Who are these billabong refugees and what are they doing?

The job had got to that point where you have to stop for a minute and stare at it, just to ‘process’ its sheer enormity. Before me was a truly terrifying tangle of high tensile wire that had pleased the contractor by wrapping itself around the ploughing discs.

The knot was about the same size as the Bobcat and, without safety glasses for little Alex (do they make safety glasses for toddlers?), I had to accept that the wretched thing was going to beat me.

With the dawning realisation of defeat came the sound of something equally beyond the realms of reality: a babbling waterfall coming from the gully billabong. A very nice and very timely distraction.

The fish had gaping golden lips and flashy golden bellies to match. Each seemed about 2-feet long and oh-so-muscular. I may be a piscean but I know nothing about fish. Perhaps this group of half a dozen or so monsters are the dreaded carp, washed into the gully during one of this year’s floods. And what are they doing? Breathing or breeding?

Carp are considered the lowest of all fish around here: categorised as “noxious fish” by the Department of Primary Industries for the environmental damage they cause while being pilloried by cooks and anglers for their muddy taste.

But perhaps Charlie Carp deserves better. The big fish make excellent organic fertiliser and, according to one account on ABC Radio, might be alright on the menu if we Aussies learned the secret to eating carp.

Anyhow, the whole fishy dancing performance went on for five minutes and would have lasted longer if not for Patch. Yes, our most accident prone pooch had to investigate and was so intrigued, he forgot he couldn’t walk on water. Turns out he’s not that good at swimming, either. Crazy dog!

Patch had to come and take a look

Shame I missed the “after” pic. The memory card was full of fish video and photos. Patch isn’t the only silly one.

The working dog from St Albans

Patch Rounds Up The Yearlings

I was born to do this

Patch runs rings around them - literally.

Just look at his face. When Wayne collected Patch from suburban St Albans this Easter, it was clear he was a working dog breed (or three) but I doubt his rescuers from Homeless Hounds would have envisaged this. Only problem is, he likes it too much.

It took me nearly half an hour to retrieve him from the yearling paddock and when he decided to round up Zoe yesterday, I decided something had to be done, and fast. You must not, cannot let a working dog get out of control, no matter what.

I called Paul Macphail of Beloka Kelpies for help and, 20 minutes later, Zoe, Alex, Patch and I were in training at his school in Welshpool. Paul quickly summed Patch up as a tad “arrogant” and swiftly put him in his place. I have not been a tough enough boss.

A litte while later, Patch, who had never seen a sheep before, was in the pen working a mob and then in the paddock masterfully bringing another (albeit rather tame) mob back to Paul. Just like Babe, really. Pig dog turns hero. “He’s a natural,” says the laconic Paul.

I am so impressed, I will be back at Paul’s with Patch in a week to see if I he will reach his calling as a semi-automatic dairy cow rounding up dog with the speed of a cheetah and the gentleness of a dove.

Anubis falls

This was Patch when he joined our family during Easter.


Patch’s first morning at the farm

This is Patch now.

Anubis falls

“What do you mean, my ear looks funny?”

Back when I introduced Patch on Milk Maid Marian, Kevin Jones compared him to Egyptian god, Anubis. Well, how the mighty have fallen!

According to the Kelpie Standard, “The ears are pricked and running to a fine point at the tips, the leather fine but strong at the base, set wide apart on the skull and inclining outwards, slightly curved on the outer edge and of moderate size.”.

Oh dear, Patch! Your show career is over before it started. Then again, I’m not sure whether tan and white splashed with mud and manure would be well received in the ring, either!

Life lessons for a dairy dog

Patch was just sniffing about while I was moving a temporary fence this morning when all of a sudden, he yelped, dived into a drain in sheer panic and splashed over to the other side. The dousing must have done him some good because he emerged calm but with a reproachful look that suggested I had committed a terrible crime.

Patch, you see, has working dog blood running through his veins but this town-bred pup has had a lot to learn since we adopted him from the volunteers at Homeless Hounds this Easter. One of them is to treat all fences as though they are electric.

After that disgusted stare, he took off down the paddock, refusing to answer my calls. All I could think of was: “What will I tell Zoe if he disappears?”. Zoe and Patch have become inseparable. A sample of her writing exercises from her school book includes:

“I have a nu dog and i love mi nu dog” and “i love mi dog and he love me” and “This is mi star and this is what it says homeless hounds rescue dog” and so on and so on.

Zoe and Patch in the paddock

Zoe and Patch on Sunday. Yes, they were running very fast!

Thankfully, the bedraggled Patch ran home and was happy to be reunited but it got me thinking about some of the lessons he’s had to learn about farm life.

Lesson 1: When mum says to be quiet, listen!
Remember when Patch met the cows for the first time?

Lesson 2: Bulls are bullies
Patch decided to take on a bull and lost. Nothing broken but he was sore for a couple of days.

Patch and the bull

The working dog instinct needs to be matched with experience

Lesson 3: Sometimes it rains ice
Patch didn’t want to ride in the Bobcat the day after the hail incident.

Lesson 4: Don’t run too close behind the Bobcat when the track is muddy

Muddy Patch

What mud?

Lesson 5: Don’t run into the Bobcat
Ouch! Patch ran into the side of the Bobcat while it was motoring along (slowly) and ended up with a black streak on one leg. He’s now aware of traffic.

Lesson 6: Shade sails are fun to climb but don’t try to get down at the top

Patch on the shade sail

Nice day to go for a sail

Lesson 7: Farm life is fun
Patch is one of the happiest dogs in the world.

Zoe and Patch

“Mi dog Patch is cleva”