The Duckman: Time To Teach A New Dog Old Tricks

Time To Teach A New Dog Old Tricks


OUR household has grown by one. Jodi and I welcomed Nigel into our world in February. Our two girls, Madi and Milla, are thrilled. Our new boy is named after a treasured friend who Jodi and I once lived with in London, long before our ideas about ducks, let alone our new boy, were conceived.

Our East End mate recently came and stayed and insisted we name our new addition after him. We have then called our new dog, a Kelpie, Nigel.

You’re right to think that Nigel is a bonkers name for a dog. I’ve spent many nights hoping he doesn’t grow up to be a wanderer.

In dreams (nightmares really) I’ve been rambling down the main street of Port Campbell calling, “Nigel, Nigel, here Nigel”. I do enough odd things in my life without re-confirming this in public by calling out to an entirely inappropriately named dog.

Questionable dog names aside, acquiring Nigel marks yet another milestone in our farming adventure.

Tom, our original Kelpie, has been slowing down for a while. Though he’s speeding to 11 years old, he no longer bolts out into the paddocks to bring back flocks of ducks that wander too far. He takes to his work in a slow jog now, doesn’t always follow directions, and it takes him a bit to get going in the mornings too.

Noble semi-retirement is beckoning Tom, though hopefully he has one more important job left in him: to use his savvy around ducks to teach Nigel a thing or two about how to gently bring them back to the sheds of an evening.

That our business has been going long enough to see out our original Kelpie seems as unbelievable as the idea our dams will again fill. Still, the good wife and I think it’s good to acknowledge Nigel’s arrival.

It simultaneously makes us aware of where we’ve been, as well as where we might be going. (That we are still going is a fact of which we are always aware.)

That Tom will soon hand over to Nigel means, somehow, we’ve been in business a good while now. Which must also mean, despite the billion mistakes we’ve made (I’ve counted them all – I can assure you the figure is accurate), there has to have been more victories than defeats.

We have great ambition for Nigel. The dairy farmers who own most of the beautiful paddocks across from our farm bred him, and his mum and dad are both keen workers, good with the dairy cows.

We hope Nigel’s learned parents will mean he will be a keen student; that he’ll study what Tom teaches him about ducking – with a little help from the treats I keep in my pocket.

For now, Nigel is in a hay-strewn nursery, beside a pen where we keep the breeders at night. Hopefully the quacks and other noises will soothe his night-time loneliness now he has moved on from his comforting brothers and sisters.

Should Nigel come to appreciate the noise of his nightly companions, he might be perfectly gentle on the birds when he finally gets out into the paddocks. It’s a theory every bit as irrational as calling a Kelpie Nigel.