Wednesday, August 19, 2009

AUSTRALIAN BLUE HEELER




Not my pictures but accurate representations.

When I moved to Okeechobee Florida I had never heard of a Queensland Heeler aka Blue Heeler, Australian Cattle Dog, or Red Heeler. Okeechobee being cattle country, used the dogs quite a bit as cattle herders. The around 30 pound dogs are called Heelers as they nip the heels of cattle to direct them. They are small but tireless workers. Day worker cowboys get paid extra if they have a dog for it is said the dog is worth two cowboys.


My introduction to a Heeler came in the back yard of a high bill complaint customer. On first look, I thought I was seeing some exotic zoo animal. Their coloring is very unusual. The main coat is gray, flecked with black giving a blue appearance. The markings around face, legs and chest vary from black to red. There are some that have their coat flecked with red, thus the name of the Red Heelers.


To a novice as I was, this is an exotic looking dog and a puppy will just melt your heart. That is what I saw in their back yard, a pack of puppies. I was a little put off by their $125.00 price tag which was huge about 25 years ago but I was smitten and had to have one. Though I have rescued over 250 dogs, I have only bought two. That puppy was my first purchase.



She was a little female and I named her Jip which I stole from David Copperfield. Jip matured into a lovely little Heeler and as she entered her second heat, I thought I would breed her. I had a friend who owned a marvelous working Heeler named Jack and a breeding was arranged in exchange for pick of the litter.

The breeding took and Jip produced a lovely litter of 6 pups. Of course the pick of the litter went as stud fee and I was left with 5 really cute puppies. When I took them to the vet for their shots and worming, I met a lady outside the vets office who just fell in love with the runt. Of course they were too young to sell so I gave her my card and told her when they would be ready, how much they would cost --- hoping she would never call.

I am very ashamed to say, I prejudged this woman totally on her appearance. As she had cornered me on the way into the vets office with my basket of puppies, I saw her vehicle. It was an old, barely running car. She had 3 very young children who were very well behaved but dressed in thread worn clothes. She was carrying a very sickly kitten that she had found and was having vet checked. That last fact was the only reason I gave her my card but I was hoping that was the last I would hear from her.

When the puppies grew, I found what I hoped would be wonderful homes for them. Two,I gave away to co-workers, one to my blacksmith and one I sold for a small amount to my boss to help cover vet expenses. Only the runt was left and then, "that lady" called. I quoted her full price of $125.00 and she never wavered. This was a lot of money for me in those days and I had a really good job. I have no idea where she got the money but she did. Later, when I saw her drive away with the pup, I was certain I had not done the right thing for that little dog and felt quite guilty.

Before a year was up, all the puppies that I had meticulously placed in loving homes were dead. Three had been run over and one had been shot by an irate neighbor. That left only the runt and her iffy home.

I ran into the woman at the grocery store almost two years later and she insisted I stop by her home and see the runt, now named Emma Lou. Interested to see how my only surviving puppy had turned out,I followed her home.


I was quite surprised by her home. It was not elaborate by any means but was very neat with a fenced in, well cared for yard sporting flowers and a vegetable garden. Emma Lou bounced out of the house and joyfully leaped up into the arms of the woman with a happy grin on her speckled face. She had certainly not turned out to be the prettiest of the pups. Her legs were too long, her body too short and her nose too thin, but she was obviously happy, healthy and alive, something her siblings had not managed.

I left that day feeling quite stupid about my previous prejudgment of this woman. Her family didn't have a lot of material things but they had enough for comfort and I am pretty sure she would have done what ever was necessary to provide for her children and her pets. I totally admired her and felt Emma Lou was one lucky pup.

Right before I moved to Arkansas about 5 years ago, I got a phone call out of the blue.

"You don't remember me," the strange female voice started, " but I bought a Blue Heeler from you 19 years ago."

"Yes I do remember you," I said honestly for she had so impressed me. " How are you?"

"Ok now, I guess," she said with a catch in her voice,"This is the first I have been able to call you and not break up. I just wanted you to know that Emma Lou passed away last month. She was 19 years old and I thought you would want to know, she had a long and happy life."


I was almost speechless. Emma Lou had lived 19 years!!! That was just beyond amazing. We talked a while and finally she ended our conversation with,"I just wanted you to know and to thank you."


