Lester Loomis had a great respect for animals, especially those that he relied on to live his secluded life. They were not just animals that provided food, transportation, and protection, they were his friends as well. None were more well known than the dog known simply as Collie.

Many of the photographs of the ranch and its inhabitants feature the beautiful collie dog who is obviously a beloved member of the family. But if some of the old-timers are to be believed, Collie was more than a family member. He was also a trusted ranch-hand, one of the few that Captain Loomis ever had. Some said that the dog was so smart that he covered up the mistakes of his master.

Lester and Grace Loomis with dogs, date unknown.
Wandalee Thompson Collection, Sierra Madre Historical Archives (2004.14.18).

Captain Loomis was unlikely to disagree. In his journal, he described a day when he was mowing alfalfa by hand. Collie was lying some 25' away watching him work. (See, he was smarter than his boss.) All of a sudden Collie barked, jumped up, ran towards the Captain and when he reached him punched him with his nose. Captain Loomis looked around and there just a few feet from him lay a big rattlesnake all poised to strike. "He must have scented or heard the snake," Captain Loomis wrote, "while I hadn't heard a thing."

A few week previous to this, they had sent Collie over to the garden to drive the chickens out. Some of the chickens had run over into a side hill, and Collie ran right after them to get them down. Hazel Loomis was coming down from the mine on the opposite hillside from where Collie was running after the chickens. She heard him give a peculiar bark and then noticed that he staggered while pawing his nose They didn't pay much attention to it for two or three days, but did notice that his nose was swelling. "We examined it but couldn't find a thing. Two days later his head was the size of a water bucket and then realized that he had been bitten by a rattlesnake. My daughter Hazel went to town and telephoned to a vet but he couldn't give much advice. We used permanganate and I lanced his head in 5 or 6 different places. He finally got over it and never showed bad effect. He ... became more careful and kept an eye out for rattlers."

Collie was a quick learner. A few days later, Captain Loomis was at his sawmill re-piling some lumber. Collie was lying close by as was his custom. Lester noticed that Collie was watching a corner of the pile intently. Captain walked over toward the corner to get some lumber when Collie made one leap getting between him and the corner, barking as he came. Captain Loomis then heard the rattler. Had he reached down to pick up the lumber he would have put his hand right on the snake and been bitten.

Years later in 1938, when my Dad arrived at the ranch to help with flood cleanup, there was an old collie dog living there. He does not recall who owned the dog, but one wonders if it was the same Collie that had spent so many years at the place keeping a watchful eye on the Captain and Grace.

[Sources: 1) Lester Loomis Journals - Wandalee Thompson Collection (2002.1.23); 2) Pasadena Star News, 09/17/1937, "Through Sierra Madres"]