Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Man and His Dog

Oy was the first born of a litter of four. He got his name from a story my youngest son, Ethan, read and whatever that name means it more-or-less fits his personality. Blue Heelers aren’t supposed to be loving dogs and according to the “experts” they aren’t fond of being cuddled. They’re also supposed to have ears that stand straight up as if on constant alert and their eyes aren’t supposed to be blue. The “blue” in their name comes from the bluish cast their coats produce in sunlight and the “heeler” name is derived from their predilection to nip at the heels of cows in order to make them obey. They’ll heel people too, especially children, and when my youngest sons were little our Blue Heelers herded them and kept them in the yard and never took their eyes off the boys.

Blue Heelers also come in a red phase and those are called Red Heelers. Technically, however, this breed is known as the Australian Cattle Dog. Either way, Oy, doesn’t quite fit the mold although his three sisters are classic examples of the breed and his mother would probably make a show dog if she were a city girl instead of a ranch hand. Oy’s daddy, Dingo, is getting on in years and has taken his retirement with pension. He’s mellowed too in his old age. But in his prime he was a fierce protector of the homestead and family. A relative who raises horses once thought she could just walk into the yard and pet Dingo even though I warned her that probably wasn’t a good idea. She ignored me and opened the back door and immediately shut it then looked at me having turned from pink to bed sheet white. She owns a few Heelers too but admits Dingo will always be King of the Heel….excuse the pun.

Like I said, Oy doesn’t exactly fit the mold. Don’t get me wrong: He’s a ferocious protector and won’t tolerate anything, man or beast, coming close to me when we’re out woods roaming. He always sits looking away scanning the surroundings, sniffing the wind and listening for any aberrant sounds. If a wild hog happens to venture within view when we’re out hiking Oy will let the beast know on no uncertain terms that regardless of size disparities he will fight to the death to protect his master.

At night when we’re sitting by the campfire Oy will press against me as if yearning for the closeness and if I extend a hand to pet him he relishes the moment. He loves to be cuddled.

I never go anywhere without Oy. When my boys were little they were my constant companions. Esteban, Jason, Matthew and Ethan all spent countless hours with me hunting and roaming. Every plant we came across was examined and studied and recalled with both common and scientific names. The same went for birds, mammals and reptiles. When my son, Jason, was five years old he already knew the scientific names of more than two hundred birds common to the area.  Ethan is in college now and is studying plants. Esteban is a committed environmentalist (as are all my boys) and Matthew is a serious woodcrafter.

I’ll always cherish those years with my children and there’s not a single hour of any day that I don’t think about my sons. If it weren’t for Oy I guess the Old Man would walk alone and though I live to roam the woods I still enjoy a little company now and then. In the late autumn and early winter of my life I think Oy will have to do. He’s a friend. He sits next to me as I write these words.

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