I thanked her for calling but in my heart, I thanked her for firmly embedding in me years ago that appearances mean little, character means all. The kindest hearts are rarely clothed in the finest silks. It was a lesson never lost on me.

35 comments :

  1. What a touching story, it really teaches us not to judge a book by its cover.
    Sunny :)

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  2. Oh, man, I am crying now. What a wonderful story!

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  3. Wonderful and brilliant, Patti! You have the gift of the... pen! You are a true teller of stories! Thank you!

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  4. Superb writing and a wonderful love story!! :)

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  5. Another truly touching and grand story, patti.

    I knew one Queensland Blue Heeler many years ago. His name was Levi, and we spent a summer together in the dusty coast range in Mendocino County in 1975. He was a memorable beauty who had an unfortunate run-in with a porcupine.

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  6. What a WONDERFUL story! And what you say is so true, Patti....As the saying goes--Never Judge A Book By It's Cover..
    19 years! That is a really good long time for a dog, isn't it?
    I m unfamiliar with that Breed....They seem like very very special doggies.

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  7. What a neat story... That 'runt' ended up being the healthiest of all --out of the litter. About pre-judging people, it happens. We all do it---and MANY times, we are totally wrong. But--it's just part of life. I'm glad that the 'runt' was SO loved.

    I've never heard of nor seen "heeler" before. They are very pretty dogs, aren't they???

    Hugs,
    Betsy

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  8. I love the story, any story about animals, but particularly dogs.

    I think I mentioned buying a book by a Mountain Home AR author about a dog she rescued. It is a poem book--one long poem, Ha Teya Sam by Deborah Dreher Lively http://www.strategicbookpublishing.com/HaTeyaSam.html

    But I love the tale of the woman, too. I have been guilty of the same.

    And 19 years for any dog is almost miraculous.

    The vet last Wed. said she thought Luckie might have a tad of blue heeler in her despite her mostly Ger. Shepherd look. She has a funny bark and a somewhat irritating habit of following us around nudging her nose on our hand or side, which is similar to how heelers work.She does not nip.

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  9. Sunny
    Thank you. That is a lesson we often have to "relearn. I hope I have it now.


    Kenju
    Didn't mean to make you cry but since I did when I got the call, it is only fair to share. That is your job.

    Reader wil,
    Thank you Wil, I have just been very lucky to meet some special creatures and people.

    Carol.
    Thank you, and yes it was a love story. She adored Emma Lou. That dog was her 4th child. I am just glad they had so long together.

    robin,
    I'll bet Levi was trying to herd the porcupine. It is just instinctive in them. Hope the quills were just a discomfort for him and not serious.

    OOLOH
    Nineteen years is good for a toy breed but dogs Emma Lou's size do well to reach 14. The larger the breed, the shorter the life span. She evidently had excellent care.

    Betsy,
    Heelers are very exotic looking but don't usually make good pets. They are bred for working long hours and don't do well cooped up. They are bundles of energy.
    Pretty sure her long life had partially to do with excellent care. Her siblings all met with violent deaths.

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  10. Nitwit,
    Oops, you came in while I was writing my comment.
    Thanks for the link, I will check it out.
    Yes 19 years is a long time. As I told OOLOH, that age is usually reserved for the toy breeds. I did have a 20 year old Chihuahua.
    Sounds like Luckie does have some herding instincts. Good for you she doesn't nip.

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  11. Thanks for another great story.

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  12. My little dog lived to be 17 and I thought that was something! What a great story and an amazing lesson learned.

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  13. Such a wonderful post Patti...I'm sure you are a wonderful story teller in person...it's almost like I can hear your voice.

    Beautiful dogs too!

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  14. The kindest hearts are rarely clothed in the finest silks.
    I love that line...
    A great story and nicely told. Where's that handkerchief?
    I am with Reader Wil..."You are a true teller of stories!"
    Thank you!

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  15. Great story, and a wonderful message. We've always had cattle dogs of one variety or another. They have saved out lives more than once, and given unconditional love. Bless them all, especially Maxwell, Slim, Punkin, Scoobie, Jacko, Sally, Ernie, Buckshot & Kate.

