National Geographic: Those Wonderful Dogs

Year:
1989
56 Views


The English language contains

dozens of words that describe the dog

Yet none alone seems

entirely adequate

loving, loyal, devoted,

amusing, spirited, tireless

How they enchant us,

delight us, brighten our days

And how they work for us

Down through history no other animal

has served us in as many ways

Called by one philosopher

"the noblest beast God ever made,"

the dog is at work

On farms and in pastures

around the world...

Across the forbidding reaches

of the frozen North...

As comrades on the

battlefields of war...

Seeking even the faintest

scent of a buried victim

Of disaster...

Or a hiker who

has lost his way

And he is the devoted servant of he ill,

elderly, and handicapped

We will never know

exactly how this

unprecedented partnership

came about or when

But one story tells us:

"In the beginning

God created man,

but seeing him so feeble

He gave him the dog"

Every year since 1877 a stylized

ritual has been

repeated in Manhattan

the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

the world series of dogdom

Some 2,600 dogs, all purebreds

and prizewinners in other shows

will compete. Westminster

now welcomes 130 breeds and varieties

There are 52 million dogs

in the United States

While some romp in the yard

or sleep by the fire

others are being carefully primped

and primed to take home ribbons

"Oh, Rhye, Rhye, Rhye

Oh, Rhye, Rhye, Rhye

What do you think, huh?"

"Give me another kiss

Good boy!"

"You're a sweetheart

aren't you"

"That's $50.00

That's a show special

normally $79.95"

"Low sodium

A diet for your dogs

an all natural diet

No added preservatives

colorings, or flavorings"

"Oh, that ought to be great"

"Okay.

Try that out on him

and if you live in Manhattan

there's a store that delivers

for you right on the bag"

While most show

dogs today perform

no labor at all

outside the arena

historically

their ancestors worked

side by side with man

In fact, our unique

and splendid partnership

with the dog began

as a working relationship...

as long as ten to

fifteen thousand years ago

Over the centuries many

of their jobs became obsolete

One that has continued

is tending sheep

In New Zealand, sheep

outnumber people twenty to one

and a saying goes:

"No dog, no shepherd

No shepherd, no sheep

No sheep, no wool or meat"

With dogs at their side

New Zealand farmers

now rank second in wool exports

and are near the

top in meat products

Some of New Zealand's

back country is so

remote it is only

accessible by helicopter

The dogs may

not like the ride

but where the

shepherd goes

so goes his devoted dog

Grant and Robyn Calder run a sheep

station on New Zealand's

South Island

Grant is a champion

breeder and trainer of sheepdogs

in the tradition of his father and

grandfather before him

Much of New Zealand

is mountainous country

suitable only for grazing

Without the sheepdog

this would be wasteland.

Working their 13,000-acre property

with no additional hands,

the husband-and-wife

team herd 7,500 sheep.

"It's really an unusual partnership

that a husband

and wife work a farm

like this together

But thanks to the dogs

we can manage to do it

Without them,

we just couldn't do it

"A useless farmer could come on to

this place with my team of dogs

and work out how to work them

and actually make a living here

But if you took my dogs away

and left me on this place

we would be broke in 12 months"

"Here, pup, pup, pup, pup

Come on,

I have to give you a name"

One of the two types of dogs the

Calders breed

is called a "huntaway"

Grant begins training

at about three months

Huntaways work the

sheep from behind

facing away from

the shepherd

"That's the first signs

of a pup starting to work

is to go over there

like that and chase those sheep

If I put a string on that pup

the noise would start coming

and that's the makings

of a huntaway dog

"Two sheep over there

Good boy, good boy"

Even early in the training

a simple tug of the string

keeps this pup facing correctly

"Good boy. Good boy,

good boy, good boy"

This six-month-old

pup is learning not only

when to bark but when to stop

once the sheep obey him

or the shepherd commands him

"Will a go, Danny

Will a go

Good boy,

that's good. Good boy"

The second type working the

Calders' sheep is

called a "heading" dog

They virtually

never bark but control

the sheep entirely

with their eyes

"She tries to mesmerize them

She can introduce

herself quietly

looking straight

into the sheep's eyes"

Twice a year the Calders round up

from the high country

for shearing

to send to market,

or in this instance

to be dipped to protect their wool

Robyn works on a

high ridge and Grant is lower

down as they and their ten

dogs begin to pull the flock together

Because sheep in New Zealand

have no natural enemies

they have never developed

a herding instinct

and therefore

spread far afield

The dogs are tireless and would

literally work until they drop

It's not unusual in the course of

a day for them to

cover up to 50 miles

Over the years, man has channeled

the dog's ancient

hunting instincts into herding

and driving behavior

Their shepherds command the

dogs with words or by whistling

"They're just basic commands

A 'run' command (he whistles it)

You want him to run slow,

you can vary it...

"(...he whistles)

'Left hand' (he whistles)

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