BEN was a true Aussie, born in 1988 at the height of the bicentennial celebrations.
A blue heeler/kelpie cross, he was as dinkum as the utes he loved to ride in and as loyal as any cobber or mate.
Ben grew up a as a family dog which seemed to know he had been saved from the pound and repaid us with sheer devotion and love for his family'
We had just returned from a big family adventure driving to Darwin and the Red Centre and had lost our first family dog Heidi through old age, so I didn't hesitate when the local pound keeper rang me with an offer of a pup from an abandoned litter.
I had to chase him out of our yard several times and, if I didn't have a pitchfork or something solid in my hand, he would just defy me.
Ben was the stand-out. The cheeky one was soon on his way home in a cardboard box.
He was quick to become a part of our family routine: There were horses to be fed and rugged twice daily. It didn't take him long to be at home around the stables and was following on the exercise rides as a fairly young pup.
Trips to the river with kids for a swim and long walks across paddocks with Mum Lyn. Like most good blue dogs, he became territorial and our boundaries were pretty soon known to Ben - look out any stray animal that didn't belong there.
He also knew he wasn't allowed outside the boundaries without one of us, except to wait for the school bus to arrive in the afternoon.
He could obviously tell the time because without fail 20 minutes before the bus was due, Ben would start moving down the front of the house yard towards the bus stop.
Even when called back by Lyn, he would soon disappear no doubt crawling almost on his belly the 500 or so metres to the bus stop, where he would hide in the grass until the bus arrived and trot home behind the boys, happily proving he had escorted them home safely.
Then one day Ben's guard duties took a nasty and difficult turn. New neighbours moved in and they brought a huge, nasty looking rottweiler. A big male who wasn't adequately locked up and had no respect for boundaries. He was a snarly, nasty bit of work.
I had to chase him out of our yard several times and, if I didn't have a pitchfork or something solid in my hand, he would just defy me. I rightfully feared for the safety of the boys and all of us, should someone get bailed up by this brute.
Ben hated this dog and would move in to protect us, until one day they started fighting. It took three solid blows on the mongrel's massive head with a lump of wood to save Ben.
Eventually one Sunday afternoon I caught the dog in the horse yard and was able to creep up behind with a stockwhip - two or three sharp cracks with the whip and the brute bolted for home.
All hell broke loose when Ben, who had been right behind me, saw his chance for revenge. He went past me like a blue streak and sank his fangs into the big dog's ample rear end and just kept chewing. I doubt if a crocodile could have delivered more bites, and he kept it up as they both disappeared across two properties and under several barbed wire fences.
I have no doubt he didn't have any idea what or who was tearing at his rear end and he wasn't stopping to check either as he blindly bolted up the valley way past his home.
I took off on foot and fully expected to find Ben slaughtered by the beast but, about 2km from home, down the track trotted Ben with a satisfied and confident grin on his face.
The rottweiler we never saw again. I never mentioned it to the neighbour and while Ben might have known he wasn't able to tell us. He certainly would have joined us all in a sigh of relief as peace returned to his and our daily duties; trotting for miles following me as the polocrosse horses were exercised, following the kids to the river or waiting for the school bus and doing his patrol around the boundary.
Ben, with his heart of steel and bravery beyond question could be found on a freezing morning in his box on the veranda with one or two family cats curled up with him for warmth.
But he was still in charge and would have known the cats were good at keeping rats and mice out of the stables, so they were accepted.
Just the daily chores of a good family dog.
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