I've been given a gift worth its weight in gold and then some.
The farm I have leased in the far north comes with two major issues: a daily road crossing on a major intersection and a massive hill more suited to high-country sheep grazing than dairy cattle.
I knew what I was getting myself in for when I took this property on. After all, what farm owner leases their perfectly flat easy-access farm to a complete stranger?
The hill is a pain because there is no way in the name of farm safety that I am driving the ATV up there. It's as steep as a hen's face and severely rutted, so I will take the bike only so far and then it's shank's pony from there on.
I have heard stories from others about how they braved the precipice on two-wheelers, but that is not for me - you are a long time dead, I reckon - so I tell myself it is good exercise and press on up there on foot.
But when you are running late in the morning and you know the milk tanker is imminent and it's raining, you do wish there was a better way.
I wasn't the only one thinking that. This farm is a bit of a goldfish bowl, because the neighbours can see you in action on the road and up the hill.
My next-door neighbour, who is a drystock farmer, could not stand seeing me struggling to get the cows down off the hill, so he decided to give me his ex-best huntaway dog to lend a paw.
Rush is a very handsome boy, with a massive head and a gruff, serious-sounding bark. He responds to whistles, which I can't do, so I was at a bit of a loss as to whether to accept him, since I couldn't see myself communicating with this well-trained canine.
However, as the days have passed, Rush and I have developed a good relationship. After all, we repeat similar actions day in, day out. He will come to me when called and I can tell him to sit or get away back.
He has saved me hours, because I can send him up the hill while I rest at the bottom gate, and he will start barking and not come back until every cow has been gently but firmly rounded up. He is amazing, so willing and intelligent.
He has helped with the other bugbear as well - the road crossing. Taking the cows across on your own is a bit of a rigmarole, because you need to be at the front and behind at the same time to get them across in a timely manner.
I feel embarrassed if the road crossing doesn't go smoothly and traffic builds up, so the faster I can get across the better.
Now, with my four-footed friend helping, I can monitor the front and tell Rush to get away back, and with him barking, the crossing is completed in no time. He is better than a person because he's willing, reliable, doesn't answer back and will do all this for a kennel to sleep in and a few dog biscuits.
I'm a townie, so Rush is really helping me appreciate the bond that rural people can build up with an animal. He has truly become (wo)man's best friend.
- © Fairfax NZ News