Talking to an egg customer about our respective farm dogs, I realized that I had never heard of a National Farm Dog Day here. In the USA they have August 25 but in Canada we have nothing. Why not?
One of the unsung heroes in this pandemic is the faithful dog, inspiring crushing numbers of people to get one for companionship and ease their loneliness. For farmers, dogs serve as great little workers as well.
Over the years we have had numerous farm dogs, usually in twos and threes, starting with a German Shepherd cross and then a Husky before settling on Collies. We learned that keeping a pup from a litter never worked well, the mother never allowing them to develop to their potential. Will and Jazz would have done better elsewhere. Rescue dogs, such as Lacy and Daisy never fully recovered from their ordeals and Spin still spun after too many hours caged with little exercise.
Max, a Border Collie cross Irish Setter, was smart, good with livestock and children with a sixth sense about strangers. His claim to fame was sticking beside our very young second son who wandered off to help Dad round up a neighbour’s cattle on the paved road. Despite knowing he shouldn’t be on the concession, he stayed with him and was the reason I saw them, a black blob on the road heading west. Max was a hero!
Lady, a rough Collie, arrived at six months, after chewing a hole in newly laid carpet in her city home. The next day, Mother’s Day, the local radio announcer spread the urgent request for a new home for her. We were chosen and from day one she fit in. Twice in her life she killed rabid foxes at the door to our house! Both times she endured quarantine in the barn rather than be put down. After all, she was only doing her job to protect us.
Our son bought Joy, a tri-colour Border Collie, another great dog but a tad rough on the heels of the cows. She loved all baby birds and would spend hours standing on her hind legs at the brooder box watching baby chicks. She could never understand baby sandpipers, looking at us as if to say, “They have escaped!! Put them back!” We kept Muscovy ducks as fly control on the manure pile and she would herd the ducklings. When a fox annihilated a nest of babies she was devastated and made it known that she knew where the culprit was. She led the men with the .22 down and across the field to the fence line where the culprit was dispatched.
Zip, a black and white Border Collie, came from a small breeder in Brussels. He was great at quietly herding cows just with his presence, but at age two he went blind in one eye (Collie Eye Anomaly). By age three the other eye went too. Advice was given to keep him tied, put him in a run or put him down. Instead we chose to put up a sign along the lane: “Caution: Blind Dog” and let him be. If he heard a vehicle he’d stand on the grass. His nemesis were things parked where they shouldn’t be! He still herded the cows every evening… but sometimes from the middle of the herd and the cows accepted it. He died at age 13.
Tess is a raw liver-and-white coloured Border Collie from Kingston. A good, steady dog for the farm but everyone’s friend, sometimes too smart for her own good and not protective of the farm.
We were offered Mike, an extra large Australian Shepherd, and wanting a protective dog to compliment Tess, we accepted. Seven months old and not neutered, he had been sold at six months to city people but it didn’t work out. He arrived with attitude and hates men with beards, bit our son within 15 minutes, avoided my husband but latched on to me immediately. He chewed everything, especially boots. It took forever to train him to stay home but, after almost 18 months, everything fell into place and he is excellent at his job.
So, in honour of our farm dogs and farm dogs everywhere I proclaim that today, the day you are reading this, to be Canadian Farm Dog Day. A special treat is in order.