I needed a new sheepdog; we’d just moved from the edge of town 25km south and increased our sheep numbers considerably.
I asked a grazier friend if he had a working dog for sale.
Let’s go Mustering
He said he had quite a bit of sheep work on and I should bring a horse out and see the young dog he was willing to sell so out I went, 50km west of town.
Off we rode to bring in a mob of about 800 merino ewes to be checked for flystrike and my cobber had about eight dogs with him.
The dogs were mostly black kelpie types with a bit of border collie thrown in but very suitable for the rough country.
Some four or five hours later we had the sheep in a small paddock near the yards. My mate suggested I go down and let off the only dog left not working.
Five hours of mustering and the sale dog wasn’t even out with us?
I knew I’d been had but rode down to where the dog was chained and let him off.
The first thing he did was bite my horse on a back leg then took off after the sheep.
What energy! Well, he hadn’t done any work all day – and he rushed straight into the sheep sending them all over the paddock.
The other dogs soon had the sheep in the yards and we drafted off any with flystrike but my attention was on this mad black dog which by then, had been chained to a post at the woolshed, and barking his head off.
The flyblown sheep were treated - it took us about an hour and the whole time, this young dog barked non-stop.
I was sure I didn’t want to take him home but after I loaded the horse, ‘old mate’ talked me into paying about half the asking price so Diesel came home with me.
Apparently he was given the name when they found him covered in fuel as a pup.
I didn’t trust travelling him in the horse box, he might jump out, so put him on a mat on the back floor. He was quiet except for vomiting all over the mat.
Fast forward a couple of months and what a dud. He came with me when we were working sheep but took no notice of them or me, he was just, well …. just there.
No longer a barker and absolutely no enthusiasm or energy even though he’d put on weight and had been treated for parasites for the first time ever.
Then came the day my son and I were drenching his sheep at the piggery where he was manager. Sheep are a management tool around piggeries.
So there we were with sheep in a wide race and a ewe jumped out.
Diesel was sitting there looking on with no intention of doing anything until I yelled at him to ‘go back’ two or three times.
Well, all of a sudden off he went in the same direction as the now unseen ewe. I thought this might be the last time I see either of them until about five or six minutes later, here came the ewe with Diesel right behind her.
Well, we both stood with our mouths open.
I jumped over the fence and gave the dog a big rough scratch and his ears stood up and he was paying attention.
Diesel soon became the best sheep dog I had ever owned and among the best I’d ever seen. He worked in the paddock, in the yards, he was great at penning up for shearing and he understood every word I said – in fact after a while I didn’t even have to speak, just wave my hand and he knew what to do.
No-one had enough money to buy him
God gave us three score years and ten but he gave working dogs 10 or 12 years and how I wished I could add 25 or 30 years to his life but when he went to ’the sheep yards in the sky,’ I was heartbroken.
I loved that telepathic old dog, then I found I had only a couple of photos of him and nothing good enough to frame.
If ever a dog deserved a place in heaven it was Diesel. Totally loyal, faithful, hardworking and loveable, what more could God ask of a working dog.
For us humans, He asks just a bit more.
“Confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
John Skinner served as an infantry soldier in Vietnam then the Tasmanian Police before taking up the position of CEO of the Australian Rough Riders Association (professional rodeo based in Warwick Qld). Before retirement to his small farm, he was a photo-journalist for 25 years. He is married with 3 children and 7 grandchildren.