My husband and daughters would flee if they read this title, because I do get maudlin about my dogs.
But honestly, what’s not to love? For me, the doggie smell, the shed fur, the muddy paw-prints are nothing compared to the constant loving friendship, the happy tail which expresses their joy, their melting expressive eyes, their sheer joy when accompanying you on a walk, the way they follow you around the house, their delight when you return which makes a house truly home. I would like to have dogs as long as I live, and the thought of living without animals or a garden makes a nursing home unthinkable. It’s dramatic to say “I’d rather die,” but I guess without a garden and pets I soon would.
Soon after we moved to the country, to a idyllic quiet spot perfect for a writer—no neighbours to the left or right , behind or in front of me—a couple of local teens broke into our house. Well, I happened to be there at the time, and told them off, though they had been quietly ferrying stuff out of the house before I noticed their presence. We have an old rambling kind of house!!
Well, the police suggested country remedies—a gravelled driveway, geese (we have ducks instead) and a dog.
Roy wanted to wait till we had settled, but what a trump card! The police said we should get a dog!!
So we called all the Rescues around, describing what we wanted—a dog, any dog, fearsome to intruders, but a good family dog.
Someone said “Oh we have just the dog for you, a collie.”
Dear Reader, such was my ignorance, that I imagined a collie look like this
like the sheepdog the English nuns had in my boarding school, Saint Mary’s Convent, Nainital. I went there when I was 9 and irrepressible. I ran out of the classroom every time I saw that dog, and my teacher ran after me, and the three of us chased each other round and round the skating rink.
Well, it turned out Jake was a special kind of collie, a short-haired Border Collie, and he is wall-eyed—he has one beautiful brown eye, and one beautiful blue eye. I think he’s beautiful, but a blunt friend of mine said she thought he wasn’t a looker.
Perhaps that explained why he was not adopted for 18 months, and lived alone in a concrete tiny room. And he a border collie, a breed which needs, and thrives on exercise.
When we went to see him, all he wanted was for me to throw a stick for him to retrieve. “He could do it all day,” the lady said. Well, yes, particularly if he had lived in a concrete cage! He has brought me so much joy, it hurts to think of those 18 months wasted alone in his cell.
Well, I didn’t immediately take to him, particularly. As I said, all he wanted to do was retrieve a stick. He’s not the sort of waggy, friendly, heart-meltingly adorable dog that you immediately love. He’s more reserved, takes his time to make up his mind about you, is more English, if you like.
But my neutrality didn’t seem a good enough reason to banish him to loneliness in a cold, unheated concrete cell, and so we brought him home.
Working dogs decide who the Alpha animal or human is, and commit their loyalty to them. Classic one man or one woman dogs! Well, Jake decided I was the Alpha female (way to go, Jake!) and committed his love to me. And by the evening, I too was fast in love.
Border Collies are the smartest breed of dogs, followed by poodles, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Doberman Pinchers. (I have owned 1 German Shepherd and 2 Golden retrievers). They are reputed to understand up to 165 words and have the cognitive ability of a two and half year old.
Jake understands everything I say to him (well, obviously, I don’t talk theology or poetry to him, nor do I present the Gospel). I speak to him in a clear, distinct, simplified Dog English, though I sometimes feel I am insulting his intelligence.
I have the best commute in the world, from my bedroom to my study, which is on the upper floor of a detached little house in our garden. I tell Jake, “We’ll go Up,” and there he scampers. His favourite phrase is “We’ll go for a walk,” and then he goes wild with joy. The only problem is that I am exhausted, and he’s just got going. He understands things like Stay, Wait, Kitchen, and of course, food.