Photo courtesy of The Old Cowboy Archives
Tana saves the day.
Marie and I have had Australian Shepherd dogs since 1985. I intend to have one for as long as I can provide a home and take care of one.
In my life I have had all kinds of dogs. My Daddy raised beagles for running rabbits and his dogs were good enough that his friends would call me when I was but a child and ask me to go hunting with them. Didn’t take long to figure out that they wanted me to bring a couple of dogs too.
Over the years I have had Beagles, Fox Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Irish Setters, German Shepherd, Great Dane and Saint Bernard as well as crosses of several descriptions. But when I got Monte, who was my first Aussie, I was hooked on Australian Shepherds. Rose and Toby lay here around my chair as I pound on this keyboard.
I find the breed to be loyal, faithful, obedient, intelligent, protective, athletic and thoughtful. Yes I said thoughtful. They are the first breed of dog I have ever been around that are innately capable of assessing a situation and making a decision and taking action.
Monte was my first Aussie. He was a big black tricolor and his sire was a red tri show dog and his mother was a Blue Merle, if I remember her correctly. I got Monte when he was eight weeks old and he was my faithful companion until his death of old age. Monte was the only Aussie we have had that lived outside. He liked it better outside. As a pup we lived in an apartment and when we bought the farm and he could get out and run he preferred to stay outside. He soon learned the boundaries and adopted the farm and it became his territory and he protected it from all intruders.
Monte was here when I was traveling a lot. Jack and Marie did the chores when I was gone. Monte was a fair cow dog. He was a bit big to be real handy but he was smart and knew the routines. He would take the stock to the barn in the afternoon so Jack or Marie could do the feeding and chores.
Tana was our second Aussie. She was a little red ball of fire and she was the first of the Gator Girls. Tana’s real name was Montana Crystal and she was a daughter of Charlie Glass who was a famous stock dog. Tana would have been good too, but she was Marie’s dog and Marie’s shadow, and Marie did not want her chasing cows. I got Monte in 1985 and we bought the farm in 1986, I guess it was 1987 when we got Tana and she also came here as a weanling pup. Now Monte was a big old boy and in his prime topped a hundred pounds which is big for an Aussie. Tana was maybe 45 lbs in her prime. She got fat in her old age but don’t we all. Monte was a good soul. As long as you were acting right he was a kind and loving dog. He would protect us from anything that did not look right to him though. He also had a habit of curling his lip that we called smiling. He would curl that lip and shake his head and trot over to us to be petted and he looked like an attacking mad dog. But that was his pet me mode.
Tana did not have a pet me mode. She lived for Marie and she tolerated me, and the rest of the world was infidel transgressors to be dealt with harshly. She would even bite at Jack who knew her from her puppy days and she him. Tana stayed in the house with Marie and I use to tease Marie that they were a pair of mean bi____s. Tana even bit me once when I affectionately spanked Marie on the fanny as I walked by. During the years that I traveled, I sometimes came in late at night. Tana knew my car and me and whenever I came into the house late, she never barked but always greeted me by bumping my knee with her snout. He way of telling me that she was on duty. Tana was so tough that we felt compelled to warn the world and we put up bad dog signs even though we kept her in the house.
People would see the signs and then drive up and see Monte walking up with his head turned and his lip curled up and they thought he was the bad dog. They were worth their weight in gold in deterring salesman and Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons trying to save my soul. Add in my penchant for carrying guns and one night threatening to kill two young men who knocked on the door at three AM to use the phone, and we got a pretty tough reputation.
Tana loved to play Frisbee and she loved to swim and a great day to her was a combination of the two. She thought she was a retriever. She would dive in the water at full speed and swim furiously to retrieve whatever was thrown out there.
In the early years before we could afford to build the barn we didn’t have any cattle facilities. W e started with three cows we bought from Lynn Brae in Troutville Va. Two were Hungry Jack daughters and the third was Blanch who was an R&J Blastoff dauhter. Blanch had a bull calf and when he was about 350 to 400 lbs he came up lame. I let it go for a few days but it got worse rather than better. The only thing to do was rope him and try to evaluate and treat the problem.
I gathered up the necessary supplies and told Monte to stay in the yard and went to catch the calf and treat him. I caught the calf on the first toss and was feeling real cocky. I took a dally around a tree and was going to try to reel him in a bit so that I could throw him and treat the sore foot. Well that little fellow did not think I was there to assist him in any way. He was running in circles and bucking and bellowing. I could not gain any rope so I tied him off and started to go down the rope toward the calf. Well he made enough noise that he got Blanche’s attention and she went into maternal protection mode. As I made my way done the rope trying to get to the calf and get a hand on him, Blanch started up the rope from the calf toward me. She came hard. Long story short, Blanch put me into the trees and we were having a nice game of tag and she was trying hard to tag me with 1400 lbs of maternal protection fury. I was dodging from tree to tree with my hand on her head and kicking her in the snout and jumping behind the next tree. The calf was still balling and running and fighting the rope and Blanch was getting madder and showed no signs of letting up.
Monte could not stand it. He came thru the electric fence, which he was not normally inclined to do. He grabbed Blanch by the hock and she kicked him. She wheeled and he snapped at her nose and she rolled him. I was afraid that Blanch was going to kill my dog and I was flailing on her with whatever I could pick up. Blanch took turns charging at me and then at Monte. The calf continued to ball and run in circles and fight the rope.
Out of nowhere there appeared a red streak that attached itself firmly to Blanche’s nose and succeeding in getting her attention. Tana was clamped onto that cow and trying to throw her. Actually Tana did not have a foot on the ground but she was trying to shake that cow like a rat and so she was hanging off the cow and convulsing in mid air. Blanch thought better of her plans and wheeled, dislodging Tana. Tana hit the ground and made a pass at the back heels of Blanch and down across the field they went. Tana chased Blanch to the other end of the field and then came back and posted herself between Blanch and I, and she sat there growling until I finished with the calf. Monte took the worst of it but he was not severely injured. He did cough up a bit of blood he did not have any broken bones and he shook it off and went down to back up Tana.
I first thought Marie must have come to the door to check on the commotion and accidentally let Tana out. But after the commotion I noticed that Marie was conspicuous by her absence. She would have been in the middle of it trying to protect Tana if she had known. She was in the Kitchen and was horrified when she learned that her baby had been in the cow field. I informed her that her baby had saved our collective butts out there.
That was well over twenty five years ago and to this day we have not figured out how that dog got the door open and came out there of her own accord. But I was sure glad she did. Building a catch pen became a little bit higher priority. Blanch turned out to be a good cow and left us some nice daughters who became important in our herd. That bull calf became the first of many bulls we sold from our herd and he became a pet to the farmer who bought him. And now a fat old man fondly remembers the time that Tana saved the day.