(Very dark blue Leopard, black spots, tan trim; 1975-1987)
Probably the greatest friend I'll ever have...
Pete Mac saved me untold hours in penning and sorting brood mares and yearlings. He knew what a gate was for and would block it off or put stock through it on command. He knew a foal should follow when the mare was being led from pasture to barn or pen to pen, and would zig-zag behind the foal to keep it following its mother.
From the time Pete was about two months old, I took him everywhere with me while doing chores. One of the very first things he picked up on his own was to guard an open stall door... at first when I was inside the stall with a horse, later, any stall door that was open or partly ajar. If the stall contained an animal, there would be no escape through an unwatched door while Pete was in the barn. He wouldn't allow it.
When you stand breeding stallions to the public, many mares coming in for breeding are not gentle enough to be restrained by a halter or in a chute. Often left without help to handle the teasing and breeding chores, with Pete's assistance I could use a long line on the stallion, hem the mare in a corner, and get the job done.
When Pete was two years old, his second working season, three range mares were trucked in for breeding to one of our stallions. The mares had spent several years in the same pasture together, so were buddied up and inseparable, and none of them were halter broken. One mare was ready to breed, but had to be taken through two gates to reach the breeding pen. I opened the gates and Pete and I went after her.
Spooky, wise to the ways they had been chased and corraled in the past, and determined to evade capture again, all three mares and their foals made a dash for the first gate. As they galloped through into an open area in front of the main barn, I saw with dismay that a gust of wind had somehow unlatched the gate to the driveway. The mares also saw it, the drive, and an open road to freedom beyond. Visions of a massive traffic pileup and lawsuits caused by loose horses on the roadway out front flashed through my head. "Get 'em!" I screamed at Pete, knowing there was no way he could keep those fool mares from running down the drive onto the road. But he did. He stopped them, turned them back, and put them into the pen where I had planned for them to go. He then helped me separate the one mare and foal from her buddies, ran the others back where they belonged without a scratch to the hide of any mare or foal. Next he helped block the mare into a corner for breeding, and then put
her back where she belonged. Just figure how much time, effort, worry, and possible expense this Catahoula saved me right there!
Pete, like all my Catahoulas, stayed in the house or outside, close by the door, unless we were working. One of his self-imposed duties was to station himself at my feet whenever I was sick, injured, or weary to the point of exhaustion, growling softly to warn anyone entering the room not to bother me.
Catahoulas are always watching, always aware of what's going on. They observe daily routines and soon learn where stock belongs, and that stock is supposed to move on into an empty area whether it be trailer, chute, stall or pen, and they figure out how to do what is needed to help you get the job done. They read body language of people and animals, and can tell which animal you're trying to separate from a herd and will help with it.
They are generally unobtrusive, but always nearby, and ever watchful. One day, Pete broke a colt to stand for saddling.
The bay gelding had been saddled and driven several days in a row, and was tied to the fence, being readied for another lesson. While I swapped yearlings on and off the hot walker, my husband started to cinch the saddle, and the colt suddenly had a bucking fit and dumped the saddle off.
I walked over to lend a hand, and from the corner of my eye saw Pete sneaking up on the off side of the gelding. The saddle went on again, the cinch was pulled up, the colt gave a grunt and bowed its back, and at the same instant my husband booted the colt in its belly, Pete grabbed a hock, and I squalled WHOA! That colt was a pussycat to saddle from then on.
We showed many of our homebreds to state championship honors, and Pete often went along to the horse shows. The first few times, I put him on a long chain between the pickup and our four-horse gooseneck trailer. That quickly became "his place", and he would stay there even unchained, unless someone touched our trailer or pickup. Pete never bit anyone, but he made it clear that he would take hold if the intruder refused to back off.
Early one Saturday in January, the broodmares in the South pasture began racing around and generally throwing a fit. Since there were six expensive mares in that pasture, all about due to foal, we rushed over to take a look. As was his habit, Pete jumped into the back of the truck to go along.
Arriving at the pasture gate, the troublemaker proved to be a large billy goat with very long horns, running at the mares as they dodged and kicked at him. We couldn't coax, catch him, rope him, or chase that goat away from the mares. He just kept ducking between them until I finally told Pete to "get him". Out of the truck Pete came, grabbed the marauding goat by a hind leg (right above the hock), and that was that. My husband put a rope around the goat's neck and tied it to the fence, I convinced Pete to let go, and we called its owner to come get the escapee.
A few years after we began training race horses, a couple of clients came to watch their colts in training gallop on the exercise track we had built in our front pasture. We all sat under a shade tree on the hill at the side of the house, sheltered from late summer's afternoon sun, watching the colts gallop. Between the house and the gallop track in the front pasture was an empty half acre paddock, and gates at each end of it had been left open for easier access to the little track.
Five broodmares and their foals in the same front pasture with the exercise track became restless from the activity and drifted down toward the open gate. It was hot, and I wasn't anxious to run across the paddock to turn the mares back, so I sent Pete. I simply pointed at the gate, said "get 'em", and Pete charged across the paddock, he and the mares arriving at the twelve foot gate at the same time. Pete bounced, bayed, and turned the mares, sending them up the fence line about a hundred feet, then stopped and returned to me when I yelled "O.K." and called him back. Our visitors had never before seen a Catahoula in action, and Pete was a topic of conversation for years after.
Another day when I was busy in the kitchen making lemonade for another batch of visitors, I became aware of a terrible racket outside the back door. There, locked in mortal combat and rolling around on the drive were my big neutered yellow tabby, Rascal, and a strange beagle. Pete appeared at a dead run from the direction of the barn just as I screamed his name, and grabbed the beagle by the nape of its neck.
Snatching it loose from the cat, he threw the smaller dog several feet across the yard. The beagle scrambled to its feet and tore off through the pasture for safer ground, Pete following to catch and throw it once more for good measure. Rascal, ruffled up but convinced he'd helped win the fight, paced back and forth on the driveway, lashing his tail and growling cat curses in the direction of the vanquished beagle.
Many coyotes and stray dogs made the mistake of passing through our pastures. If Pete saw them, they never showed themselves again. He could outrun and outfight most anything, including a neighbor's German Shepherd which towered over him and was supposed to be the toughest dog in the area. His Catahoula fighting style of wearing down a dangerous opponent before committing himself to contact always served him well.
Pete died of kidney failure at the age of twelve and is buried on the farm. He was the kind of dog that will always be remembered and can never be replaced.
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