Thursday, April 23, 2009

I am in love. Another man has stolen my heart and I’m hopeful I’ll be the better for it. James P. Owen is probably not someone you’ve ever heard of before unless you are a cowboy. I certainly hadn’t till just a few weeks ago. Mr. Owen is the originator of “cowboy ethics” and “The Code of the West”. I know. This doesn’t seem to have anything to do with dogs or politics or “fighting City Hall”. Bear with me. Because I see a definite link.

As Mr. Owen outlines it, this is the code that all cowboys followed then and still follow today:

Live each day with courage.
Take pride in your work.
Always finish what you start.
Do what has to be done.
Be tough, but fair.
When you make a promise, keep it.
Ride for the brand.
Talk less and say more.
Remember that some things aren’t for sale.
Know where to draw the line.

Even though there are very few of us who are driving cattle to Kansas City anymore, or putting up miles of fencing or laying brands or breaking horses, all ten of these principles still apply to life today if we let them. Some may think they are old-fashioned, simple or just plain hokey but following them could make a major impact on our world if we only would. Why? Because they’re based on ethics and doing what’s right, not what’s expedient. They offer stability, not chaos, to a society urgently in need.

How does this apply to dog owners and breeders and fanciers? The Code is based on personal responsibility; something that pretty much all of us profess to believe in when it comes to the owning, breeding and treatment of dogs and other pets. Most of us expect people to do “what’s right and fair” when it comes to the owning of dogs……right and fair for the owner and right and fair for the dog.

We also believe in freedom – freedom to have our dogs, to participate in our dog activities without interference, to live our doggie lifestyle. The cowboy ethics principle that particularly applies here and now is “do what has to be done”. For the past several years, and for the immediate future, dog owners have been in a fight for their existence and way of life. Forces gather to take all this away from us, either all at once, or piece by piece over time. It’s time to do “what has to be done”. I offer this quote from Mr. Owen’s book, Cowboy Ethics: What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West:

“In Kevin Costner’s Open Range, the cowboy heroes are Boss Spearman, a tough old cattle drover who has endeavored to steer clear of bloodshed, and his hand Charley Waite, who has clearly done some killing in his time. While resting their herd, they run up against Baxter, a despotic rancher who rules the nearby town and hates “free grazers” like Boss and Charley. Baxter’s men rough up their friend, Mose, and the bullying rancher lets them know he means to kill them all and scatter their herd if they do not quit his domain.

‘You reckon them cows are worth getting killed over?’ Charley asks Boss when he vows to protect the herd. ‘The cows is one thing,’ says Boss. ‘But one man telling another where he can go in this country is something else.’”

I think all dog lovers need to “Cowboy Up”. NOW.