Warm Temperatures and Border Collies

What do you do in fall/beginning of winter in Fairbanks, Alaska? Well, this girl soaks up the remaining sun and whatever warmth she can get.

Roads have been pretty slick in my neighborhood the past few days, but that hasn’t stopped me from heading out to do errands in town, then back home to play with the dog. About half of our snow has melted, and temperatures have been getting up to 40˚F–too warm when you have too much snow on the ground to melt in one day!

I’ve quickly found that the best thing about our house is the amazing natural light. Most of the windows of our house face almost due south, so we get to watch the sun traverse the sky throughout the day. This is great for me, since winter can be a hard time with its frigid darkness, and this means I can make some Vitamin D while warm indoors playing with my son!

The past couple of days, I have decided to forgo what would be a slick winter walk with my seven-month-old, and instead just head out to the backyard to throw the frisbee for the dog. We have a border collie. He recently turned ten years old, but he acts like he’s got the energy of a ten-week-old! If anyone knows border collies, then they know that there is no real “off” switch on these dogs. They go until they simply can’t. Which means they would rather die than stop fetching or herding (whichever they have been trained to do). They are people-pleasing and loyal, and ours really is a great dog. They have a fiercely loyal following as well, and after nearly ten years with ours, I can see why. He really is a great dog (but don’t tell my husband I said that!).

The problem with our dog is that he doesn’t know when to stop. He’s literally torn up his feet on sharp rocks, bleeding, flaps of skin hanging off his feet, and still fetches as if nothing is wrong (while the German Shepherd is whimpering in pain at her torn feet). I think that’s the definition of obsessive. However, I must admit that he has been taught to “turn it off.” In other words, my husband and I can tell him “that’s enough” and he takes the toy he’s been trying to get us to play with for the past half hour, and goes to bed. That’s pretty well trained.

I’ve even taken pains to train him to find his toys, as well as distinguish between them. Each of his toys has a name. We have “Mr. Blue,” “Giraffe,” “Green bone,” and a multitude of others. (What can I say, he’s the spoiled first “child.”) And he’s smart. Too smart.

Shortly after our son was born, the dog was having a hard time adjusting to not being the center of attention. He was a little neglected, and there were toys everywhere. It’s not uncommon, especially these hectic, pre-toddler days, to turn around after changing a diaper and trip over two toys. Or when you squeak a toy for the baby, the dog comes running, always eager and ready. But when our son was very young, perhaps days or weeks old, and when he’d cry, the dog would bring him all his toys. One very memorable moment was when my husband was changing our son’s diaper, and the dog brought about three or four toys over to drop at my husband’s feet, an offering to our son as if he were saying, “here, this makes me feel better, why don’t you try it?”

It’s taken me years to love this dog, but I have to say I appreciate him much more now than when I “adopted” him through marriage. He’s had ten good years. We’ll see how many more he gets!

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