The Original Adventures of Hank the Cowdog, by John R. Erickson

Hank is an Australian shepherd employed on an American ranch. Being Head of Ranch Security, as he proudly informs us, requires a keen mind, a thick skin, and a peculiar devotion to duty. I mean, you put in sixteen-eighteen hours a day. You’re on call day and night. Your life is on the line every time you go out on patrol. You’re doing jobs that nobody else wants to do because of the danger.

The Adventures of Hank the Cowdog is a collection of the scrapes he gets into as Head of Ranch Security, all told in Hank’s own words. He’s just a little conceited, you see, and blind to his own short-comings. He’s a bit of an exaggerator, also, so the stories he tells are downright hilarious.  Hank always has perfectly logical explanations for his predicaments, but the readers, as humans familiar with typical dog behavior, we understand just exactly why his owner calls him Dang it! most of the time.

For example, when Hank is chasing Pete the cat (and for very good reason) and runs “right in front of this snorty old cow, don’t you see, and the next thing I knew, she was blowing hot air on the back of my neck and shaking her horns at me… I ran for the nearest cover, which happened to be the boss, and you might say that he got plastered. The old cow took aim for me and got the boss instead… Then I did my duty as a loyal cowdog. I rushed to his side and licked him in the face. He turned red and screeched, Dang it, git outa here!

Or how about the time Hank took a nice relaxing roll in the puddle where the septic tank leaks, then strolled over to rub against the boss’s legs. Or the time he was stalking an intruder who turned out to be a skunk. The air turned yellow and poisonous. My eyes began to water and I gasped for breath. Sally May’s south window happened to be open. Was that my fault? I mean, had I gone through the house that morning opening all the windows? Of course not, but on this ranch, Rule Number One is that, when in doubt, blame Hank.

This isn’t an example of classic literature. I must note here that Hank’s grammar ain’t all that great. He talks like you might expect a western cowdog to talk (Mr. Erickson actually was a cowboy). His spelling, his style and some of his expressions might be difficult for younger readers to lay ahold of. But these details establish his character and add to the charm of the story.  I’d place this one at 9+. Even teens and especially adults, I think, would get a real kick out of this one, the humor is so well done. It’s definitely a must-read for dog-lovers. If you liked Marley, try Hank!

You make the world a little safer, a little better. You take your satisfaction where you can get it, in knowing that you’re doing the job right. The very people you’re protecting won’t understand. They’ll blame you when things go wrong. But that’s the price of greatness, isn’t it? And if you were born a cowdog, it’s all part of a day’s work.

There are 59 Hank adventures! Many are out of print, but used editions are easy to find. Download the original book on Kindle for a very affordable $4.79. Nook and Kindle both have lots of other Hank adventures for around 5 bucks.