Stories - The Story of Blue

One of the earliest things I wrote when I obtained my first computer.

Blue came to me as a fluffy little puppy in the first half of 1986. He was the pup that no one wanted. He did not look much but I could not see the little fellow go for the want of a good home. There were those who laughed at me, saying he would not amount to anything. But Blue was to show them all how wrong they were!

Why the name Blue?

When he first arrived we put a brand new collar on him, which was blue in colour! In fact he was to wear that very same collar all of his life - the only dog I have ever known to do so.

The first two years of his life he pretty much just grew, while he learned the basics, such as, sit and come behind. Then, into his second year of life, one day I took him out into the paddock and he just started working the sheep like he had been doing it all his life. He was a natural.

Blue turned the eye of more than one stockman over the years that were to come along - men who would have been only too willing to have taken him for their own. I came to realize that Blue was the only paddock dog that I needed. He was good enough to handle the biggest jobs that I had, alone.  And those days we were running up to 11,000 sheep! He was the first dog that I had owned that I had taught to ride on the motorbike. He loved that bike, even though there was the odd crash or two from time to time that he had to put up with.

A stockman knows only too well a good dog is worth ten men, any day.

Perhaps what I will always remember most about Blue was the magnificent job he did mustering our Athlone property when the wool market crashed. We had purchased Athlone in 1987 as the wool prices were on the rise. In fact the wool off that place in the first two years we owned it, paid for the place.

Those days there was money to do things with and when we mustered that particular country we paid men to help.

But, when the prices crashed I decided to take all the sheep off that country. It just wasn't worth the battle that such steep, rough country imposed, when there was little return. That final muster, for shearing, of the remaining 800 sheep on Athlone was done by Blue and I alone. What had previously been done by four men and maybe a dozen dogs, was done by Blue. He was in his prime at that time and nothing could stop him.

A dog’s life is all too short.

By the time Blue was 13 years old he had suffered some type of turn that left him very hard of hearing.  His working days were over and he was now very content to just lie around. Another year on he started to have some kind of seizure from time to time. It would last for a minute or two, then he would be back on his feet, just as though nothing had happened. The seizures became more frequent in his fourteenth year.

By January, 2001, he was slipping fast. The second half of this month saw extreme temperatures. My thermometer ran out of numbers at 55 degrees, in full sun, with the mercury at the top of the tube. I would pour cold water over Blue in an effort to try to cool him off a bit. He would not eat, just drank a little milk sometimes. Each day I expected to be his last.

Although still hot on Saturday, January 27th, Blue had started to eat a little again, giving me the hope he might go on a bit longer. I checked on him just on dark that night, as he bedded down in the car shed and he looked quite alert. Little did I know that that was to be the last time I would see him alive.

There were storms that night. Next morning Blue was nowhere to be seen. He was not a dog to wander off and it was a puzzle as to where he might have gone.
It was a very lengthy search before he was found, dead in a waterhole, underneath the bridge below the house. Much slime in the creek had concealed him from view. He died just short of his 15th birthday.

Blue now lies buried alongside my other dogs who went before him, on top of The Hill. One day I will join him on that hill.

Blue, although a dog you could not keep out of the water when he was hot, working sheep, was also a dog who positively detested water at any other time. Once he had retired and had no reason to work up a sweat, he simply never went near any kind of water. There were times when he had rolled in something smelly that I had in desperation thrown him in, I would hasten to add!

It is therefore ironic that the poor old fellow would die in water.

It is also a worthy note for history, to mention that Blue died - probably drowned - on almost the exact same spot where Elizabeth Vine, nee Hibbs, drowned, at the beginning of the 1900's. Blues Bridge, named in the memory of a great sheep dog and one of the best friends I've ever had.

Peter Norvill    
1st February, 2001

To explain the above: as a result of the above story I have decided to name the bridge below my house Blues Bridge. I know I do not have any authority to name things that belong to the public, but to hell with officialdoooom!  I am going to do it anyhow and over time the name should "stick". I'm having a plate made now which should be ready in a week or two which I will screw to the bridge rail [it will be under water in time of flood].

This story will be on file at the local museum to explain to those who come along in a hundred years or whatever, just what is behind the legend of Blue.

Blue's plaque has been installed