Charli was our first Cattle Dog. From day one we were in love and I knew at last I had the dog I had always wanted.
His half-brother, Eddie came into our lives when Charli was seven months old. In my ignorance I had not realized that Charlie, testicle-less at 6 months, meant he would probably never get them! Once this was cleared up Charli’s breeder persuaded us to take another pup from her at no cost except his air fare. The reasoning was twofold:
- Charli, without testicles would not have the usual male testosterone and therefore my reservations about two males in the same household was, according to their breeder not valid.
- Said breeder persuaded me that a good breeding male was needed in our area.
Thus, my insistence that I did not need a replacement/addition for Charli was overridden, I was persuaded and Eddie arrived – again we fell in love.
The two boys recognised their common ways and were the best of mates. They entertained and delighted us. A favourite game was Charli guarding his ball and Eddie running in ever larger circles, passing closer and closer to Charlie. At the critical time, Eddie would grab the ball in passing and the chase with happy barking and energetic tail language would ensue. The more they played this game the longer and more appreciatively we laughed, until our stomachs ached!
In Eddies first year with us we took them on two holidays, one to the Natal North Coast where beach walks and much socialization with fishermen and sun worshippers took place. Here we saw the first signs of Eddie’s discontent with his half-brother Charli. I took note and immediately sought expert advice – we worked hard at it from the beginning. I was familiar with clicker training and used it with hopeful confidence.
A couple of months later, Christmas time at Pringle Bay in the Western Cape we had a lovely holiday and both my dogs made a big impression on friends and strangers alike. But a little fear was growing inside my mind and back home, within weeks disaster struck.
Eddie showed the classic legal descriptions of “grievous bodily harm with intent” It was clear he had decided that the only Charli he would tolerate was a “dead Charli”
In the next four months we spent much time and money with experienced dog behaviourists and worked non-stop – knowing what was at stake lent energy, commitment and hope to our endeavors.
I hated the thought of rehoming “a problem dog”. All the “what ifs” in my mind left a black hole in my heart.
The worst was “what if Eddie gets passed endlessly, from home to home, as others experience the difficulties of living with an agile, strong and animal aggressive dog?”. “What if his new owner/s abuse him in the mistaken belief they can beat him into submission, what if…..” In Private I was inconsolable.
My daughter, who at the time was studying to be a vet had given me access to some of the best advice available, including a Dr. who had ACDs in his home and understood the breed, both agreed with me that it would be better to take responsibility for him and not pass him on, at about 15 months old we would put him to sleep.
The date was set and during our last heart-broken walk with him, I was talking about the family that introduced us to the breed and suddenly realized that one of them may be able to help. We raced home and after a tearful telephone conversation it was agreed we would take Eddie to the farm in Colesberg where he would be retrained and then we would re-introduce the two males.
The thing to understand is I knew the family well. I knew in my heart Eddie would not be abused in the re-training. Rhys,who had grown up with the breed, loved them, understood them and had an adult experience of living and working with them. Time proved me right.
I must have driven Rhys mad with my phone calls but Eddie did well, with a guiding hand he lived peacefully with the farm and family dogs and animals.
About four months later I travelled the 8 hour drive back to the farm with Charli and high hopes of fetching Eddie. I had planned his welcome home dinner!
On arrival,the family and Eddie were waiting – Eddie took one look at Charli and attacked him. Rhys was stunned at the violence and quickly separated them.
Over the next two days we kept Charli and Eddie separated. Each had long walks with me on the beautiful Karoo Farm. I climbed hills, watched the majestic black eagles and hid from the reality.
In the end the family offered to keep Eddie. They had established that in their home, with Rhys’s rules Eddie could live a life that would not endanger humans or other animals.
We visited often, always a bitter-sweet reunion but Eddie was happy. However, a price was paid by all. The family’s own cattle dog, Josh could only be given attention and love when Eddie was not around and as the years went by Eddie became more and more challenging of Josh’s position in the home – Eddie always had to be managed. The family know that they have my undying gratitude for their gift of life to Eddie and also the support they gave us at a very difficult time, not just with Eddie but also a great sorrow with one of our children.
The years went by and as South Africa’s political situation deteriorated Rhys and his family decided to move back to New Zealand. Diana, Rhys’ mom-in-law and my dear friend was getting on and a decision to sell the farm was made.
Bev Hallows, a member of our ‘Australian Cattle Dogs Southern Africa’ Facebook page kindly rehomed Eddie in his old age. Bev and her family also did Eddie and I a great service of love and care.
Would I do it again? I don’t really know the answer. I honestly did not know the price Diana and her ACD Josh would pay. It was not fair on them. Diana has assured me she did not resent it and also loved Eddie. Knowing this, yes I would, but with the knowledge I have gained from the experience, to be fair to all, I would insist such a dog as Eddie went to a home where he/she would be the only dog. Bev may want to comment on this.
We were all very lucky and people are not always so generous in spirit to be able to love an animal that disrupts their own home and loved ones.