Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My Jody dog

I'm counting on the fact that so many of my friends are dog lovers and will understand this.  Please share.

My husband and I are dog people.  That might have been the first thing we ever had in common.  While my husband is a dog person though, he has merely put up with my need to drag home every stray I've come across in the last 10 years.  A testament to his patience in this aspect of my life is Jody.  Robert is a lab person.  I am what we call a "laboid" person.  The majority of my strays are all something, something and lab.  For a lab person, learning to live with a Border Collie is like culture shock.

Six years ago I spent the summer driving a tractor in the hayfield for my friend Bruce.  During that time Bruce acquired Jody, a pedigreed but untrained two year old Border Collie from a breeder.  I'm not exactly sure what Bruce was thinking.  I think he expected her instinct alone to be enough for her to work his cows.  She definitely had the instinct and the motor that comes with a Border Collie.  Unfortunately, when he let her loose, she nipped the back of his legs, not his cows'.  So he chained her to a doghouse where every single day that I went to work I had to watch her lunging against the end of that chain.  I took her treats and promised to find her a better home.  It took me two months but I finally convinced Bruce to let me take her home.

When we arrived home I promised Robert she was temporary.  I was going to find her a home.  To prove this I didn't even let her in the barn with our crew of mutts, but housed her in the large pen that our goats live in.  I was not going to become attached to her.  Despite my inexperience with herding dogs, it didn't take me long to realize that finding her a home wasn't going to be easy.  To say that she was high strung is an understatement.  To say she is intense is an understatement.  To say that I became attached to her is an understatement.  It wasn't long before she moved into the barn.

If you've never been loved by a Border Collie, I don't think you can fully understand what I'm about to say.  If you have, I think you will nod your head in agreement.  Jody is neurotic. about. me.  If my path around this farm on a daily basis were mapped from above I would look like the dot you see on the map on your phone.  I would be the dot and Jody would be the circle around me.  Wherever I go she is moving in a circle around me.  If I stand still longer than 2 minutes, she is laying on my feet.  If I'm bent over transplanting, she is in my face.  She has zero concept of space other than to know that my space is her space.  If she is inadvertantly left in our large dog pen while I'm in the field, she paces the fence line barking a reminder that she was left behind.  For the last six years she has been my co-worker and companion.

When our little boy Milan came along four and a half years ago I worried about his impact on our dogs.  None of our dogs were young and none of our dogs had any experience with children.  The dogs definitely felt his presence,  When he was an infant they stayed outside more than upstairs because who wants to wake a sleeping baby?  When he was a toddler crawling over everything in his path, they stayed outside more than upstairs because he couldn't understand they weren't something to crawl on and I couldn't keep up with four dogs and a toddler in the house.  Outside was a different story.  They could get away from him rather than get caught in a corner in the house.

Our large lab, River, has never seemed to notice Milan.  River goes on about his business running over or around Milan as he sees fit.  Our little dog Lina is rarely loose unsupervised because the beagle in her has her following her nose to places she shouldn't be.  My old dog and constant companion, Chacey soon proved that I was going to have to be ever vigilant of her to keep her and Milan separate.  Having lost most of her hearing and her sight in one eye, Chacey has a hard time with Milan.  He easily sneaks up on her, sometimes on purpose, sometimes on accident and scares her.  Having gotten a reaction from her the first time on accident, we went through several months in which his entire goal while outside was to terrorize her.  We finally came out of that phase a couple of months ago.  That left Jody.  My neurotic companion with all of her quirks had one really redeeming quality.  She loved Milan.  The child crawled on her, stepped on her, kissed her, whatever, and she would lay there and take all of it.

I thought, finally, I have one dog that is good with children.  Three years ago when we started our Farmshare program though, this proved not to be the case.  Jody quickly showed she could not handle being around other children.  Her instinct kicked in with them and she wanted to move them.  After ALMOST nipping several children, I knew we had to keep her in the dog pen when other kids were around.  I didn't understand why she was this way with other children and not with Milan.  My best guess is that she saw him as an extension of me and never once offered to herd him. 

