Why Border Collies Are Easy

001Jasmine is not normal.

When me and my ex-husband adopted Jasmine from the shelter in September, 2004, I thought she seemed like a sweet, very needy, but kinda dumb young dog. I also thought she was a really quiet dog.

The adoption decision ultimately was my ex’s to make. I’d been looking for a while, but was becoming overwhelmed. I .was leaning toward a Leonberger with half a tongue, only because I’m often drawn to the quirky. Plus he was a big dog and I love big dogs. Upon retrospect, I’m sorta glad that didn’t happen. Can you imagine the water splatter?

In the end, he chose Jasmine over a half German Shepherd, half pit bull puppy. I actually preferred the puppy a bit, but at the time couldn’t imagine raising one. We reasoned he was cute and would be adopted quickly.

Jasmine is the only dog in my household I did not choose. I have a great deal of guilt about that. Only because I feel that I should’ve chosen her. I guess it balances out in the end though. She definitely chose me,although I didn’t know it at the time.

Truthfully, I wanted a Border Collie. But I was a bit scared of the time commitment and energy needs I’d have to manage. I did go look at one Border Collie. Ironically, his name was Chaz and he was red and white. But I felt we didn’t click, and I needed to feel that certain something before making the commitment.

Jasmine was approximately a year old upon her adoption. I actually think she was a bit younger. I look back now and realize she still had puppy fat rolls and her whole body still had a floppy feel and look to it. She came from the Yakima area, found as a stray, and apparently in her travels tangled with some barbed wired. Some of the wire was wrapped around her chest and part of an upper leg when she came into rescue. She ended up having the wound stitched, but re-opened and re-stitched as it became infected because the first vet missed seeing a grass seed in the wound.

When we adopted her, she’d only been in rescue for a day or so before she was transported west to the Seattle area for the better likelihood of finding a potential adopter. As it turned out, as we were filling out the paperwork to adopt her, another couple came in and wanted to take her home. We were first, so we became the lucky ones. My ex and I used to joke how that other couple had no idea of how we saved them.

Because we couldn’t agree on a new name for her, the rescue’s name of Jasmine ended up sticking.

Jasmine didn’t make a sound for two weeks. Not a single utterance. She also seemed relatively stupid, especially in comparison to our other dog, Sylvie. We didn’t really take into account Sylvie’s very strong personality nor the fact that Jasmine was probably incredibly overwhelmed and a bit scared. At the time Sylvie was at least  nine years old and had been an only dog since coming into my life. Sad and funny how we humans think a one-year-old dog and an almost 10-year-old dog are apples to apples.

It also became apparent within 48 hours of having Jasmine that she had separation anxiety. I came home to a mess of a house and a pair of destroyed shoes when I foolishly left the dogs alone for a few hours to get my hair cut.

So, we attempted to crate train her. Train isn’t really the proper word. We placed her in Sylvie’s old airline crate and expected that she’d like it. Wrong. She chewed through it. So we bought a metal crate. Still wrong. She chewed the pan at the bottom out. So we placed her inside of it with some toys and went out to dinner. We returned to find she had somehow managed to move the very large crate from one end of the living room to the other, placing herself inside the fireplace, and leaving around her a snowstorm from the chair cushion she had somehow dragged off the chair, into her crate and destroyed.

That was the last time Jasmine was ever crated in her life.

I’ve since learned a lot more about proper crate training, and even Jasmine will now tolerate a crate for a little bit. As long as I’m within view and have a ready supply of treats.

I’m pretty sure she’s claustrophobic. Or so I tell myself.

Within the first few months, we learned to Jasmine-proof the house and slowly worked on her separation anxiety. That is when I discovered the power of the Kong. For that first year she was with me, Jasmine might as well have lived off peanut butter filled Kongs.

However, there were times when a Kong just wasn’t enough. One such memorable time was Christmas of 2004. Left Jasmine and Sylvie alone in the house while attending to some last minute Christmas chores. Returned to find that Jasmine had discovered the bird seed that was to have been one of my Christmas presents. opened the bag and cavorted through all three levels of the house with the bag of bird seed, spreading joy through our little world.

I was still vacuuming up bird seed by Valentine’s Day.

The day didn’t end there though. Later on Christmas Day, while out in the yard, and away from our eyes, she discovered something delicious and very greasy to roll in. Whatever it was, and to this day i have no idea, carried with it an enormous stench. Jasmine promptly got a lovely bubble bath. Bubbles because it took some severe scrubbing for that stink and greasiness to come out. One of my favorite pictures ever taken of Jasmine depicts her in the bathtub, soaking wet, huge ears sticking out sideways and giant pleading eyes looking upward. A silent plea not to be mad at her. A giant smudge of the whatever that was is evident on the side of her head. Unfortunately, that picture was lost in a computer meltdown many years ago.

I enrolled Jasmine in several obedience classes and became her primary handler. Still, I thought of her as my ex-husband’s dog. She adored him, he adored her. I had to do all the hard stuff, like training, doing her obedience homework, teaching the various tricks, and the not-so-fun stuff, like sometimes disciplining her and taking care of most of her exercise needs. He did sometimes take her for a run with him, but mostly he got to show of her repertoire of tricks when we had company over.

Jasmine’s exercise needs were seemingly bottomless.

I figured that was pretty normal for a one-year-old dog. After all, it’d been years since I was around a puppy and Sylvie had been a mature dog for a very long time. I’d also adopted her as an adult dog.

