Shooter is long and lanky and weighs about 55-60 pounds. He was bred by Mary Peaslee and is out of her Brighton and by Flynt’s Chaz. He is primarily a working dog. He is good with people, but especially people who are going out to work with the livestock. He loves to work!
Shooter comes from a long line of dogs with exceptional hips. In addition, one of his littermates have been OFA'd EXCELLENT and another PennHIPed very well. Shooter himself is OFA GOOD. Shooter also has a daughter, Pippi, who OFA'd EXCELLENT. My husband, Dan, and I live on a dairy farm in Northeast Wisconsin. Our job on the farm is to raise heifers to supply the milk barn. We live on 200 or so acres and rotationally graze (move from pasture to pasture daily) our 250 or so Holstein heifers in the summer. In the winter we keep some of the bigger heifers outside as well. So there is much for Shooter to do!
Summer 2002--Shooter 1-year-old
Shooter’s jobs include moving the herd from pasture to pasture daily. Now when they see him coming, they move. Last spring was particularly wet and Dan couldn’t get in to move the heifers (we even had ducks living in our pasture in the standing water). He sent Shooter in to do it. Shooter basically knows how to do it alone, but when he had a question he would stop and look to Dan for a command. From 300 yards away Dan can control him. Sometimes Dan gets frustrated at him because he wants to go to their heads instead of their heels. However, the heading comes in handy at times--like when a truant cow is headed towards the road and needs to be turned. As he matures, Shooter is improving at his technique.
Shooter is also used to cut a few animals out of the herd. Daily, we need to get a heifer in to breed, or see the vet, or be moved to the cow barn. Dan uses Shooter to help him to cut just a few out. He is also useful in chute work—for example loading the animals into the trailer or moving some in for the vet or the hoof trimmer.
He also watches over the place at night and when we are gone. He is very rarely kenneled. He stays home and takes care of things. On a few occasions, we have had the heifers get out. The first time it happened, we came home late at night to find many (40 or so) heifers in the back barnyard. They were scattered around. As we looked at the situation more closely, we noticed hoof tracks coming down the driveway toward the road. Then the tracks just stopped and turned around. Forty heifers would not just stop and turn around like that without help…so we highly suspected that Shooter kept them off the road. The next time I awoke in the morning to see the heifers out and Shooter keeping them off the driveway. When I came out to help him, I just stood in the driveway (to block off one of the two exits). He put them back through the gate and then I closed it. I gave him a leftover hamburger after that!
He is also an excellent tracker. He is often seen with his nose to the ground. He is very curious. If he finds a harmless intruder, like a rabbit, he will not give chase. Instead he will track its scent to see what it had been doing or where. I think he is checking to see that the animal is indeed harmless.
He is the police of our farm. We set up the rules and he sees that everybody follows them. We have free-range chickens and I love my flowerbeds. I have trained Shooter to run the chickens out of the yard and back toward the barn when they get too close. This keeps him occupied when he’s not needed in the barn or pasture. My next job for him is going to be to run the cats out of my son’s sandbox!
He is good with the kids, too. I babysit and we have two young boys. He loves the babies and tolerates the older boys—they chase him too much for him to like them extremely much. In the winter, it’s neat to see my son’s size 11 shoe tracks everywhere in the snow with Shooter’s paw prints right beside them.
He works because he loves to work and because it makes Dan happy.
So, Dan and his brother Dave, who rarely helps with the heifers and has not seen Shooter work in the pasture, were trying to get to church on time Sunday morning. They had these heifers in a new, unfamiliar pasture where they didn't know where the gate was. They had a dog that had been "off" for the winter with much less herding work to do. Sounds like a recipe for disaster.
Dan and Shooter moved into the pasture (Dave's job was to open the gate) and began moving the heifers toward the gate. Shooter was just trotting along beside Dan ready to drive the herd. At that point, the heifers spooked at something and took off at a dead run. Dan told Shooter to "stop 'em" and Shooter kicked it into high gear, ran ahead of the herd of 94 stampeding cattle and turned them back. They began running the other way. Shooter ran around the herd and to the front again stopped them. This happened a couple of times. Finally, the stupid heifers got the idea that they couldn't go anywhere. Dan called Shooter to be "easy" and Shooter began his normal wearing to try to crowd them through the gate. Those in the rear began getting agitated at not knowing what was happening. Dan called Shooter to "come". Shooter stopped and went to Dan immediately. Then they did "easy" for a long time until all the heifers got through the gate.
Stopping a stampede takes extraordinary POWER and confidence and heart. Being able to work slowly and gently after such a burst of adrenaline takes significant self-control.
He usually does a good job, but Sunday was excellent. We even got to church early!
Dan said Dave, the skeptic, sat there with his jaw on the ground.
Sometimes it takes an iron fist and sometimes it takes a velvet glove. A dog that knows which to use in a given situation is priceless.