When I was about 15, living on my parent’s 80 acre dairy and running another 480 acres, we had two outside dogs, a tough little Cocker Spaniel, Buck (excellent mouser), and an Australian Shepherd, Butch. The Australian Shepherd was naturally the alpha of the two, very athletic and on top of his game. Because we had a dairy, we didn’t feed the dogs, we expected them to forage for themselves on the farm. We would take them shooting ground squirrels, they would feed on dead cattle, table scraps, or they would drink milk out of the calf troughs. In lean seasons, we would get dog food, but not much. As we were outside the bulk of the day, every day, the dogs were very used to playing outdoors, hunting or what not.
One summer day, I get with about 8 friends and we set out to hike to this mountain lake to spend the day. I drive (without a license) to pick up one of my friends and meet some others at this campground. From there, we all pile in the back and front of this pickup and head up the old logging road to the trailhead.
Driving along, we come across this skinny big dog, he looks like he has been starving. We stop and call the dog over. He is very nice with people, but he isn’t wearing a collar. He looks like a cross between a black lab and rottweiler, although we never found out. He could have been dumped, or maybe accidentally lost, we don’t know. Anyway, the dog follows our party as we do the hike and swim at this lake. Pretty soon, we ask, “What are we going to do with the dog?”, I decide to take him home and see if my folks want to keep him.
For the first few days, we fed him dog food, and he just stayed under the porch. We named him Ed. Butch tore into him a few times to establish dominance, and Ed succumbed as this was not his turf, and he was starving. Nevertheless, he was probably the most people friendly dog I have known. You could do anything short of abuse, and he would just wag his tail. Quiet too, the only time you heard him was when trains went by (about a mile away) and he would howl this low bawl.
In the coming months, Ed got a regular diet and got to be healthy again. Butch remained the alpha, and all our cats started disappearing. I suppose when he was in the wild, Ed lived off cats. Every now and then, we would find remnants of cats under the porch. Even our neighbor’s cats disappeared that year. No matter, a good dog is worth more than several cats.
For the next couple years, those three dogs went together like Larry, Darryl and Darryl. We took them feeding cattle, or rolling bales over during haying season. They would eat mice until they threw up, then eat some more. Ed would pack these cow femurs around in his mouth, wagging his tail.
Ed grew until he decided he had enough of being the beta dog. Going from all head and no hindquarters, he really put on the muscle and looked terrifying (for dogs). He had the build of a rottweiler, but the soft fur of a lab. Ed and Butch (the older, smaller alpha) constantly fought if we threw out scraps. One day, about when I was 18, I was out feeding cattle with my dad, and we noticed Ed and Butch fighting far away out in the fields. Then pretty soon, Ed comes back to the pickup by himself, with blood all over him. We thought this was odd, so we go over to where they were fighting and lo and behold, there was Butch, just absolutely covered in blood…dead. It looks like Ed finally had enough and tore his throat, probably his jugular vein. Ed was the alpha now.
The summer after Ed killed Butch, I graduated High School and a few weeks later, the dairy barn burnt down. My parents sold the milk cows, and turned the farm into a calf raising operation. Without the cow manure and flies around so bad, my parents let the dogs in the house. Ed was a big fluffy dog, so he preferred to stay outside except during the cold winters. He occasionally would pick up these fragile glass Christmas ornaments off the tree and carry them around.
A year later, I moved out and am living in Boise, ID. I call up my mom for her weekly Sunday phone call to see how things are. She tells me Ed got hit by a car. By then, we had this German Shepherd, Cody who now took the leader role. After about that point, my parents decided to get into raising German Shepherds professionally, so the dogs all got pinned up (1/2 acre pens) and were treated more like livestock than pets. My dad does his twice daily rounds, but only feeds them and scratches their ears. Still, not too bad for a guy in his mid 70’s. I keep wondering if he dies, who’s gonna feed them dogs?
Growing up, we had several dogs, average life span about 7 years, and 3-4 around on average, probably about 15 different dogs that I can remember. I’m not sure if I have much point to this story, but that Ed was one of my favorite dogs growing up, and I thought he had a pretty cool story. Ed lived to about seven, he was younger when he showed up, and we had him for about five years total.