I grew up on a property, we had cattle so that meant we had working dogs.
Beautiful border collies. I remember the first time dad came home with Spook chained into the back of his ute, I remember thinking “woah…he’s huge!” He was gigantic in my smallish persons eye. We soon learned that Spook was a gentleman, he was lovable but didn’t try to encroach on your personal space. He was always eager for some attention but he’d never let on. The moment you spoke his name and slapped your thigh he’d be right there, looking up at you with big caramel eyes.
You could see the intelligence and love.
And then dad brought home Lassie.
We called her just Lass, she was the total opposite of spook. Not as big either, if she were human I’d have put her in that whole bouncy cheerleader type category. She was pert and perky and would flutter those pretty eyes to even an ounce of attention. From anyone.
They were the perfect couple and so in love. Lass would jump about all flirty and playful and Spook would kind of look at her as if shaking his head with a smirk of endearment. He loved her hyper girlish manner and she loved his quiet, patient and reserved style.
They were made for each other and their litters proved it.
Everyone wanted one of Lass and Spooks pups. They were beautiful, well-behaved, and so smart.
They turned out to be very good working dogs.
I always felt sorry for the runts, I’d sit with the pups and make sure that the smallest little ones always squished in at dinner time. I’d pull the tubby little milk bearded pups off the teat and send in the scrawny ones. They were the least desirable pups so they’d always be the ones to hang around the longest. I always wanted one of those pups for myself and one time I was allowed to keep one.
He was tiny, so so small, but I’d researched a lot about border collies and his markings, in my opinion showed that he would be a top working dog, despite his smallness.
Eventually he began to show extreme potential and my parents were maybe a little surprise by him. They told me he would be sent to a man dad knew who trains working dogs for a living. He’d only be gone 6 months.
Well it’s been 16 years since I said good-bye to my little Saxon, he’s now long gone, but dad would give me some of the ribbons and trophies he’d won during dog trials all over the counrty.
I knew he’d be great one day.
The dog trainer still breeds dogs from his blood lines to this day.
So after losing Saxon I never really had another of Lass and Spook’s babies, besides Jarred who was my brother’s pup. He was a well-built, stunning looking dog. His paws were almost the size of my palms, I’d tap my shoulders and he’d place his paws on them, We’d stand face to face. He was a monster of a dog, he could open his jaws and my whole face would fit inside and yet as cautious as I am with dogs, I would have trusted my very life with him.
I was a young teen and taught him a whole bunch of pointless tricks along with training him in a ring with the sheep the way he was meant to be trained. I taught him how to open the latch on his kennel so that when I called him I didn’t have to go get him out. Did I mention lazy teen? I taught him to walk back and forth past his food without even blinking an eye in that direction until I said it was ok to eat it. It didn’t matter if I made him do it 2 times or 200 he always did what I asked. I taught him a bunch of silly whistle commands, one meant ‘sit’ another meant ‘hop onto the chair’ a second added to that one meant ‘hop onto the table.’
I’ve had dogs on and off over the years since but none I have been able to love as much.
I’ve always loved going to see my dad’s dogs, they’re more like people than pets. They have a purpose working dogs. They’re calm and placid, intelligent and loving but the moment the tray of a ute is opened they pounce in and go into working mode. They’re eager and determined.
They can herd large amounts of cattle and head them off to where ever they’re needed to go. Two dogs can contain a massive seething group of cattle, each of which occasionally would like to trampled them to death.
They’re brave and observant.
And once they trust you, loyal and life long friends.
Well, I proudly now can say I am the owner well….keeper of two of my dad’s border collie pups, children of Lass and Spook, his original pair.
Ok, so they’re equivalent to being in their 90’s in human years but so what?
These 2 dogs have been a part of my life for around 15 years, they’re basically siblings the way my dad has loved and treated them.
I could see how hard it was for dad to let them go, even though he can still see them whenever he wants to. Honestly I think it was harder for him than when us kids moved out.
They’re retired and old, but loving and caring.
Both have lots of grey hair and neither have teeth, Victor has a missing ear from fighting when he was young over females on heat and Loch has breathing problems.
Victor hangs out under the car or on the deck, sleeping mostly. Every now and again I hear thuds and go to check on him, he’s laying on his side asleep but running like a wild dog. I think he must be dreaming of his working days, chasing cattle at full speed. He’ll wake and get up unsteady on his feet, approach for a pat where he practically lies on you and falls asleep with a smile. He reminds me of a big old wolf, scarred and missing an ear, but you’ll never find a more gentle and patient soul as his.
I call him ‘old man’ a lot.
Loch is beautiful with his one blue eye and one brown, his big boofy head and out-turned front paws will always make him look all young, goofy and playful no matter how old and grey he gets. He gets all energetic and tries to play fetch not that he knows how, he’ll grab the stick from your hand and throw his head around then place it back in your hand. After about 10 minutes he’s worn out and puffing away noisily.
He’s adorable, always placing his paw on your hand or leg when you’re sitting quietly. Just to kind of say ‘hey, I’m here if you wanna pat me.’
They won’t last long and we knew that when we took them on.
The very thought almost brings tears to my eyes. My poor boys. They will live perhaps 2 years longer and that’s at a stretch. Poor old Victor wobbles when trying to cock his leg just to pee. I see him try to scratch but he just can’t reach anymore so I or one of the kids goes to help with his itch. If we’re not there, he walks leaning against the brick wall to scratch. Loch comes for walks around the damn with me in the mornings before the kids are up, It’s just too much energy for Victor to waste. I always take a cup of tea which Loch needs to inspect first just incase it’s something worth sharing. He walks along silently beside me, now and again he’ll nuzzle my hand to remind me he is there.
We’ve explained to the kids that they aren’t forever pets, but they’re here for us to make happy and spend time with. They’ve spent so long giving and working very hard for people and now it’s their time for some love and attention for all the efforts they’ve put in for us humans.
Both have been enjoying 3 healthy meals a day mainly soft foods, even dry food I’ve had to mix with boiling water, some milk and eggs and leave it for about an hour to soften up enough for them to eat.
They’ve inspired me to begin volunteering at our local animal shelter. I visited today to sort out paperwork and look around. It was so sad, but inspiring and I can’t wait to begin working there.
Every life deserves a little quality and every being deserves some love.
Even right at the end when they’re not so cute anymore.
As toothless and as patchy as their fur may be, I love those dogs and so do the kids. It makes me feel good knowing that they’re going to spend their last days soaking up all the love and attention they can before they go.
I’ll keep you updated with the volunteer work as I’m planning to jump right in and help and fundraise as much as I can, but in the meantime I would love to encourage you to check out your local animal shelters and offer some time, or maybe donate money. If not money, then get creative. Maybe put on a dog/cat food layby along with your christmas pressies for your kids to donate. Leads and collars, cat and dog toys are always wanted.
There is always some little thing that we can do.