By Mary Jane McKittrick, Author of the Boomer and Halley Series of Books
I really don't think you can call it stalking - exactly. After all, I do write stories for children that feature an Australian Shepherd dog, along with his arch nemesis, a cat. That's why when I saw the white van in front of me with the sign: “SHOW DOGS ON BOARD,” and all those stickers of Australian Shepherds, I was curious. It was a lovely Friday afternoon in the Sandhills of North Carolina, and I was driving home from the grocery store. Something in me just had to know why these Aussie folks with their South Carolina license plate had come to town.
So I followed the vehicle. That's right. I dogged that van into the parking lot of a local motel. When the driver got out, I got out of my car. And that's how I met Terri Rein. I must say she looked a bit startled to see a woman she clearly didn't know approaching with books in her hands. I explained that I write a series of books introducing children to core values through the humorous antics of Boomerang, the Australian Shepherd dog and Halley's Comet, a silver streak of a cat. The four-legged “kids” are guided back to good behavior by their adoptive parents, Harold and Edna Sanders, in the small Southern town of Shady Pines. I offer her a book to read and keep.
The Boomer and Halley series written by Mary Jane McKittrick and illustrated by Bob Ostrom is a fun way to introduce civility to children.
Terri is intrigued enough to let me know there are a bunch of Australian Shepherds competing in the dog show this weekend hosted by the Moore Kennel Club at the Harness Track in Pinehurst. She suggests I come by after one on Saturday and see for myself. Why, of course I will.
And that's how I found myself behind the scenes with some of the most beautiful examples of the breed I have ever been around. Terri introduced me to her partner, Harry Owens. Terri was showing their blue merle, Skyecove's Silent Countermeasure (Shooter), who's won numerous championship classes, while Harry was handling his Best In Show champion, Skycove's Color Me Awesome (Griffin). They introduced me to the woman who bred their champions, Juli May Wiseman. Juli was there with some outstanding, home-grown competitors of her own. As I watched and listened to these lovely people interact with their lively, affectionate, canines, I couldn't help but remember my Aussie, Boomerang.
I was maybe 11 years old when my Dad finally yielded to my plea to get a puppy. How I wound up with an Australian Shepherd is still not clear. I remember a classified ad, a very cute bunch of pups, including a male with a mottled bunch of colors and a pink nose that the breeder called, “the tiger of the litter.” Yep, that's the one I chose. From the time Boomer the natural herder came home, he never stopped moving. When he finally did collapse, I brought him to my Mom in total despair.
“Mom, my puppy died,” I said.
“No dear,” she responded. “You've just never seen him sleep before!”
By breed standards, Boomerang was handsome. He was a merle with a mostly black and grey coat, large white ruff, and soulful brown eyes. He was also smarter than most of the humans he met. The adventures of Boomer and his intense hatred of our cats, who taunted him every chance they got, was the stuff of legend. For a high school paper, I wrote about the times the young Boomer would pin the neighbors horses in their corral, join trail rides with strangers, work tirelessly to get two tennis balls and a bone in his mouth at the same time, leap though window screens and run through plate glass at the mere sound of a cat shrieking outside - always without a scratch. He was easy to train, but not fond of conventional methods. At the mere sound of a certain car coming down the drive, Boomer would jump into the swimming pool to avoid obedience classes with the nice man who came to our house to work with us.
My school teacher made me read the stories of Boomer out loud while the class laughed. She told me it was some of the best fiction she'd heard. It disturbed her slightly to learn that I had not made any of it up! My beloved Boomerang lived to the ripe old age of 15 and left a legacy of love and laughter that inspires the Boomer and Halley© stories of today.
I was telling some of this to my new friend, Terri, as she waited for her class on Saturday afternoon. Turns out, Terri was introduced to the Aussie breed when she was young and living on a cattle ranch in southern California. The dogs were used for herding, and quarter horses and cowboys were a mainstay. She couldn't believe it when I told her I once lived in the San Fernando Valley of So. Cal. I spent many hours riding my quarter horse and trying to keep up with Boomer. Small world.
You'll be happy to know Terri, Harry, Juli, and their magnificent Australian Shepherds fared very well at the Pinehurst show. It was a privilege to get to know all of them and to witness their dedication to the breed and to their animals. They were very gracious to let me share a behind-the-scenes-experience that was truly memorable. I know I will stay in touch with them.
I also know my creative team for the Boomer and Halley project is considering setting up a legal fund in case I follow any other impulses that may not turn out quite so well. I am already contemplating a new storyline for the book series, Boomer and Halley - At the Dog Show. Finally, I'm quite sure that somewhere out there, my childhood friend with his multi-colored coat, big heart, and intense love of adventure is smiling!
Author Mary Jane McKittrick lives in the Sandhills. For more information visit: boomerandhalley.com.