Thursday, September 8, 2011

Dogs and Blogs Part 1

I have always had dogs, they just are such a part of a farm. My first memory of a farm dog was my Mother telling me to be gentle with "Pat" my fathers ancient mixed breed who was a little grumpy. He had a right to be he was 15 and had been a working farm dog all his life. Dogs didn't come in the house then they were part of the stock.

The next dog was a little black female we called Nipper. She came with a white tipped tail and two white front paws. She was a high spirited dog and would dash in and out and about the horses when we went riding. This was the demise of the White tip to her tail and my first experience at veterinary medicine on the farm.  The young horse my Mother was riding struck at the dog as she ran in front of him. He was fast and caught her tail, slamming it to the ground. It peeled off a good three inches of skin and hair. All we could see was a bare bone and it looked dreadful. My Mother sighed and when we got home [followed by a much chastised Nipper] Mom and Dad evaluated the injury.  The bare tip would have to be amputated. Dad held Nipper and Mom cut the tail  tip off cleanly and I handed her the disinfectant.  I felt both a bit ill and a bit proud too as I had actually helped out.  Nipper was very much better behaved after that. She was also my first training experience and it certainly left a mark around the farm My brother and I taught her to "Dig For Gold".....and she did. That little dog became obsessed with digging huge pits looking for whatever she thought gold was. It got to the point where all we said was "Gold...Nip..Gold"  and soon we had a crater like excavation.  She was a wonderful dog and an all around help. She babysat and entertained us, she chased cows and guarded the poultry and if a stranger came in the yard she let us know with w loud barking. My mother taught her to pull a toboggan and she  would  drag us all over the yard on it in winter. She lived a long and useful life and made it to age 16.

We moved to Millarville in the late 60's and there I had my first experience with Border Collies and Shetland Sheepdogs. My mother raised purebred Shelties that were not pampered house dogs but working dogs to deal with her herd of Finnsheep. They were brave and bold, great small dogs and a far cry from what they have become today.  Then one day my Stepfather brought home a beautiful Black and white puppy. A purebred Border Collie. We called her Skye.  She was wonderful and taught me what an incredible help a good cow dog can be and how smart and brave Border Collies are.  She was technically my parents dog but in her heart she was mine. She went everywhere she could with me. She didn't really like riding in vehicles but if it meant going with me she would get a resigned look on her face and hop in the truck. When I went away to college and then work in Saskatchewan I missed her so much. It was always so good to see her when I came home for a visit.
My Mother and Stepfather divorced and then my mother became very ill. I ended up taking Skye as a very aged dog to Cowley where I had ended up working with my father on the farm I was raised on. She was gray around the muzzle, a tad deaf and a bit arthritic. She had lost a few teeth as well. Chasing cattle is a hard job and no matter how careful dogs are they do get kicked and occasionally run over. My Father thought she was a grand old dog and kept all his scraps for her. Bits of steak, hamburger and even grapes saw their way to the old dog. We set up a dog bed for her in the porch and she seemed right at home.  She would come to the corral with me and wait until I was done chores, she put up with my young dog Radar and decided the cats could do as they pleased. She was a bit unsure of the pigs and always gave them room as she walked by them.
She enjoyed my fathers company too and the two of them would sit under the Crabapple trees in the evening as my father had a cigarette.  One day after she had been at Cowley for several months I noticed a small lump under her jaw. I was concerned and took her to the vet. It was not good news, the wonderful old dog had developed a cancer. Our vet said there wasn't anything to do but she was in good condition so just see how she did. We took her home and she was happy to be away from that darned vet and acted like a puppy running around the yard. My father got quite a laugh from it.
Two months later I came home from a parts run to find my father and Skye out along the fence with the little farm truck and  wire stretchers. I went over to see what was wrong and Dad told me how amazing Skye was and how brave she was. The neighbours cows had broken in to the crop and since I had "Radar" with me Skye went out to help Dad. He said she was remarkable and as old and stiff as she was she had the cows back through the fence in no time. He went on and on about how she had cancer and bad teeth but she knew he needed help!  Do dogs know when it is their time?  I think she did and as she stood in the shade of the pickup she took a big sigh and quietly lay down.  We expected she was tired and finished fixing the fence.  Then we went to go back to the house and as I went over to help her into the truck I realized she was gone. She had fallen asleep and just not woken up.
Dad and I were heartbroken at loosing her but she had died content and proud of a job well done. What more could a Border Collie ask for. Dad told the story of that afternoon for years after and always finished by saying "What a dog, What a sick but she still knew what to do!"