Greyfriars Bobby, Border Collie Puppies & Our Beloved Libby

By Major Van Harl USAF Ret

Statue Of Greyfriars Bobby
Statue Of Greyfriars Bobby
Major Van Harl USAF Ret
Major Van Harl USAF Ret

Wisconsin -(  Dogs and men have gone together for thousands of years; as companions to man, working and protecting humans.

The Colonel and I have had dogs in our home since I was woken up in the middle of the day (cop shift-work sleeper) as a young 2nd lieutenant and found a crying six week old puppy in my backyard.

She was named Peggy and we had her for twelve years. We trained her and she in turn trained all the rest of the dogs we had after her. She was a pet, but she was a German Shepherd, people assumed she might be aggressive and we just sort of let people think that.

I believe having Peggy and our other dogs over the past 35 plus years has helped keep our home safer. I have a retired civilian police officer friend that has had larger more aggressive types of dogs most of his adult life. His dogs are house dogs that live a well cared for life.

However, when the puppy stage wears off he sits his dogs down and explains to them their role in the household. They are made to understand that in exchange for free food, free housing and quality veterinarian services they are expected to take a bullet for the family. To date none of his dogs have had to give their fighting all for their family. They are like the Secret Service agent who can do an entire career protecting the President of the United States and never draw a weapon, or die on their first day of duty in a surprise attack on the First Family.

The odds are nothing bad is going to happen on your “watch”, but if it does you may not go home.

Military working dogs understand this concept, just ask one. Dogs can become a lifetime devoted companion.

I was in Edinburgh, Scotland recently at the statue of Greyfriars Bobby. Bobby was a Skye terrier who lived in 1860s Edinburgh. When Bobby was two, his master, a night watchman for the Edinburgh City Police, died and as the story goes Bobby laid on this master’s grave guarding the site for fourteen years until Bobby also died. Bobby’s story has been told in books and of course the Walt Disney film Greyfriars Bobby. I saw the film as a child and visited the master’s grave and the statue of Bobby in 1965 and again last week. I am a dog person,,, I get the bond.

My daughter holding and eight week old Border Collie pup.
My daughter, 2LT Felicity N.R. Harl, USAFR, holding and three week old Border Collie pup.

On our visit to Scotland we went to a working sheep farm in the highlands and got to see some very well trained Border Collies herding sheep. There was an eight week old Border Collie pup trying to run with the big dogs as they demonstrated their skills to move sheep on the Shepherd’s commands. People in my group were trying to pet the collies as they rushed by and everyone wanted to pick up the puppy.

Then the Shepherd brought out a bucket of three week old Border Collie puppies and let us pick them up.

Everyone wanted to comfort and keep a puppy warm in the cold Scottish wind. People love dogs and even old men like me are suckers for puppies. I did not want to give my puppy back. I had a Border Collie mixed dog before my daughter was born. Once the daughter started walking Jenny, the dog, tried to herd her around the house for years.

Another dog, Libby, was the Black Labrador retriever that was found running the streets of Altus, OK when we lived there. All of our seven dogs (over the years) were foundlings. We had been in Canada visiting family and they all had Labs so the daughter announced as we crossed back into the US that she wanted a Lab. A few days later Libby moved in with us.

Libby has had her share of health problems since me moved to Wisconsin. She could not go for walks anymore because of two torn ACLs in her hind legs. When we would go to the farm her mobility problems did not keep her out of the stream on our land. I believe it was that Canadian water-dog thing.

After a long and trying, delayed flight back from Scotland we landed in New Jersey. As we were waiting for our bags the Colonel call her mother. My mother-in-law was house and dog sitting for us. I turned to see the expression on my wife’s face change and knew something was terribly wrong. Libby had died while we were out of the county. Needless to say the rest of the trip home was not a lot of fun.

My daughter stayed in Europe when we flew home. So after being up for 24 hours I had to compose an e-mail message to tell her, her old dog Libby was gone. Libby never had to take a bullet for her family, but she did give her people over ten devoted years of her life. She will be missed she was a very good dog. In a perfect world man will always need dogs and dogs will always respond.

Libby the Black Labrador
Libby the Black Labrador: RIP

Major Van Harl USAF Ret. / [email protected]

About Major Van Harl USAF Ret.:

Major Van E. Harl USAF Ret., a career Police Officer in the U.S. Air Force was born in Burlington, Iowa, USA, in 1955. He was the Deputy Chief of police at two Air Force Bases and the Commander of Law Enforcement Operations at another. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Infantry School.  A retired Colorado Ranger and currently is an Auxiliary Police Officer with the Cudahy PD in Milwaukee County, WI.  His efforts now are directed at church campus safely and security training.  He believes “evil hates organization.”  [email protected]

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Hit’s the nail on the head…………

Dennis W

Damn guys. Make a grown man cry.

Charlie Smith

CATTLE DOG Pudge was just a half grown pup when I took her off the chain; She was sitting in junk yard lot – I could see she had a brain. And no one had to tell me; she spoke right to my heart. I said, “Sure! I’ll make a dog of this, And she will do her part.” Her mother was a Shepherd, And her pa, a travlin’ man (A corgi someone told me, But I can’t swear, off hand). But Pudge she was a doer, Handled cattle from the start. And I never had to yell at Pudge;… Read more »