Tuesday, March 22, 2016

My Life With a Border Collie

The Happenings of Maywood Cottage.

The Border Collie is definitely my choice of breed, they are full of energy and have the best antics.

This is my girl SadieMae.  She's the pup of Maywood Cottage.

Cute antics?  Yes
Border Collie Stubborn?  Yes
Love for life?  Yes
A little crazy?  Yes, yes, yes
Finds trouble easily?  Yes
Neurotic?  Absolutely, YES!

SadieMae is a rescue Border Collie.  She was a rescue from an animal shelter in West Virginia.  She was somewhere between 1 and 1.5 years old when she came to live with us back in August 2008.  We don't know her history, she was found on the animal shelter grounds and no one came to claim her.  I assume she was dumped by someone who did not understand a Border Collie and could not handle her energy and love for life.  That's just an assumption; what I do know is that she came with a lot of baggage.

We were told SadieMae was house trained and knew a few basic commands but that was wishful thinking.  She was raw, untrained in every way.  But, that did not deter us.  Once she was a part of our family she received all the help she needed to become a vital part of the pack. I spent month after month teaching and training her.  That's when her baggage came into focus. She had many fears, one of which was fear of men.  SadieMae gladly accepted me but was fearful of my husband. It made me wonder what happened.  Why is she so afraid? Who hurt her? What is her story?  The story only her actions could tell.  This was the hardest and longest part of working through her hangups.  My husband had to win her trust and help her confidence.  The slightest rise in his voice sent her skittering.  She would sit with me but not by him....at least in the beginning.  But his patience finally won her over.

Even though Sadie had fears we had to work through, she's also a dominate force and reactive.  Sadie had a strong motion sensitivity which sent her full throttle after running kids, cars, squirrels, rabbits, anything that moved.  And, any sudden movement caused her to react.

I remember the day I realized Sadie and I had made it.  I was walking her in our rural neighborhood and one of my neighbors stopped his truck along side us and asked me if this was the same dog I had the previous summer.  I looked over at SadieMae sitting calmly while I talked to this "male neighbor"  and said "yes, it's the same one".  He replied, "it's amazing how well behaved she's become".

When I arrived home I thought of all that SadieMae had learned since she had come to live at Maywood Cottage and be a part of our home.  She had learned more than just basic commands like sit, stay, here, heel.  She had learned her territory, where the property boundaries are and not cross them, she had made excellent strides in not herding the grandchildren (but they also learned what to do if she did), she would walk with me off her lead and was making a great trail dog.  Sadie learned fun things like search and rescue, hide and seek, how to play dead,  high fives and a few dance moves.  She plays frisbee and became a great babysitter for the kids.  There are more things she learned that first year and the years that followed, she has a learning mentality and I found that the more I challenged her to learn the less reactive she is.  But the biggest and most endearing thing she learned was to trust us.  That we would not hurt her, that we would love her and nurture her to become the best dog she could be; that she is a vital part of our family and would never be dumped off because of her quirks. After all, we all have a few quirks and hers fit right in with us.

But, Sadie is not the only one who went through a learning process  I have learned too.  That first year wasn't easy but I learned I could make it through the difficult times by taking it one day at a time. I learned that a diamond in the rough after polishing will shine if you put in the effort and don't give up.  I learned to break the training into smaller steps and work on it everyday.  I learned to keep looking ahead and only look back to measure how far we've advanced.  I learned that trust isn't always a 2 way street, but, that it is a single lane where you learn to walk together, side by side.  Through my sweet puppy and my adventure together I have learned that your future doesn't have to be defined by your past.

SadieMae is around 9 years old this year, lately she's living life in the "slower" lane.  She likes to lay around more but true to her nature is still loves to learn.  When I offer her a treat she usually has to work for it so rather than patiently waiting for a direction she starts going through most of her treat commands.  She such a trooper.


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