Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A Year in the Life of a Working Dog"

Oh, how this year has flown by!
Rowena will be turning a year old on labor day weekend. Both dog and human have learned a lot about life and each other this year. My new obsession is Rowena, and Rowena's new obsession is... well, yes me, but she has many other things too. Within just the last few months, she has blossomed into the ever-alert, over-focused Border Collie that I had always read about. Nothing I ever read said that one day, out of the blue, my dog would suddenly gain the attention span of an obsessed Border Collie... and nothing I read ever taught me how to teach a Border Collie what the term "That'll do" means. So I see a somewhat humorous memory running through my mind of Rowena, after a long walk in the forest, (See photo above of the old railroad bed she found the bee's nest off of) after a swim, a swarm of bees swarming at her butt for the past hour and pads blistered open, my husband and I decide that with the storm clouds rolling in (Photo above) we should stop playing in the blood-sucker infested pond and take the trail back to the car. Retriever toy in hand, I call Rowena out of the water and insist on carrying her toy in my hand. "No" I tell my husband, "She has to learn that just because it is out doesn't mean she has to play with it." The term I must use is "No more." She knows "NO" means stop whatever your doing or about to do. So we are walking down the trail and we are yelling "no" at her to keep her out of the murky, stagnant, algae covered water in the ditches on the side of the trail, and she begins jumping on me to get her retriever toy from my hand. Then I am yelling "NO! OFF!" and I realize that those bees she got into earlier are still after her. I am dancing around trying to avoid contact with her and her entourage of bees so I don't get stung... she is dancing around oblivious to her fan club and is dancing around me. I should have just given up the whole consistency concept for the moment and thrown the darn toy. Chris comes to my rescue and grabs the shredded frisbee from my pack and throws it out for Rowena to run after. The bees fade away before the car, and we pack Rowena in the back seat. On the drive home, I notice she has ripped off nearly the whole pad of one of her feet. It had blistered loose somewhere... either on the trail or in the bottom of the pond. I checked her other foot which was blistered worse. At home, I immediately drag her in for a shower and discover 2 bloodsuckers. One was swimming for the drain (I helped it in) and the other was in her inner thigh of a leg. I took the ole salt to it and joyed at the wormy creature curling up, writhing in... well whatever those creatures feel, and washing down the drain. It was at that point that I realized I would really have to watch how hard Rowena plays. She must learn "That'll do" no matter how I teach it to her. I cannot let her wear her pads down like that. It was also then that I realized what a "tenderfoot" my little Border Collie really was. My husband says to poor Rowena that Border Collies all over the world are laughing at her ("RRRrr-hrr-hrr-hrr!") because her feet are so delicate. I explain that sheep live in fields of grass normally, so herding didn't necessarily call for rugged calloused pads. I don't know how true this is, but I hate to admit that my Border Collie is a "Fragile Flower" (as one of my friends describes her to be.)
Thus, as I look back on the last ten months, I remember all of those things I said I would never do if I had a dog, but then learned that I had to swallow some pride and do it anyway. Let us reminisce: I said "I will never make my dog wear clothes." Well, what am I supposed to do when my young Whippersnapper looses all her puppy fuzz in the beginning of a rough, subzero snowy winter? Am I gonna let her shiver to death when I can no longer cram her into my winter coat? Am I going to watch as my puppy pitifully picks up one ice bound paw... then another until she falls over whining in the snow? No. I am going to get some fleece sweaters and little boots for the young tot. My obedience instructor tells me that my overly rambunctious tot needs to be wearing a training collar to class. I had said that I would never put one of those chokers on my dog... no way. I get one made of rolled nylon and realize that this could be a big help. Now I have graduated to a Halti as she still doesn't comprehend the full meaning or purpose of the "heel" command.
I am presently preparing to go on a week long camping trip with a group I belong to. Rowena, being a service dog (In training) is allowed to go with us. I have been rushing around to make sure I get all the items on my dog's camping gear list. Today, I ordered about $140 of gear for her (including her medicine- $50). Here is the list of stuff she needs for the trip:
-small water bottle
-food/water dish
-water proof food storage for a week supply
-service papers
-life jacket
-boots for the rocky trail and ocean beaches
-her joint medicine
-nap pad
-harness with reflector material
I think that is it. The real big items are taken care of. The harness that I have found is the next big item (expense wise) and I would like to order that very soon as well. I may even add in one of those bungy leashes. I don't think I want to deal with her flexi-leash phobia on the trip. That could put me right into the hospital. I hope that her fear of fluttering objects subsides enough that she can handle sleeping in the tent with a breeze blowing outside too. I look forward to this new adventure with her and hope that it does not bother her too much that she will not be allowed off the leash during the trip unless we are out on the water.
All in all, I am very pleased with my little Border Collie. She is usually well behaved when I am in appointments or on errands in public places, and she is absolutely brilliant, bordering on being just plain psychic. I didn't teach her all she knows. She is like a child, ever absorbing the details of her life... its patterns, our moods... When I am upset and crying, she will show concern and come over to me, come right up in my face and then begin acting really goofy as if she is trying to cheer me up. If I am sleeping and she is just coming into the bedroom, she will walk right up to me, her nose right in my face and check me out, as if she is making sure I am still okay and breathing. She is very tolerant of my low and lazy days, and tries to be patient as I moderate her activities when her leg is bothering her. When she meets other dogs though, I can't help but cringe when she begins trying to herd her canine playmates by running circles around them at top speed. I can't help but smile with pride to watch her speeding around in the field either. I couldn't imagine having another breed of dog and am very glad that I didn't let people talk me out of the Border Collie. I would have missed out on something extremely special.

1 comment:

Peter (Choya) said...

Beautiful site and beautiful photos Heather.

Peter in Ottawa with Choya