Working Dogs

Barking up the wrong tree

By Madeleine Byron

Kaarimba’s Col Grinter runs his cropping and sheep farm with the help of two kelpies named Jack and John. Seven-year-old Jack is the leader of the duo but unfortunately is all bite and no bark, making room for 10-month-old John who, Mr Grinter says, barks his head off. Both dogs enjoy a trip in the ute or riding shotgun in the Chamberlain tractor. 

What are your dogs’ names?

Jack and John – I have a habit of naming my dogs after the bloke I bought them off, but Jack is named after the uncle I never knew that Dad always talked about.

Which dog have you had the longest?

I’ve had Jack for more than six years. I got him off my brother-in-law and he said he was the best dog he had ever bred, but I think I have spoilt him with my training methods because he’s hopeless with the sheep in the yards — he refuses to bark.

That’s why I got John because he just barks his head off. They work as a bit of a combination dog because Jack won't bark, but John’s there following behind barking away — I’m not sure he knows what he’s barking at yet but it seems to do the trick.

Does either dog have any funny habits?

If we’ve got a mob of sheep in the yard Jack will go and sneak into the centre of them and lay down. I don’t know how the sheep haven’t trampled him because they are all there looking at him.  

And John has a habit of nicking off with my boots. He gave that idea away for a while, but he’s started it up again just recently. I went out the other day and he was lying over amongst the junk at the shed with a boot right next to him, so I snuck up behind him and grabbed him and the boot — he was a bit suss on me for a while after that. 

Do the dogs travel with you?

John still has a bit to learn but he’ll jump up into the back of the ute. He’ll actually lean right around the side and tap his paw on the driver’s side window to let me know he’s still there. And Jack gets very disappointed if I come outside in nice clothes because he knows he’s not needed, and he’ll pile out of the ute and slink off with his tail between his legs. But usually he’ll sit up there and rest his head on the side — he’ll do that for most of the day, just peering out, watching everyone.

What would you do without them?

I love my dogs, they’re my companions and I honestly don’t know what I would do without them but I reckon I’d be pretty lonely.