In Celebration of Beau - my journey with a "once in a lifetime dog"

WTCH Choctaw Frisky Inspirator, RTDsc, RD, DNA-CP
October 19, 1994 - February 14, 2011

It all began shortly after Mike and I moved to a place just outside of Fredericksburg, Texas in 1994. Mike was hired to oversee the cattle operation, caretake the place, and operate a custom hay baling operation. At the time, the ranch also employed a young man who worked with Mike on a daily basis. Robert decided to move on about a year later. Mike felt he could do most of the work alone but needed help gathering the cattle. He had used Aussies on cattle in the past and decided we should look for a working dog to fill the empty spot. We found an Aussie litter not too far from us and three weeks before our first child was born we went to look at the puppies that were still available; two males. We sat down with Glenda and Larry Teaff at their kitchen table and listened to stories about "witches" and nationals competitions, champions and so forth. Glenda pulled out this "witch (WTCH) book" and showed us a page about the father of these puppies. We had no idea what it all meant. Then we went out to the cattle pens and watched Larry work the mother on some replacement heifers. She was a spunky thing, strong on the calves and had no fear in taking a fence, grouped well and had a hard bite, yet was in control and confident and quiet with the stock. She was just what we were looking for.

We were certain we wanted a pup by then and sat down in the yard with the two puppies; a solid red tri and a fluffy little buff colored red merle. The red tri was busy and full of himself, while the red merle crawled up in my lap and stayed there. This was to be Mike's dog so I wanted him to decide. Mike picked the buff colored pup. At this point I was having some serious internal conversations with myself that if he chose the red tri I was going to find some way to buy my little buff puppy. We signed papers - we had no idea there was so much "business" that goes into buying a puppy: a contract, registration papers, health certificates on the parents, etc. We found out years later that Larry turned to Glenda as we drove off and said "that guy has no idea what he's just gotten into."

Three weeks later our first baby arrived and things got a little crazy. We talked about the registration on our puppy for several months and waffled on whether we even needed to register him. Looking at the fees, we decided they weren't that much and sent in the paperwork. It wasn't until a few years later that we actually joined ASCA©. Time went by, our baby grew, the puppy grew, we had a second child, and life moved along. We named our puppy Beau and he became a much loved part of the family. He went everywhere with us, helping us with the fencing, riding shotgun in the cab of the tractor, supervising the chores and riding out with me on my horse, he became an excellent truck dog, and we took him on every vacation…Beau was part of the family. It wasn't until he was probably 3 or 4 years old that he even saw a crate. In 1998 we timed a family vacation so we could check out what Nationals was all about in Greeley; we had started to plan vacations around ASCA© events.

When Beau was about three we decided it was time to get busy on stock but didn't know where to start. Mike wanted me to train him since I was the "dog person" in the family but I had never worked a stockdog before. We had recently acquired a computer and internet access so I got online, joined some chatlists and started asking about people in the area that might be able to help me with our dog. I bought a few books and started reading. Then I discovered this interesting phenomena - "clubs" - dog training clubs. The tech at our vet's office told me about a new stockdog club that had recently formed in the area and they were having a "playday" just down the road from us that next weekend. I got directions and Mike and I loaded up Beau and the kids and off we went to check things out and make some contacts. We had no idea what was going on. They had a roundpen set up and some very expensive sheep in it. I was too intimidated to just step in and give it a whirl like everyone suggested. Then this couple walked up and small worlds being what they are, we recognized Glenda and Larry. It had been over three years since we'd seen them. What a lucky day!!! Larry went into the roundpen with me and Beau.  I will never ever forget the hair-raising excitement and Larry's enthusiasm and the sheer thrill of watching something so powerful as working instinct kick in for the very first time. I can still hear Larry's voice - "look at him!!! Look look, look at him!" as Beau circled the sheep changing directions and keeping them grouped, quiet and calm but authoritative with the stock. Shortly after that we attended our first "clinic" - who knew there was such a thing??? We went, it was fun, I was lost. We drifted through local Border Collie trainers; Aussies being an uncommon thing in our part of the state.

Exhausting many possibilities we started looking farther from home and eventually drove over to a little town south of Austin for an "Aussie clinic" sponsored by a local woman. We parked the truck along the lengthy driveway leading up to the house and as we started to walk up the road, this lady came ambling toward us, a quiet unassuming woman who had that look about her; someone who knows what an honest day's work is all about. She smiled warmly, looked down at Beau and commented that he must come from a particular kennel. By now, my journey into pedigree geekiness had already taken hold and I replied, "no ma'am, but close" and rattled off his pedigree and gave her his breeders' names. I remember thinking, "wow, how'd she know?" We had just met Dana Mackenzie who would over the years become an important and influential and much loved part of our lives.

