Henrico County VA

A border keeping household order

Editor’s note: This column is the second in a series about pets and children. You can access the first installment at http://tinyurl.com/77qqtxn.

We brought our 11-week-old border collie pup Toby home from the breeder’s, still missing our sweet Harry. Being black and white borders, the two brothers looked similar, which was both comforting and confusing.

We were pleased to find that Toby didn’t have nearly as much interest in herding our feet or the children. And he took to the housebreaking and the electric fence and his daily walks well enough too.

But there was something about Toby’s right ear, the way it flapped forward at a jaunty angle, wayward and uncooperative (see photo). It might look cute and photogenic to you, but to us, it gives a little insight into our pup’s mental stability (cue the circus music and let it play until the end of the column).

From the second Toby sets paws from his crate in the morning to the second he crawls into it at night, he is in constant motion. Forget all that jazz about harnessing wind energy and solar power. What we really need to do is somehow tap into the energy of a border collie puppy. I truly believe that the energy contained in just one litter of border collie puppies could meet the energy demands of our entire country.

Without sheep to herd, a border collie will think up his own “jobs.” Toby has taken it upon himself to “manage” our outdoor property, which involves ordering the birds, squirrels and the occasional deer about the yard. When that job is sufficiently addressed, he feels very dutiful about barking at bikes and scooters and swinging them around by his teeth until they’re airborne.

He also is very concerned with the way our tires move willy-nilly up and down the driveway, so he directs them to their proper places with a few well-placed nips. The same goes for UPS trucks and pest control trucks, anything with those round, rubber sheep. He also scolds any vehicle that makes a tad too much noise going past the house.

He bosses basketballs. Just the sound of a basketball bouncing on the driveway sends him into “manage” mode, when he starts barking and biting and chasing the ball to the point that no one wants to play anymore. “Chuck it”—the launching of a tennis ball from a long, plastic rod—is another job he takes very seriously, as is herding airplanes and helicopters away from the house at breakneck speed.

But sometimes he is too good at all of his jobs, and boredom sets in. At these times he will turn over the trash cans and scatter its contents all over the lawn. He will dig up outdoor landscape lighting wires and chew through them. He will chew through boxes left on the porch, then chew through the boxes’ contents.

He will sneak into an accidentally-left-open garage and steal plastic water bottles and sponges and basketballs and shoes and things with tires. He will pull bows off door wreaths. He will burrow through fresh grass clippings, gnaw on the yard man’s leaf blower and harry the edger. He will bark for hours straight at the dog next door, or up the tree where the squirrel went, or at the door to come in.

When inside, he will mutilate stuffed animals and destroy his “chew-proof” dog toys. He will man-handle the sofa cushions. He will drop his soggy tennis ball in a basket full of clean laundry so that I will throw it to him, over and over. He will sneak upstairs to mark. He will try to hump our crawling baby. But perhaps most disturbingly, he will follow me around from room to room, staring with those border collie laser-eyes of his, as if he’s just asking for a job to do, any job at all.

He can’t lay down. He won’t rest. Resting is for chumps. For lap dogs. For cats.

Toby is now almost three years old, and with the years, he has mellowed just a bit. He is now able to slow down enough to enjoy the occasional snuggle, the rare nap on his favorite red leather chair, the daily rawhide bone. In spite of being certifiably bonkers and too smart for his own good, he has proven to be a sweet-natured dog, easy with children and licky with babies and men with beard stubble.

And when I take a step back, I see that he fits our family kind of perfectly.

(P.S. We won’t ever forget you, Harry.)

Diann Ducharme is the author of The Outer Banks House and the upcoming ebook, Chasing Eternity, and is a wife, mother of three children and owner of one border collie. You can find her at http://www.diannducharme.com where, she blogs about the life of a writer.
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