Trego Montana

November 19th, 2006

Ever heard of Trego, Montana?

Trego, population 437, is on US 93 in northwest Montana, not far from the Canadian border. Other than a post office and a general store, there’s not much else to Trego. Even the one church in town conducts worship services in its members’ homes.

But Trego is a familiar name to cutters. At least to those who have visited Bar H Ranche in Weatherford, Texas, home to all-time leading sires Dual Pep and CD Olena, and managed by leading trainer Paul Hansma.

Trego Montana, a 10-year-old red and white border collie owned by Bar H Ranche office manager Deb Stahl, took on the role of official greeter for the ranch five years ago. The conscientious canine also patrols the gate to the round pen every morning, when Hansma works horses, and keeps an eye on the feeders close to the barn.

“She’s not very brave on the inside of the fence, but she’s very brave outside of the round pen,” noted Stahl, who rescued Trego during the historic blizzard of 1996, when 80,000 head of Montana livestock perished and major highways were closed with drifts as high as 20 feet. Stahl was living in Montana at the time and managed to get to the town of Trego to assess the damage for a friend who owned a ranch near there.

The ranch owner was out of town when the blizzard hit. Neighbors with a snow mobile kept his cattle alive, but his border collie and her newborn pups weren’t as fortunate. They were starving when the ranch manager finally found them, and the only food he had to offer them was a moose carcass. By the time Stahl and a friend arrived, two of the five pups were still alive. Stahl took the female, the only one to survive.

“The fact that she lived is a miracle,” said Stahl. “She was so weak and sick that I had to carry her around for months and prepare special food for her. I really didn’t know if she would make it.”

Trego survived and thrived. Today, other than greeting guests, guarding gates and playing with squeak toys, one of her favorite pastimes is camping, a passion that she shares with Stahl, although her approach to wildlife is much the same as her approach to cattle. Trego prefers to be on the safe side of the gate.

Stahl recalled one camping trip, when she awoke in the middle of the night to catch a glimpse of her bag of groceries, as it disappeared into the woods. A barefoot Stahl gave chase and the thief, a not very clever raccoon, eventually ran up a tree and dropped the bag. But as she retrieved her groceries and turned toward camp, Stahl realized that Trego was nowhere in sight.

“All the time I was running, I was thinking that my dog was beside me,” she admitted. “But when I got back, she was in the tent with just her face looking out the door at me. She was still too scared to come out.

“Im so fortunate to work at a place that lets me bring my dog,” noted Stahl. ”But if you know Paul Hansma, this is a dog place. Sometimes there will be six dogs in the office. We have lots of toys and chewys. It’s wonderful.”

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