On July 26th we lost one of the most significant names in the foundation of Australian Shepherds, Weldon T. Heard DVM. He was 86 years old.
Dr. Heard was without a doubt a great man and one of the most influential breeders in Australian Shepherd history. Thousands of pedigrees today and the greatest percentage of the Aussies in the ASCA and AKC show ring trace their heritage to names such as Heard’s Blue Spice of Flintridge, Heard’s Salt of Flintridge, Heard’s Chili of Flintridge, Heard’s Cactus of Flintridge, The Herdsman of Flintridge, and Heard’s Savor, Champion Fieldmaster of Flintridge CD and Champion Wildhagen’s Dutchman of Flintridge CDX.
Anyone who had the pleasure of knowing him could tell you, he was a man with a sense of humor and always had an interesting story to share. In telling how his family ended up in the Northwest he said, “My great grandfather with his walking stick in one hand and his bullwhip in the other hand came to the end of their lane and shouted, “Gee over” to his lead oxen and they turned right onto the county road in Montague county Texas, north of Ft. Worth. It was April 10th, 1883. Their “train” consisted of 3 families in nine wagons powered with oxen, horses and mule teams. There were various other animals including steers for meat, two milk cows and four dogs, an old collie hearth dog, a liver and white English pointer and two blue bob-tailed shepherd stock dogs. One shepherd dog was Carlo, an eight year old neutered male. The other dog was Towser a short yearling unaltered, mischievous rascal. Grandpa didn’t believe in keeping “uncut” male dogs around his ranch. The second day on the road Grandpa with his sharp “Billy Barlow” jackknife qualified Towser for membership in the exclusive eunuch’s club and two days “R and R” in the wagon. Grandpa then yoked him to Carlo and soon they made only one shadow. Other than being tender-footed for a few days, this bob-tailed team of shepherd dogs worked in double harness for six dry, dusty months when the falling October snow and jaded hungry men and beasts caused the wagon master to call out “unhook em.” He said, “We’re two hundred miles from Jacksonville, but this looks like good ranch country.”
Weldon was born in 1922 in the tiny ranching community in northeastern California. He grew up and attended his first years of college in Ashland, Oregon, where his father, Noel W. Heard, operated a feed mill. During World War II, he served in the armed forces and in 1945 he married Betty Sue Reed, a marriage that flourished the rest of his life. They had four children and helped raise others. Animals were always a defining part of their lives. Breeding and showing horses, cattle, sheep and dogs have been a livelong passion of the Heard family.
In 1950, he graduated form Colorado State University (CSU) with a doctorate in veterinary medicine. After he graduated he started practicing around Denver, Colorado.
During the 1960s when he was in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, that he started raising the line of Aussies he is so well-known for. He had acquired Blue Mistingo from a client of his. She was by Fletcher Wood’s Dandy and out of Lighter’s Asta. He then gave her to a friend of his with the agreement that he was to receive the choice of puppies if she were ever bred.
Eventually, she was bred to Harper’s Old Smokey and Dr. Heard’s choice of the litter was the beautiful female he christened, ‘Blue Spice.’ He said, “She was beautiful, she was balanced and she was brilliant. She possessed all the qualities that made me think I had a near perfect dog.” That was the beginning of the Heard’s Flintridge line and a chapter in Dr. Heard’s life.
While Dr. Heard may no longer be with us, he left a legacy behind that shall not be soon forgotten.