A Border Collie's Life

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Jean EbelingBy Jean Ebeling

Published December 2011

We never knew how old Bell was when she came to live with us. The girls at the adoption center guessed her to be about a year and a half. We never found out much about her previous life before she landed at the orphanage.

There was a story around that the boys who ran a local auction barn had imported a border collie from England that fitted Bell’s description—short blocky head, thick undercoat and “soft” ears that lay close to her head. As the story goes, the auction barn folded up and Bell wound up with no home.

At any rate, she was glad to be out where there were things that needed doing--mainly herding livestock.

We never knew if Bell had any training. She just naturally figured that the goats needed to be brought in from wherever they were. After the work was done she liked to spend time fishing in the creek. She would spend hours herding minnows up and down in the creek that runs behind the barn. It requred a good bit of barking at the wiggly things so we always knew where she was.

Bell’s other passion was hunting armadillos. Before the drought that has taken a toll on them, there were dozens of the scaly critters living in holes along the creek bed. I don’t think Bell ever caused the demise of one of the critters, but she never stopped trying to un-earth them.

Bell did stay close to the goats at kidding time. During one late cold spell, we had the bred nannies in the field just east of the house. I was sure we had all of the nannies and kids in the barn one night when I saw Bell sitting out in the field--not saying a word, just sitting there. She refused to come when I called her. Finally, I went to see what the holdup was. There was an almost frozen goat kid hidden among the grass. Bell looked up at me and I’ll swear she was smirking. I felt pretty dumb.

Seems like the seasons roll around fast on the ranch with always so much to do. This spring we noticed Bell couldn’t see as well as she used to and we had to help her get in to the truck when we went out to the pastures. She never gave up wanting to go.

One day back in March the Boss was patching a water gap a ways up the creek and Bell thought she should go along. She hopped into the four-wheeler with him. While he worked, Bell struck up the scent of something that needed investigating. She didn’t come when called. When it was time to go home, we called and hunted for her that night and the next day but couldn’t find her.

Finally, on the third day I saw a couple buzzards circling a few hundred yards up the creek. I was afraid of what I would find when I headed through the pasture gate.

Bell was lying stretched out peacefully under a liveoak tree, as if she was just taking a nap. She had evidently gone off on an armadillo hunt while the Boss worked and decided she would come on home when it got late. I guess her tired old heart just gave out. She was around 15 years old.

Bell never complained about working conditions on the ranch. She was always ready to go when we were. It’s been pretty sad around the ranch without her.

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