An Australian shepherd is the best dog God ever put hair on
Sharp as razors, athletic as gymnasts, and loyal if it means their lives, an Australian Shepherd will always be the dog you'll find in my truck.
I've lived with several and bred a bunch more.
My first Australian Shepherd was also the one that's stayed the longest (17 years!) and tore the biggest hole in my heart when she passed. She was Brandy. A little black tri, with more fire and passion than a baptist preacher!
She truly saved my neck on more than one occasion. The most memorable was when she was barely a year old. Actually too young to be working cattle, I only had her along to get her used to 'em and stimulate her instincts a mite.
That little Australian Shepherd and I hit a level of communication I've never known with anything or anyone else.I swear I could just say something to her in normal conversation and she would just up and do it!
Sometimes I need not even speak. Just a gesture and she was moving, and a gesture never "gestured" before!
She would do things she had never been trained to do simply by me asking her to! It was strange. Sometimes I thought if I'd asked her to write a book she'd have written me a note asking how many pages!
A fantastic friend.
I was foreman on a growing farm for dairy heifers, for one of the biggest outfits in Arizona. OK, kinda low class work for a cowboy, but they were cows and I was getting paid, so I didn't complain much.
Anyways, I had a little over seven hundred head in a feedlot setup just outside of Tucson.
The afternoon in question, I was moving a couple hundred head from a large pen to a small "turnout" pasture, several hundred yards away. I figured it would be OK to have my Australian Shepherd pup get a little exercise and walk along with me.
Now these weren't your "normal" Holstein dairy heifers. They'd been range raised on open range in California and were wild as Buffalo! From what I'd been told, they'd been handled pretty rough by something other than "top hands", so gentled they weren't.
Having been bred as yearlings to calve as two year olds, they weighed in somewhere around 800 to 1000 lbs a piece. Not real big as cows go, but enough to get your attention if they got their wind up.
I'd pushed this wild bunch of unwed mothers out into a pipe fenced lane maybe 20' wide. I was coming along 10 yards or so in the rear, maybe a bit more, with Brandy behind me. That little Aussie was like my shadow.
With no cause or trigger that I saw, like a flock of birds, that herd reversed direction in the blink of an eye and surged back into the big pen I was standing in.
Now picture this. The gate's in the corner. I'm in the center, 30 or 40 feet from the gate. Nearly that from the fences on either side, and a solid wall of beef, weighing nearly 200,000 lbs, is pounding toward me like an 800 legged, hairy, freight train!
A genuine western stampede. Only embarrassing part for a cowboy would be what they'd write on my tombstone:
Lost his life in a stampede
200 pregnant milk cows!
Well sir, I figured I was history. Run out my string early for sure. Might as well just turn up my toes and start singin' hymns. No way could I beat them cows to the fences, and no way they were gonna' just run on by. Those cows were shoulder to shoulder as they surged through the gate. Not enough room between 'em for a super model to slide through sideways.
Right then I heard Brandy, my little yearling Australian Shepherd pup whimper, and thinking she was scared, the thought flashed through my mind, "Damn, I've killed my dog too!".
I started to look down at her and all I saw was a black streak as she raced past me.
Running up to the lead cow that untrained, less than green pup latched onto that sows nose and put her teeth together! To say that cow reacted is an understatement. Bawling like a step child, she whipped that dog back and forth half a dozen times in part of a second!
Flailed her with such force, Brandy just couldn't hold on and broke loose.
The dog flew, backwards, I'll bet twenty feet. She hit the ground, backwards, on her feet, digging like a sand buggy to get back to that cow! I've never seen anything like it.
The "target" cow saw that Australian Shepherd returning, and wanting no part of her, swapped ends again, somehow triggering the whole herd to do the same. They surged right back out of the pen, turning back 5 maybe 10 feet before they would have turned me into stew.
One rattled but happy young cowboy slamming the gate and safely scaling the fence, while one equally happy Australian Shepherd pup danced a jig in the pen behind them!
200,000 lbs of wild cows, beaten by a dog that never broke 35 lbs on her best day!
That yearling pup was sure proud of herself. She wiggled in circles at full speed all over that pen! I was just as proud of her, for 16 more years.
The whole thing took less than 6 seconds yet marked my life forever.
Horses, Critters and Other Tales of a Cowboys Life
in which this story and many more are published, is available as an ebook in my 'Bookstore'... just click on the link!