MEETING a man’s dogs for the first time ... it can be as daunting as meeting his parents. Or his kids.
So it was for Maree Clay, seven years ago.
Fortunately it was a happy meeting, and Jess and Oakey the blue Australian cattle dogs have adopted Maree into the family, as did (now) husband Dale.
“Dale and I were in that whole bachelor and spinster ball scene,” Maree said. “That’s where we met actually, at the Colac B&S.
“His ute had the number plate HEELA 2, so I worked out pretty quickly he had two blue heelers. It was on a dirty old Falcon ute and, being a Holden girl myself, it was a worry.
“I was attracted to the boy to start with and the dogs later on. I was a little bit intimidated to meet them actually. It was like meeting his kids. You get the once over, for sure.
“But they’re mine as much as his now.”
Despite being purebred Australian cattle dogs, neither Jess, a 15-year-old female, nor Oakey, a 14-year-old male, have done any real cattle work.
“Dale just liked the breed, to be honest. He had no intention for them to become working dogs,” Maree said.
“Dale bought Jess at six weeks of age in 1999 from a farmer out Ararat way. Oakey came along in 2000 from a different breeder. Dale lived in Melton at the time, so he was something of an asphalt cowboy. The dogs might have been decoration for his ute to begin with.
“Oakey in particular is a very good guard dog. He wouldn’t let anyone near the ute.”
Jess is full of arthritis and Oakey’s eyes are going. And the XF Falcon ute, after four kangaroo hits, is now largely a paddock ornament. The dogs, in effect, have outlived the ute.
Meanwhile, Maree and Dale, who married in 2007, now live at a property of about eight hectares at Berringa, near Rokewood.
They’ve been joined by Bear, an eight-year-old female kelpie-cross (with something, they’re not quite sure what). Bear was adopted from the Ballarat RSPCA.
“We knew we were moving to property. I felt Dale had his two dogs and I wanted one of my own,” Maree said. “Now, all three of them are mine, to a point.
“Bear is very good at catching anything that moves, whether that be mice, rats, rabbits, foxes and snakes. Yes snakes. Two years ago she killed a brown snake. She had no fear and just grabbed it around the neck. It was a tense minute to see if she had been bitten.
“The dogs all play together. I think Bear has made the others younger.”
• The Courier is always looking out for the region’s best working dogs. If you know a dog who deserves its day in the paper, email: firstname.lastname@example.org