This has not been a good week. It is always hard when you lose a family pet. But when a farmer loses his dog, he has lost not only his buddy but also his constant companion and helper.
Katie was killed this week in a farm accident. She died doing what she loved most, herding the forklift. The only time she chased the forklift was when Gene was on it. She would run backwards at the front prongs, barking at it as if she wanted to herd it backwards. They had their little routine. He would beep the horn at her and holler at her to stop and she would keep at it.
Katie was a registered border collie, one of the most useful breed of dogs for on the farm. They are known for their intelligence and herding ability. If a border collie thought a fence post would move they would herd it. Gene has had border collies all his life and he loves them. The dogs and I tolerate each other at a distance. In other words I am not a dog lover but I have learned it just comes with the territory.
Katie was Gene’s dog. Her eyes were on him alone. She never endeared herself to the rest of the family. Sometimes it seemed her faults out weighed her charm but she was Katie and Gene seemed to understand her. If she was told to sit, it lasted only until she got her coveted biscuit. She would listen to me only if Gene was not around.
She was the only dog who ever rode on the tractor with Gene. She would ride for hours while he baled hay or fed the cows.
She loved to help move cattle and would go until she literally dropped. She could quickly get herself in a predicament with a protective mama cow as she didn’t have much fear. Nothing stopped her; briers, mud, snow, or heat. When the job was done she would lay on the patio and clean the burrs from her fur and give herself a lick bath. Whatever Gene did, wherever Gene went, she was there. If Gene came in the house she would sit on the patio and watch through the door to see what he was going to do next. If he went into the laundry room, she would beeline for the back door as she knew he was coming back out. If he went into the living room, she would go curl up in one of her favorite napping spots.
Often in the summer Gene and I will ride the fields on the golf cart or snapper checking the hay or cattle. Katie always went along, most of the time running ahead, just in front of the front wheels. No amount of hollering, fussing or scolding would change her obnoxious habit. Gene said he never hollered “no” at a dog more than he did her. Occasionally she would hop on for a ride but soon would be off to run and explore.
One of her very annoying habit was “tree biting”. There were certain sounds (the weed trimmer or the treadmill in the house-she could hear it outside) she could not stand and it would drive her to “tree biting”. She would go to a tree, jump at it over and over and bite at the bark as high as she could reach. Other noises such as a lawn mower or tag-a-long trailer coming in the driveway would send her scurrying for cover in her dog house.
We kept her penned up during the day because of all the traffic coming in our drive and we didn’t want her to start chasing cars. Her pen was situated so that she could see all directions on the farm; the cattle to the south, the house to the north, the driveway to the west and the store to the east.
Each morning, every day of her life. Gene would give her a drink of water by the patio. Then she would plop down on her belly and he would have to literally drag her by the collar to the dog pen 50 feet away. She would resist the whole way, gagging at the collar choking her until they got to the door and then she would go obediently into her house where she would sit most of the day just watching the day’s activities. She was content to be there with her head out the door as long as Gene didn’t get on the tractor or chase a cow.
She would not eat or drink in her pen. She was a picky eater and preferred a torn bag of monkey biscuits to dog food. She was very protective of her food and if you touched her while she was eating she would respond with a snarl and vicious snap. The grandchildren all learned this the hard way.
She would often sit like a sentential watching over the farm. Occasionally she would corner a coon or groundhog. We always knew when she had one cornered with her intense, excited yelping as if to say, “Come, help me. I got one for you.” Gene would grab his ball bat and quickly make a hit on the head of the victim. Instantly, as if on cue, Katie would jump in for the kill. She was swift and the varmint did not escape.
When Gene would leave for a few days, she moped. She would gaze out the drive or lay in her house watching for his return.
Katie was almost 13 years old. She was starting to show her age. Several years ago she tangled with the golf cart wheels and her back leg was never quite right after that accident. In the past few months and weeks we had noticed it seemed to be bothering her more as she could no longer jump into the tractor by herself and had a more pronounced limp.
Rest in peace
June 29, 2001 – April 1, 2014