I thought this week maybe you would enjoy meeting some of our four-footed family members. Our pets are our children – I know many of you feel the same way!
We have two Border Collies, Speck and Switch, featured above.
First, a bit about Border Collies in general. They are not a dog for everyone. In all my years of working in the pet industry, I love most dog breeds, but I wouldn’t own them. I am totally stuck on Border Collies. As a young girl, our old BC died, the one I consider the true farm dog. He had the run of the place, and lived in the barn. I begged my dad to get a “real” collie, a rough coated sable and white collie. I wanted something other than black and white; we had black and white cows, black and white cats, black and white everything. Of course, when he took me to pick out a BC collie puppy, I was in love. Tippy became my constant companion around the farm. He waited for me off the school bus, and would come from where ever he was if I whistled. He was allowed to come in the farmhouse kitchen and dining room when we ate supper, the first dog ever in the house.
Border Collies usually live 12-16 years, some old, some younger. Mine have all made it to the 15-16 year mark. For the most part, other than Lyme disease, all of mine have been very healthy. However, they can have some congenital health issues, like hip dysplasia, epilepsy, collie eye anomaly, and a few other issues. The American Border Collie Association has a great page on these issues.
Recently I read about another severe health issue I had never heard of called Border Collie Collapse . Thank goodness none of mine ever had this.
Of course, BC’s are a herding breed, meant to find something and bring it home. And keep it there. The breed was developed years ago along the border between Scotland and England, where sheep were plentiful and the herders needed trusty, energetic dogs that would listen to commands (often by whistles) and obey willingly. They are sent on an outrun to go collect sheep, and bring them home by herding and circling the sheep. Anyone who has ever watched a dog go through a sheep dog trial course perfectly knows how amazing it really is. They are very intelligent, considered to be one of the most, if not THE most, smartest breed, and can learned upwards of 1000 words or more. Yes, really! One of my shipping colleagues once told me she could never own a dog smarter than she was. Prepare to be challenged!
Most BC’s have these same traits today. Border Collies need a job to do. If you don’t give them a job, they will make their own job, and probably not one to your liking. Frisbee, balls, and agility are exercises they excel at. Squirrels usually provide lots of entertainment (mine are hunting red squirrels above – they never can catch one). Tippy was good at hunting woodchucks.
Boredom, along with the herding traits, are what creates problems for a Border Collie. Unchecked, they will herd (and chase) children, cats or anything else that moves (like cars – not healthy!). They typically will nip at the same time. And while they often welcome anyone into the home, they seldom want to let anyone leave. Tippy, more than once, cornered a meter reader or other utility person. They can be destructive when bored and alone. More than anything, they like being with their human and serving a command.
Speck is a neutered male, 8 years old, with a white head and some freckles. He’s a very friendly and loving dog, but a bit stubborn at times. In fact, we thought he was incredibly stubborn as a puppy and young dog. He didn’t listen, and would totally ignore our calls. I FINALLY realized the poor guy is mostly deaf, as I found I could startle him by touching him when he wasn’t looking at me. He can sometimes hear my husbands loud voice, but seldom mine. The solution is a training collar that vibrates. We “page” him when we want him to come in or to get his attention. He’s also gotten pretty good with hand signals.
He’s an adept Frisbee catcher. Several games a day are required. And he has a great nose – he can smell any wild animal outside, and frequently lets us know, even in the middle of the night, that a bear is passing by. One whiff through an open window is all it takes.
Switch is a spayed female, a year younger, obtained because my husband thought Speck needed a doggie friend. That and the fact we’ve always two together. She’s the more reserved Border Collie, not prone to letting anyone into her circle very quickly, and can be quite vocal about it. We basically tell people to ignore her, and when she is ready, she will come to you. I found her on line (something I tell my clients never to do!!), and had a pet shipper friend go visit the breeder and send me pictures. Then I shipper her from KY to NJ. I originally picked her because she also had a lot of white on her head, and my husband had said I would never find another white-headed dog to match Speck. I love a challenge. All the wrong ways to find a dog, but she has turned out to be the joy of our lives.
She’s exceedingly smart, learning to open door latches by the time she was 16 weeks old. We finally had to put numeric locking handles on the kennel and house, because she kept opening up the doors and leaving them open (she never did shut them behind her!). My husband joked that we could not let her see the numbers we punched in, because she’d learn to do that too.
My favorite baby picture, and Switch today. She is the only dog we have ever had that sleeps on the bed with us.
She and Speck are great buddies, and basically do everything together, including Frisbee. He catches, she retrieves and runs it back to the thrower. She likes an old bicycle or wheelbarrow tire to play with. Her only issue, we think, is that she doesn’t see as well as she should. And yes, she has one blue eye, and one brown. She will bark even at us, until we are close enough & speak to her. But she’s got great hearing. Any little sound gets her attention.
So these are the two current BC’s we share our homestead with. I may feed, groom, and care for them, but my husband is the “play” person and fun guy. They are definitely “his” dogs. If we come home after a couple hours out and about, they will dash past me to greet him. I get a passing glance. Oh well. I know they love me too.
You can meet the cats in another round. What pets live with you?