Majoring in Minors

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In my last blog I mentioned our part dingo, part whatever cattle dog called Sandy. Sandy was one of those indispensable animals a farm would not be a farm without. Actually there were three farm dogs we inherited along with the tractor, implements and an assortment of beasts and other machinery.

One was an Australian blue heeler that developed a massive girth during our brief sojourn on the Mooloo farm. He spent most of his time making overtures to the neighbor’s female cattle dog. We kept him on more as a nod to the tradition of the Australian bush rather than respect for his working talents.

The third dog would not fit in with any of the breeds described in the most exacting of textbooks, and was so unusual in physique and temperament we suspected it must have arrived by meteor from out of space rather than through natural birth. This dog would rip and tear at the other beasts with a frenzy approaching lunacy. He was advised to pack his swag and hit the road soon after our arrival much to the relief of other farm beasts who joined in a chorus of approval on his departure.

But Sandy was a prince. Though part dingo he seemed to possess wisdom and tact not usually found outside humankind, and unfortunately rarely there either. When work was to be done Sandy was there at the ready tail wagging, tongue lolling with alert black eyes, which seemed to plead with you to hand him one of the tools you were working with so he could be part of the action. Anything humans found to do seemed to be interesting to him. Down at the milking sheds he’d stand to attention looking like he’d love to be there behind the bucket taking those last few squirts out of languid ruminating cows after machines had extracted most of the farmer’s white gold. We’d reward him with an occasional squirt in his direction and watch him smack his lips in grateful acknowledgement.

However he was not so enthusiastic about his main job, bringing in the cows for milking each morning and afternoon. He was best buddies with all the animals and they’d give grunts of satisfaction and the wet nose touch of affection whenever Sandy happened into their neighborhood. You see Sandy was a gentleman. None of this furious barking stuff with motivating nips if the cows didn’t assemble for the grand march to the milking sheds on time.

Sandy would approach the head of the herd and have a polite conversation with her apologizing for the inconvenience and explaining this was a job they all had to do for the privilege of food, water and the salt lick delicacy they enjoyed at the end of each meal. The cows responded well to this treatment and would march happily to the sheds with Sandy as their guardian and escort. They knew Sandy would be there for them when drought decimated the food chain of wild dingo’s living in the far mountain and motivated them to come looking for easy pickings on that part of the farm where beasts sheltered at night. Sandy’s loud barks would bring my Father Eric running with his gun in the middle of the night, and many were the scars Sandy acquired from his own relatives on the range fighting for his friends the cow’s right to live.

His love of farm beasts then was his great weakness. There was this tension between his love of humans, and his equal love of the beasts of the farm. Eric would call “Fetch the cows Sandy!” and there’d be a long silence. My Father’s persistent shouts would eventually bring him out of hiding and he’d glance unhappily in the direction of the hills yonder where cows had interrupted their grazing to watch the drama unfold in the distance. “Fetch the cows Sandy!” and he’d be on his way to make formal apologies and escort the cows to the sheds, Arnold Schwarzenegger muscles rippling as he ran to do his duty.

But after his near death experience with snake bite Sandy became even more reluctant to disturb the peace and well being of his farmland buddies. He found every reason for distraction. His run to fetch cows could be distracted by his mortal snake enemy which he’d fearlessly chase and destroy. He reasoned his recovery from the three week paralysis of the previous snake encounter now gave him immunity from future attacks. Or he could be sidetracked by a rabbit, a wild pig or blue tongue lizard. All this would be explained away by those intelligent eyes when my Father scolded him for causing him to hop on Flicker’s back and go get the cows himself on rare occasions. Sandy was beginning to major in minors as he tried to avoid doing what he considered to be an unpleasant task. Of course Sandy was quite old in human terms by this time, so we accommodated to his needs as he slipped slowly into retirement.

That experience was a good reference point for me as I grew up, went out to make my mark in life and eventually spend much of that life in administering organizations. Sitting at the controls of the corporate world you’re faced with more unpleasant duties than pleasant ones to perform. The temptation is to be distracted by the rabbits, the snakes and the blue tongue lizards, and give chase to them rather than concentrate on bringing in the cows.

Along with all who knew him I’d a deep love for Sandy that prince of all dogs. The most valuable object lesson I learned from our association was what shouldn’t be done if you are to make a success of your life. Was it his respect for those about him I’m referring to? No that was a positive lesson. Treating those around him as equals? That was a good lesson too. Chasing rabbits instead of bringing in the cows? That was a problem! You don’t do that if you want to succeed in life! You deal with issues expeditiously and tactfully, the pleasant and unpleasant. That is the formula for success.

Peter Drucker, move aside for Sandy the dog’s case studies in business management.

“© Copyright Ian Grice 2011, all rights reserved.”

4 thoughts on “Majoring in Minors

  1. Sandy seemed such a wonderful dog and a very special one too. I for one believe we can learn a lot of life lessons from the animals. Great, great story sweet Ian. Hugs


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