Until last week.  We have young chickens living in the backyard waiting to be moved out to pasture and they like to come up to the barn.  Milan was chasing them back to their coop and Jody was in the dogpen next to them frantically running the fenceline trying to get after all of them.  I let her out to be with me without thinking twice.  A few minutes later Milan ran across the yard to pick up a golf ball when she started circling him and then nipped him on the butt.  When he fell down, crying, she nipped him on the cheek.  I had stepped around the barn and didn't see any of this happen, just heard him start screaming.  My hope was that most of this was in his head although I could see immediately that she was looking at him differently.  With the situation diffused and everyone split up, I hoped that with time to calm down things would go back to normal, determined to be hyper-vigilante and not let this happen again.  Two days later we were all headed outside to do chores, Milan ahead of me while I was putting on my boots when Jody started circling him and chased him back in the barn.  I don't know what switch has flipped inside her head but she's decided it's her job to move him. 

While I was sure Robert was going to say she had to go, he surprised me by saying she simply needs to be kept up when Milan is outside.  So that is what we've done for the last week.  I take turns having Jody or Milan with me as I walk the farm.  When Jody has to be in the pen while I am outside though she frantically runs the fenceline barking continuously.  Watching her from across the field takes me back to the dog she was chained up at Bruce's house.  Throwing herself against the end of a chain, barking.  She may not be chained here but she's no happier like this than she was there.  And as much as I hate the idea of letting her go, I can't stand to watch her be like this.  

So now my hope is that this post can reach someone who can give her a better home.  And I know that's going to be a tall order.  She's scared of most men, unless they're soft-spoken.  I know when to expect bad weather because she disappears.  One of the only times she is out of my sight, if a storm is coming she can only be found behind our recycle bins.  While she's had a good stint as an inside/outside dog with us, she only makes a good inside dog when we are in with her.  If left alone in the house, uncrated, she will pee on things, poop if she feels the need and destroy any plastic toys within her reach.  She is very comfortable crated at night.  Jody has no training as a herding dog.  She does respond well to her name unless it's being called by a man that scares her.  She leaves chickens alone, our horses too.  Our goats being behind a fence drive her crazy.   I have no idea what she would do around cattle.  She's never offered to chase a car up or down our driveway, but would chase a car driving fast along the highway if given the chance.  She could not live on a busy road with no supervision.  She does not enjoy car rides, she hovers in the passenger floor board, motionless.  That would probably change if given the opportunity.  The only time I take her off the farm is to go to the vet.  She is up to date on her shots and 6 month heartworm as of last week.  She is spayed.  In the past she had a tickborn disease called Ehrlichia but it was treated.  With the antibodies still in her system, she tests positive for this every year at her annual.  She really likes raw eggs on her food.  

With all of that said, it's breaking my heart to write this.  To make this decision.  

This is my dog. 

I don't take this lightly.  Six years ago I promised this dog a good life.  I will not set her up to fail.  If you can help me, or know someone that can, please email me at rattlesgarden@yahoo.com.  Thanks for sharing, y'all.  


  1. this just breaks my heart for you

  2. As someone who thought I'd have to give up a dog I love after a similar situation, I'm sorry. I can't take her, but I'll share her story if I find someone who can. Patricia McConnell's books and blog have helped me a lot and might offer some techniques to cope until she finds a new home. http://www.patriciamcconnell.com/theotherendoftheleash/dogs-and-kids

  3. As someone who owns border collies that work and compete in sheepdog trials, I understand the love and loyalty these dogs provide, and the intensity and enthusiasm they give everything in life. Border Collies herding children is very common and you are definitely not the first person to have to deal with this. Have you tried working with her to stop her from doing it? I don't think you necessarily have to give her up, and if you haven't tried changing her behavior or haven't had success I think it could be advantageous to contact some herding trainers in your area that know how these dogs work and could help you with this. It could be hard work, but I think you could definitely stop her from herding at least your own child. As you know, border collies are extremely intelligent and can be taught what and when is the correct time to do a behavior. It sounds like you love this dog dearly and I know this is a very hard situation for you, so at the least, talking with some herding trainers could ease your mind that if you have to find her a new home, you have at least done all that you could for her. You can start by contacting the Oklahoma Stockdog Association http://www.okstockdog.com/ (your state doesn't have it's own club and this one covers your state) or the United States Border Collie Handlers Association http://www.usbcha.com/index.html or the American Border Collie Association http://www.americanbordercollie.org/ to locate trainers in your area. The Border Collie herding community on the whole is very kind and eager to help the breed. I hope this helps and good luck with your sweet girl!

  4. You can contact local breeders and dog trainers in your area and become a mentor or take lessons from them directly. http://dogsaholic.com/training/canine-boot-camp.html

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