Whole Dog Journal's Blog March 7, 2013

Shhh! Don’t tell Otto I’m falling in love with another dog

Posted at 02:28PM - Comments: (7)

Otto is my heart dog/canine soul mate, my mixed-breed wonder dog. His first six or seven months are shrouded in mystery, as he was brought into my local shelter at about five months old, after being caught in a chicken coop by an irate owner of formerly living chickens. (I love him so much, I’m willing to suggest that he might have been framed; he’s never tried to kill MY chickens!) Otto sometimes resembles a miniature Irish Wolfhound, or a gigantic Norwich Terrier; he’s right in between the two in shape and size and coat quality. He could be anything, though his behavior suggests a little something “birdy” -- when he spots or hears birds, he points. Flushing quail or pheasants or wild turkeys (in that order) score an 8, 9, and 10 on Otto’s fun list. But chasing rabbits and deer (briefly) also score 10s – and he is not interested in waterfowl in the least. So much for his behavior informing us as to his breed.

It doesn’t matter to me in the least that he’s a big mixed-up pup. I love that his looks (and behavior!) are unpredictable and uniquely his.

But there is a big place in my heart for purpose-bred dogs, too. I grew up with stock dogs – mostly Kelpies and Australian Cattle Dogs. I was also familiar with hounds, used by some of our neighbors for hunting bears and wild pigs. Being around those rough-and-tumble dogs made me really fall hard for another purpose-bred dog, the Border Collie. They were just as keen, but gentler and more sensitive than the working dogs of my youth.

Rupert was my first and only Border Collie (so far). Until Otto came along, I would have said that he was my one-and-only heart dog. An old boyfriend bought him for me the year I graduated from college; we picked him out of a litter bred and born on a sheep ranch. His price? Just $50; he was the “dud” of the litter, without a shred of interest in (nay, fixation with) sheep that his $500 siblings showed in abundance, even at the tender age of just four months old.

Even without an interest in sheep, though, he was all Border Collie weirdness and energy. He displayed a fierce work ethic Border Collies are renowned for, as well as some of the odd fears or superstitious behaviors that can be the bane of the breed. I loved him, and he loved me, for all 14-plus years that we shared.

After he passed away, I could no more have replaced Rupe with another Border Collie than I could have replaced my mother, who died a year to the day before.

But a young Border Collie is staying with me right now, and it’s bringing up all sorts of feelings and memories of Rupie. Thank goodness, she has owners; I’m not at risk of adopting her and breaking Otto’s heart in some sort of canine polygamy. She belongs to a married couple, 80 years old – the parents of a friend. They, too, had a beloved BC in their past, and decided that their last dog would be another one like the one they gave their hearts to years before. However, they had somehow forgotten about the difficulty of the adolescent months with a Border Collie – the relentless need for activity and mental stimulation. They remember their last dog (suitably named “Keeper”) as being more or less perfect, without much of an effort on their part. “Pumpkin” (I cannot explain the name) is staying with me for a week for a bit of training and exercise – and my own enjoyment.

Oh, those dancing brown BC eyes! Oh, the mischief! The light-footed leaps, the quirky decisions, the superquick learning curve. The way a one-mile hike is turned into a three-mile race, with brave forays into the distance and lightning-fast returns. “Just checking! And c’mon, c’mon, c’mon, why are you going so slow!” Ack, my heart is melting.

She gets picked up on Saturday. But I’m already negotiating for inheritance rights with my friend. KIDDING! I want her owners to live forever! But I’m here. Just saying ;)

Comments (7)