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  16. Thank you Betty for the kind comment.

    Oklhdan,
    17 is to be proud of. Most dogs except the very little darlin's are lucky to do 14. You were fortunate to be able to enjoy you dog so long. We sure wish they lived longer.

    Wanda,
    Thank you so much.
    Ah, fortunately, you can't hear my voice. Age has made it get thin and creaky. The keyboard lets me communicate strong and sure. Wonderful invention.

    Greyquill,
    Thank you so much,I consider that a strong compliment as you are a fine writer.
    Not sure where that saying came from, it just appeared in my head, must have read it somewhere.
    I tried to google it afterwards to give credit to the source but-- nothing. Spooky

    Bridhid,
    You do understand how wonderful these dogs are. They don't just "go to work" like most of us do, they LOVE to work.
    Great names for your dogs. Where were you when I had to come up with over 200 names?
    Mighty is almost ready for Maxwell's back up.

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  17. character does indeed mean everything and I always remind myself that it takes a bit to see a person's character. So I wait to find out.

    I love this story!

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  18. Thank you Dianne.
    I too am slow to form an opinion anymore. I have found some real gems in what would normally have been overlooked by quick judgement.

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  19. The blue heelers are lovely dogs and very hard workers, they are kind of like an icon here in Australia...we even have a statue of one in Gilgandra called.'Dog on the Tucker Box'....showing the loyatly they show to their owners.

    Great story.

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  20. Amanda,
    Thank you.
    I looked up "The dog on the tuckerbox" Quite a statue and interesting story. Thanks for the info.
    Heelers are grand dogs and just love to work.

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  21. Patti,
    I am a new owner of a 11 week old Blue Heeler "Rosie" here in Ontario, Canada. She is fabulous!! I have 4 other dogs on my farm but my large German Shepard has really taken to her and is now ... her new best buddie. She is a very happy pup and has a 40 acrea farm to run .. but stays close for now. Thank you for the truely wonderfully moving story. You are an inspiration for all to follow. CarolAnne

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  22. Thank you so much for stopping by Carol Anne. I am so glad you have so much room for that new heeler pup. They are grand little dogs and she will probably be "herding" what ever you have on your farm. It is instinctive. Enjoy that youngster and thank you so much for commenting.

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  23. That was an AMAZING story i really enjoyed it. thank you for leting me read it. You have tought me something that i will never forget.


    We uses to have a Blue Heeler and they are great dogs we really loved ours.

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  24. thats a very touching story :) i too took in a red heeler puppy me and my husband called klondike. he's such a sweet loving boy :) they are so loving and they don't ask for much all my baby asks for is a run in the field with a frizebe and a scratch behind the ear and to be around you. aren't they wonderful little dogs :)

    sincerely,
    amber
    (madartist85@yahoo.com)

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  25. Thank you Amber.They really are amazing dogs aren't they? They make good frisbee dogs because they have so much energy. Enjoy Klondike.

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  26. Hi, my Name is Cristina I live in Puerto vallarta México, my husband and I just got a beautiful Australian Cuttle Blue heeler dog, we felt in love in 2 seconds and here name is Uma.
    I LOVED your story......and let me tell you how touching your story is, I´m a proud Mexican with a warm heart, hope we can give Uma a wonderful life, because she brought us so much joy....
    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story with us.

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  27. Cristina,
    Thank you so much for your lovely comments. I wrote this story almost 8 months ago it is wonderful to know that people are still reading it. It is one of my most popular posts. It averages about 10 hits a day even months later. I really appreciate it when some one like you takes the time to let me know.
    Enjoy that wonderful little Heeler Uma. They are grand little dogs.
    Thank you.

