Those who live and work in rural industry, in particular the livestock industry would recognise the value of the humble working dog. Not only a faithful companion, these team members work long hours, often saving a man's wages for little more than a pat on the head, a cup full of bikkies and a kind word from the boss.
And throughout our lives, many dogs come and go, some just making up numbers, space-fillers, butterfly-chasers, pan-lickers, many names long forgotten. Boofa, Sam, Fletch, Kym, Lotte, Jill, Max, Trapper, Taggart, Siegal, Butch, Chocko, a few of those that come to mind.
But then there are those dogs, those one-in-a-million dogs, whose ability, tenacity, loyalty and strength all combine to create a dog with a special gift, who come along but once or twice in a lifetime.
Our first such 'special' dog was Tess.
Lithe, agile, spirited, smart Tess.
Our beautiful, capable Tess succumbed to snake bite, along with her daughter Polly one Wednesday afternoon many years ago. Polly died almost instantly, Tess was raced to town to the vet surgery and lived through that first night and next day, filling us with false hope. That second night she lost her fight. I cried rivers.
A second dog of legendary value entered our lives as a four year old, some five years ago. Fred. Timid, loyal, incredibly capable and brave Fred.
And just two days after this photo was taken,
we lost our beloved Fred. Let off for his evening run, Fred was nowhere to be found come feed time. As darkness fell, we called and whistled, all to no avail.
With Fred still not back next morning, we started to drive. Driving, calling, whistling. I sent out an email to all neighbours, put posters up at the local store and roadhouse. The bush telegraph swung into action and all and sundry were keeping an eye out for our beloved Fred.
I cried. Children cried. I cried some more.
Five days later, I answered a 'Found' advertisement in the city paper over 100 kilometres to our south. The description fitted perfectly, unfortunately the lady hadn't been able to catch the old dog, but he had been hanging around their local park for some days. We headed to town the following day, no Fred to be found. More posters were placed and the older girls slipped notes into letterboxes in search of our dear old pal.
Eight days after he disappeared, we received the phone call we'd been waiting for.
Fred was found.
He'd had a grand holiday, was fatter than when he left home, and proceeded to stink up the car all the way home.