Country dogs have lots of jobs. They are herders, protectors, guardians, security, companions, and even babysitters. Here at C & S Border Collies we have all types of dogs with all types of jobs.
My husband Chris (the “C” in C & S) and I have been raising and trialling Border Collies for nearly 30 years. We have had the privilege of sharing our home and our hearts with many dogs; most of them Border Collies who herd our sheep. A Border Collie’s job is pretty obvious. But what about the other dogs we’ve shared our home with; like the little house dogs or the oversized guardian dogs?
What kind of job do these guys have?
Lately I’ve been wondering (sometimes a scary thing!) about that question. Does every dog really have a job?
One answer, an obvious one, is yes, every dog gives us humans pleasure in one form or another. Our Border Collies make the task of gathering the sheep very easy. Simply watching them cast out, cover the whole group, and bring them to us is a pleasing sight. The guardian dogs make it easier to have a good night’s sleep when we know they are on the watch for predators. Even the yappy house dog, who welcomes us home with so much joy, who sits in our laps and begs for our attention, makes for a pleasing companion.
I say that every dog has a higher calling than simply that of giving us pleasure. I say every dog has their own unique job and it’s our job to figure out what that is.
To prove my point, I invite you to join me as I share stories about our ranch dogs – large and small – and what I have discovered about my relationship with them. Many times, as I examine my life with each dog, I’m amazed to find that there are layers of interaction that I never appreciated until I started paying attention.
I’m going to start, not with one of the working dogs, but with Lucy.
The first time I saw Lucy she was peering out the driver’s side window of my daughter’s truck.
I watched warily as Jennifer got out, holding a black and brown sausage in her arms.
“I found her down the road,” Jennifer said, adding hastily as her father approached, “She was sitting in a box by the road, with her brother.”
My immediate thought: where’s the brother?
“He was dead. I couldn’t just leave her there.”
Her eyes were on me, but her words were directed at Dad, who refused to take in any stray. Beside the fact that we already had too many doggy mouths to feed and care for, a stray could potentially pass something dangerous to the other dogs.
I was unable to resist the sharp little nose and liquid dark eyes peering out from beneath Jennifer’s arm. The little dog was incredibly cute, with brown points, pert hound dog ears, and bits of white on her chest, feet, and tail. One hundred percent mutt, she was shaped like a dachshund but with longer, stouter legs and a broad forehead that indicated Corgi perhaps in her lineage.
I reached out to pet her and she licked my hand, her whole body wriggling.
“She’s yours if you want her,” Jennifer said, handing her over. “If you don’t,” this with a glance at her dad, “I don’t know what I’ll do with her. I just couldn’t leave her.”
She was little but stout and tense in my arms. I fell in love immediately but waited for Chris’s verdict. When I heard his exasperated sigh, I knew she had touched his heart too.
So Lucy joined the gang. She is mostly black and that’s about all she has in common with the Border Collies. She stays in the kennels with them, runs in the dog pasture when everyone is let out, goes on walks down the road with everyone, and plays with puppies until they get too big for her to knock over.
We were inseparable from the beginning. Lucy follows me around as I do chores and will sit with me on the porch when I relax for a minute. She’ll even be brave and ride the four-wheeler with me even though the noise makes her want to head to her pen.
Lucy is a contradiction of a dog. She has a timid side, yet will run down a rat and kill it, or bravely step out to investigate a snake. She is shy around new people, coming to stand close to my leg at their approach. Then, like a switch, she goes over to sniff an ankle and lick a hand while enjoying a pat. She’ll chase things I throw but won’t bring them back, although she wants me to throw them again.
The sheep and chickens scare her and it’s one of the rare times when she wants me to pick her up. But then as we drive them out to pasture, she’ll run full speed through the sheep, scattering them, and then race back to me. She is full of energy to the point of hyperactivity yet will melt onto her back for a belly rub.
Her favorite thing is to run. Full speed, racing around trees, up and over the porch; circling back to zoom past me. She will run full speed to me and then spin in place like a top at full speed. She’ll do this over and over again and then stop with her tongue hanging out, sides heaving, and lips pulled back in a happy smile.
So what exactly is Lucy’s job? She gives me pleasure, but all the dogs do that. It finally came to me one morning, listening as she crunched a dog biscuit. Lucy has the most satisfying crunch when she eats something hard. I can’t help but pause to enjoy the sound of her chewing. She’ll glance up at me with twinkling eyes, jaws moving, and her pleasure is plain to see.
That’s when I knew what job she has. Lucy’s job is to let everyone know what a joy life can be.
That’s it. That’s her job. Lucy leaps into every situation, every opportunity, with enthusiasm, excitement, and curiosity. Every situation is a chance for her to live full speed and take from it the joy available. She only sees positives, even in stressful times. She trusts that I will keep her safe whether it’s from the sheep, the chickens, or the cat sitting in her way.
Every day when we’re together doing chores, I have opportunities to laugh with delight at this crazy dog, running full speed around and around the greenhouse, then stopping at my feet to look at me with her happy doggy grin.
Her job? Show me, and the people who share her with me, that there is joy waiting to found in every situation. To not only find that joy, but revel in it; let happiness fill me instead of worry, doubt, and fear.
I’m not a person who thinks of a dog in human terms; they think differently than we do. they act like dogs, not like people. Lucy comes by this joyfulness naturally. She can’t help but look for the happy things around her, just like a Border Collie can’t help looking for something to herd. And Lucy’s humans, me especially, are privileged to receive that joy.
To have such a fine example of how to enjoy life and accept the joy found in it is something I am truly grateful for.
What about your dog(s)? Have you figured out what their job is? Let me know. And let me know what you think about Lucy and her job. Please leave a comment, and feel free to share Lucy’s story with your friends.
Watch for my next story, this time about a Border Collie and my husband the handler. Thanks for taking the time to share my story about Lucy.