Coolie Island DogsFebruary 24, 2012
Susan MacDonald and her pack of dogs love the cottage and to say that they travelled a long way to get there would be an understatement.
You see Sue was raised in Haliburton, the heart of cottage country in Ontario but she followed her husband to Australia in 1989. It was supposed to be a two year job assignment but nearly twenty two years later they still found themselves there.
Sue has always been involved with dogs, In Australia she owed a very successful grooming shop and pet store in the heart of Mosman and twelve years ago Sue added a wholesale design and manufacturing business for high end pet products to her list of experience.
Sue indulged her love of dogs and owned several different breeds including several Borzois and a Samoyed but it was the Australian working breeds that really caught her attention. “It was a Kelpie first and she actually found us,” Sue commented. Kelpie’s are intelligent, hard workers and very loyal to their handlers. Sue started to research other working breeds and discovered The German Coolie.
German Coolies are one of the oldest working breeds in Australia.They were bred for their working ability not their pedigree or looks. Coolies have much variety in their looks and that is what makes them look so interesting. They are real working dogs used by farmers to move thousands of sheep or cattle across huge stations. “We visited farms and country breeders but eventually found a great breeder in western New South Wales in a small gold mining town call Cobar” Sue explained. Our first Coolie was Snickers, a long haired blue merle male. He is a great herder as well as a great family dog. Sue describes Coolies as the ‘perfect active pet.’ “They are well rounded, loyal to the end, do anything for you, easy to train and high drive with an off switch”, Sue explains. Coolies are wonderful to live with especially if you are active and have access to off leash land. ‘Snickers’ was just the beginning for the MacDonald’s.
In 2006, Sue and her family decided to take a year off and come back from Australia to her home town of Haliburton, Ontario. Sue’s family consisted of a husband, three children and two dogs, “there was never any doubt that the dogs were coming” Sue emphatically commented. Sue brought ‘Tricky’ a Kelpie and ‘Snickers’ a German (Australian) Coolie. The dogs arrived in winter and although having never seen snow they adapted very quickly.
It was winter but rather the arrival of summer that changed everything for the MacDonald family. That first weekend, opening the cottage on Kennisis Lake wasn’t a weekend they will soon forget.
Since the family cottage was on an Island the experience was a little hectic, getting all the people, gear, food and the dogs into the boat and across to the Island took a little consideration. “The excitement heightened the closer to the dock we got,” Sue’s husband explains. “The dogs leapt from the boat, noses down and tails wagging, they were free!”
The dogs explored the island like it was a treasure chest full of surprises. After several hours the dogs finally began to settle down, that was until the kids began swimming. This was a brand new experience for the Dogs but it wasn’t very long before the dogs were leaping off the rock and swimming with the children.
To say the dogs love the cottage is an understatement, its heaven for them. The year ended and the happy dogs returned back to Australia. They had a pool to swim in their native land but somehow that just wasn’t quite the same. They did get plenty of exercise at the park and the occasional weekend away herding sheep but that didn’t compare to the freedom of the cottage.
Enter 2009…. and the MacDonald’s were ready to move back to Canada permanently. Sue and her husband retired from their business careers and began preparing for the big move home “it wasn’t going to be easy because we had a whole house to move and the pack of dogs by this time had grown to five, one Kelpie and four Coolies.” Sue said.
So with that she had two years to plan her future breeding program; ‘Canadian Cobar Coolies Kennel’. Choosing pups from proven parents was the plan. Driving nine hours from Sydney to a town called Cobar a second time to pick up her first female but second Coolie. She was aptly named Kiah which is aboriginal for "from a beautiful place". Kiah is a little tri merle; her mom was one of Australia's best herding dogs both on the farm and ‘Gypsy’ was also known by everyone in the competitions.
Kiah has her mother’s energy in the round yard yet she is a cuddler too. Kiah's pups are now proving themselves in agility, dock diving, flyball and obedience.
Cobar was fifteen months old when we went to our breeder to pick up our puppy Kiah. “Cobar followed my husband around,” Sue explained, she jumped in the car as they were saying goodbye, “Cobar choose us.” Cobar was returned to the breeder by her original owner because she was said to “not be a worker,” "she has never shown me she can't work,” Sue says. “I have seen this dog bring me 200 head of cattle on her own and get them through a gate faster than I could ever imagine, she reads my mind and does what I am thinking. She is truly amazing.” Sue didn’t originally plan to breed Cobar, she was meant to be a pet however she has proven to be the ultimate Coolie. She is an incredibly athlete, a tireless worker and loyal to the end. We decided to breed her and she had her first litter in August 2011 and all the pups are amazing. They all have her athletic build and herding eye.
Jindabyne or Jindi as Sue calls her was a perfect addition to the family, "she is what I like to call my big boned girl. She is a hard worker and my happy sweetheart" Jindi has all the breeding qualities Sue was looking for to balance all the working needs. “Jindi has a strong frame, she is not only athletic but she is extremely strong. Jindi is a great dog for skijoring or tracking, her longer legs would be good for rescue as well.” Sue mentioned.
The family arrived back in Canada in winter but immediately began looking for a bigger boat.
After the weather warmed and the cottage opening was being planned, Sue decided to add “Barcoo” a clever, calm, handsome long haired solid red male Coolie pup to her pack. So now there were six.
“The first trip to the island was a logistical nightmare. Do we send the dogs all together on the first trip or mix dogs, people and food? Sue wondered. “To be honest I can’t remember what we eventually did but we all arrived safely.”
The new dogs had never seen this place before, the two older dogs lead the pack all over the Island…….You could almost hear them saying… “But wait until you see this.”
Sue had always exercised the dogs by throwing a ball so she instinctively threw a ball into the lake. The dogs bolted and leapt off the rock jumping into the lake as if they had been doing it all their lives. Ball throwing gets loud when six dogs are excited so Sue had to devise another way to exercise the dogs. One day, Dakota, our youngest daughter was out in the Kayak and the dogs began to follow her around the island. This became a new routine. Sue decided to join in and get all the dogs into the lake and then they would begin to paddle from Small Island to Small Island with all six dogs following close behind. Sometimes she would paddle for an hour or two and the dogs would follow her everywhere.
Then after a break they would join the family for an afternoon swim, well that is, all except Kiah.
Kiah didn’t like swimming she was uncomfortable in the water so Sue got her a life jacket. That jacket gives her all the confidence in the world now and she never misses out on a swim. The island became home to the pack of dogs and they have full run of the island. When the family goes out visiting we can leave the dogs there and when they hear the boat coming they wait for us on the rock. “We often wonder what they get up to when we are away but there is never any damage and they are always dry.”
Sue is one of only three breeders of German Coolies in North America. With a few very successful litters under her belt, Canadian Cobar Coolies has, at times, had up to 18 dogs on the island. It is no wonder the Island is becoming known as Dog Island.
Sue has provided her pups to professional handlers, leaders in Canine sports and families all over the world. She has dogs in Holland, USA, all across Canada and Sweden, keeping the Coolie travelling gene strong.
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