Farmer Harry was very happy when Annie and Jack’s pups were born safely on a brisk spring morning. It would be Annie’s final litter.
Jack was a striking chocolate border collie and he sat proudly beside Harry admiring his three pups. He stepped into the pen with grace and agility and gently licked Annie’s nuzzle.
When farmer Harry put on his hat, Jack was out of the pen immediately as he knew it was time to go to work. He loved riding around in the truck and could jump up and onto the back tray as though he could fly.
Every day was busy with animals to be fed and watered, paddocks to clear and fences to check. By far, Jack’s favourite job was bringing the sheep from the top paddocks into the pens for Harry’s work as a sheep dog trainer.
Jack had been working extra hard moving the sheep. Usually, he teamed with Annie and they executed the herding of the sheep to all of Harry’s whistles and sounds flawlessly.
Visitors would drive out from the nearby city to admire Harry’s champion border collies. The city folk leaned on the wooden pen railings with their phones capturing Annie and Jack herding the sheep into a range of formations. The dogs worked diligently and were more than ready when Harry’s special command sent them to rest in their own cages.
Annie’s pups were thriving, although she had to give the smallest and youngest one a little more help to get him settled. Harry had called him Bob. The farmer often wore an odd expression as he watched Bob stumble and bumble sideways.
Harry scratched behind Annie’s black silky ears. She had a coat as dark as night and her white markings magically returned to snow white even after the muddiest swim in the creek. The pups were good looking dogs and soon Harry would be able to introduce them to the sheep to begin their training and test them for the important, instinct to herd.
Each day the pups were allowed out of their pen for longer periods. Annie was happy to be roaming with Jack but always kept an eye on her pups and was beside them in an instant if they wandered too far. She steered them away from the nearby creek as they were not yet strong enough to swim safely with the currents of the water.
When the day came for the pups to enter the sheep yards, Bob hung back and hid behind Annie’s legs. His brother and sister instinctively followed on behind their dad and had no trouble staying away from the hooves of the sheep. Very soon the pups knew how to use their sharp teeth to safely nip at the sheep. Although the pups were still little, the sheep already accepted that they were the bosses in the paddock.
Farmer Harry lifted Bob away from his mum and took him closer to the sheep. He placed him gently on the ground and watched for a reaction. Meanwhile, the other pups were now following Jack and Annie and just seemed to know exactly what to do. Bob felt even more scared and sat looking around and hoped that soon he would feel brave enough to run in between the sheep like his brother and sister.
The pups were spending longer periods with the sheep. Bob tried as hard as he could to follow along, but he would get stuck and lost in the pens. Even Annie’s kind brown eyes urging him on did not help him feel better.
One day instead of going to the sheep pens, farmer Harry took all the dogs down to the creek. Annie and Jack led the pups to a shallow pool of water. Bob was so excited and stomped bravely into the silky coolness of the swimming hole. It felt wonderful and his paws moved just the way they were supposed to.
Bob was already swimming and loving the way the water streamed beneath him when he noticed his brother and sister still on the bank sniffing and reluctantly putting their paws in the water. Bob swam back towards them barking and telling them to come in!
When Bob finally came out and shook his coat free of the water, farmer Harry looked down and laughed, “So Bob, you’re a little water boy, that’s for sure.”
The pups continued to work with Harry and their parents to understand the process of sheep herding. More people visited and watched them go through Harry’s commands. Some would bring their city dogs out to the farm to learn obedience and good manners from Harry. Bob tried to pay attention but he could never quite keep pace with the other pups. His eyes would drift to the nearby creek and he would soon be day dreaming about swimming.
At night Bob would think about the day when he would ride in the front of Farmer Harry’s truck like his parents, but it also made him feel a little bit scared, as he knew he was not very good at sheep herding. Then he would think of swimming and feel happy inside and settle down to dream of ponds with fish to chase.
After a long, happy summer playing and learning with his parents and siblings, Bob noticed that farmer Harry was putting the other pups in separate pens. They ran hard during the day and now slept in their own special cage. Bob missed them as he was now alone in their old pen. Annie slipped in for a visit most nights, but she never stayed the entire night like she used to when the pups were all together.
One morning the noise of an approaching vehicle woke Bob. He practised his dog bark so farmer Harry knew that they had a visitor. Bob watched with curiosity as a man wearing a strange outfit got out of a big black truck.
Farmer Harry shook the hand of the man in the odd clothes. Bob heard him say, “Sir, it is my absolute pleasure and I want to thank you for your service.” Harry’s neighbour Alex sometimes wore the same sort of clothes and she had ridden her quad bike over to meet Harry’s visitor.