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  28. It is a nice story and the breed is a bit of an icon over here in Aussie as a previous comment said and thought a bit of back ground on the breed would be appropriate. They were obviously bred for cattle work with a natural tendancy to bite the heels of cattle (very hard) that would not other wise move then duck beneath the kick that immeadiately followed:). Their toughness and loyalty during adversity is legendary. They have been known to hunt food to feed badly injured masters and fighting off any wild animals, including rescuers, that approached him/her. They have quite often been found dead beside their masters when help has arrived to late. Many other breds have been tried for the cattle work out here and the blue heeler was one of the few tough enough to handle the conditions.
    They are not the smartest dog but are very close to it, and can't do enough for their masters and are easily trained. The life span of the dog in your story also comes as no suprise as I believe one attained the record of 29 years for any dog breed back in the 30's sometime. Named "bluey" for some reason I believe:)

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  29. Muddy Waters,
    Thank you so much for stopping by and for your informative comments. We over here really apperciate the Aussie loan of such a grand animal. They are really gaining in popularity over here. This post gets almost more hits than all my other ones combined.
    Thanks again for stopping by.

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  30. Hi, very interesting post, greetings from Greece!

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  31. I love this story! I'm so glad you gave her a chance. It sounds like she and the dog were very happy.
    Sandy

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  32. Hi Pattie I have 2 Blue Heelers and live in the city. The first dog was a pup from a breeder, the second was a rescue dog that had been abused. Kimba Roux the female was the runt of the litter she was 8 weeks when we got her. Jaxie is the male he was an angry dog at first he even attacked me and bit my face. After showing him firmly who was boss, Jax has become a wonderful companion. We got the heelers because my wife had a heeler as a child. I would never have another breed of dog. the heelers are the best and their loyalty is unreal. Thankyou for the wonderful story.

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  33. Patti,
    we just lost our dear friend, Shadow 2 weeks ago, she was 14 1/2
    I am currently writing her story,
    enclosed is a poem I wrote two her
    a few days after her death. I loved your story and had to borrow a hankerchief.
    In a season and a day
    when my step has slowed, my beard is grey,
    you left my side, on Sunday last,
    our years went by much to fast.
    I met you first, on a Sunday, I believe,
    our life together, I never would perceive,
    to be all it was, in every way,
    an adventure and a joy, every day.
    You never needed to be taught,
    your transgressions came to naught.
    Your only desire was to be by our side,
    whether sitting or standing, or going for a ride.
    We walked together, the high mountain trail,
    usually we were watching, your stubby white tail.
    We waded in rivers and streams and waters galore,
    and always, you were ready for more.
    All who met you, were greeted by your smiles,
    and your friends were scattered over many miles.
    You were loyal and true to the end,
    I will always love you my beautiful friend.
    Your last months were racked with discomfort and pain
    but if we called, "Come Shadow" you were always game.
    You would struggle to your feet and limp to the door
    always ready to go once more.
    But at last the pain became to much to bear,
    Life sometimes, just isn't too fair.
    So, we lay down with you, with tears in our eyes,
    with our arms 'round you, and our throats strained and dry
    we watched you slip away, to herd those cows in the sky.
    we still call your name each day gone by,
    and hope your are happy, well fed, and your head is dry.
    If some day we will meet again,
    watch for me, my sweet little friend.
    mountainman

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  34. I have a blue heeler too, and shes also the runt. her name is Thief, for two reasons. the first is that her mothers owners called her that because she had to steal her food to get any, being smaller than her many siblings. the secound reason is that i kept her name that way because she stole my heart. she just turned seven a in october,and is the most amazing thing on earth. she is my best friend, and is alwaise there when i have to cry. she never tires of going for walks on the trails at hueston woods (ohio) and true to her name she still steals her food from the bowl, even though she has only our other blue heeler (Syndy) for competition.
    anyway im saying all this to tell everyone that blue heelers live on average about 20 years, so they are lifelong friends, they generally attach themselvs to one person, but they still love everyone unconditionally, and even an 8 year old girl (thats how old i was when i got her) can train one. they live to please, and will even attack an angry bull to keep you safe. (thief did this one day, most likely saving my life) if you get one, please, for the love of god, treat them like family, because thats all they want to be.

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  35. Hi – Will you please post a link to your Blog at The Australian Cattle Dog Community? Our members will love it.
    Members include: ACD Owners, Breeders, Trainers, Rescues and Lovers.
    It's easy to do, just cut and paste the link and it automatically links back to your website...
    You can also add Photos, Videos, Rescues and Classifieds if you like.
    Email me if you need any help or would like me to do it for you.
    The Australian Cattle Dog Community: http://www.vorts.com/australian_cattle_dogs/
    Thanks,
    James Kaufman, Editor

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