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Wednesday, 01 June 2011

Fianna and the Guy from JULIE

By Vicki E. Jones

We didn’t know just what Fianna was. We knew she was part Black Lab, but the rest was a mystery.

About one-and-a-half years old when our daughter could no longer keep her and asked if we would give her a forever home, she was black with a white chest with mottled and faded black markings and black speckles, and one white leg with the same markings. The top of each of her other three paws had the same markings.

Her muzzle, her eyes, her tail and her fur didn’t look like Black Lab. Her tail was shorter than you would expect and she had a double coat with a dense undercoat.

Fianna had been with us for maybe three years when my husband, Terry, let a guy from JULIE through the house and into the back yard so that the guy could trace where the natural gas line was under the ground. The Village of Homewood, Illinois, was going to put a new water pipe deep in the ground between our sidewalk and curb and they had to avoid hitting the gas line.

The guy from JULIE was wearing a short-sleeved, summer shirt and long pants. He was tall and broad-shouldered, a bit hefty and talked loud and stood fairly close to my husband when he spoke. He gestured with his hands as he spoke, too.

Fianna sized him up and suddenly Fianna, a very active dog who loved everyone and was a sweet, gentle, quiet kind of dog, began to race toward the guy from JULIE, then away, then round and round the perimeter of the yard just inside the fence.

Again and again, Fianna raced toward the guy from JULIE and away, then round and round the yard as the guy from JULIE continued to talk loudly and gesture with his hands, standing close to my husband.

Finally, the guy from JULIE took a step closer to Terry and Fianna raced in and bit him – a warning bite – just above the ankle on his lower leg! The guy from JULIE yelled “OUCH!” and we stood there absolutely astounded! Fianna, sweet, gentle Fianna, who never even growled and certainly never bit, had just bit the guy from JULIE in the leg!

The guy from JULIE lifted his pants leg as we reprimanded Fianna and put her inside the house. His skin was not broken, which was a good thing, because that meant we wouldn’t be the subject of a lawsuit. But what on earth had caused sweet, gentle Fianna to act the way she did?

The next day it dawned on us: Fianna must be a Black Lab/Herding dog mix. But what kind of herding dog? Flipping through an AKC book of dog breeds, I came across the Australian Cattle Dog or Blue Heeler. There, I found the answers I was looking for.

Cattle dogs have a tail that is shorter than you would expect, the double coat, a muzzle that is shorter and sharper than that of a Black Lab, eyes like Fianna, and markings like those on her chest, one leg and the tops of the other three paws.

Cattle dogs are also naturally fiercely protective of their owners. Fianna didn’t like the way the guy from JULIE was talking or acting and his proximity to her master, and when he failed to respond to her efforts to “herd” him away from her master, she raced in and nipped that “naughty cow” above the ankle, just as she would any member of the herd of cattle that disobeyed her herding efforts! Such was her heritage.

Fianna is almost 12 now. She has emphysema and an enlarged heart in a smoke-free home (we’ll never know why) and some other problems. But her protective instincts and strong herding instincts are still there, as is her Black Lab’s love of dunking herself in a creek that runs by the walking trail next to our home.

As I watch her age and see more gray on her face and body, my mind often wanders back to when she was young and nipped a “disobedient cow” on the leg - a poor unsuspecting guy from JULIE who was just doing his job - to “protect” her master and I can’t help but smile.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Beautiful. Wonderful tribute - just filled with love. Thank you for sharing.

I sold Real Estate for many years and encountered hundreds of dogs in my travels.

Home owners always wanted to apologize because their dogs wanted to take a sniff when I came onto their grounds or into their homes.

I never minded and told the owners that the dog was only doing his job protecting his family from the stranger who was there.

If the home was on the market for more than a month I usually became great friends with the dogs and loved petting them. They loved me because I never came to their house without a dog biscuit in my pocket.

a beautiful story about a good and well-loved dog.

Dogs, how I miss mine..Sam a tough German Shepherd/Doberman mix..guard dog, you way...he would let people in, stay right next to them..but wouldn't let them out again..laying right across the doorway to the porch until I came with the person and ushered them out...Maggie, an English Sheepdog never was unfriendly, but say right by any visitors , who knew if she was staring or not? Again, she walked them to the door & waited for me to open the door to let them out...god knows we never trained either of them..great instincts these pooches of ours...

Thank you for the great comments! Dogs know so much more than we do. People don't always give them credit for what they sense and what they know. -Vicki

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