Bob could not take his eyes away from the man. He was a lot taller than farmer Harry. He was like a giant! They were looking his way and starting to come toward the pen. Bob wished Annie was there so he could hide behind her but he also wanted to keep looking at the big man.
He had kind, green eyes and huge hands. Squatting down, he picked Bob out of the pen and cuddled him into his chest. Bob liked the way the man smelled like a clean creek and warm grass. He put Bob down and watched him carefully. Bob had a nervous feeling that the man was going to test him in the sheep pen but the big man just came down low and quietly called Bob to come to him. Bob stopped feeling nervous. He sniffed and moved closer to the man and liked the way he gently rubbed his chin and ears.
Bob was put back into his pen and cautiously watched the men go into the farmhouse. Alex scooped Bob up telling him, “Don’t worry Bob. You are going to be a very lucky pup indeed!” As she roared off on her quad bike, Bob wondered why everyone was acting so strange today. After a little while the two men came out again and Bob saw that farmer Harry had a piece of leather with a little red circle attached. Bob could not understand how he could feel both excited and terrified at the same time. His instincts were telling him that something unusual was about to happen.
Farmer Harry whistled the dogs to come in. Across the paddock came Annie, Jack and the other pups who were soon licking and nudging Bob.
When the man picked Bob up this time, farmer Harry slipped the red circle on his neck and the man held the strap in his hand. Bob was snuggled up against the man but he could still see Annie watching them intently.
There was another hand shake and words Bob did not hear. The man started walking towards his truck. Bob felt a big swell of panic hit his belly as he got further and further away from his family. He tried to squirm and jump away but the big man held firmly with his warm hands.
He put Bob in a box on the front seat of the truck. Bob did not know whether to cry or bark. For a few minutes he tried to climb out of the box but the man carefully nudged him back onto the soft blanket that was inside. Bob could not help feeling sleepy as the truck drove along the road and he was eventually lulled into a sad sleep.
Something warm, like the feel of the summer pond water, woke Bob from his sleep. His nose twitched and he realised he had wet the blanket. Bob felt another roll of jelly in his belly.
That’s when he heard the man’s voice again.
“Oh, little mate,” he said as he reached over to pull Bob out from the box.
“That’s all wet now, come over here. We’re nearly home anyway.”
Bob settled in the big man’s lap and felt warm and safe. He stayed quiet and let the man drive safely.
Bob came to learn that the man’s funny costume was an army uniform.
Home, turned out to be a house with a huge lake at the end of the back garden.
All of that made Bob very happy, although he never forgot Annie, Jack and the other pups. Sometimes he thought he could still smell the kind farmer and he always remembered Alex telling him that he was going to be a very lucky pup.
There was a very special part of his Army man’s house that Bob loved more than anything.
It was Penny, Juliette and Joey. Bob’s new home came with a whole new family.
Penny was tall with hair as white as snow and reminded him of Annie. She filled his water bowl each day and gave him extra dog biscuits.
Juliette smelled like daisies and helped Penny to sneak Bob into their room at night, where he slept between their beds. When the season turned into a cold winter his army man would bring a big warm dog bed into the room just before he read stories to the girls.
Bob loved the lake and had swum confidently from his first morning in his new home. Penny and Juliette lay on their paddle boards and stroked through the water beside him. The swans and ducks accepted the crazy border collie who swam in their lake every single day no matter the weather.
Bob often yelped loudly and pounded his paws to splash the water to show his family his pure pleasure of swimming.
Bob loved it best when his family went to the nearby beach. It was in the surf that the handsome border collie became known by the locals as, ‘Best on Beach’. After a good long run along the sand, Bob and his army man would swim out into the deep waves. Bob loved the surf and pranced confidently in and out of the waves. Sometimes he noticed people on the beach watching him with the same look of admiration that he had seen on the faces of the city people who had come out to the farm to watch Annie and Jack.
Bob displayed strong instincts for the water. His sense was always correct and he guided the kids well away from any trouble spots. Bob stayed close by the girls and especially baby Joey, who was starting to waddle and could make his way to the water’s edge.
Bob loved his family and his wonderful life on the lake.
It was impossible to think that it could get any better.
One night Bob woke up and found baby Joey curled up beside him. He gently moved out of his bed but stayed close by so that Joey would not roll onto the hard floor.
In the morning he could hear his army man and his lady talking about a new bed for Joey.
A few days later, Bob heard the girls squealing about the new bunk beds that were arriving that day. Now, Joey and the girls had their very own bunk room to share. Bob was also happy because there was plenty of space for his dog bed.
When Bob sprawled across his bed each night, he felt content and proud. He no longer remembered that he wasn’t good at sheep rounding. Bob only thought of how he was the very best at looking after his real herd.