Wrong Dog, Right Home

A dog story with a happy ending.


Last month, I mentioned that I recently helped an 84-year-old friend with the 10-month-old Border Collie whom she had recently adopted from our local shelter. I wanted to take the opportunity to say a couple of things about this.

First: I wish more people would take their time when they are looking for a dog or puppy to choose. Far too many people adopt the wrong dog when they are in a hurry to adopt. And often, as with my friend, their hearts are in the right place! They adopt from a shelter because they want to save a life and they know the shelter is full; they feel pressured to not leave without a dog. But as I try to convince my dog-seeking friends, this decision is going to affect the next 10 to 15 or more years of your life! Take your time and get a dog who checks all your boxes, who is the right age and size, and who has the right coat and temperament for your home and family. Don’t rush! There are more than enough dogs to go around, and you’ll enjoy one who fits into your home easily more than one who is a struggle to manage.

But here’s the second thing I want to say: When people do adopt the “wrong” dog, boy, do I love it when they dig in and say, “Maybe we made a bad decision, but we’re going to make it work.” My 84-year-old friend and her husband have a mandarin orange farm, and they were hoping their new dog could run loose with the husband as he works on the farm during the day. When Grace proved to be a poor candidate for this – she wanted to chase every rabbit that set foot in the orchards and every car that drove down the country road – the couple thought nothing of building a large fenced run to contain Grace for a few hours during the day. The rest of the time, Grace is either on a leash or she stays in the house.

Better yet, after we worked with Grace together one time my friend took off the choke chain another trainer had recommended, and bought a harness, a waist-belt treat pouch, and a variety of treats. Thus equipped, and after just two private lessons, she now walks Grace several times a day in her rural neighborhood and reports that they are now tightly bonded; Grace listens to her and she no longer feels at risk of being pulled off her feet by the exuberant young dog.

I can’t say I was confident the adoption would work out. But after hearing that my friend had arranged for her daughter to take Grace – along with a trust fund to support the dog – should my friend pass away before Grace does, my heart swelled. It’s just so lovely (and unexpected) when the “wrong” dog falls into the right hands.


  1. Speaking as someone who bred, raised, and trained Border Collies for over 20 years, I’m not surprised at all by Grace’s reaction to the training sessions. Border Collies are incredibly smart, and they want to please their person. Once they know what’s expected, they “get it” (and it doesn’t take them long to learn what’s expected.

    They do like to have a job, though; if they don’t, they can become destructive. The possibilities are endless.