Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Sam is a rather complicated dog, which is not at all surprising for her breed; Australian Cattle Dogs (also called Red or Blue Heelers, depending on color) are often an enigmatic bundle of seemingly contradictory traits. Energetic yet focused, cautious but friendly, authoritative though submissive... all of these things shine in Sam.

We took her to an adoption event last Saturday with Shakota, an Australian Shepherd (and Sam's current kennel-mate). Sam was a terrific copilot on the ride both to and from the event, and did an admirable job of behaving herself while we were there. It should be noted that Heelers aren't often comfortable around large groups of people, and Sam was not immune to this trait - Cattle Dogs have a natural herding instinct, and the poor girl was feverishly trying to keep track of literally every dog, cat and human at the crowded shopping mall.

At one point, she and I were sitting with Sophie and Shakota, watching the people pass by. Sam quietly turned, nudged me and indicated that she wanted to go outside. So the four of us gathered ourselves and headed out the door, where it turned out that Shakota - not Sam - was needing to go to the bathroom. We thought it was just a coincidence, but the same thing happened a second time before we left for the day. Sam was simply that much better at reading her kennel mate's body language, and seemed to know that little Shakota was too darned polite to impose on us herself.

There are a lot of personality "quirks" that Australian Cattle Dogs are noted for, and Sam seems to hold true to many of them. She isn't the quickest to warm up to strangers or other dogs, preferring quality of friendship over quantity. Once someone is "in" with her or her pack, though, Sam will do her best to make them feel welcome and cared-for. Large groups of people or animals both fascinate and daunt her a bit, since she feels she needs to keep an eye on everything around - in case she'll be called on to herd sheep, cats, kids, or anything else you need managed.

Sam's a dog of few needs, and those she has are pretty basic. She'll need exercise and things to do; she's smart and active, and wants to stretch her brain as much as her legs. (In fact, if someone has an Aussie Shepherd, Cattle Dog, or other working dog with behavior problems, "chronic boredom" is quite often at the root of it.) She'll need some "quiet time" with her friends and family every now and then (remember the "quality over quantity" comment?) to take a breather from the bustle of the crowd. And above all, she'll need people she can give her best to.

UPDATE: Sam was adopted today (June 27), and it looks like her new family will be just about perfect for her.

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