Ed note: I asked Joe some questions because of late he has been doing an amazing job of educating not only the Aussie folk, but the stockdog folk in general about the amazing potential of these dogs and how to use them. He plans to continue to make useful videos and hopefully his work will find its way to a bigger audience. But who is he and how did he get into these dogs for his operation?
About me, I am a retired helicopter pilot and instructor. I started my flying career as a pilot for a company that operated in the Gulf of Mexico in support of the oil and gas industry. In the early 80’s when the gas crunch hit, I left the Gulf, and went to work for an Ag/utility operator. I left that job, and started freelancing for a couple of operators in support of forestry operations, mostly control burning.
When one of the operators I was freelancing for wanted to get out of the control burning side of the operation, he made an offer for me to take it over. I bought my first helicopter, and started my business. The business grew, and I started doing a little instruction on the side for the government.
Next thing you know, the instructing business grew to the point that’s all I was doing. To keep costs down, we became a dealership and service center for the aircraft we were using. To make a short story long, I had been supplying pilots to one of the largest helicopter operators in the world, they liked my product so they bought my company.
I stayed on for a while, fulfilled my contract with them, then retired and moved back home to Texas. We bought a little place in central Texas where we raise a few cattle and sheep. We run some commercial pairs and stockers, and a small herd of Senepole cattle. We also keep a flock of commercial hair sheep all on improved pasture.
I’ll start with why Aussies, I was introduced to Aussies in the late seventies. My wife had a dog that looked a lot like an Aussie, she gave herself the dog as a high school graduation present. When it died, a friend of ours gave her an Aussie puppy, to replace her old dog. WOW, what a dog it turned out to be. I could tell stories about that dog for hours, smartest dog I ever knew , until I got Woody. That dog was so smart and so easy to train, we taught her tons of tricks, and she could go for hours. She was a great help to us in our helicopter business.
Let me explain. In the early years during our slack season, we did helicopter rides on the beach in Gulfport MS. The dog would do tricks for people waiting their turn to ride the helicopter. The dog was the big draw, people would come out just so they could see the dog. Year after year, people came back to see that dog, tour bus drivers made our place a regular stop. Business was good. I still get teary eyed when I think about her, she left a huge hole in our hearts, and a lot of other people too.
We have had Aussies ever since, I can’t think of us every being without one. Prior to the sale of the helicopter company, hurricane Katrina took its toll on a lot of people we were among them. It was a very stressful time for us. We had to move our business, with around 130 people, students and employees. There were lot of things to deal with, our lives like many others, was totally upended, my way of coping with stress, was to walk the dog.
We had three Aussies at the time, they were all about 14/15 years old. Two of them died before we finished the move, and the last one could not walk that far anymore, so I went looking for a puppy. I found one on line and went to look at it. I ended up buying a puppy from Roger Stevens. Roger was having a trial that week end, the first time I had ever seen one, I thought it was pretty cool, but still did not have plans to work the dog, I was just going to do obedience and walk him for my therapy.
Then one day a friend of ours called, and said she was going to take her Aussie pup to a herding trainer that weekend and ask if I did not want to bring my puppy and go with her. I said sure, so we went and met Shelly Spotswood. After that first lesson, Shelly told me I had a heck of a dog there, and I should think about trialing him. I wrote Roger a letter and told him what Shelly had said he was very encouraging, and told me I was welcome to come to his place anytime and he would help me. So I took him up on it. I would leave work on Friday, drive 8 hours one way , train on Saturday and drive home on Sunday. I did that a couple of times a month. Roger and I became good friends, and I got into trialing my dog, he was way to much dog for me, but I learned a lot from him. When I retired from flying and bought our place in Texas, the dog was a big help to me.
And so you have Joe Sheeran. When he applied to be a member of the Working Aussie Source, he did so not because he was having litters, just because he wanted to support our work. The board was more emphatic than I’ve ever seen them with his application. “He is the real deal,” one said. Welcome to WAS, Joe!