Johnnie is our mixed collie/border collie rescue dog. His nose is a full collie length, which means it comes into the room a couple of beats before the rest of his skull. Border collies need to be employed. They can’t sit around all day like a bassett hound can. Johnnie checks out every noise or wrinkle in the routine. He goes crazy when the phone rings, shoving his long snout into your butt crack as you try to walk gracefully to the phone. By the time you get to the phone you feel violated. Not enough to call 911, but enough so that you can’t focus on the phone call for one long irritable moment. Meanwhile Johnnie feels that he has done his civic duty and is very excited about having snouted you.
When the doorbell rings, all hell breaks loose. Johnnie barks at full voice and begins running madly about the house. He gets psychotic about meeting whoever walks through the door. It’s an ordeal that lasts several minutes as he huffs and puffs and strains to meet and bond with the newcomer. We rescued him when he was 9 years old, so we take no responsibility for his weird behavior patterns. He was an “as is” deal, no warranty or pedigree. But he is a beautiful keeper, a gentleman. When he lies down, he crosses his front legs. He sighs as he drops his head down onto his black and white legs. He is always on duty, however. Always on the alert, canine homeland security.
When I let him in the back door downstairs each morning, he walks by his water and food bowls. He walks across the room and up two steps into the next room where he stands until I pour his food in his dish. When I walk away, he approaches. We did not teach him this behavior; he taught us. He’s formal like that.
Johnnie appears to have obsessive-compulsive disorder. He counts heads and then checks and rechecks his math. My daughter claims that he is making sure that all his sheep are in the pen. This includes the aloof cat Annie, who also lives with us. When she is outside, Johnnie will look at her through the sliding glass door and come get one of us to let her in. It makes you wonder.
We had another border collie, a purebred male named Nick. Got him as a puppy. He was bad and I have to accept responsibility for his badness since we got him as a puppy. Nick was mostly black. On moonless Monday nights he’d pretend that he had to pee. Once outside he’d slink away and melt into the darkness. He’d go through the neighbors’ trash until dawn, like that rat in Charlotte’s Web, when we’d find him under the pole light in our front yard. On many occasions I stalked him with a flashlight and a bad attitude. I couldn’t see him but I could hear his toenails clicking across the road or driveway. When I’d spotlight him, he’d give me the “Oh Crap!” look. Even then he wouldn’t come automatically. He’d slink out of arm’s reach, knowing that I was gonna smack his furry butt.
We tried to contain him. I bought and installed an underground fence with shock collar. It worked until it didn’t work. Nick was too smart for containment. He walked around the yard listening to the intensity and frequency of the shock warning beeps. I watched him on a few occasions when he would sprint and leap across the wire at a weak signal spot. I’d make a point of dragging him back across the wire slowly so that he could appreciate the shock he had just subverted. It did no good. He was the Bobby Magee of the hound world. He had to be free.
One year it snowed 30 inches, just enough for Nick to walk freely across the wire below. Who’d have thought about three feet of snow thwarting an electric shock when installing a wire on a hot summer day? Oh Nick! fourteen years of his escapades. He snarled at and bit a few folks, mostly those who had it coming. He was a rascal that we loved. He could have been the inspiration for the tee shirt that says on the front,”Jesus loves you…” and on the back, “but nobody else does.”
Once we had some pet finches that flew around our house.
They’d flit from one window to another with unbelievable acrobatic skill. You guessed it: Nick had to herd them. My daughters thought it was great entertainment watching him zoom at floor level as the birds flew back and forth from room to room. That is, until Nick launched himself with one giant leap across the couch and through one of a pair of matched lamps. It was so crazy that you just had to laugh.
Yeah, an expensive rascal who took us to court on my birthday, but that is another story about the Wicked Dog Warden of the West.