My pack of three Border Collies has finally morphed into a unified pack. It took less than a year for the youngest dog, Tommie, to integrate completely; less than a year for her to learn respect for the older established dogs.
Levi is the enforcer, the worker, the self-imposed leader who keeps the dogs in order and well-behaved. For Levi to have continued health in his senior years he needs a purpose, a life that gives him value in the form of hard exercise. I’m always aware that Levi does not do well cooped up for long periods of time, during storms, intense heat or when errands take me away from the house.
Catcher, whom I have labeled my S&I dog (stubborn and independent), suffers from middle dog syndrome. He is content to run in the back yard, obedience train or go for a walk. Afterwards he hides under the dining room table (his den), belly up on the cool tiles. He is silent for long periods of time, not moving, even when I offer steak bits to the other dogs. With one eye on me he will wait for me to come over to him and feed him the tidbit. Sometimes I refuse to indulge him and make him come to me. He has clearly figured me out though and waits for me to make the first move. When Catcher wants something he politely bumps my arm over and over. He’s an odd Border Collie who dances to the beat of a different drummer. Oh, yah. Like me. We’re a lot alike, stubborn and independent but polite.
Tommie is a restless soul. She plays hard, takes a quick nap and then lies on the floor and whines, clearly bored. She needs activity, attention and direction. I never have to ask her twice to go outside. Her eyes exude energy and inquisitiveness, a sign that tells me she is highly intelligent. If she was left alone for long periods of time she would probably get into trouble since a bored Border Collie is a bad Border Collie. I learned that lesson from my first BC, River, who loved to rip up carpeting when he was bored.
This morning I watched the dogs run while we played Pooper Scooper Games. A “cold” front has hit our area and it is only 84 degrees and cloudy with low humidity, perfect weather for BC outruns. Tom ran at high-speed across the lawn toward the unsuspecting Catcher, rolling him over and over, what my mom used to call ass over tea kettle. Catcher’s heavy coat picked up grass clippings, pine needles and sand. Catcher was too slow to grab Tom, who easily jumped away. In a few minutes the two were intertwined again, rolling, chasing, both growling softly. Their antics excited Levi who ran to the left around them, then to the right. It’s hard to herd Border Collies. Perhaps it might be easier to herd sheep? The younger dogs ignored Levi until finally Catcher was tired. Tommie turned to Levi, the two of them running laps together. Tom has been taught by Levi that she cannot roll him or touch him or get in his way. There is total respect both in the yard and inside the house, which I find interesting. Levi is like a stern parent, being indulgent here and there but quick to maintain control.
Not counting the cat, we are a pack of four. I don’t understand the levels of military ranks but I think of Levi as my sergeant. At some point he will pass on. As sad as that moment will be it will be interesting to see who takes his place. It will probably be Tommie. She has his drive, his eye and his strong herding instinct. At that point will her rough and tough playground relationship with Catcher change? I know Tommie has the necessary respect for me to be my next sergeant. At the back door she now pushes Levi back and is the first dog outside. I was surprised that Levi allowed such boldness. Perhaps Levi is passing the torch already.
This is how I spend my day, watching the dogs interact. Right now they are settled on the floor around me, asleep, breathing deeply, safe. If dogs could communicate words of happiness I hope they would say that they enjoy their lives here. I hope they are with me a long time as they have so much more to teach me.