The clinic was fun, we learned a lot, and Beau was a stellar pupil. I got Dana's phone number and an invite to come up and work at her place as we were saying our goodbyes. It took a month or so before I developed the courage to call and ask if I could make the drive north. Beau and I spent three wonderful days working stock over Valentine's weekend with Dana and Jackie Boaz. I am certain my husband loves me; staying home with two small children while I went off on an adventure that would soon consume a good part of my life.

We worked sheep that weekend and all went well but I retained very little of the lesson. When I came home, it was with a firm belief that I should get my own sheep since all we had were cow/calf pairs on the place. I asked a co-worker if he had any ewes he was selling and bought 5 head of Rambouillet cull ewes that had never been worked by dogs. Mike brought them home, turned them out in a 2 acre trap and I immediately turned Beau loose on them. That's what you're supposed to do, right? Right? All things considered, it wasn't as bad as it could have been. Perseverance pays off; well it should if you know what you're doing. We struggled along and managed to make a little progress. Whenever I think about those days, I am grateful for the dog that Beau was.

By now we had also discovered ASCA© affiliate clubs - a world I never knew existed until Beau came along. We immersed ourselves in the club and how it all worked. I volunteered to do the club newsletter. We attended our first trial shortly after that first trip to Dana's. My first experience with ASCA© trials is an example of everything you shouldn't do. We showed up after only a few sessions on sheep, I'd never seen the rulebook, and I wasn't sure I could stop my dog. We entered Started sheep each day of the trial. I was terrified. I clearly remember that very first run - I opened the gate and the sheep bolted to the far end of the arena and my dog took off after them. He gathered them all up from the far end of the arena and brought them at a dead run straight back to me while I fumbled with the gate. It is all still very clear to me, one of those moments that is permanently imprinted in my head; the total feeling of helplessness and insecurity and confusion. After all these years, I still feel it like it's happening right now - spinning sheep, circling dog, and my inability to think clearly. Somehow we managed to get through the course and back to the repen, putting the sheep smartly away. As with every run to come in the future, Beau took care of me, and of the stock; doing his job with minimal fuss and with great responsibility.
We took the trial scene slowly with Beau qualifying almost every time he stepped into the arena. Beau WTCH'd with minimal training, always handling his runs with style, and always always proving to be an exceptional dog in his cattle work. We learned a lot, we built some wonderful friendships and we were having fun. We had found a dog we loved with all our hearts, a dog that did his job and stepped up at home and gave us everything he had and more. Beau did some really tough jobs for us, gathering cattle and range goats, getting knocked around in the pens and working long hours for a really crummy and sometimes very unfair handler. He never lost his faith in me, even when I was totally wrong and got him hurt, even when I yelled at him in frustration. He never quit trying and he never quit loving me. He was a strong dog, full of quiet power, possessing a sense of group I have yet to see in most dogs, strong hitting on heads and heels, gentle with the babies, yet powerful and confident. He never left stock behind, he rose to every challenge and he did his real world jobs with real world class and a quirky sense of humor.

As Beau grew older, I would look down into his sweet and loving face and I realized it was time to get back to the roots of why Mike and I started this - we needed a dog that could move mama cows, a dog that would become part of the family, a farmer's dog. We needed a dog that understood the job with little training, a dog that could learn on the job with less than "professional" handling. We had found a dog that might not be stellar in an artificial world but could bring in the cows; even on a bad day, every day. We will forever cherish the dog that gave us everything for a simple pat, a scratch behind the ears, and an "I love you Beau". Beau was the dog that developed lifelong friendships that were forged in the love of a little buff colored puppy. He was THE dog for ME; an exceptional dog with an exceptional talent, a once in a lifetime dog.  As Beau moved well into his senior years, I looked down at his gray face and wise old eyes, watched him totter through the pens, and celebrated our life together. Maybe it's best that we didn't know what we were getting into…the journey was something I will forever cherish and might have missed had I known.

Beau left us on Valentine's Day - a perfect day to leave. And a perfect day to remember him by. He was the heart of our young family...and through him our family expanded to include Glenda and Larry and Dana who were equally to "blame" for the journey we cherish. Forever in our hearts... rest well sweet boy. We will miss you always.

"forever could never be long enough for me,
to feel like I've had long enough with you" ~Train

...primarily a working dog
Mike and Melinda May  *  Fredericksburg, Texas  *  830-456-2941  *  e-mail
"It all begins with a dream for the future, and it all happens with what you do today"   ~ Unknown