Rocket walking toward me
In Texas, the most popular of the herding group appears, at least in my area, to be the Border Collie, Australian Cattle Dog,(Blue Heeler or Red Heeler) and the Australian Shepherd.
I love dogs that belong to the herding goup. But I am drawn to these dogs in a special way. I suppose that I like their agility and intelligence.
A little knowledge can help you make the right decision about whether to adopt a herding dog. Will the dog be suitable for his/her/family’s life style? Can you meet the demands of these high energy dogs? If you adopt a herding dog please make a COMMITMENT FOR THE LIFE of these wonderful dogs. Don’t be guilty of adding to the number of animals surrendered to a shelter.
Rescue groups try very hard to save as many dogs as possible from almost always a sure death. But even rescue groups have limits and most times can only pull (take an animal from the shelter) as many, as these individuals can care for in their homes.
The number one issue with the herding dog is that (almost) all of them are extremely smart, highly energetic, agile, love to play, and require some type of activity that provides an outlet for their energy. Simply put, most of them need a job or an activity that gives the dog and the owner fun and satisfaction. IF THESE NEEDS ARE NOT MET- 98% of the time the dog becomes bored which leads the dog to become destructive, bark incessantly, dig up the yard, might become a biter, and in essence will have become a nuisance and no longer a pet but a pest. At that point, the owner, will be tired of dealing with a dog that appears neurotic and is too difficult to manage.
1. BORDER COLLIE- These dogs are quite different from other dogs breeds mainly because their PATTERN OF BEHAVIOR IS HARD WIRED. This incredible dog comes in different coat lengths and various color combinations. The most popular color is black and white. Other colors include merle, white with spots/patches of black or brown, solid black, and red and white. Some Border Collies have been taught to follow more than 200 plus voice commands. One Border Collie in Europe can follow 500 word commands. CHASER: A Border Collie (in the USA) that is 7 years old and knows 1,022 words (nouns).
This breed was developed for herding sheep. Arguably, the Border Collie is the best all around dog for herding sheep. These dogs are said to possess the ability to make rational decisions: “think for themselves” or figure out what move to make that will result in a favorable outcome. And, as many people know, this dynamo is adept and excels at frisbee and agility. Some of the champion frisbee dogs in the U.S. were adopted from a shelter.
The Border Collie is rated as highly trainable, possesses a high degree of intelligence, and is quick to learn. These are dogs that are very sensitive and punishment or a harsh voice will get you no where fast. Good basic obedience is a must and if you do not have the time to train this dog and/or enroll the dog in an obedience class and give it plenty of exercise with a job to do, then PLEASE DO NOT GET A BORDER COLLIE. The Border Collie can become an integral part of your family. They make excellent pets and like being around people but always give them something to do: catching a frisbee, chasing a ball, herding some sheep or goats or agility for at least an hour or more per day will keep your dog happy. I can not stress enough, the importance of proper socialization and at least basic obedience combined with sufficient exercise.
The Purina Incredible Dog Challenge is shown on TV about 2-3 times a year. I watch the program each time it is aired. The dominant breed in agility and frisbee continues to be the Border Collie. The dogs, to me, are unbelievable. But so are their human owners/trainers. These dogs display a level of skill that takes years of training: The winner of the frisbee contest was a BC from Japan whose owner/trainer is just 21 years old. Human and dog worked as one. This dog performed some incredible tricks that were jaw dropping.
Where to find a Border Collie puppy/or adult dog? Look no further than your local shelter or rescue group for a BC. PLEASE NEVER BUY A PUPPY FROM A PET STORE( these puppies most of the time come from puppy mills). If you want to spend lots of money then do your homework and purchase a puppy from a reputable breeder. Never buy a puppy unless you can visit the breeder’s home and ask to see the mother and the father of the puppies. The condition of the adult dogs speaks volumes. Are they clean and free of ticks and fleas? Is the living area or the kennel clean? Does the owner have a relaxed manner and does he or she make direct eye contact when answering your questions? Has the puppy received any kind of socialization ? Can the owner produce authentic records of vaccinations? Ask to speak with the veterinarian who handles health issues for the breeder’s dogs. Make sure that you are really speaking with a veterinarian or better yet visit the veterinarian in person and ask for proof of vaccinations, de-wormings, and other health issues. Unscrupulous breeders are known to give false vaccination and registration papers. (See story of “Saving Annie” and you will get a good dose of reality from this post). How does the puppy interact with you? Do some research on the Internet and learn as much as you can about dogs in the herding group.
Rocket in his favorite place 10/13/2011 12 years old in this photo
My rescue of sorts: I read the pets ads in the paper each day as well as the lost and found. About 6 years ago I noticed an ad for a BC to be given away. The ad said he loved to play frisbee. Why would someone give away a frisbee playing dog? They are such fun to play with and to own!!! I noted that the ad would be in the paper for a few days, disappear and then reappear. Of course that peaked my interest. Mystified- I watched for the ad for about two weeks or more. I finally called the number and the owner said she had given the dog away three times but that he was not working out for the latest adopter. She told me that he was (7) years old, loved to play frisbee, was terrified of riding in a car, and that ” we are giving him up because we are moving to a house next to a golf course.” I could see that the family had little regard for the family pet. Her five year old daughter, she said, loved the dog and she wanted the dog to go to a really good home. “We don’t want to give him up but he just can not go with us to our new house.” I thought this was a poor excuse to give up a dog, so why not, I thought, continue to live where you are so that the dog can remain a part of your family? However it was not my place nor my intent to question the woman. There was one thing for certain- she was adamant that the dog would not be moving with the family.
