Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Dogs at Work

All Original Photographs from Archives
Dogs breeds are often organized into groups, such as Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-Sporting, and Herding. And certainly around Salt Water New England, it is not hard to see dogs fulfilling those various roles.

Today's Version of Fox Hunting (without the kill)

Sheep Herding

Wrote James Rebanks in The Shepherd's View: Modern Photographs From an Ancient Landscape <http://amzn.to/2on8Afy>:
You simply can't be a proper shepherd without a sheepdog. 
They are an indispensable part of a shepherd's life. Several times a day I need to catch a sheep, or move some sheep from one field to another. If you've ever tried to move half-wild mountain sheep without a dog you will know that a man can't run as fast as a sheep, and they will simply cease to move as a flock and will break away in all directions until you are left cussing and yelling, and jumping up and down like a maniac.  On the fells where we farm, two hundred people couldn't gather the sheep from the crags, cliffs, and moorland that they range across. 
The sheepdogs are an extension of the shepherd's mind and arms. They can climb up the crags and work semi-independently of the shepherd. They can make their own judgments about going back further in any direction if they see sheep the shepherd can't. They can work in torrential rain, snow, wind, or any other conditions. They can "hunt" across ground covered in scrub or bracken and find sheep. They can run much faster than man or sheep, and for much longer. 
And crucially, they instill in the sheep the flocking instinct because wolves and sheep evolved together, so the sheep behave themselves and gather into a flock that is manageable and controlled. All that is good about a sheepdog is based on the instincts of a wolf, their wild ancestor, channeled and controlled through selective breeding, training, and discipline into something productive and useful. They are the ultimate low-tech solution, and they do it all for a little praise, an occasional pat, and a bowl of dog food.  
Livestock Guard Dog

Ursa keeps Thanksgiving dinner out of the road.

Sporting Dogs

Working Dogs

Pre "Tally-ho"
The fox hunt - it's wonderful.  You're out there early in the morning and riding behind the huntsman and the whip.  The best thing about hunting is just to hear the hounds when they get the scent of the fox.    
There is nothing better than the formal old fox-hunt on a cold winter day - joining with 140 to 160 others on opening day at Golden Bridge on the New York line or at Midlebury and Litchfield.  
Running down a fox can take up to 90 minutes, an entire hunt four to six hours - ridding the area of pesky foxes.  
The terriers don't run with the hounds.  You just carry them in that little sack I wore.  When the hounds ground a fox you can take this terrier out and send him into the fox hole.  He chases the fox out of the place and then the hunt starts all over again.  Whisky will stop when you call.   You pick them up and sack them again.  It's quite a trick to getting them used to the riding and jumping and everything else. 
- Don Fournier
But it seems the role of "dogs at work" goes beyond that limited ontology.

One may imagine that if groups were designated today, based on real world experience, some different choices may have been made. Two groups could be added to more completely sum up dogs at work today.

1.  The Greeters

These dogs are assigned to the front door of an establishment to greet people with a wag, if not a cart.  They must be egalitarian good-will ambassadors, and also happy to relieve customers of scraps of food before they enter the store.

Abby, greeting visitors at Rock Paper Scissors,Wiscasset, Maine

Benny, the Eliza B. Jack Russell


Winston at J. Alden
Some people even bring their own greeters with them.

Dogs are welcome at Treats <http://treatsofmaine.com/>.

Bode, Greeter-In-Training at the Framing Shop

Harmless Dog

Deaf Dog

2. The Co-Pilots

These dogs take on the complex role of assisting the primary operator of the craft.  They may alert the driver to other dogs.  And they may guard the vehicle when the driver is gone.  Unlike the egalitarian nature of the Greeter, the Co-Pilots are chosen for loyalty.

Samantha Taking Point

Some co-pilot dogs may specialize in boats.

Schooner performing launch duties.


The problem with the taxonomy - as is the problem with any taxonomy - already is how many dogs fit in both categories.  Panels of experts, probably academics, will have to make tough calls, when dogs could be classified as either/both Greeters or Co-Pilots.

On Windjammer MARY DAY <http://schoonermaryday.com/>
Belle Takes Over

Pete on the Job

Regardless, being a dog at work takes a lot of energy, and canines enjoy some time off.

Pete's Job is Done

Dog Friendly

Supporting dogs at work can be done in many ways.

Many homes and businesses leave out bowls of fresh water for passing dogs, including this beach route home.

The Door at Orvis

Remembering Spot at Owls Head


  1. This is the best post yet!!! I love your charming way with words and photos!

  2. Your topics are irresistible! The bicycle carry basket is most charming.

    "The Art of Living in the Country", Mrs. Minerva writes: "On the subject of dogs, you need one. Actually, you need two. An only dog is unusual in deep rural areas, and it causes people to wonder how the situation has come about. Was there another hound that died? Villagers of four generations standing will find it upsetting. The list of suitable dogs has grown longer over recent years and cross breeds are now perfectly acceptable. Working dogs are preferable to small, fluffy white ones, as they are just impractical with all the mud around. Dogs do not need to be matching pairs; it is, for example, perfectly appropriate to have a spaniel or labrador alongside something small and fun, such as dachshund or pug." From The English Home, Aug.'16

    1. I agree that dogs do best in pairs. My single dog was so lonely that we got him another dog, both for our own enjoyment and our first dog's enjoyment. Two dogs are less work than one...just like the way that two children are (most of the time) less work than one. - ER

  3. Think Bode, the greeter-in-training is my favorite. No, its Samantha the Talking Point, no, its, oh geez, its all of them! Thank Heavens you can more than one dog in your life!

  4. This reminds me how much I miss my Border Collie " Kate." At some point, we have got to get another one.

  5. Perfect post! I don't know what I would do without my Birdie(pointer mix extraordinaire) ... the cats probably have some ideas. Our pets are such a blessing.

  6. Very entertaining post. I got such a kick out of the title"Dogs at Work" with a great photo of a Labrador lounging at the top of the steps. I don't know what I'd do without my two dogs.

  7. How much insurance do dog owners have to carry, when their dogs are in public- being legally responsible for their "property?"

  8. We always say that our dog's job is to make us smile. She's very good at her job.

  9. I cannot imagine my life without dogs. Retrievers (golden and lab) have been my lifelong companions. Having a dog or dogs means a blessed life.

  10. Now there's red haired blue ticks all in the South
    Love got me in here and love got me out...

  11. …bless them
    who curl themselves
    around our hearts
    who twine themselves
    through our days
    who companion us
    in our labor
    who call us
    to come and play.

    Bless them
    who will never be
    entirely tamed
    and so remind us
    that you love
    what is wild,
    that you rejoice
    in what lives close
    to the earth,
    that your heart beats
    in the heart of these creatures
    you have entrusted
    to our care.

  12. I think I've met that "greeter" in Wiscasset, and oh how this post makes me miss my co-pilot. Grace used to keep the driving seat warm for me when I stopped to fill up. It always gave me a chuckle looking back at the car with a dog sat bolt upright in the driving seat and paws at the wheel.

  13. Another thing I love about New England....very dog friendly and dog respectful. It's so nice to see water bowls outside of shops and along various places where dogs are welcomed, loved, and respected. Oh how I miss my beloved spaniels.

  14. I think this is my favorite SWNE post of all time !

  15. Wonderful post! We adopted a little Goldador rescue from TN last summer. This spring she is proving to be a professional robin chaser – although she has not caught one - thank goodness