Sunday, September 23, 2012

Must Have Dogs Part II

As I stated in the previous post, I have four dogs. Today I want to tell you about Murphy, our oldest. Murphy is a Cairn Terrier. The Cairn Terrier is one of the oldest of the terrier breeds, originating in the Scottish Highlands and recognized as one of Scotland's earliest working dogs. Working dog? How can a terrier that weighs thirteen pounds soaking wet be a working dog?

Murphy is one of the hardest working dogs I have ever known. He is truly a terrier - a word that literally means "dog of the earth." Murphy begins his days by walking the entire perimeter of our property, nose to the ground, making sure nothing has changed while he slept. There is nothing behind our house but the mountain forest, so Murphy has plenty to police. We have all manner of wildlife that visit our property, especially our pear and apple trees. Murphy knows it is his job to make sure no intruders put his pack or his humans in danger.

Murphy is the alpha male of our pack - which contains our other three dogs. It doesn't matter that he is the smallest, he is in charge. The other dogs obey Murphy. Murphy is fierce in his defense of his property and his humans. He bears the scars of a coyote attack that the vet still doesn't understand how he survived. One Sunday afternoon he was out in the yard. Three coyotes came into the yard and attacked him. I ran out in time to see them run off, leaving Murphy bleeding and covered in mud. They had torn his throat, the vet said a quarter of an inch from his jugular vein, and a hind leg trying to drag him off with them. He healed and the hair eventually grew to cover the Z shaped scare they tore into his throat. His leg was not broken, but from time to time, he limps from the injury.

The name "Cairn" refers to the rock dens that foxes and badgers lived in throughout the Scottish countryside. The dog was bred to squirm down into these "cairns" and bark to hold the predator until the farmer killed it. Murphy will chase anything that moves and happily dig all day to find prey (real or imagined)! Murphy recently killed a snake that he knew was in the drainpipe in the picture. He literally sat all day staring into the drainpipe waiting. When we heard the high pitched bark that signals he's got something, we rushed out and saw him with the snake in his mouth. He had it clenched in his teeth and was slinging it from side to side. He would not let us take the snake away, even when he was satisfied it was dead. He dropped it and put his front paw in it and looked at us and the rest of the dogs like he was saying, "Victory!"

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