Dialing Dogs and Other (Very) Short Stories
Copyright © Judith Shaw
An article in USA Today talks about a 2-pound dog in Nebraska dialing 911 by scratching at her owner’s cell phone. It goes to show that even teacup dogs can sometimes do big things. Her owner didn’t require emergency services. Do you think it counted as a prank call?
Here are a few dog stories from Australia. I found the first one in The Sydney Morning Herald many years ago. It’s about an old Blue Cattle Dog named Bandit.
An elderly man living alone in Sydney fell and broke his hip. He couldn’t get up and was too far from the phone to call for help. The windows were shut, the sun was pouring in, and the room where the old man lay was turning into a sauna. He called out for water, but there was no one to hear.
He took a tea towel from the kitchen, soaked it in water from the toilet, and brought the wet towel for the old man to suck. Bandit ferried the tea towel between the toilet and his human for three days, until a neighbor, noticing that the man hadn’t been seen for a while, called the police. The water Bandit brought via tea towel saved his master’s life.
Australian Cattle Dogs are tough as old boots and ferociously smart. Also known as Queensland Heelers, they were bred to control the outback’s half-wild cattle by biting at their heels. These are not pampered pets, but serious working dogs, used to solving problems on their own. They don’t do so well in suburban neighborhoods but, in this case, a Heeler was just the ticket.
Not all Cattle Dogs are as smart as Bandit. My grandfather-in-law had one called Rex. He didn’t have a job (no cattle in Sydney’s inner west) and was always looking for something to do. His hobby was bailing up uninvited visitors and cornering them in the front hall. Rex wasn’t a watchdog. He would let anyone into the house. He just wouldn’t let them out.
Rex was energetic but not too bright. While chasing a bicycle one day, he misjudged a turn and collided with a telegraph pole. He broke his hip and had to be put to sleep.
Fast forward thirty years. We lived in the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney. The next-door neighbors had three young children and a magnificent Border Collie named Rupert. His job was to look after the kids, protecting them from snakes and blue-tongued lizards and anything else that looked dangerous. Whenever the kids went into the bush, Rupert took point.
One by one, the children started school, and Rupert’s job opportunities dwindled. Luckily for him, we moved in next door with Tom the Wonder Horse. Rupert spent many hours trying to intimidate Tom with his Border Collie glare, but Tom would just sigh and turn his back. It drove Rupert crazy.
In due time we built a dressage arena, complete with black-and-white dressage letters at various intervals around the edges. Rupert loved those signs. He’d hide his black-and-white self behind a letter and stare and glare at Tom for hours.
Tom took no notice, but Rupert never gave up. He somehow used those letters to make himself invisible, so well camouflaged that he actually disappeared. I have no idea how he did it. Mind over matter?
Ultimately, to avoid the curse of living with an unemployed Border Collie, his people bought a clutch of fertilized eggs and made sure Rupert was there when the baby chicks hatched. They imprinted on the dog, and from then on Rupert was a full-time mother.
Have you ever seen a dog herd chickens?
P.S. After Rupert died, the family ended up with three Border Collies. One was not enough to take his place. Actually, three weren’t enough either.