The Bane of Border Collies





There are a few things that a Border Collie cannot stand:

1. Thunder, fireworks, and the like…

2. The act of being herded by other dogs…

3. And the smothering affection of children.

Fortunately, Scottish sheep dogs can cower during thunderstorms.

And they can outrun most other canine breeds.

But kids? It’s tough to dodge the crush of kids. They will chase you, they will corner you, they will hunt you down.

Don’t fight it. There’s simply no escape.


Oh please, don’t squeeze off my head…


In Border Collie world, the only good kid is a sleeping kid.



Leave me alone!



Last week Martin needed some alone time.

I know this because he said, “I need some alone time.”

Actually he said, “I need some alone time; I’m going for a walk.”

“Okay,” I replied, refrained from adding, “…fine by me because you’ve been a total grouch lately.”

I didn’t say that last part.

Well I sort of said it… with my eyes.

Anyway, back to walking and alone time. There’s no such thing as “alone time.” At best, if you shed the kids, you’re still stuck with a maniacal dog. Maisie runs circles around anyone attempting a walk. And while she’s running, she’s barking incessantly. Every so often, she swoops behind to bite your ankles.

That’s as alone as it gets.

But last week Martin couldn’t even manage that. He laced up his shoes and set out before dinner, but a chatty neighbor cornered him for an hour.

Later, he made a second attempt. This time the kids trailed him.

It was sunset when he struck out again, in a positively thunderous mood.

My cell rang 15 minutes later.

“I give up!” Martin yelled into the phone.

“What is your problem?” I hollered back. “I have the kids! You’re on your own!”

Apparently not.

Martin made it through the woods and nearly reached the ridge when he felt another presence. He glanced back and spotted the straggler, skulking silently behind.

While on the phone, I asked him to snap a photo.



And I listened to him rave out for a few minutes.

“Okay, okay,” I finally interrupted. “I know you’re crabby and you want to be alone. I get it. But you’re really gonna be alone if you lose Mel. So you better get back here. And bring that damn cat with you!”







Cayden and Maisie, June 2006

When I switched on my phone this morning, it chimed the arrival of new email. Leading the queue: an automated message from the vet’s office. “Happy Birthday to Maisie!”

“Wow,” I said, genuinely surprised. “Today is Maisie’s birthday,” I told Martin and the kids. “She’s 7 years old today!”

Even a canine birthday is cause for excitement, and Cayden and Hadley chattered about an appropriate celebration.

But there wasn’t a debate about Maisie’s present. No one suggested a bone, dog treats or a tennis ball. We all knew what she’d want. Cayden voiced it first.

“Hey, Mom, are you going to let Maisie run away?” he asked. “On purpose… let her run to the river?”

The perfect gift for the dog who has everything.

And I won’t even disturb the purity of it. Later today, I’ll feign distraction (that’s not difficult). I’ll yell at the kids as I duck into the mudroom, struggling with a load of groceries.

And just like that, Maisie will slink through the open gate, dart around the boxwoods, and jog a few steps (that’s the courtesy 1.6-second window she offers us to notice her absence). Then she shifts into full sprint. In five seconds she’s beyond our sight.

Sometimes the neighbors see her, a lean blur of black-and-white, streaking across their lawns. Through Chet’s yard, past Liz’s barn, then a hard right on the gravel lane past Sarah’s. Then she hugs the fence line to the back hay field, then down the steep hill to the power line, and along the river, finally stopping — well — wherever it is that she stops.

Happy Birthday, Maisie. Enjoy the freebie. I promise that when we find you — muddy and peppered with burrs and brambles — I won’t curse you out. Not today.