Save the Working Dog

I just read the most distressing news. Once again, a bureaucrat in an office somewhere has decided to make like even more difficult for farmers than it already is. It is concerning the keeping of working dogs in Victoria, Australia. I am not from Victoria, but all Australians deserve a fair go, and often other states follow suit with these sorts of things.

Basically, if you have 3 intact females on your property you are now a breeder and will have to follow strict regulations on the keeping of your dogs. Farmers generally do not neuter their animals as it can affect their working ability, and really, if you have a good dog – you’ll want another one day! I won’t babble on, but if you are interested in finding out more, check out the link below.

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Introducing – Kora!

After months of much anticipation, I’ve finally met my new pup! Her name is Kora, and she is a beautiful Border Collie. She came from a Border Collie stud called Mukkerdowns, which is located near Orange in New South Wales. Kora has so much personality. The more time I spend with her, the more I love her. She is around 5months old, I think, I’m yet to find out her birth date. Over the weekend, I took her for a walk down to the creek, which winds itself through the property. On the way down, we came across a small mob of cattle. Kora looked at them and within seconds was trying to run around behind them, before I called her back. We will start her on sheep or calves, so that she doesn’t get hurt for her first time herding. It is amazing how much the instinct is in these dogs, despite the majority of her brothers and sisters being city dogs. When we got to the creek, to my delight, she dove straight into the water. It seems she loves the water as much as I do! She hooned through the water, and mud, taking in every new scent and sight as she could. She rolled in the dirt and leaves on the side of the creeks and dams, each time falling into the water. She makes me laugh!

Then yesterday I took her for a drive down to the river. She swam after me as I floated through the slow-running water. Every time a leaf or stick floated past she would be after it, snapping her jaws as she swam. The funniest bit was when the leaf went underwater – she stuck her head underwater too! I was amazed that she knew to breathe out while underwater. Such a strange dog! Love her to bits! Anyway, I didn’t have long to write much of a story for you, apologies, but enjoy the photos ๐Ÿ™‚

Working Dog Fashion

Hi everyone! I am so sorry that it has been so long since I have last posted. Breeding season is always busy on the farm, before and after I go to my full time job, I’m breeding next year’s foals! Well, assisting – I don’t do much. Hah!

I will put up photos of our Western Australian adventures soon, but firstly I thought that I would show you photos that Jackaroo has sent me of some of his dogs in the high-vis jackets I made them. They look great, I am very proud of the effort. In one of my past posts, I wrote about how bad a lot of drivers are around working dogs and cattle. There’s no chance of not seeing these dogs now! I wonder what the cattle think? Enjoy ๐Ÿ™‚

Edge

Edge

Gemma and Edge

Gemma and Edge

Gemma

Gemma

Latest pics from the stock route.

I have got a couple more pics to show you! Jackaroo sent these yesterday. Storm got himself lost the other day and spent the night at the yards, back up the trail a little bit. Luckily, Jackaroo found him the next day.

He had few stories to tell, it’s been pretty slow going so far. However, he did mention how stupid some people can be around mobs of cattle and horses on the road. Any horse rider will know, if you’ve ridden on the road, some people just don’t understand how dangerous it is when they screech past you, or slam on their brakes just before they get to you. Make sure you take it easy on the road with horses and cattle. For your safety, and for the riders.

On a positive note though, Jackaroo was telling me that some older man drove up to them when they were stopped onto the side of the road and offered him a Country Life newspaper. Unfortunately, Jackaroo was on a young horse and it mightn’t have ended well if he opened the newspaper up while riding him! Still, it’s nice to see that there’s good people out there.

Sunset on the stock route.

Sunset on the stock route.

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The collies settle in for the night. From the left, four are ours – Storm, Zyrtec, Edge and Gemma.

Jackaroos Only

Hi everyone. I received these photos from Jackaroo yesterday. They have been stuck in the same area for a few days now, and will be for a couple more while they wait for a big enough gap between them and the mob ahead. (You can read more about the history-making drove here). Having such large groups of cattle moving down the stock route, food is becoming scarce. So they are trying to create bigger gaps between the cattle. Not that it probably makes much difference since we’re currently in a bit of a drought! Then again, when isn’t Australia in a drought? It’s either flooding or dusty haha!

