Before we brought our mixed breed dog, Scarlett, into our family, her life on the streets had turned her into quite the escape artist. My fencing, which had served perfectly well to keep all my other dogs in, and all the neighborhood dogs out, was no match for Scarlett. After several attempts to fortify the existing fence failed, we brought in a local contractor to build a brand new, high-security, Scarlett-proof fence. When he arrived, he commented that he supposed that we needed a costly new fence like that for "all these expensive show dogs." I laughed and said no, it was for my little brown mutt.
Scarlett is a Chesapeake Bay Retriever/Australian Cattle Dog mix born in 1992. When I rescued her at the age of three months. I meant to keep her just long enough to find her a good home.... but kept her long enough to lose my heart to her, instead.
It's very humbling to live with a dog who is smarter than you are. One day, when Scarlett was about a year old, she and a few of the young deerhounds were playing outside. Doughal came running up, a huge, long stick in his mouth. He galloped right up to the dog door and barreled through, jerking to a stop in surprise when the stick, held crosswise in his mouth, wouldn't go through. He backed up, and rammed himself at the door a bit harder. When his second attempt failed, he dropped the stick and went in the dog door without it.
Scarlett had been observing this from a few feet away, sitting with her brown head cocked to the side. After Doughal gave up, she trotted over to the porch, carefully picked the stick up in her mouth, and eased first one end, then the other, through the dog door flap.
Scarlett's main hobby, however, is bird herding. As a Chesapeake Australian Bird Herding Dog, she spends long hours issuing commands to wild birds, herding them from tree to tree and fence post to fence post. Some birds are easier to train than others, and sometimes she gets very frustrated with her feathered charges. Some of them actually fly away where she can't follow them! But every morning she's back out there, ready to make sure that the proper order is observed in the avian world.
Scarlett and Fergus were very close buddies, but now that he is gone, she and Kyrie have formed an alliance against the deerhounds. They can often be found, tall and short, racing up and down the hills together.