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.

North East & Goulburn Murray Farmer - - FRONT PAGE - BY JAR­RAH LOH jloh@ne­me­dia.com.au

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.”

PHOTO: Emma Hil­lier

A DOG’S LIFE: Ac­cord­ing to Colin Reid’s wife, some­times it seems like the dogs are run­ning the show at El’Shamah Stud.

PHOTO: Emma Hil­lier

MAN’S BEST FRIEND: Glen­rowan farmer Colin Reid with his top dog Monet.

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