Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mike Passes

A great dog passes on. Marianne Friers - threecollie of Northview Dairy - finally lost her family's long time companion and working dog Mike - a Border Collie.

Border Collies are renowned for their stock herding abilities. They are smart, active dogs that need to stay busy. Mike had been working cattle for the Friers family, with them practically every hour of every day for fifteen years. The bond that is forged through constantly working and being together for so much of each day for years is far stronger than the average pet/master relationship. While border collies aren't big dogs - their hearts are. They'll work themselves to death if you let them, and protect the cattle, sheep or family with equal zeal.

One has to keep them active or they will get into trouble. There are a lot of Border Collies in this area - a trip to town will find at least one or two sitting on a scrap of carpeting on a parked flatbed pickup, waiting for the Master to return. They're not necessarily a trusting breed, either - and what I mean by that is if they don't know you, you aren't gonna just walk up to one and pet it, particularly if it's alone and doesn't have the Master there for guidance - to approve of the attention or not. I've always liked the breed, but I know I won't be there for one enough to keep it occupied and engaged. They are far from being the couch potatoes of the dog world.

I'll never forget one in particular. Back when I was hauling grain - one befriended me at a local feedyard. I have since forgotten her name, but her antics have always stuck with me. She belonged to the manager of the feedyard, and was usually on station beside his pickup while he was in the office. She was there, guarding the pickup and ready to work at a moment's notice. Naturally, she'd get bored, and so, for entertainment, she'd heel trucks driving into the yard. Driving in, I'd see her raise her head from a nap and bolt to the mudflaps on my trailer, nipping at them and barking. She'd circle around the truck, barking. There was a drainage pipe set in the path to the scales, so there were slight depressions at the ends - hardly a ditch or a place to hide - but she'd snuggle down, happily wriggling her body into the slight dip as if to say "You can't see me here" and launch an "attack" on me and the truck as I drove over the bit of bridge.

At first, after I got to the scales, she'd go back "on station" by her Master's pickup. I got to coaxing her to come to me - which took several trips - then she discovered she could trust me, and that I was an easy mark for some quick ear scratching and general attention. The routine was forever altered. Not only did we do the chase around the truck, hide in the ditch, and nip at the mudflaps - she'd wait for me to climb down from the cab, knowing I'd bestow some lovin' on her as a reward. Of course, she also knew which truck I drove - we had an identical truck and trailer, and the driver of that rig didn't get this sort of treatment. After I weighed and came out of the office, she'd be back on station - she knew I was busy and was gonna go to the mill to unload, and she had her responsibilities to look after. Sometimes, weighing back out, she'd be there to greet me, but more often than not - her job of guarding the Master's pickup took precedence. She'd had her fun and gotten some attention already - duty called. She would acknowledge my presence by wagging her tail as I went by.

How can you not lose your heart to such a magnificent, worthy dog? Mike was just as much a character and devoted companion as my little pal. Go give your condolences, if you've ever loved a dog.


threecollie said...

Thank you so much for the kind words. I miss the old guy every minute, but things were so hard for him lately that it is probably a mercy from his point of view. He had to be carried in and out and had lost control of things...
I can just see the little dog you knew wiggling down into the ditch to race out at you! They are such cool dogs.

Jinglebob said...

Great post!

Been there done that and had my share of good ones with more in the future.

Next one is going to be a Bearded Collie which supposedly has a little more bite to them. We shall see.

"We give our hearts to dogs to tear them." Do a search and check that out.

Jeffro said...

Wow - thanks! I'd never read Kipling's poem nor was I aware of the book about the Jack Russell terriers. My neighbor ended up with four of the little devils - and not all of them are with us anymore because of that fearlessness they exhibit.

But, they're sure fun to watch - I witnessed two of them when they first discovered toads. What a riot.