I am not a dog lover. Sometimes I feel bad about that. I read once about a man who said he’d never trust anybody who didn’t love kids or dogs. My love of kids is all that keeps me from a criminal life. Not surprisingly, I’m surrounded by a family of dog lovers. The first time I visited my farmer boyfriend (soon to be husband), he met me on his dirt bike, a little Border collie puppy peeping over the top of his zippered jacket. And I’ll never forget sleeping on a mattress at my son’s rental and waking up spewing yellow Labrador retriever hairs out of my mouth. The pillow I’d slept on was apparently, a favorite lounging spot for his dog, Sunny.
How does anyone like dogs? They eat their own poo (well, some do) and like to roll around in dead fish or worse, my flower beds. They chase the cats that eat the mice we want to be rid of. They shed hair and bark—some of them—a lot. I’ve several unwarranted images in my head of my husband leaping up from our bed in the middle of the night and shouting out the patio door: “SHUT UP (Janie! Ring! Misty! Lindsey! Caputo!—names of our past dogs). Shut the– &#%!@–up!!”
Given that dogs are such trouble, why is man’s best friend not a gold fish—all beauty and no bother? Gold fish however, have little to offer in the way of help on a working farm. I remember being amazed watching my husband send Ring, our Border collie mix, out to herd cows. His full command for Ring to herd was “Sick ‘em!” After a while all he had to do was make the “S” sound and Ring was off, paws beating the orchard grass, not slowing until he’d spotted a cow. Then Ring did something unique to Border collies: because of a space between the top of his shoulder blades, Ring was able to crouch and slither low to the ground like a cat, so he could slip behind a cow undetected, and nip its heels, moving the cow forward.
We eventually sold our cows. We wanted to travel more and not be burdened by tending animals. Dogless for several years my flower beds flourished—except for the roses. Without the dogs keeping them away, the deer ate the roses (if it isn’t one animal, it’s another). Then, this spring a little Border collie pup showed up on our door step, apparently abandoned. Border collie’s are my husband’s favorite breed. They’re the furry geniuses of the dog world. The lineage of most modern Border collies can be traced back to a single, smart dog, Old Hemp, who sired 200 pups in the late 1800’s.
“Isn’t she cute?” my husband said of our new puppy. I nodded and mentally began the process of fencing my flower beds again. Clara, my eight-year-old granddaughter heard about our new Border collie–Millie we named her–and wondered if Millie might spend the weekend with her. I was thrilled. Having Millie spend the weekend away, felt like my kid was at camp and I was free! But I didn’t know how my daughter, Clara’s mom, felt about having a puppy to contend with. So, I was a little surprised when my daughter texted me after Millie’s stay and wrote, “I wish we could pet-sit Millie every weekend.”
I immediately texted back: Okay! (frantically searching for an ecstasy emoji).
Then I got another text from my daughter telling me to ignore the last text: Clara had written it. Clara had found her mother’s phone and decided to write grandma her secret wish. My heart dropped until I heard the phone ping again. It was my daughter texting: “But…we’d be fine having Millie on the weekends…”