Thursday, April 23, 2009

Canine Companion Tribute

Rosie has Fun

Get him started and Dangerous will put you to sleep offering up his home spun philosophy and words of wisdom. Your eyes will glaze over as you fight to stay awake, but I hope you pay attention to one colloquial phrase he repeats often. "Never trust a man who doesn't like dogs!" In my opinion, he is absolutely right.

As you probably know by now, I am the latest in a long line of canines. Dangerous has always had a dog or two around. When you have a personality like Dangerous, sometimes you have to buy your friends. I don't mean Dangerous pays people to hang out with him, but he did pay $400 for me and drove over 400 miles round trip to pick me up. I didn't know most the dogs that preceded me, but I have heard all the stories and tales about their personalities and adventures. All of them have been an important part of Dangerous' High Plateau travels, so with the backpacking and riding season starting, I thought you might like to hear some of their stories. There have been so many dogs I can't tell you about them all, but I will share with you what I know about a few. Their High Plateau adventures will have to represent all those who willingly and unknowingly followed Dangerous, Utah and Fremont into the backcountry.

Rosie's New Home

Years ago, Ole' Dangerous loved to hunt game birds. At that time, he kept German Shorthair pointers which he used to hunt pheasants and upland game birds. He tells anyone who will listen about the many birds he shot over his pointer Lady Bird. After he gave up hunting, Dangerous started giving herding dogs a try. "Pants" was a female blue healer given to Dangerous' wife Trea over his objections. Dangerous didn't think much of "Pants" at the time, but soon found out she was tireless on the trail and always wanted to go when no else was interested in riding or hiking with him. "Pants" had one serious behavioral problem that caused Dangerous unending grief. While she loved people, she was deadly with other dogs. Dangerous always had to watch her closely when hiking in the Wind Rivers. She liked nothing better than setting ambushes for unsuspecting Golden Retrievers, Black Labs, German Shepherds, etc. Unless Dangerous caught her, she would attack anything on four legs which left Dangerous apologizing to the crunchy-granola types whose dogs "Pants" attacked. Serious retribution was never demanded because the stunned hiker couldn't believe a 35 pound spayed female just kicked their 50 pound dog's butt.

"Pants" and Ernie

Murphy was Dangerous' first Aussie. She joined the High Plateau riders and hikers a year or two before "Pants" died. From what I have heard, Dangerous spent a lot of time keeping "Pants" from killing her. Eventually, an accommodation was reached even though Murphy and "Pants" were never friends. While "Pants" was all bite and no bark, Murphy was just the opposite. She was always starting something, but wasn't interested in finishing what she started. Maybe she knew that backup was readily available. Murphy would frequently get herself in trouble with other canines knowing that her daughter Abbey would finish what she started.

To call Murphy intense is an understatement. Dangerous tells me that while hiking him and Utah would frequently find a spot with a wonderful echo. Even I like to sit and listen to the whistles and yodels bouncing off a distance cliff wall. According to Dangerous, Murphy wasn't content to sit and listen. She joined in barking continuously at her own echo. Murphy's intensity was obvious in everything she did. Dangerous tells me that she was constantly chasing, catching, and retrieving her Frisbee. She also gave birth to a litter of nine pups on the bedroom floor with Trea serving as midwife.

Abbey and Murphy

Dangerous kept one of Murphy's pups. As Trea tells the story, Abbey was weak and failing. Supposedly, Dangerous promised her that she had a permanent home if she lived. When Dangerous wanted to renege on his promise, Trea held him to his commitment. All the "show quality' pups found other homes while struggling Abbey lived sixteen years with Dangerous and his family. Murphy and Abbey were constant companions until Murphy died at fifteen.

Unlike most sheep dogs, Abbey wasn't long on smarts, but boy was she tough. I actually came along a year or two before she died. Even in old age, Abbey was one tough, old girl. Dangerous tells the story regularly about the day his horse Molly kicked Abbey's teeth out. Any other dog would have given up the chase, but not Abbey. She picked herself up out of the ditch, spit out two broken teeth, and continued the chase. Abbey also could sense anyone Ole' Dangerous didn't like. If she picked up even a faint hint from Dangerous that he didn't care for a visitor, you had to restrain Abbey. The visitor could try all the sweet talk they liked, but Abbey was never taken in. According to Utah, you had to physically restrain her or the suspect visitor might get attacked.

Callie, Abbey, and Me

Abbey had a little sister Callie who needs mentioning. Callie was Utah's dog who was very much like her mother Murphy. Callie was intense like her mother, and even after suffering a serious stroke still carried her Frisbee with her. She didn't hike much with the High Plateau bunch, but spent her last years lying on the porch in Grover. After her stroke, she could only turn right, but she maintained that sheep dog attitude until the end.

Well, that's my tribute to our canine companions. I am sure all you dog-people have stories to share. I would love to hear them!


Bluester said...

I sure enjoy your photos and I've sure got a kick out of your dogs over the years. The thing about sheep dogs is they're "your" dogs, and only tolerate others. Abby and Murphy were always polite when I was around, but there was never question who they thought was the King. Remember old Rex the Aussie Sheep dog. Talk about smart.....

Bluester has been out chasing the coyotes this evening. I sure wish he wouldn't do that. I've got a den around here somewhere; I've seen a couple of young coyote pups up on the ledges. Blue has seen em too. Best from the Fremont

Becca Hatch said...

I'm happy to have known most of these good dogs. Your reminiscing was a pleasure for me.