“Malcolm!” His father yelled as soon as Malcolm walked in the back door from school. “Jez has been worrying Mr. Walker’s sheep again. That’s the third time she’s slipped her rope this week. If you can’t control that dog…”
Malcolm’s father didn’t have to finish his sentence. If a farm dog wasn’t a worker it kept out of the way and didn’t cause trouble if it wanted to stay around. Malcolm’s heart sank. He bit his lip.
“Don’t worry Dad.”
“I wouldn’t worry if she wasn’t a problem. But she is. One more stunt like this and I’m ringing Symonds to come pick her up.”
“No Dad,” Malcolm begged. “I promise I’ll make sure she can’t get out.”
They always had dogs on the farm. It was just part of the whole farming thing. Farm dogs to help round up the sheep and move them along and to sit on the back of the quadbike or the ute or wander down to the postbox with you for a bit of company. They were lean and smart and loyal as anything but they were always his Dad’s dogs. Once Malcolm’s Mum, Jean had been given a silly little
“Misty’s just had her pups,” Malcolm’s dad had said to him coming out of the barn six months before. “I’ve promised a couple of them to Mr Winthrop over at Cloud Farm and I’ll keep the biggest boy for myself seeing as Otto is getting a bit past it but there’s a wee girl in there. She’s…” Thomas hesitated. He rubbed his chin and studied his son’s eager face. “She’s the runt so she might not amount to too much. But if you want her I don’t see why she can’t be yours.”
“What about Mum?” Malcolm couldn’t help asking.
“Pepe was the only dog for her mate,” Thomas said laying his large hand on Malcolm’s shoulder, man to man. “Shall we go and have a look?”
Malcolm nodded. He knew how lucky he was. Dogs that couldn’t earn their keep were no good to a farmer. Pepe had been an extra special exception to that rule. They made their way quietly into the barn.
It took a few minutes for Malcolm’s eyes to adjust to the dimness of the old barn. The family who owned the farm before the Nichols had kept their horses in here and the space was divided into six stalls and a central aisle. Thomas now used it mostly for feed and equipment storage. These days he parked his horse power in the new garage with the town car and the ute. Two stalls remained empty in case of sick sheep or abandoned lambs or as in this case a recently pregnant bitch border collie. Misty was a beautiful animal but she had always been too proud to let Malcolm get friendly with her. Malcolm’s Dad reckoned she was the smartest of all his dogs and ruled over the others although they were mostly males. No one messed with Misty. Even now with five squirmy sausages suckling at her. As Malcolm crept up and peered over the stall wall Misty turned her head to glare at him. ‘Touch my babies and your dead’ her eyes said.
“No worries Misty. I won’t hurt them,” Malcolm said. “They’re beautiful. You must be very proud.” And they were, five soft chubby little bodies with tightly closed eyes wriggling up against their mother. Like their parents they were mostly black with white markings except for the smallest little puppy who was grey and white.
“Wow,” Malcolm gasped. “Is that one mine?”
It didn’t matter what his Dad had said. She was going to turn out amazing. Malcolm was certain. He couldn’t take his eyes off her.
As the days passed the little sausages grew rounder and longer. They opened their eyes and took wobbly little steps. They nipped and cuffed each other and rolled around the barn watched over by the ever alert Misty.
Whenever Malcolm could spare a minute from school work and chores he would come and sit with Misty, both of them admiring the tiny trainees becoming proper little dogs. When the pups were ? weeks old, Misty weaned them. Malcolm couldn’t blame her. They were getting big and boisterous and very nippy with sharp little teeth. As soon as Misty saw Thomas putting bowls of mush out for the dogs, Malcolm was sure he could see the relief in her eyes. But more importantly it meant that Misty would now let Malcolm get close to the little grey puppy. And now that he could get up close there was no doubt in Malcolm’s mind that she was the coolest dog ever.
“I thought you were coming over after school today?”
“Oh hell. I completely forgot. I’m really sorry.”
“You’re not mucking around with that daft dog again are you?” he said, hacked off for being slung over for just a dog.
“Don’t say that,” Malcolm said gruffly. How could