Memorable ‘tails’ of man’s best friend

Our dog, Bernie (whom I previously mentioned picked a fight with a porcupine) proved a slow learner

HOWARD FREDEEN

Editor’s note: This week’s history column is a continuation of ‘Memorable local stories of ‘man’s best friend’ which ran in the Nov. 21 edition of the Lacombe Express.

Our dog, Bernie (whom I previously mentioned picked a fight with a porcupine) proved a slow learner — this was not his last experience with porcupines — but it was his infatuation with pigs that soured our relationship. One day that summer the swine herdsman at the Research Station reported that Bernie was chasing pigs. Although I was skeptical I confined him while I evaluated the evidence. However, Bernie escaped confinement and, taking matters into his own jaws, attacked a 200lb pig within sight of the house.

Some personal physical bests were established that day; in the span of about three minutes I had leapt a 4’ ft. wire fence, subdued Bernie who had torn a foot-long triangle of skin from the pig’s loin, and heaved his 160lbs over the fence and into the back seat of the Vauxhall. As I started to drive home I noticed one finger pointing upright from the steering wheel. The dislocation had gone unnoticed in the moment.

It was about this time that I gained a possible insight into Bernie’s aversion to pigs. I was wakened one night by the sound of pigs snuffling and grunting below our bedroom window. I raised the curtain and below me on the concrete pad were two large porcupines wrestling, probably mating, in the moonlight.

However, the facts could not be ignored. Bernie was a killer and must be put down. Dr. MacDonald demurred. He had developed a soft spot for this dog; he would find a home where his anti-pig attitude would have no relevance. He was as good as his word. And Bernie’s new owner, operator of a beef feedlot west of Blackfalds, was enchanted with this dog. From reports that filtered back over the next two years, Bernie lived up to all expectations.

Then rumours began to circulate of a pack of killer dogs, a pack led by one huge individual that was ravaging sheep flocks some 30 miles away in the Rimbey area. My suspicions as to the probable leader seemed to be validated one morning as I drove to work through a gathering blizzard. My attention was on a radio newscast reporting the latest sheep slaughter at Rimbey when, bounding out of the snow, leaping from the snow ridge on my right to easily clear the hood of the car, came the unmistakable form of Bernie. Was he homeward bound after an evening out with his pack? We would never learn the truth, but after a dog answering his description was shot in the act of killing sheep in the west country there were no further depredations.