As long as I can remember I have always had a dog in my life. I have loved each and every one. I am now 74 years old. Six years ago I pleaded with my husband to let me get another dog after having to put down a our Yorkie the year before. He really didn't want another dog but he knew in his heart how much I yearned for another. I didnt need a pure bred again so we found a woman who though she had pure bred dogs also had mixed breeds for sale. I looked at several little darlings but when one little white poodle/bishon mix almost 7 weeks old weighing only 2 lbs made eye contact with me I knew I had to have her. I then asked if there were anymore like her and sure enough they brought out another white poodle/bishon mix about 3 lbs. She also made eye contact and I knew I had to have them. My husbands mouth dropped open when I asked if I could have them both. Since my birthday was in a couple of weeks, just 4 days before Christmas, and being the kind man that he is, he bought both as my two gifts, one for each day. They are 6 years old now and fill us with so much love and joy. My husband calls them his "girls". Baby Girl & Sugar are my "heart" girls.
We have 5 adult children and 13 grandchildren. They roll their eyes when we talk about our "girls" but thats okay. lol

Posted by: Grace A | March 14, 2013 9:22 AM    Report this comment

Looks like many of us can relate to you, Nancy! Just what if we adopted that breed we had when we were younger...My husband and I have a 14.5 year-old Aussie who is definitely my heart dog. But something went boing! when we spotted the year-old red and white border collie at Animal Services. He was leaning up against the chain-link kennel, soulfully connecting with us as we walked by on just a "look-see" visit. No one claimed him so he was ours just 5 days later. Of course, it hit us when we got home - "what have we done!" My first dog was a tri-color border collie pup who I picked out when I was 13 and dying for a dog. He was my best friend and love through the turbulent teen years. But this guy - Gabe - he hasn't met a person he doesn't love and a frisbee/ball that can't be retrieved! At three, now, he is spoiled rotten and somewhat mellowed, but our Aussie can still put him to rights. Australia's life is enriched with extra runs and treats, and our three cats just think Gabe is the cat's meow! So, I say go for it, Nancy - when Otto is a little older and needs a buddy.

Posted by: Robin Chaffey | March 13, 2013 3:46 PM    Report this comment

Oh, Nancy, I lost my 'perfect' lab one year to the day that my mum passed away...I couldn't possibly entertain the idea of another lab...so now I have a crazy border terrier!

Posted by: Cami | March 13, 2013 1:03 AM    Report this comment

Re "Pumpkin",
Some ideas for the older folks to exercise (with a little training...). If they have an unfenced yard, they could purchase a long-line (30 - 50 feet). I use a long line to let my mini-Aussie run around in the winter when we cannot go to the dog park; he has learned the extent of the long-line and not to get wound around trees while happily running around and getting his exercise. Of course, I stay outside with him and hold the end of the long-line. Also, the older couple could take Pumpkin to a dog park. In the summer, I take my mini-Aussie to the dog park and I throw balls for him to retrieve; he brings them right back about 90% of the time when other dogs are present and close to 100% of the time when there are no other dogs. A "Chuck-it" helps to give added distance to my throws.

Posted by: margeam | March 12, 2013 4:14 PM    Report this comment

What I wouldn't give to have a back up in the event of my demise. Someone who wanted inheritance rights! My hounds are great but my younger female is full of mischief and personality. So far none of my friends or relatives seems to have clicked with her. If I had a Nancy in the background I'd be thrilled to have someone tell me what you said about Pumpkin!

Posted by: YIKMDLF | March 12, 2013 3:30 PM    Report this comment

Great article. :)

Posted by: Unknown | March 12, 2013 11:17 AM    Report this comment


I live with this issue every day in my retirement community where some breeder has sold a puppy to someone in their 80's who can no longer walk, let alone bend over, etc. I run enrichment classes for these pups, trying to give them basic training leading toward a CGC, as well as socialization, enrichment and exercise. Many are superb little dogs some of us younger residents kid each other about fighting over if the dog ever needs to be re-homed!

On your main point - I lost a soul-mate Tibbie, a special needs rescue, and could not possibly imagine getting another one. I got an adorable hound-mix rescue instead, who is a perfect buddy for me right now, but the fantasies are starting to impinge on my thoughts - maybe my next dog??? Just saying.

Joan MacKenzie, CPDT-KA

Posted by: Joan M | March 12, 2013 10:52 AM    Report this comment

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