This week was the end of an era at Ballakelly, I had to say goodbye to my best sheep dog Slash.
Slash’s mum, Bridie was my first dog, the other dogs on the farm belonged to other farm workers. I was 16 when I acquired Bridie, she was given to be by a friend. Little red and white girl. I spent many hours training her and I always said there would never be another dog like her, dog of a life time, but then came Slash!
Bridie had a litter of pups when she was 7, 2 days after having her pups we had to put her down as she was riddled with cancer, this was the first time I had truly shed a tear saying goodbye to an animal. But on the up note Rachel and I had 7 little red balls of fluff to hand rear!!
I think slash was the last of the litter to go, and the only one who worked his whole live. The photo below was only taken a few weeks ago, you can see he was still fit and healty and rearing to work! When I said goodbye to him, I had not regrets, he owed me nothing, I will miss him but he was ready to leave this world and catch up with his mum on the other side of the rainbow.
The only slight regret I have is that despite fathering three litter, we do not have any decendents of his. We did keep one from each litter but they were not proving to be working material so were rehomed to the life of family pets! Which they are all loving.
It does raise the question of what makes a good sheepdog?
- Breeding – yep, his mum was amazing but his sister who we kept was only good if he was with her!
- Time – Definatly, I had loads of time with both Bridie and Slash and his sister (pre kids!)
- Natural – This is the biggest factor, an article I was reading by Richard Smith – who has had 3 world class dogs in his life time – so there is still hope for me to find my third! He said: Natural ability is an inherited skill, not one that can be taught. A good sheepdog is one that possesses natural instinct. But a great sheepdog is one that is born knowing how to work stock, has natural power, patience and possesses a great aptitude to learn quickly. One that never worries sheep but works them with a quiet determined confidence. Combine that with stamina, agility and an overriding emotion to please, throw in a competent handler to harness these natural abilities and something quite magical happens – one man and his dog, working in total harmony.
This was me and slash, I never had to train him, he somehow had been here before, he knew what I was thinking and had done it before I asked him. I could shift all my flock through Andreas village with just me and him.
I am not a fan of the ‘electric dog’ – Quad – we do have one, but is used to get from A to B during the winter months, if I am moving sheep I use a dog. The old boy who worked with dad always said:
“One good dog can do the work of five men on quad bikes – quieter, cheaper, more effectively and with complete obedience.”
My quad is broken at the moment, so I intent to use this time on foot to work closer with Ace and see if he can take the challenge and step up to top dog.
Rachel had an animal talker person hear once, as you can imagine I thought it was a waste of money, but she did say something that has stayed with me:
Slash wants you to know that he thinks you work too hard and wants to help, let him take some of your strain.
Thing was when I did let him help we always got the jobs done, with minimal stress and maximum fun, then once the job was finished I would sit with a flask and we would share a digestive, I think this time was the most important, it was our ‘us’ time. I need to let Ace help me help him!
Please can people post the photos of their best friends, if there are any of Slash’s kids these would be great too.
Slash and his Sister
Al & Birdie