THREE STORIES ABOUT RORY

by Mark Hodges

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WTCH Bear’s Aurora of Windsor RTDcs JS-E RS-O GS-N DNA-VP

Urban Cowdog:

I was always hearing that trialing dogs that belong to “hobby herders” such as myself probably would not cut it in a real life-working situation. Well, an accidental encounter changed my personal thoughts on that opinion. One early February morning, just past dawn, the dogs and I were driving out to the property (at this point it could not be called a farm) and as I rounded a curve on a two-lane highway, I had to fully slam on my brakes to avoid an Angus cow ambling across the pavement. I was still dark enough that I could barely see it in the morning haze. I checked on the dogs, and surveyed the situation. Eighty or so Angus yearlings had broken down a barbed-wire stretched gate to get to the tall grass growing in the deep ditches up and down on both sides of the highway. I knew that this was a really dangerous situation, and I had to do something. Rory had only seen cattle in several trials and a half a dozen training sessions, so I was hoping I could count on her help, but I really did not know.

I pulled the SUV into the middle of the road, and put on the hazard flashers to warn approaching vehicles. I got Rory out of the crate, and we went to work gathering up those cows. They had never been worked by a dog, and they badly wanted to stay out where there was good feed, so it was hard work. Starting at the far north end, we steadily grouped the cattle and pushed them toward the pasture opening. We then went to the far south end and did the same. Rory was an absolute star in my eyes. She turned all the runaways back, and bit low on the heels to get slow ones moving. We eventually got them all into one herd and moved the entire group up on to the blacktop. In about fifty minutes, Rory had pushed the last one through the opening. I was drenched with sweat and Rory’s tongue was on the ground when we restretched the feeble gate to hold in the herd.

I turned around to see that several cars that had stopped on the highway to watch, and we got a small round of applause from the onlookers. Right then, the farmer that owned the cattle drove up and asked what the hell I had been doing with his stock, without permission. I explained what we had done, and he sheepishly thanked me and then asked if I might come back some other day and show him how a good working dog might help him around the farm. I was filled with pride, perhaps more than any other time with Rory, as we got back in the car. She was a real-life cowdog.

Aussies Love Chores:

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Since late March, Rory and I had religiously been collecting eggs from the duck houses every morning. I had even designated a black rubber bucket lined with foam as the egg bucket. Some friends were hatching the eggs for us, so it was important to collect them early and safely. In late May, we went out to the farm to do the morning chores. The night before, the area had experienced a powerful rainstorm, and I was concerned that the pond might have overflowed the spillway as it had several weeks earlier. I set down the bucket and called Rory as we went to the dam to inspect. After a complete survey of the pond, I determined that our repair had worked and there was no visible damage. As I headed back up the hundred yards to the duck pens, I called for Rory, but she did not appear. I reached down for the bucket handle, and was shocked to find two light green eggs in the bucket. A little perplexed, I called, a little more forcefully, for Rory. Out she came, slinking from one of galvanized steel duck houses, with a duck egg gingerly held in her mouth. She quietly walked over to me and laid the egg at my foot. She knew the chore we were supposed to do first, and had gone about the correct business, as she understood it, when I had gone to the pond. Aussies love chores.

Rory the Hog Dog:

One evening, as I was leaving the farm right near dark, I passed our neighbor Jim Baldwin’s house to the southeast, and saw five of his big hogs crossing the blacktop and heading into the newly cut corn field. They were after all the leftover harvested corn cobs. It had been raining for the better part of two days, and everything was an absolute swamp. I went back to tell Jim, who had leased me the great white-faced Hereford heifers for my trial in 2002, that his pigs were out. He was unsure as to whether his 4-wheel drive truck could get out in the field without being stuck, and his quad was over ten miles away at his other barn.

Well, I decided to see how old dependable Rory could do. I got her out of the van, and sent her on a 200 yard blind outrun (as I was not going into that quagmire) into the corn field. She tore off, knowing something was to be herded. About one minute later, here she came with all the huge hogs right in front of her. She fetched them back almost into the front yard. The biggest hog, over four hundred pounds, decided he wanted to challenge Rory and get back to the corn. I told Rory to “get ahold” and she nailed him once on the snout, and once right on his head. That hog squealed so loudly that it hurt my ears, but then he ran directly into his enclosure. He had a bloody nostril and a “hickey” right between his eyes. Rory had never even seen a hog prior to yesterday. She got a garden hose bath, and I could tell was really proud of herself.

I later found that one of Rory’s ancestors, Las Rocosa Merlin Hart, had one of the last awarded ASCA hog titles after his name. I guess those instincts have carried down as well.

July 2006