Bella’s Big Day

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Bella at six months of age with Little Jack

by Tom Hutton

Bella, our seven month old Border Collie, came to us last August from Kim Hastings, a breeder, near Bridgeport, Texas. She has by now grown to around 35 pounds, shows amazing athleticism, has “the eye”, and is chock full of puppy pranks. She is also as fast as a mongoose.

Two days ago, Bella had a really big day- unplanned, mind you- but it worked out well. Let me set the scene.

I was trying to put out a bale of hay for the cattle. The way this is done is that I spear a roughly thousand pound bale and haul it with the tractor to the metal bale holder. On arriving at the baler, I jump from the tractor and begin to cut off the string that holds the bale together.

This particular day for some reason I had difficulty getting the string cut and off, causing the job to take 10 minutes or so. Buddy, Bella, and Little Jack meanwhile explored the pasture while I worked.

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Little Jack- Red Healer, Beagle, Catahoula mix?

The cattle must have heard the tractor, anticipated a meal, and headed in my direction. The herd approached either with amazing stealth or else I was lost in concentration. The first warning that the bell cow, a Longhorn, had bracketed me with her impressive set of horns came from my dogs.  Buddy, Bella, and our little brown dog, Jack, suddenly flew by me in full assault mode. All three charged pall mall into the herd and scattered it. In order to keep the cows at bay, they strafed them, lunging and biting at their noses, all the time barking furiously. The fierceness of their attack succeeded in pushing the herd back and away from me.  The three dogs zigzagged back and forth to keep them from approaching.  I saw Bella and Jack watching our experienced Border, Buddy, and observed them begin to mirror as best they could, his deft movements.

Bella for a pup did an amazing job even if it was premature. I had not planned to introduce her to cows until she was at least a year old because if Border collies are introduced too early, they can be intimidated. This intimidation can affect a dog’s performance for the rest of his or her life. Or so I am told.

Bella showed no fear despite her young age, charging 1400 pound cows and pushing them back. To my amazement, the dogs worked together as if choreographed. Even Little Jack who comes from a questionable lineage worked just like a herding dog and did his job well.

After I had dumped the bale and the dogs returned to the truck, I sensed they were rather proud of themselves. They must have received a big adrenalin boost as it  took some time for their enthusiasm to wear off. Even their usual tussling vanished as they panted, pranced, fidgeted, and enjoyed their “team’ moment.

No doubt the dogs derived benefit by our cattle being “dog broke”. By now the cattle are used to working dogs. One of them had her nose badly gashed years ago by Bandit, our original Border. Be that as it may, I am proud of our herding dogs.

This is far from the first time Border collies have come either my rescue or performed an amazing feat of herding. I trust it promises a successful future on the ranch for our Bella.

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