I had always wanted a Border Collie and even though I had four other dogs, I for some ridiculous reason thought I would be the one to save this dog from a terrible fate that the owner could not envision. I reasoned that if he had not worked our for three other people then the woman would just give him to anyone and the outcome would surely not be in the dog’s favor. So over the phone and sight unseen I said, “I will take him and give him a good home.” I gave her a brief history of some of my pet experiences and rescues, etc. and the woman seemed relieved. “A farmer has him right now. He was about to bring him back but I don’t want him back anymore. I’ll give him a call and tell him to bring him to you.” Believe me that farmer and his wife brought the dog over within an hour. I was waiting in the front yard when the people arrived in a pickup with the dog in a crate in the back of the truck. I helped the man get the “orphaned” dog from the crate and the first thing that I noticed were his eyes: wild-eyed and glassy which to me denoted utter fright: a fear of the unknown and desertion- from living in a home where he was cherished by a little girl and then suddenly going to live at different homes all within a few weeks. “Well, I’ll tell ya. This fella runs off and he barks at my wife’s cat. Won’t stay at the house. No, I didn’t put him in a fenced yard. He acts wild.” Thought he might be good company but he just don’t seem to like me. ” The farmer handed me a small bag of dog food, leash, frisbee, and a stainless steel food bowl. As the man got in his truck his parting words were, “hope ya have good luck with him. I reckon he needs patience and we don’t have none of that. Too much trouble to deal with a dog that acts just plain stupid. ” And with his parting words, he and his wife were soon out of sight. I stood in the driveway looking at a beautiful black and white Border Collie who was very traumatised. He was shaking and I assumed it was from the ride in back of the pickup as I remembered the woman saying that he was afraid of vehicles.
I knelt beside him and looked into his eyes that seemed to speak volumes: sadness, fear, trauma; the whole works of a dog that had been thrown into the unknown. I ran my hands through his thick glossy fur and stroked his head for a few minutes. I hoped with all my heart that he would believe that he was here to stay. So, I was now the owner, of a very fearful Border Collie who was probably trying to understand what the past two weeks were about and why he was no longer with the family that he had known since he was a puppy.
I learned quite a few lessons from Rocket. He gradually adapted to his new home and eventually bonded with me. He was a quick learner and I wish that I had had more time to work with him. One of the first things I did was help him overcome his fear of getting into a vehicle. I used treats as a reward. Within two days time he was jumping into my vehicle and ready for a ride. It was just as simple as that.
Rocket continued to bark not just in the morning but throughout the day. I had to do something about the barking- so I purchased a large metal crate from Tractor Supply ( which had the best prices). I put Rocket in a crate in a spare bedroom. This stopped the barking. It seems that Rocket just wanted to be in the house and to be part of a family again. I did not trust him with my cats so he was always supervised when out of the crate. I put him in the crate while I was at work. During the day he was free to roam the fenced yard with the other dogs. It took several years before I felt he would be okay around the cats.
He goes wherever I go in the house and at night sleeps beside the bed near me. I am sure that all of this would have transpired much sooner had I not been working at the time. Rocket is not a perfect dog but then I never expected perfection. I just know that I have given him a good life- he gets to play ball- no more frisbee because he began limping and I realize d that his age was a factor. So, he gets to chase a ball around and doesn’t have to jump. His biggest love was to catch a ball or the frisbee but now, I roll the ball so that he doesn’t make any jumps to retrieve it. For the past 5 years the golf cart appears to be his favorite activity. Sometimes he beats me to the cart and is the perfect gentleman as he sits down opposite me and eagerly waits for the ride to begin. Our property is a hill and a shallow valley, so I use the cart several times a day and Rocket is always on the cart ready for a ride. I find it ironic that his former owners moved to the edge of a golf course and now the dog they once owned rides in a golf cart several times a day.
Rocket is now about 12 years old. My vet said he has the heart that sounds like a young dog. I really was happy to hear those words. HE DOES GET HIS EXERCISE. When I go out to feed the animals he races around and around the yard as if he is rounding something up. He has worn a path that looks like a cow trail. The trail is quite visible. At any rate he is getting his exercise and he is a happy dog. He always comes when I call him to the house. That look of fear? Well that vanished after a few days. I believe that he knew he was here to stay . I am so glad that I made that rash decision to take him- sight unseen that day.
Photos and post: Yvonne
Addendum: This post was written in the fall of 2011 about the same I learned that Rocket was in renal (kidney) failure. I was able to keep Rocket going for approximately 8 months. I used Ringer’s lactate IV fluids ( which is also given sub cu (subcutaneous) under the skin with the needle inserted between the shoulder blades. I also gave him vitamin B12 and B complex under the skin. There are two medications that can be used but one is very expensive. The other medication Rocket, could not tolerate at all. In June, 2012 Rocket was euthanized after 2 days of not eating and not being able to stand up. I know he was ready to go to doggie heaven. I miss Rocket a lot. He was not my dog for his entire lifetime but I think he liked his home with me. And, I would like to believe that he loved me, as much I loved him.
Rocket: declining in health but still very alert