The Working Kelpie Council of Australia

Breed Society for the Australian Working Kelpie

A Tribute To Sheepdogs. Extract from the out of print 'The Canine King' James L Moore

It is the sheepman, par excellence who can truly appreciate the dominant part the sheepdog has played and is playing in Australia's economic life. In a welter of changing ideas the sheepdog alone is changeless. He asks no wages, demands no working conditions, cares nothing for the price at which wool is sold. He is always awake to his master's interests, will work 24 hours a day if called upon, does not understand disaffection, the one unforgivable sin to him being infidelity.

Above all, he is indispensable. No machine can ever take his place, no substitute can ever replace him it would be interesting to work out what he is worth to the wool industry in money value. The roughest guess would have to go into the Millions. For centuries the sagacity and unswerving devotion of these animals have been sung in poem and story; in all legend there is scarce an instance of these qualities that I could not duplicate from the storehouse of my memory by relating incidents I have observed in my own kennels. In sheepdogs we see instinct at its highest, supplemented by an intelligence that at its average is memorable, and at its best approximates genius. Since these remarkable results are the consequence of instinct and training, it follows that there have been some outstanding personalities in the. history of the sheepdog. Stories full of human interest, illustrative of the finest qualities of trainer and trained, have been related to me. These form portion of the narrative I have to tell. A love of dogs binds men together. Once become known as such in the great world, and you become the recipient of dog lore from a score of trustworthy sources, from which you may glean facts hitherto unknown to you. It is by these means that I have been privileged to enter into correspondence with famous trainers and owners in many lands, and to possess in their handwriting their views on the handling of sheepdogs, which I am enabled in these pages to pass on to the reader with results that every dog owner will find of value.

It is a curious fact, borne out in so many instances that its truth may be held to be proven, that there is a queer sort of physical relationship between master and dog where the tie is something more than casual. For the man to whom a dog is nothing more than a subject for a careless pat, an object so familiar as scarcely to be noticed, this book can have little meaning. For those men, and women too, to whom dogs are persons, differing only from mankind in possessing something more of fidelity than the average man is capable of, something more of loving devotion than it is possible to expect from one's fellow a personality, in short, which enters into the fibres of life, lacking only speech for full communion - for such as these I write, and these will be able to match me story for story.

It is these whose dogs grow to resemble them in an absurd but perfectly recognisable way. James Gardner, a famous old shepherd, of sheep guarding genealogy for centuries back, and who died in 1900, made some very striking observations on this tendency of dogs to take on a semblance of their masters, after long years.. Gardner was a shepherd by birth, and would have indignantly refused peerage if its purpose had been to separate him from his sheep and his dogs. A sturdy, honest fellow, whose pawky sayings have been preserved by those to whom they seemed memorable. He was described by a friend as 'one incapable of a mean action.' His dogs shared this trait of inviolable integrity. Gardner used to say that in every case a dog bears a deep resemblance to his master. 'I have never known a deceitful man to have a faithful dog,' he said.

He had abiding faith in canine judgment. 'When a dog bites a man,' he was fond of saying, 'that man is sorely in need of chastisement.' He was an advocate of unfailing kindness and patience. 'Not one of the great dogs of history was ever thrashed into obedience,' was another of his dicta. 'No insult would wound me deeper than a look of distrust from one of my own dogs,' he once told a friend. So implicit was his faith in dog nature that he avowed that a man had only to prove he was worth dying for, and his dog, if need were, would cheerfully make the sacrifice. 'The noblest lessons in truth, sacrifice, and duty,' he admitted, 'I have got from my dogs.' A fine old man this, whose life in service proved his worth. 'Base minded men work for money; my dogs work because service is their pleasure'. This saying of his applied to his own life. A confirmation of his contention that dogs grow like their masters. I have quoted this wise, thoughtful man because I want the readers of this book to realise that it is no mere cheap sentiment that makes a man love his dogs with a love passing the ordinary

Surely animals which can move men so greatly by giving so generously of all they have devotion, affection, sacrifice worthy of a tribute that, while serving as their own memorial, goes further and, by spreading the knowledge of how to train, how to rear, how to value these wonderful creatures, will tend to make life easier for them by the banishment of thoughtless ignorance.