The Country Dog and the City Dog
Our neighbors' black and white border collie escaped from their yard last week and came over to visit. After letting all the dogs enjoy a good chat (a delighted exchange of butt-sniffing), I slapped a leash on Rex and took her back across the street.
"Thanks, Tracy," Jeff said. "You can let her go now."
Jeff is a real live cowboy, from Wyoming or Montana or one of those faraway cowboy states. He teaches horseback riding at his house on Saturdays. He and his family rented the property across the street from us while he finishes grad school. When I returned Rex to her cowboy owner, I realized that there are two kinds of border collie people.
Dave and I are the pretend kind. Jeff is the real kind.
Jeff gave a command to Rex by emitting a series of short, shrill whistles, which made her snap to attention, cock her head at her master, then quickly leap into the back of his pickup truck as if by magic.
When I need our dogs to come out of the pasture and back into our house (so that I may leave them for hours to nap on the furniture, watch television and root through the trash) I don't call them, rather, I negotiate with them, shrieking like a crazed auctioneer:
"Hey pooches! Alllllieeee! Seannnnn-y! C'mon, let's guh-oh! Yes, I mean you! I need y'all in the HOUSE! Who wants a GOODIE? Or maybe a CHEWIE? Wouldn't that be fun? CHEWIE GOODIE CHEWIE GOODIE!!! Yessssssss! HOUSE!"
I know this is way too much verbiage, even for a small child, and certainly for an uber-brainy border collie. This technique is probably the textbook example of how not to call a child or a dog, to say nothing of my use of food bribery. Our neighbors must think we have dogs named "Goodie" and "Chewie."
Serious border collie owners always name their animals one-syllable names, like "Rex," "Fly," or "Kit." I call the neighbors' dog "Rex Anne" behind Jeff's back. I mean, she's a girl, for heaven's sake. I guess we messed up with our two: "Sean Connery" and "Allie."
BCs are working farm dogs. But I think somehow we have made a nice compromised life for our suburban pets. They get to "herd" our pony twice a day, and are only a chain-link fence away from 20 head of sheep. Not such a bad life for dogs who live to group livestock, though it's sometimes really annoying to the pony.
Rex Anne — I mean, Rex — has never seen the inside of a house. And yet she seems perfectly happy. But when I see our beloved poser dogs asleep on their backs, sprawled atop the Ralph Lauren comforter with their fur swaying in the ceiling fan's breeze, I don't feel too guilty about all of us not being the real deal.