Stalked at home

I dare not move.
I need the stapler but it’s out of reach. And I’m thirsty. And I’d love to stretch for that matter. But if I lean back, the chair will squeak. And if the chair squeaks, it’s all over. She’s watching.

Even when she’s not watching, she’s monitoring. Hearing is set on high alert. The slightest movement is cause for Immediate Action.

IS THIS THE REAL THING? IS SHE GETTING UP?
I THINK SHE IS. SHE’S ON THE MOVE.
THIS IS IT! GO GO GO GO GO!

“No, no no! Sorry, false alarm. Just getting the stapler…”

Welcome to life with border collie.

Not just any border collie. Maisie, 3 years old — wolfish/foxy build and trademark black coat with odd cookie-dough markings. Tannish-brown creeps along her mouth and splashes her white legs along with funny black mottling — as if the Boy attacked her with a Sharpie. But what makes her unusual is her disarming gaze, thanks to the blue eye that makes her look, well…

demented.

It also signals open season for comments such as:

“Hey I like your dog. Except for her eye. I could never own a dog with that eye.”
“Wow, she is freaky looking.”
“Is she blind? Can she see out of that thing?”

Seriously, you’d think she has a horn jutting out of her forehead.

I’ll admit, that sky-blue eye is a bit unsettling and I tend to focus on the normal brown one. But this isn’t the first border collie I’ve owned. I’m used to being stared at. And Maisie’s like the others. Driven.

Border collies are the OCD-ers of the canine world. All they want to do is work work work. More than anything. More than sleep. More than food. More than sex, if you can believe it.

Obviously, they’re hard-wired to herd sheep, but they’ll try herding anything by staring at it. By giving it “The Eye.”

Sounds kind of David Blane-ish, doesn’t it? But it’s pretty powerful. Maisie will stare down anything that moves:

Sheep…

horses….

toddlers….

luggage….

Kidding. She’s a little nutty about cars and will jump in any open door without hesitation. Driving offers the chance to practice The Eye on passing vehicles.

Endurance? Forget about it. Rarely will you tire one of these guys out. Only once has Maisie run out of steam. It was on my friend Hunter’s watch while I was on vacation. It took herding horses, herding goats and herding a tractor mowing a field in July heat and humidity to finally achieve exhaustion. “It can be done!” Hunter’s email crowed, along with photo evidence of Maisie asleep on the tile floor. Okay, so we’ve gotten her once in 3 years.

There are some pluses. It’s hard to be sedentary. You will get your butt off the couch and do something everyday whether you want to or not. In all sorts of whether. You can’t escape The Eye.

And I’ll say another thing: border collies are a good warm-up to raising kids. People always say that your life is never the same once you have a child. Ditto with a border collie. The first 3 years are hell and even after that, you won’t get much rest.

Fortunately, there’s a reverse advantage. If you can train one of these things, you can train a kid. The tenets are the same: 1. exercise them frequently, 2. give them a job, 3. and when they’re wrong, correct them. Otherwise let them figure it out.

So why have one of these in the first place, aside from the exercise-drill sergeant aspect? (the dog, not the kid) If you’re a manic, outdoorsy person, they’re good company. Maisie keeps up with our life. She fits with the farm. And she is blissfully accepting of toddlers who sit on her, pull her tail and yank treats from her mouth.

And even if you’re being watched, there is always a reprieve. Late at night when the horses are stabled and kids are asleep, the tv’s silent and the lights are off, the dog sprawls at the foot of the bed. The foot usually seeps into the middle — how does a reed-thin dog command so much territory?

But no matter. The dog’s cutting you a break, so don’t complain. You can stretch, roll over and reposition without scrutiny.

Cause even border collies have to sleep sometime.