Anyway, there have been few hiccups along the way, apart from earlier this week when a few horses escaped. The horses are currently having to be hobbled during the night, as the other morning they were found 8kms from camp! Naughty nags. Apparently one of them was my beloved Perseverance. No… That can’t be right!

Enjoy the photos, I hope to have some more photos or stories soon ๐Ÿ™‚

The cattle graze as they walk.

The cattle graze as they walk.

Feed time at the yards in Naribri.

Feed time at the yards in Naribri.

Believe it or not there is 2000 head there!

Believe it or not there is 2000 head there!

Morning on the stock route.

Morning on the stock route.

A storm rolls in to camp while the men prepare for the night.

A storm rolls in to camp while the men prepare for the night.

Storm, one of the working collies.

Storm, one of the working collies.

Camp. Definitely a lot more comfortable than back in the day!

Camp. Definitely a lot more comfortable than back in the day!

An electric tape holds the horses for the night.

An electric tape holds the horses for the night.

The horses on their days off travel with the cattle.

The horses on their days off travel with the cattle.

The horses and cattle are tucked in for the night.

The horses and cattle are tucked in for the night.

A drover on his horse.

A drover on his horse.

You have to be prepared for anything, if 2000 head of cattle had spooked at this plane coming in, there would've been some major dramas!

You have to be prepared for anything, if 2000 head of cattle had spooked at this plane coming in, there would’ve been some major dramas!

Love and Loss on the Land

Everybody knows that as rewarding as life on the land is, you have to deal with death more often than folks in the city. Whether a dog gets trampled while working cattle, or a horse breaks a leg, there is always a chance something will go wrong.

It is a year ago this month that I lost two of the most loved animals I’ve ever had – both in the same week. Even after a year it is still hard to write about them, let alone talk about them in person. Although I am usually trying to put a funny twist on my adventures, I thought I’d share this story – mainly cause they were so beautiful I just want to share their photos!

Just before Christmas 2011, Jackaroo and my second Christmas together, he took me shopping to get me a Christmas present. After suggesting a couple of things that I wouldn’t mind receiving from him, he decided he didn’t like any of them and we went home empty handed. I was devastated, thinking that I wouldn’t be getting a Christmas present from him. ‘Worst Christmas ever!’, I thought, moping around. I had spent weeks looking for the perfect gift for him. Anyway, when I woke up Christmas morning, he was jollier than I expected. I walk into the kitchen to get some breakfast. Jackaroo walks up to me with his hands behind his back, his eyes sparkling. He passes me a plain envelope. I open it up, inside is a registration certificate for a beautiful little red dun Australian Stock Horse filly that had been born a month earlier on the property. I literally jumped up and down and cried, just about suffocating him with my hugs. She was the most beautiful foal I’d ever seen, and I had spent a lot of time down the paddock just sitting and watching her eat. She was the best present I have ever received and I named her Warratah, after the red native Australian flower. For those of you who have never seen a red dun coloured horse, they are similar to a normal dun in the way that they have the dorsal stripe, darker coloured points and stripes on their legs – but they are red!

Warratah was smart, and I loved hanging out with her down the paddock. When it came time to halter break her, I was very excited! I had high hopes for this little girl. She was in the yards for about a week, getting taught to pick her feet up and tie up without pulling back. After we were satisfied that she and the 7 other 2011 foals were handled enough, we led them down to the improved pasture, so that they could grow big and strong so that one day we would be able to break them in and ride them.

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Warratah, my Christmas present on Christmas Day.

Warratah at about 6 months old.

Warratah at about 6 months old.

A couple of months later, Jackaroo and I went to look at some dogs. They were 3/4 Border Collie and 1/4 Kelpie. As always, they were adorable! We picked up 3 boys – a blue and white for a friend, a black and white pup for Jackaroo and a chocolate tri-colour for me. My pup was a handsome and smart little fella, with one green eye and one blue eye. I’m a sucker for different coloured eyes (even Jackaroo has different coloured eyes)! When we got home I spent days deliberating what to name my pup. One day I was singing the theme song to a tv show that was on when I was a kid – FeralTv. I ended up naming my pup Rattus, after one of the characters. It suited him perfectly, due to his intelligence he was always up to no good and we got along great! I got Rattus when I still lived in town, not on the farm. This was also a time when Jackaroo was working away on cattle stations for stints of 6-8 weeks, coming home for a week and then leaving again. I took him everywhere with me. He helped with the loneliness of living in a town without my family or partner. I taught him many tricks, and by the time Jackaroo came home after the first 8 weeks he could sit, shake, drop, hop up and I could send him off about 10m away from me, make a hoop with my arms and he would leap through them. He was my best friend.

