Album of Dogs
THE SCOT’S COLLIE DOG
BONNIE WAS HER NAME, AND lovely as it is it did not begin to describe the golden glory of her coat or the snow-white ruff that framed her gentle face.
Bonnie’s master was a Scotch Highlander, a Mister Peebles, burly and gnarled as the walking staff he carried.
In all of Scotland there was no better man with a Collie. He had trained Bonnie not only to sort and cull sheep but to guide and drive them home alone. All alone.
So well did Bonnie understand her master and his ways that her mind seemed to dart ahead of his. Why, whenever he fastened his purse
to his belt and she heard the money jingle, her whole being quivered in expectancy. “Another new flock to drive home?” her eyes asked.
One such day the two of them set off in great glee for a neighboring township. There Mister Peebles found a flock that suited him well. Even as he parted with his silver, his face never lost its glow of pleasure.
“Now, gurrl.” He turned to Bonnie with a wave of his hand. “Awa’ ye go—acrost the moor and home—with the finest flock in the kingdom!”
Bonnie galvanized into action. She rounded up and bunched the flock. She headed them toward the moor, and toward the little fenced-in place high in the hills behind Mister Peebles’s cottage.
Mister Peebles, meanwhile, remained comfortably behind, enjoying a glass of grog in the village and boasting that his Collie excelled all others, even as the moon excels the stars.
But late that afternoon, when he returned home expecting to find Bonnie keeping watch over the new flock, he was baffled. Bonnie was not there. Nor were the sheep!
“Hoots, woman!” he exclaimed to his wife. “This be verra, verra strange! Three mile is nae distance for the likes of her. But I’ll take me a wee bit of a nap, and first thing ye ken, Bonnie’ll be here! And the sheep, too—wagging their stubby tails behind ’em!”
With a grunt of weariness, he lay down on a couch in the kitchen and gave himself up to sleep.
An hour slid by, and another. The moon bulged up over the hills and the sky was dusted with stars when his wife finally shook him awake.
Mister Peebles rubbed his eyes, trying to think back, but his mind was strangely confused. Had he been dreaming? Had he really seen sheep with wool so long? And where was his Bonnie?
Leaping from the couch he ran out into the night, crying, “Bonnie, Bonnie, where are you?” He ran past the empty penfold and, old as he was, he ran on down the hillside, peering this way and that into the darkness. He spied a tatter of mist. Or was it a tumbled cloud? Or moonshadow washing the earth? He squinted into it; he thought he saw it move. Then a lamb blatted, and a ewe baa-aa-ed in reply. Now he knew!
Breathing high and quick, he scrambled back up the hill to the penfold and threw wide the gate. “Gude gur-r-r-l!” He panted out the words as Bonnie herded the flock into the fold. “Gude . . .” His voice suddenly broke in his throat. For there, dangling awkwardly from Bonnie’s mouth, was a newborn pup. “Och, Bonnie!” he cried, as a wave of shame rushed over him. “Och, shure I knew ye were going to have little ones. But, Bonnie, m’lass, how could I guess ’twould be this day?”
He took the pup with great gentleness and tucked it into his waistcoat for warmth. Then he stooped down again to praise the mother dog, but she was off, streaking out of sight as he watched.
Three times that night Bonnie returned, carrying another pup and another and another, until all were gathered safe and sound. When at last she settled down to nurse them, Mister Peebles knelt
beside her, and brawny as he was, he let the hot tears fall. “Bonnie, gurrrl,” he said very gently, “canst ye ever forgive me?” His voice quavered as he stroked the dirt-matted coat. “It aches me to think I made ye drive the sheep whilst ye had little ones to whelp.”
Bonnie wriggled into position and looked up at her master with a deep sigh. Why, there was nothing at all to forgive! “It is ye,” her honest eyes seemed to say, “that made me a good sheepdog. I durst not for my life leave the flock.” Then she licked each of her puppies in turn and, satisfied at last, dropped off to sleep.
• • •
The story of Bonnie and Mister Peebles is a true one. And it will probably happen again and again, wherever there are flocks of sheep and Scot’s Collie dogs to tend them.
Whence the name “Scot’s Collie,” you ask? “A moot question,” say the Scottish shepherds. They will tell you that for hundreds of years they raised black-faced sheep known as “colley sheep,” and the faithful dogs who tended them were called “Scot’s colley dogs.”
The English, on the other hand, also lay claim to the name. In old England the word colley meant “the black soot off the kettle.” And since the original Collies were black as soot, the name may have sprung from this very old meaning.
But whatever and wherever the source, the Collie is known the world over as a steadfast shepherd. In all weather—in snow’s blinding fury, in sun’s burning rays—he goes about his business, policing the sheep, rounding up the strays, guarding the flock. He will even fight his own relative, the wolf, to protect the sheep. Not that he loves the sheep so much, but that he loves his master more.