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Memories of my "Blue Heeler"

Walking in our neighborhood recently, I saw an older couple walking their dog. He was not just any dog; he was a Blue Heeler. It brought back memories of my own Blue Heeler, Chica, from my days in the Australian Outback. She’d been the runt of the litter, yet Chica was a loving pup and, although she remained small in size, she grew into a beautiful dog. I’d take her with me when I’d walk to the billabong in the late afternoons.

At times, a white Dingo would appear, always keeping his distance. Chica and the Dingo would eye each other but would never bark. Contrary to popular belief, dingoes do bark in short bursts when they are alarmed. Apparently, Chica did not cause the Dingo enough anxiety to garner a reaction, or perhaps he recognized her as a distant relative. Blue Heelers originated in Australia when Thomas Hall, the son of a cattle station owner, cross-bred his father’s sheep dogs with Dingoes early in the 19th century. Later, a New Zealander further cross-bred them with Dalmatians, changing the color and pattern of the coat to what is now recognized as the Blue Heeler. The breed may also have Bull Terrier and Kelpie bloodlines.

St. Vigeon’s Station, where I lived, had acquired Australian Cattle Dogs, the heeler’s official name, to help move feral cattle toward a makeshift paddock where they would then find themselves trapped after the men closed off the open side of the temporary corral. Once trapped, the cattle would be loaded onto a trailer using a portable chute and two of the guys would drive them to market in Darwin.

When the men were away mustering cattle, I kept Chica at the homestead with me. She was still a young dog and so much smaller than the other ones that I didn’t want her to be hurt in the muster. Besides, I felt safer with her around. Though heelers don’t bark a lot, she did when something unusual happened, like a wallaby jumping near the fence surrounding the house, or a passing water buffalo who had taken to land after swimming across the Roper River. More dangerous were the times she alerted me to snakes in the yard. It was serendipitous when she was inside the house rather than outdoors where she could have tangled viciously with a crawling reptile. Taipans and brown snakes worried me the most since they are some of the most poisonous in the world.

Chica was safe staying at the homestead with me, and in her, I had a friend, companion, and protector. We made a great team!

 

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