Sunday, August 1, 2010

Dog Stories #1

On the way home from church today we saw Australian Shepherd puppies for sale. They were so cute. I love their two colors of eyes and all the variations of colors. It reminded me of something I just had to blog about. A couple of years ago we were looking for our second Search and Rescue dog. We looked high and low for almost 6 months. SAR dogs are special and you are looking for a dog with a specific personality and drive. They have to be friendly but not overly so. They have to be courageous but not stupid. They have to be easily trained but be able to think and work on their own. They need to be playful but serious, too. And they seriously need to have an on/off switch so they will work hard when it is time to work and lay at your feet when they are not working. There are several breeds that seem to dominate Search and Rescue. We mostly see German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labs, and Border Collies. Neither breed is better than the other, but each of them have their own strengths and differences, but they all have an incredible work ethic. These dogs are unstoppable and they love to Search! My Bernese Mountain Dog, Maggie, is not a picture of a SAR dog. In fact, she is always hot, hates change (you should have seen the way she acted the other day when I rearranged my bedroom), is very wary of strangers, acutely protective of me, does not take direction or discipline well, pouts, hides, and runs any time I want her to do something, and chases anything that moves, which is a big "no no" in Search. You could say we have a love-hate relationship. Definitely not SAR material.

So, the search was on. We looked at hundreds of dogs from private owners who were hoping to rehome their pets, humane societies, and even looked at a women's prison that took in and trained working dogs. That was quite an experience. We saw an add for working Border Collie puppies on a ranch in the mountains west of Colorado Springs. We weren't optimistic but we went anyway. We arrived just in time to see the owner pulling up with his flat-bed truck pulling his horse trailer with four Border Collies riding on back. This elderly, weathered, chap-wearing cowboy climbed out of the front to greet us. They had been out all day rounding up his free range cattle to move them. And I suddenly felt like I was talking to John Wayne and was immediately in love with this charming fellow. We chatted for a bit and he showed us to the barn to find he had two different litters from two different moms. One group was hand shy, and when we met the mom realized they had picked that up from her. The second set was very friendly and a couple of them seemed to possess the play drive and confidence we were looking for. They were seriously up for consideration and we wanted to see their parents in action. Mr. Chap-wearing Cowboy grabbed his driver, dropped a golf ball and started nailing golf balls over the fence and out into the fields. I have never seen anything so precious or timeless in my life. This dirty, tired, weathered cowboy hitting golf balls in his chaps and watching his overly eager and competitive Border Collies fight for top dog position. I only wish I could draw the picture I see in my mind. I could have grabbed a lemonade, pulled up a chair, and talked to this guy for days. We didn't end up with a Border Collie , but I am thankful for the memory.

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