The tale of a man and his best friend
Though he grew up on a dairy property, Colin Reid now runs cattle, sheep, horses and even geese – but his true passion is Border Collies.
COLIN Reid runs about 50 head of Blonde d’Aquitaine cattle at his stud in Glenrowan, which goes by the name El’Shamah (Hebrew for The Lord is there).
The name represents Mr Reid’s Christian devotion, which is about the only thing that takes hierarchy over his Border Collie dogs.
“You could say they have been there during hard times in my life and filled a void,” Mr Reid admits.
“They are not the be-all and end-all but they do play a large part in my life, as my wife will tell you.”
His wife Sue Reid can indeed attest to that.
“I occasionally get jealous of the dogs because they get so much attention,” she laughs.
“That’s why we can’t have a house dog.
“If we had a dog inside it would get all the attention in here as well.”
Ironically, it was the dogs that brought the two together.
“We met at a dog trial after both of us had been alone for a long time,” says Mrs Reid. “It was love at first sight.” She had her own land in Tolmie at the time and had just started dog trials.
Upon meeting, the pair hit it off and have been inseparable since.
Within three months they were hitched and had bought their own property in Glenrowan, where they still live today.
But Mrs Reid learned quickly that she’d sometimes have to play second fiddle to her man’s dogs.
An early warning came via Mr Reid’s 21-year-old son.
“The first time I met him, he told me his dad had a problem and that from now on it was my job to make sure he didn’t keep too many dogs,” she says.
“So, I’ve been working on that for 15 years and I don’t think I’ve been very successful.”
Mr Reid is honest enough to admit he spends many of his waking hours with his dogs.
“I treat them as my mates,” he says. “I spend time with them all.” Though he’s all about the dogs now, it wasn’t until later in life Mr Reid found his favourite pasttime.
Born on a dairy farm in Timboon, his family moved to Gippsland in the early 1960s to be closer to Melbourne for school and work.
“In those days we only had to milk 50 cows to make a living,” Mr Reid remembers of his family of seven children.
Though all he wanted to do was farm, his father convinced him to take up a trade like his brothers.
So, he left the farm to complete his plumbing apprenticeship.
But as soon as he had his ticket in hand, he was straight back to the farm, working with his old man.
He moved through a couple of leasing farms and in 1989 bought his own dairy farm in Yarroweyah, near Cobram.
And when a man buys his own farm, he needs his own dog.
So along came his first Border Collie, Ben.
“That’s where the dogs all started,” says Mr Reid.
“Ben was my first and he was an extraordinary dog.”
He didn’t know much about working dogs, but thankfully Ben didn’t need much training, in-fact Mr Reid was the one who got the education. “He taught me a lot,” he says. “He was unbelievable. “I used to get up in the morning to get the cows in and I’d just call out, and he’d know where they were.”
By the time he’d finished his morning cuppa, Ben would have them all in the yard.
“He never left a single one behind.”
Mr Reid recalls when he and his dog would walk 100odd cattle all the way from his property in Yarroweyah to the other side of Finley in NSW when Ben was only eight months old.
“I used to lease a 600 acre paddock and would stand at the front gate and whistle him and he’d just go and muster the whole paddock.
“I have better dogs now for trial work, but as a farm dog goes, you couldn’t get much better.”
An old chap lived down the road and it was he that provided the introduction to dog trials.
“One day he told me he was off to the Benalla trials, so I thought I might as well tag along to see what it was all about.”
Much to the amazement of his old neighbour, Mr Reid sat and watched every single dog.
“That’s when the bug bit me,” he says.
His neighbour taught him some dog basics, and Mr Reid took some courses and eventually picked it up along the way.
“And I’ve had too many dogs ever since.”
Now Mr Reid is president of that same Benalla Working Sheep Dog Club and Mrs Reid is the secretary.
But it’s not just three-sheep trials that Mr Reid loves about the dogs – he also has an affinity for breeding.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s dogs or cattle or anything – I am really interested in genes and the breeding lines.”
Mr Reid rears most of his dogs for trial and farm work, but has found they often find themselves favourable homes elsewhere.
“There’s a chap down at Broadford that found they’re good at bomb detection.”
The couple have also seen their dogs go to dementia patients and the wheelchair bound needing a companion – they even had one that went away and learned to detect early symptoms of hypoglycaemia in its diabetic owner.
“It’s not hard to train a Border Collie,” says Mr Reid. “They are very quick.” The Reids also spend plenty of time on the road, trialling the dogs and judging competitions themselves.
But Mr Reid wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s a great hobby and keeps me busy and gets us away to meet lots of lovely people.”
Though she may have to compete with the dogs for her husband’s affection at times, Mrs Reid echoes his sentiments.
“It’s a wonderful way of life,” she says.
“It’s an absolute passion for him and I think he’d be lost without it.
“Apart from his faith, it is what makes him tick.”
A DOG’S LIFE: According to Colin Reid’s wife, sometimes it seems like the dogs are running the show at El’Shamah Stud.
MAN’S BEST FRIEND: Glenrowan farmer Colin Reid with his top dog Monet.