where we learned a spectacular skill Wyatt Blue possessed. The first time a rattler was spotted and gave its warning, the other dogs backed away. Not Wyatt Blue. For minutes he circled the snake quickly clockwise, then counterclockwise. Then he slipped in, fast as lightning, to grab the belly of the snake with his teeth and ferociously shake it from side to side. The tail and head of the snake flew off in opposite directions. Then Wyatt Blue pranced back to us holding the snake’s body as high in the air as possible. Sherry and I had tried to stop him during this initial gambit. After that, we didn’t want to distract Wyatt from his snake-hunting duties.

We ran into lots of wild horses on our walks, often in herds of a dozen or more. They had no fear of our pack. Several older mares would come to the front to form a security blockade for the wobbly legged foals. Ponce de Leon and Larry Redbone would honor their space. Not Wyatt Blue. He would head over and “play” with the leaders, running between their legs and dodging their powerful hind kicks. Soon the entire herd appeared to be playing a game of tag with Wyatt Blue, who darted around and through the energized bunch. We could do nothing but watch until Wyatt was tired and ready to move along.

At home Wyatt Blue had other responsibilities while Ponce de Leon and Larry Redbone napped. He continuously made his rounds along our fenced property, rarely barking, but letting stray coyotes and other visitors know this was private property. When Sherry’s dad, Jack, came to stay with us after his stroke, Wyatt Blue was his walking companion at all times. Jack talked to the dog like he chatted with any friend, and Wyatt had a way of looking up at his buddy as if to capture every word.

Like so many heroes of the West, Wyatt Blue chose his time to move on much earlier than any of us were ready for. After all of his close scrapes that might have ended violently, the rattlesnake hunter chose a cool spot on a sunny day and closed his eyes for the final time.

If you haven’t known a good dog, you’ve missed something special.