I picked out a darling little merle with blue eyes but prayed, while sitting on the breeder's deck, asking God which dog was 'ours'. The little merle promptly got up, walked off and a stunning black-tri climbed into my lap and licked me on the cheek. That was all I needed. We named her Bell and brought her home.
Her first day home, she woke up from a nap, walked to the back door, rang the little bell hanging on a string, and sat, waiting for us to open the door. She was eight weeks old. The intelligence, initiative, ability to reason constantly stunned me. Bell was unlike any animal I had ever known, or even heard of.
Bell would walk at a heel, without a leash at 5 months. Even if a dog approached, she would stare straight ahead at my command and ignore the dog. Once we went to a nursery to select flowers and she sat, watching my every move. The store owner approached and spoke to Bell and she never took her eyes off of me. The man kissed and clucked but she never flinched or even looked at him. "What kind of dog IS that?!"
She watched the children play, pulling them away from the street's edge. Their tee-shirts were full of little holes along the back edge, proof she saw them as her lambs, her charge. Even when we camped, she slept about ten feet back, facing our tent, staring, watching just in case we were ever in danger. Nothing was ever chewed, there wasn't even one accident in the house. Indeed, what kind of dog was this?
We decided Bell would enjoy a doggie friend, so we started looking around for a red aussie. By this time, numerous friends had acquired an aussie, hoping they too could find a 'Bell', and one friend's dog had had a litter of pups. Sassy came to live with us in 1995. She was a red-head in every sense of the word.
Once, the phone man came to work on a line and she layed between him and me staring at him without moving muscle, and growling the entire time. "Lady, does that dog bite?" I looked up from my book, "She hasn't so far..." Ha..I never felt safer. Bell was watching too, but had probably just called the FBI and done a background check and deemed the man safe.
Sassy was the keeper of the rules. If a dog came to visit, she'd growl if they neared the off-limit stairs. Once, the wind blew the back door open, and when we came home, Sassy was lying across the doorway and our kitty, Abby, was sitting a foot away, longingly staring at the outdoors that was now just beyond her reach. Sassy could have run inside and jumped on the sofa or played in the trash, but she saw the cat's opportunity to escape and guarded the door until we came home. Sassy wasn't perfect, though.
Once, my dad-in-law, JW was helping me with firewood and I had baked him an apple pie. When I came back in the kitchen, the plate was licked clean and Sassy had little piecrust crumbs around her mouth. She at least had the good sense to look guilty. Bell was standing off to the side, shaking her head in disgust. Sassy was such a good girl, though. When we got the kitties, she was the first to make friends and would lick Abby clean from her fuzzy kitty head down to her fuzzy kitty hiney.
We chose to breed Sassy girl and she had a beautiful litter in 1997. From this litter, we were blessed with sweet Annie Fannie. Annie Fannie was special, quiet, more fearful and unsure of herself. We had to love her a little extra.
Bell, Sassy and Annie Fannie. We had a houseful of aussies! Once, when Annie Fannie was a pup, a severe thunderstorm rolled in and Bell and Sassy ran to the doghouse. Annie Fannie, however, layed in the rain, chewing on her new bone. Bell ran back out into the rain, barked and nipped at Annie Fannie, trying to get her to come in from the storm, but she wouldn't budge. Bell ran back to the house.
About 30 seconds later, Bell ran back out and circled Annie Fannie, barking, nipping and insisting she come to the doghouse...but Annie wasn't moving. Bell ran back to the house. About ten seconds passed and Bell darted back out, ran straight to Annie, grabbed the bone away from her and ran full speed to the doghouse...with Annie Fannie close on her heels. All three stayed dry and safe as I'm sure Sassy stood guard by the door keeping her wayward pup inside.
One afternoon, I drove up to see Bell walking methodically backwards, step by step, slowly tugging Annie Fannie's lampshade over and off of her head. Annie was forever getting into situations that required a trip to the vet and a lampshade to protect a wound. Apparently, this time Bell had had enough of Annie Fannie getting trapped in this thing and she decided it had to come off.
We lost our precious Bell in 2000 at the early age of 7. She hung on to the very last minute, waiting for everyone to join together in the room to say goodbye. When the last of the family walked in the door, she breathed her last breath. No needles, no heart-stopping medicines. Bell gave me the gift of not having to make that choice.
In 2003, we welcomed Savannah into our family. She was all lab, a bundle of energy, and then some. For five months we worked on house-training, all the while replacing chewed up hoses, and rugs. Sweet as pie, but oh, what a different puppy experience this was! The puppy phase lasted about five years. Highly intelligent, focused and trained...sweet, sweet girl. But oh MY, those first five years!
In 2009, we lost our Sassy. Then this past month, Annie Fannie passed on. All of my dear aussie girls were gone. Savannah was all alone. I thought it would be an enjoyable time of bonding and special attention, but she has spent her days pressed against the back door, waiting to be let in, not wanting to be outside alone. She was turning into a house poodle. It was time for a new friend.
I remembered about English Shepherds and how they were like aussies, but more rare, healthier, long-living, protective, and almost freakishly intelligent. I set my sights on a January puppy, thinking that would give me time to get ready. But, a different breeder was posting pictures on her facebook page and this little black and white puppy kept catching my eye.
I'd go back time and time again, thinking "What is it about this puppy?!" I was about to put a deposit down to hold a January pup, but felt a check. Hadn't I been praying, asking God to choose a pup for us, telling him I wanted to experience a dog just like Bell? And here was this pup that I couldn't stop thinking about... The timing was all wrong, and it was a BOY pup, not at all what I had planned. But there he was, and I knew he was meant to be with us.
So come November 11th, I fly up to get our next baby dog. Savannah will have a playmate, and I get to experience the keen early intelligence of a herding dog. I know this dog will be special. Several friends have already announced just that very thing. I can't wait to meet this little buddy!