I needed another dog like a hole in the head as I was living in Eaglehawk at the time and already had 2 dogs in a small suburban house. But I am a compulsive reader and as I pushed open the door of my local milk bar I read the notice,
'Six month old Koolie puppy, free to good home.' My daughter had a wonderful old Koolie bitch rescued from the R.S.P.C.A so I knew about Koolies. She had found out about them from The Koolie Club web site. I mentioned this notice and the next thing I knew she was at my door again with a gangly blue merle dog with one brown and one blue eye and a goofy expression. It was love at first sight as far as I was concerned but I cautiously asked why he had been given away. 'Wouldn't work' was the reason.
I have lived with and loved dogs all my life and knew about working Border Collies from my childhood on an English farm. Much later in my life on our Tasmanian farm I owned and trained one. My father always said it was pointless trying to train a pup to work with stock until he showed 'eye'. Morty did not do this until he was 12 months old which may explain why he was considered useless at 6 months old. He was the most diabolically destructive pup I have ever had but he was also extremely intelligent, very gentle and very easy to train.
Because he was young and energetic and I only had a backyard I did my best to keep both his mind and his body occupied. I walked miles with him round suburban streets. I played with a tennis ball with him in the back yard and indoors I taught him to find a hidden object, a game he loves, and to fetch me things, his lead, my hat etc. One day I was using a small glue sticks, I dropped it and it rolled away across the floor. Almost forgetting he was actually a dog I said 'Pick that up for me Morty.' To my astonishment he did and dropped it in my outstretched hand.
I took him to Dog Obedience for a few months, not a success, we never got out of the beginner's class. I had taught him all the things he was supposed to learn in this class and he hated the restrictions and was bored. I was told to stop him gazing into the distance, or looking to see if he could see his friends in other classes, he saw no point in sitting still on wet grass and listening to lectures on 'responsible dog ownership' and when finally I was instructed to reel him in on the lead when he knew perfectly well how to come at the double when I called him he decided to add his own refinements to this 'game'. Finally when I received a sharp little nip in a tender part of my anatomy as we listened to another lecture on a cold dank winter morning I knew he was telling me that he was bored, bored and fed up so I agreed with him, he could drop out.
When I was walking him round the lakes in Eaglehawk I was often stopped by other walkers who either asked me just what sort of a mixture my odd-looking dog was or, less often I am afraid, said 'Oh – you've got a Koolie, they are wonderful dogs!' A sentiment I heartily agreed with.
When I had him I was anxious about introducing an adolescent dog into the household and my family of cats. To my surprise there were no problems, even my elderly Siamese accepted him, I think it helped that Morty had the good sense to treat them all with respect. All of them will rub against him in greeting and the two younger ones, play with him and wash his face. When I introduced a young kitten I was a bit worried but she never showed any fear of him and he was incredibly gentle with her. Cilla rubs against him, pounces on his tail and like Solomon, the slightly older cat, holds his face between her two front paws and washes him thoroughly.
A year ago I moved back to the bush to a house in the centre of 12 acres. At first I despaired of Morty, he seemed to totally fail to realise where our boundary fences were and when he saws kangaroos lost his head completely and disappeared into the Whipstick Forest in hot pursuit, suddenly deaf to all my calls and whistles. On one occasion I had walked him round my largest paddock on an extending lead, the sort with a handle, I told him to sit while I turned the garden tap on. At that precise moment three kangaroos crossed my property within his field of vision. He was gone, the lead extended to its fullest behind him. I blasted my whistle as I raced down the drive, he had disappeared. Then some fifteen to twenty minutes later I heard him barking in the distance. Fortunately I knew the bark meant 'Help, Mum, I'm stuck!' and I headed off in its direction, off my own property and across the road into the fairly dense bush. But such was his faith in me that he stopped barking when he saw me, long before I could see him because he was so tangled up in the undergrowth and gum trees that he could not even stand up and a blue merle dog in the shade against a background of gum trees is very hard to see. I did find him, fortunately, for he was well out of sight of the road and the day turned out a scorcher, untangled him and tramped back home. I have a rule now that I never allow him to be loose early in the day when kangaroos are more likely to be abroad.
I have also changed my tactics and am much softer with him, I realised that when he failed to come back to me he was sometimes actually not too far away, sitting quite still trying to gauge how cross I was (I had been criticised by a professional dog trainer for being too soft with him) with considerable difficulty, I try to keep any trace of annoyance out of my voice and give him lavish praise when he returns to me. This has worked wonders.
In the first few months after our escape from suburbia I really wondered whether I would be able to keep him when he totally disregarded both the boundary fences and my calls and whistles, my wonderful well-behaved dog seemed to have vanished, now the novelty of such space has worn off and he stays home.
My lovely intelligent d
og has the distinction of failing in his initial career, and being a dog school drop-out but I bless the day I read that 'Free to good home....' notice on the Milk Bar door.