Thursday, November 15, 2012


HELP!  I'm trapped here with a six-month-old border collie, and I don't know where to hide.

Many years ago there was a sweatshirt that said, "Border Collie:  Everything you've ever heard is true."  My friends, you better believe it.  And you probably haven't heard the half of it.

Presto is six months, two weeks and one day old.  He's 17 inches at the withers and he weighs 32 pounds.  He adds breadth and depth to phrases like "hell on wheels" and  "a piece of work" and  "a handful"  and "a holy terror."

At the same time, though, he has certain sterling qualities which should be recognized and appreciated.

Presto!'s cup (?) runneth over with love.  When Presto! was still just a little guy, the owner of Barbara's company dropped by for lunch.  My little lover crawled up his chest . . . and peed on his shirt.

Presto! is a lap dog.  Sit down in a chair at your own risk.  BAM! He comes out of nowhere, takes off five feet out, and his butt hits your lap at the same instant his tongue hits your face.  God help you if you were holding a cup of coffee.

Presto! is extraordinarily focused.  On the dining room table and the kitchen counter.  His mission in his young life is that not one unattended morsel -- of anybody's anything -- escapes.  So what if now and then the peace is shattered by shards of china crashing around the room?

Presto! is playful.  Cheddar is my 10-year-old retired golden retriever competition obedience dog.  And Presto!'s canine best friend.  They would roughhouse 24 hours a day if I didn't break it up.  Trouble is, Presto! has now reached the age and the size where he can maul Cheddar.  Did you know that you can sink your teeth into the forehead skin of a golden, directly above and between the eyes?  And get a good enough hold to pull the golden through the house.  Picture one of those guys who fastens a chain to the front bumper of an 18-wheeler, holds the other end in his teeth and pulls the big truck down the street.  That's Presto! dragging Cheddar through the house.  Do you wonder why I step in and break it up?

Cheddar seems to love it.  He may run to one of us for protection from time to time, but he goes right back for more.  Which is why we've taken to calling him Saint Cheddar.

Did I mention that Presto! likes to play?  But it's a whole different game with Bravo!, my also-retired rescue border collie  (the most titled obedience dog in the history of Arizona Border Collie Rescue). Bravo! took charge of the ascendance/submission relationship early on.  From day one, Presto! knew Bravo! was putting up with no crap.  The relationship has developed slowly.  Now, at six months, Bravo! is Presto!'s mentor.  Presto! follows Bravo! around and does what he does. But it's their play where the relationship has really blossomed. (Blossomed? Well, sort of like a mushroom cloud.)

It's best described as "war games."  Bravo! usually sets it off.  And there are "really weird" (that's Barbara speaking) things that trigger Bravo!  If I go through the house changing the water bowls.  If I shake pills from a bottle.  If I carry the scent articles throught the house.  Those triggers send Bravo! into a cataclysm of spinning and roaring, always with a toy in his mouth.  At first that frightened Presto!  He hung back.  Nowadays he participates full bore, peak decibels -- lunging at the spinning, roaring Bravo! -- barking growling.

It's like World War l l l .  You'd think they're killing each other.  Or that we're training pit bulls in the living room.  So far the neighbors haven't called the cops.

Presto! is a pain in the ass.  Barbara again.  Recently, after she had shooed Presto! away from the kitchen counter for the umpteenth time in a five-minute period, she declared:  "Border collies are so cute when they're little, and they're so great after they grow up.  In the middle they're a pain in the ass."

Have I mentioned that we love Presto! like crazy?

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Next time we'll take a snapshot of where the little pain in the ass and I are in our competition obedience training here at six months and counting.


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