Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bandit and the duck

Mt Rainer view from our living room
About 15 years ago we owned 5 acres in Western Washington. On this property we raised a garden, a half dozen fruit trees, a dozen or so chickens, 4 ducks, 3 dogs, 2 cats, 2 boys and assorted neighbor boys. 

Our house was situated on a slight hill about 165 feet from the county road with a long asphalt circular drive that went up one side of the house, around the back, then down the other side. Behind the house sat the various buildings that one needs to run a farmish type operation. We had a hen house that use to be the old well pumphouse, We had a giant garage type building that use to be a United Airlines hanger until they decided to take it down and my father-in-law hauled it to the property and set it up. Did I mention that this was my in-laws place before it was ours? No? Sorry, my bad. It was. There was another shed type building that we used to store garden implements. All these building with the exception of the house were built of cinder block. There was nothing cheaper than building with cinder block and my father-in-law was nothing if not cheap. I think he would have build the house of cinder block if my mother-in-law would have allowed it. It turned out to be brick. The icing on this lovely rural cake was the 8 foot chain link fence that my father-in-law erected but that is a whole other story for a whole other time.

carport/hanger and shed
This story is about Bandit, my beloved boarder collie. We got Bandit for the express purpose of keeping the youngest boy in the yard. The boy had hearing problems and I was worried that he would take off running down the hill and into the street. Bandit was my second set of eyes. I trained him to "go get the boy". If any of the kids looked like they were going to go out of the yard Bandit would stop them until I called him off. This cheap babysitter was highly effective. So much so that when the neighbor kids needed to go home Bandit wouldn't let them until I said "release". Every mother with a special needs child needs a dog like this. He was awesome and we still miss him.

Rocky and Bandit

As the children grew up Bandit's job was no longer necessary but he was still too young to retire and he wouldn't have wanted to anyway. This is where the chickens come in. I had always wanted chickens. They are a threefer. They lay eggs, they keep the weeds and bugs out of the garden and flower beds (they are the lazy person's weeding technique) and they produce superior fertilizer. 

rose garden

So one day while JR was at work I packed the kids, our 2 and our neighbors 2, and headed down to the feed store in town to buy a few chickens. JR was not really on board with this idea at first. It wasn't until he learned of the bucolic pleasure of watching chickens peck and scratch while having a cocktail on the patio that he fully appreciated chicken ownership. At the feed store I picked out 18 chicks of various types and that is when the children saw them. The ducklings. Swimming around a little plastic kiddie pool. I'm a sucker. We took home 4.  3 girls and 1 boy.

When they got big enough to free range in the yard (takes about 4 months or so) I inadvertently set up a routine. Every morning I'd say to Bandit, "let's go get the girls up" and every evening I'd say, "let's put the girls away". This routine led to Bandit going into the hen yard every morning and herding all the girls and the lone male duck out into the front yard to spend their day cleaning out my flower beds foraging for food. Bandit would keep an eye out for predators, like hawks and owls. While I would sit on the couch watching daytime tv and eating bonbons. 

One evening about a year later I said to Bandit, "let's put the girls away" and he started his job. He rooted out the chickens from under the rhododendron bushes and herded the ducks out of the rose garden from the front of the house, across the 30 feet of asphalt driveway, to the back yard where their hen yard and house sat. I stood at the gate while he did all the work. I wasn't being lazy, he wanted it that way. 

All the girls made their way to the gate like the ladies they were. The male on the other hand decided to challenge Bandit's authority. I'm just going on record by saying that you never challenge a border collie's authority. It may not end well. Bandit crouched down and stared at the duck. This is what border collies do, they crouch down and stare. When that didn't work he started trying to push the duck in the right direction. The duck attacked. He tried to peck at Bandit but Bandit was just too fast for him. After about 3 or 4 minutes of this, all the while I'm saying, "Bandit, it's time to put the girls away", Bandit gets totally fed up with the duck. He goes low, grabs the duck by the leg and drags him, leg first flapping and quacking, leathers flying, across the asphalt driveway into the hen yard where Bandit spits him out. I, of course, am laughing my head off. After praising Bandit for his efforts. I checked out the duck's leg. Bandit hadn't left a mark on him. So I praised Bandit again.

From that moment on that duck never again challenged Bandit. In fact, when Bandit came out to "put the girls away" that duck was the first one in the hen yard. He would run like I've never seen a duck run before. That in itself was hilarious. 

Moral of this story? Don't challenge a border collie's authority unless you don't mind losing a strip of feathers from down the middle of your back.


PS: still miss that dog. I suspect I always will.


  1. Ha. Cute. Nice view from your former digs as well. Cheers Michele!!

  2. Border collies are fun. Bandit looked like a very cute one.
    We have a border collie mix who herds us. He hates it when we are separate and will split the difference between groups.

  3. A lovely story.
    My grandfather used to 'herd' me with a sheepdog called Spider. The story goes that once I was trying to enter the cowhouse, where Spider kept circling me to prevent me. In frustration I lent over and bit the dog on the nose.
    I learned to walk holding on to Spider btw.

  4. Matt: When it was sunny the view was wonderful. Of course, it wasn't sunny often.

    Vandy; Bandit would also split the difference but mostly he was right with me. When men would come over to the house he would make sure that they never came any closer than about 3 feet from me. He would slowly push me back until he hit that 3 foot mark. He did this even with my dad.

    Vince: sheepdogs are the best babysitters around.

  5. Hmmm, not much chance of them kicking back with a six-pack of tinnies with their nasty boyfriends and deep dialing Oz

  6. Aaaah What an awesome dog!!!
    You will forever miss I do my sweet Izzy Cat.

  7. I suspect you always will. It's heartbreaking to lose our furry friends...I tell myself at least I had them and got to know them.

    Good story!


  8. I, too, was herded by a boarder collie named, "King". He was truly my dad's best friend.

  9. Love a good dog story. And I like the idea of chickens eating weeds.

  10. That place was awesome.

    Old semi-rusted industrial equipment, steep and long driveways for wagons, huge collection of treefort-ready wooden boards, a big forest full of widowmaker trees and blackberry bushes; endless entertainment for a child.

  11. I love this story!

    I used to have a border collie x cattle dog when my eldest two were toddlers. She did a great job watching them for me too.

  12. I want chickens. I want ducks. I want a border collie. I want enough land to make them all viable.


  13. That just cracked me up! I could picture him running away at the mere sight of Bandit. Love this!!!

    Bandit was an incredible helper!

  14. It's so weird to think that you were living in Washington the same time I was! That picture of Mt. Rainier makes me even more anxious to move back sooner rather than later. :)

    LOVE the story of Bandit - he sounds like such an awesome dog. I can empathize - I still miss my buddy Elvis, he was a Wheaten Terrier (45-lb lap-dog-wanna-be) that had a similar personality to Bandit. ((HUGZ!))

  15. LOVE this story. Border Collies are awesome.

    I should teach our dog to herd Xander. Ha! I'd have an easier time the other way around.