In 2011, our daughter asked us if she could get her own dog. Since she was living at home at the time, she wanted to make sure it was okay with us.
One very hot August morning, she and I set out to find a puppy. She wanted a dog young enough for her to train, and preferred a Border Collie. Our first stop was the county animal shelter. I found the place to be sad and downright depressing. It wasn’t air conditioned. Large fans circulated the warm, sticky air and even before we entered the cage area, we could hear the dogs – barking, whining.
Nearly every other cage held a pitt bull. The cages were long and narrow, clean but completely uninteresting – no toys, ragged bedding, nothing to occupy a dog. When I asked an employee about the number of pitts, she shrugged and said that pitts were really cute when they were puppies, but that as they got older, the owners changed their minds about owning the breed. Sometimes, the animals were just left out in front of the shelter. “So many of them end up here – and are usually euthanized.”
Our next stop was Peggy Adams, a private, non-kill shelter. And what a difference from the county facility! The entire dog area was air-conditioned. The cages were probably five times the size of the cages at Animal Control, like miniature houses. And the bedding was beautiful, the toys enticing. Private funds apparently go much farther than county funds. Megan spent some time with a couple of these dogs, including a Border Collie, but we were later told the BC had already been purchased and was awaiting pickup.
Our third stop was Big Dog Rescue, a private, non-kill, quirky dog adoption center that sprawls across several acres in a neighborhood behind Loew’s Hardware. It’s a freewheeling sort of place, with a main building that’s more like a giant, comfortable living room, where dogs lounge and stroll around.
Megan told the woman at the desk what kind of dog we were looking for - Border Collie or a BC mix. We were taken to a back room, where some puppies had just been rescued from a Miami kill shelter. Megan and I both gravitated toward a black and white pup that the woman claimed was a BC or a BC mix, and we took her outside to see how she interacted with us.
If there’s love at first sight between people and their animal companions, this was it. We picked up Nika three days later, after she’d had her shots, and she lived with us for the next year, while Megan worked as an intern at Disney’s Sea World in Orlando. She became Noah’s closest buddy. Our golden retriever loved on her and played with her and pretty much trained her in the way of the cats, the way of squirrels, the way of the world.
But was Nika a Border Collie? She had the same coloring and possessed many of the same mannerisms, but her fur was short. Did that discount her? Megan decided to have her DNA tested through some outfit on the Internet. Their conclusion? Oh, well, she’s a Pomeranian. Really? In the photo at the top of the post, Nika is the dog on the right. Here’s what a Pom looks like:
When Nika finally moved to Orlando with Megan, I felt the void. Noah felt the void. I so wanted to get another dog, preferably a BC or a BC mix. It took the universe a while to manifest the Border Collie, but when it did, it manifested two of them.
Our friend Cassie moved into our house in January, with Willow and Kilt, Border Collies who are 10 and less than two years of age respectively. And living with these dogs, I’ve decided that Nika is mostly Border Collie. Here’s why:
Focus. This breed is known for their focus on a particular task. Give them a task – ball, squirrel, Frisbee, whatever it is – and there is no other breed more intent on achieving a goal. Nika, Kilt, and Willow all possess this trait.
Speed. Even though we’ve never clocked Nika or Kilt, a friend who owns a BC had his dog clocked. She came in at 28 miles per hour. We figure Nika and Kilt can do at least that.
Herders. This species of dog is bred to herd sheep, but in real life, they will herd anything – squirrels, birds, other dogs, cats, even humans. Kilt has more of this than Nika, who just wants to be friends with everyone. But when Nika is on, she exhibits the BC trait of lying low, ready to pounce. If her humans aren’t paying attention to her, she – like Kilt – will trot over with a toy and thrust it in my lap. Play with me, give me a task, or I’m going to drive you crazy.
Intelligence. Quick learners, masters of tricks. High five, play dead, spin, kiss, lie down, sit, stop. But in this department, Nika is a bit different. As Megan noted one time when she was home, Kilt and Willow will do tricks even if they don’t really want to. If Nika isn’t into the trick thing, she’ll simply walk away.
And so, the synchro here is about Border Collies, how Megan and I wanted one, how I wanted one after Nika moved to Orlando, and how the universe delivered three of them.
Cassie and her dogs move to Asheville, North Carolina in late April and will return next November. I’ll miss these BCs in the same way that I missed Nika when she first left. But I must say I won’t miss the endless clumps of fur and dirt and leaves that three dogs track into the house. I won’t miss how three dogs tend to dominate your life in unprecedented ways…park, squirrels, treats, Frisbee toss, ball toss, eat, play, bark, bark bark, play with me…
So okay, universe. I get it. I now understand Border Collies.