Shape up, Maisie

Maisie’s days of “freelancing” with our neglected herd of sheep are coming to an end. I just enrolled her in an intense, hands-on sheepdog training clinic next weekend.

Border Collie boot camp.

Frankly I’m leery about it. For one thing, I’ll be around dog people for 3 straight days. And no one’s crazier than a dog owner. Except maybe a horse owner.

Secondly, this clinician is a no nonsense trainer. He’s Scottish, he yells and he carries a big stick. And while he hollers a fair share at the dogs, it’s the owners who bear the brunt of it.

Back in the day, my old dog Corrie went to these clinics. But she was teacher’s pet — a suburban dog with no experience, no practice, but a natural knack and style for moving sheep. Poetry in motion.

Jack, the stick-wielding Scotsman, would cast a look of disgust over the crowd of owners. Then he’d point at Corrie. “Just look at this dog. Lives in the city, never gets any proper training (looking disdainfully in my direction), and see how she moves out here. She listens…she senses… You wish your dogs did this well.”

Of course I’d be sitting there smugly, basking in the glow of Jack’s backhanded compliments.

Well, the tables will turn. Next weekend I’ll be the chagrined owner facing a lecture. Because Maisie doesn’t herd our sheep. She winds them up like cars on a Nascar track, running them faster and faster until they’re just a dingy white blur streaking through the field. She does not know finesse, only speed.

It would be nice to banish her bad habits. I just wish I didn’t have to get schooled, too.