Jasmine and I went to the dog park a lot. A kind older gentleman one day saw the look of exasperation on my face over some Jasmine antic.

“How old is your dog?” he asked.

“She’s about a year old,” I replied.

“You’ve got another year before she starts to calm down,” he helpfully informed me, adding, “another two and she’ll be a very good dog.”

He was right, and he was wrong.

It would take three years before she would calm down, some, and another before she would become a very good dog.

Because most people see only a certain side of Jasmine – the well-behaved, conditioned agility version of Jasmine – most don’t believe me when I talk about that first year with her.

The crowning moment of Jasmine, Year One occurred in late April, 2005.

I was walking her around dusk – I’d quickly discovered that late day was a far better time to release her exuberance upon the world as there were likely to be far less potential victims around – at a local state park. Areas of the park at the time were pretty overgrown and had few visitors. A perfect place to let an energetic young dog burn off some energy and run. In fact, it is because of Jasmine that I learned of all the many secret or less-traveled places to let my dogs run off leash.

As Jasmine was bounding through the growing grass at top speed, barking her fool head off – because that silent thing only lasted those first two weeks and she has a very loud powerful bark – I saw what I first thought was another dog at the far end of the field watching her. Jasmine saw it too. As was, and continues to be, Jasmine’s style, she made a beeline for the other canine. The other “dog” made a beeline toward her. It was then that I realized it wasn’t a dog. It was a coyote.

Jasmine is too large for a coyote to eat, but when threatened, a coyote will attack a dog, even a larger one.

As I stood watching this drama unfold in front of me, my first thought was that Jasmine was going to get hurt. So I called her. Of course, she didn’t even flick an ear.

Jasmine and the coyote met each other, stopping just in the nick of time before a frontal collision, They sniffed a bit and then … they started to play.

I stood dumbfounded as I watched the two of them play chase in a huge overgrown field bordered by blackberry bushes and trees. At one point they were both so far out they looked like specks and I could barely make them out except for the leaps in the grass.

As I watched them, I realized that I might lose Jasmine. I confess, I was not sad. Actually, I felt relief wash all over me. Maybe Jasmine wouldn’t come back. Maybe the coyote would tire of her and attack her. I was so exhausted.

It wasn’t meant to to be. The coyote did eventually tire of the game, and he/she walked away. Jasmine came running back to me, tongue lolling to the side and seemingly quite pleased with herself for making a new friend.

Jasmine has since met plenty more coyotes, and she’s generally not threatened by them nor threatening to them, but with the exception of a large male that I’m pretty sure she had a flirtation with a few years back, I’ve never seen another play with her.

That day was a turning point in our relationship. I realized I was stuck with her. Well, it was actually the first of many turning points. But it was the first time I realized just how nutty my dog was.

I recall telling a few friends about her many antics in that first year. A few suggested that maybe she needed to be on drugs. That seemed equivalent though to putting an active four-year-old child who is constantly asking “why” on drugs. I chose not to. I didn’t even know about Benadryl then.

As it turned out, Jasmine was far from “dumb.” In addition to her need for physical activity, I discovered Jasmine was happiest when her brain was also engaged. I didn’t know it then, but I learned afterward and as a result of working with Jasmine that oftentimes brain work is more tiring than physical activity for a dog.

And that’s how we came to enroll in agility lessons.

it was at one such agility lesson that i saw a posting about 3/4th Border Collie and 1/4 Australian Cattle Dog puppies. That inquiry led to Youke.

By then I’d realized that my fears about not being able to provide a Border Collie with an interesting enough life were completely and utterly unfounded.

I would never have known that had it not been for Jasmine.

The other day, a friend and I took some of our respective dogs out on a 7.5 mile walk. That distance is for the humans. Since the dogs were frequently ahead of us or exploring off to the bits at the side before racing to catch up and rejoin us, who knows what their actual mileage was. It’s a new place to them, so lots of new sights and smells, which are usually tiring to dogs. I took Jasmine and Youke.

When I returned home, Youke promptly plopped on the floor, but seeing that he wasn’t getting fed quite that early, headed off for bed until dinnertime. He was pretty content to return to bed after being fed too.

Jasmine got home and immediately had to check out the yard. Then she had to follow me around while I dealt with laundry. Once I settled in my office for a bit, she settled on one of the dog beds in the room for all of two minutes, before then getting up and doing several somersaults between two of the beds, all the time making wookie noises. Yes, somersaults. Jasmine still does somersaults at the age of nearly 12.

Today, because, gasp! – she’d not done much of anything so far because I had the nerve to take just Youke out by himself, Jasmine started pacing as soon as I got home. She came upstairs with me while I checked emails, but sighed mightily numerous times, making her restlessness very clear. When I decided at about 6 pm to take them all out for a bit, she beat everyone else down the stairs to get to the door into the garage first, all the time barking her joy and excitement. At the field, she raced to get to the ball first, making sure to nearly bowl over each of the other three in her quest. Then she got bored and went off to sniff critter scents. But just to keep the other three on their game, she’d occasionally charge out from the sidelines to race for a ball. Because they have each been bowled over numerous times in the past and it seems fairly unpleasant, the three Border Collies usually defer to Jasmine and let her race ahead to the ball. They know she’ll get bored and drop it on the way back usually.

So yeah. Having three Border Collies is easy. Having one Jasmine is still sometimes a lot of work.

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