The Australian Shepherd

The Australian Shepherd

The history of the Australian Shepherd lies shrouded in the mysteries of time but one thing seems consistent in all information recorded on the Aussie…they did not originate in Australia.  Rather, their origins appear rooted in the lives of the Basque shepherds who came to North America to work with the great herds of sheep brought in from Australia.  Mixed with other breeds, the Aussie gradually evolved over time into what we know today.   (

Many years ago, a little ball of grey & white fluff came into my life.  Injured by his crack addict owner who thankfully called his breeder Wendy to complain that the puppy was “no good”.  Wendy picked up the injured pup & took him to her vet who is also our vet, Dr. Penny Rowland. Whether by chance or serendipity, the following morning after this pup was taken to the clinic, I took our Shih Tzus there for their yearly shots and found a twelve-week old puppy lying on a blanket awaiting surgery for his broken hip. He looked into my eyes, his gaze never wavering.  Needless to say, I fell in love with the breed that day. Five days later, I paid for the pup’s operation and he came to our home with a cast on his back leg.  Not having a name for him, our neighbour, Jim, came to the rescue and named him Geordie.  Although I went to puppy training school with him, he immediately took to Jock and ignored me.  He was a man’s dog.  When the Shih Tzus had to be put down, Geordie went into a depression and so I purchased Ceilidh, a beautiful black-tri Australian Shepherd and two years later, Ceilidh’s breeder asked us to take her sister Hope into our home.

The very qualities that make Aussies so special to those who know & love them are some of the same qualities that people, who have not researched the breed carefully enough often end up calling Aussie Rescue complaining that the pup or young Aussie has too much energy or that it is herding their small children or barking too much (usually because the owners had left them crated all day while they are at work) and so Rescue would be called because of temperament issues.  My advice:  avoid farm or backyard breeders or breeders who whelp out litter after litter far too frequently.  Rather, research breeders and their lines for temperament, health & genetics. Bringing a puppy into your home regardless of the breed, is a commitment for the lifetime of that animal.

All three of our original Aussies have died, Ceilidh and Hope, of hemangiosarcoma.  Their breeder foolishly and selfishly drew semen from her three year old sire who was dying of hemangiosarcoma and impregnated her bitch following his death.  Three pups were born of that litter, two, who we raised and loved, died of that same disease.  Following that, I wrote an article for the Aussie Times in the US on how it felt loosing a dog to this disease.  Over the years, it’s been very helpful to other Aussie owners whose Aussies have died of this same disease.

We are now on our last two Australian Shepherds, given my age, and I hope to live long enough to see them into old age, along with me.  Annie, Thornapple Kennel, Michigan, is the older of the two.  A nice looking girl, intelligent, Annie is a drama queen. She takes a fair amount of patience.  Meg, Bayshore/Stonehaven in W. Virginia/Maryland, is a red tri.  Her grandfather was Grand Champion of the United States, Meg is a quieter but more dominant bitch of the two.  A year younger than Annie, Meg, for Nutmeg, because she came before I had a name picked out for her and is the colour of Nutmeg, is a very affectionate girl.  Now five & six years of age…I can’t imagine life without an Aussie….

If you are looking to purchase an Aussie, please investigate dog breeders of any breed, carefully.  I would ask the breeder for the lines of the sire and dam behind a litter.  Ask about any health issues that may be in those lines, become familiar with the breed you are considering, like the Australian Shepherd with the MDR1 issue, all breeds of dogs have health issues in their lines.  If the breeder is open and willing to talk about the lines behind his or her litter, you will hopefully have found a conscientious breeder.  Beware of any dog breeder who inundates his or her website with pictures of puppies.  Breeders know that puppies are cute and sell dogs. I have steadfastly, over the years, supported Diana Kirkaldy of Riomesa Aussies for the simple reason that she researches her lines carefully before breeding and she will drive distances to breed into lines far removed from her own, thus she is not line breeding or inbreeding as many dog breeders will do.  Bringing new blood and genetics into a breeder’s lines is a good thing as long as the animal and lines into which you breed, has little or no known health issues.  And like humans, dogs are subject to health issues in any breed.