Rattus and I head for a station about 10hrs South West of here.

Rattus and I head for a station about 10hrs South West of here.

My beautiful boy, Rattus.

My beautiful boy, Rattus.

Now for the sad bit… The first tragedy was with Rattus. He was looking off one day, and was off his food. I didn’t think much of it, as with humans, sometimes things just don’t agree with your stomach. The next morning I went outside to check on Rattus. I called and called him, could not find him anywhere. I finally find him, still alive but very weak and bleeding from both ends – which was attracting ants. He tried to hobble over to me and I burst into tears then yelled to Jackaroo, who quickly collected his gun and took Rattus out of my earshot to put him out of his misery. We suspect that he had either eaten some dingo bait or rat bait. Although we had not baited for dingos, the worst trouble is that sometimes birds will pick up a piece of meat that has been baited for dingos and drop it into your yards. The love that he had in his eyes, despite being in so much pain is something that I’ll never get over. RIP Rattus.

A week later, Warratah and her brothers and sisters went through a fence. Being so young, when something spooks them they just float like a flock of birds. All of the foals had a few scratches but only 3 of the 8 were bad enough to require medical attention, and another one which I could handle. Mowgli had cut his leg down to the bone, Upendi had skull showing and a huge gash on her knee and Justice had a chest puncture. Warratah, however, was unable to be fixed. She had slashed her eye in half. It was so sore, and made my eyes water when I looked at her. Unfortunately, she wouldn’t have been worth much as a broodmare, not that I could afford the operation to have her eye anyway. Jackaroo was working away on a station at this time, but I called him for advice and he organised his brother to ‘take care’ of Warratah for me. He took her down the paddock and put her out of her misery. I hid down another paddock, found a nice spot by a dam and cried for hours. I’m very lucky to be building a relationship with another beautiful filly, Perserverence. Warratah will always hold a special part in my heart though. RIP Warratah.

Work Like a Dog

I remember when I first heard the saying ‘working like a dog’. I was young, naive and from the city. ‘Work like I dog?’ I’d think, ‘Dogs only laze around, eat and pee on things.’

How my world has changed.

My first introduction to working dogs was when I visited a soon-to-be neighbour’s property, where a handful of collies were tied up to trees around the house. I was told not to pat them… So I went and greeted each personally. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to play with them, and definitely couldn’t understand the rule of not keeping a dog who didn’t earn his keep. Now I do, and have to run, and feed, hoardes of the critters each night.

Some people would have you think dogs who don’t sleep inside and eat scraps off the table are mistreated.ย Hearing ads from the working dog rescue programs on the tv makes it sound like working dogs are mistreated and unloved. They certainly aren’t desperate for attention, they get to play with lots of other dogs twice a day – numbers of city people pay for their dogs to go to ‘daycare’. These dogs do what they love and were bred to do- work livestock. No heart attacks from being fat old house dogs here, they are athletes and kept in prime working condition.

I’ve been thinking about this all a lot lately since I’ve been looking for an Australian Shepherd puppy. There are few breeders in Australia who actually work their dogs on sheep or cattle. Most seem to be show dogs or house dogs. There are so many rules when purchasing one of these dogs. Some breeders insist that the dog be sold within so many km’s of them, so they can take them back and breed or show them. There are breeding contracts, registration contracts etc. It does my head in! When I buy a dog, I want it to be mine. I want to breed puppies from it if it’s a great worker, I don’t want to send it back to the breeder to show. I just want a dog, a good worker and a friend. Better just stick with collies I guess!

Edge & Dodge

Edge and Dodge are two of the working collies on the property. Waiting patiently (and keenly!) for their turn to work some cattle.