Sad news, friends. This here Port Heiden broadcast has come to the end of its canine segment. While we’ll all lament the close to this puppy chapter, there is far more going on in this in this lovely little village than its fine displays of mini-man’s best friend.
With this final segment, I’ll delve into a fun phenomena in Port Heiden: an abundance of Australian Cattle Dogs.
This distinct breed has some variety and the ones hereabouts are called ‘Blue Heelers‘ for their dappled grey fur. There are a half-dozen pups and four adult Blue Heelers in the village presently. More than any other single breed. And what a breed it is!
Originally developed by an Australian rancher in the mid-1800s to drive cattle, these hard-working dogs come from a combination of collies, sheepdogs, and tamed dingoes. Wait, dingoes?! Yep, this crazy Auzzie, Thomas Hall and his father, George Hall, developed the breed to travel long distances to bring their cattle to market. And I guess they thought dingoes would be the perfect indigenous addition to their newfound breed.
Apparently, European droving dogs of the 1800s just didn’t cut the mustard, as George Hall once lost 200 of cattle in some nasty outback scrub when his British sheepdogs failed to keep the herd in check.
Coincidentally, it turns out that Halls’ Heelers (as they were known for some time) have all the attributes needed to thrive in tundra conditions. They’re extremely agile, known for their top-notch performances in herding sport trials, and can also to run long distances. Thus, maneuvering in this sub-Arctic environment is easy for the Blue Heelers. And it’s a joy watching them race over hummocks and tussocks while wending in and around alder scrub. They’re pros and they know it.
In fact, their prowess at herding has become a major unintentional asset to Port Heiden’s growing reindeer herd. While the little beasties are prone to nipping at the reindeers’ heels to get them moving (hence the ‘heeler’ distinction in their name), they’re quite effective…and usually obedient.
Even better, they’re not too big (30-35 lbs / 14-16 kg) and are affectionately loyal, making them great company for children too. I’ve even seen some of the town’s Heelers try to herd unruly toddlers, which is laughable and admirable. Even if the act is merely instinctual, toddlers’ parents tend to appreciate any help they can get.
Having never experienced Blue Heelers before, I’m now a believer. At every turn, I’ve been impressed by this breed and their brave efforts to coral unruly reindeer and kiddos alike.
Best of all, this breed responds especially well to Australian accents, so I’ve been able to practice my Crocodile Dundee impersonation to plaudits aplenty. (“That’s not a knife…”)
Long live the Blue Heelers of Port Heiden.