I will never stop loving border collies, even though Zinnia, my yellow lab, is the dog I need in my life now.
While visiting our friend and shearer Liz Willis, in Vermont today, I looked down the road and saw her two beautiful dogs – border collies – staring at me, wagging their tails, as if we were old friends.
It was like we knew one another in another life, we both just lit up at the sight of each other. Maria often says that I think like a border collie,that’s a sobering thought.
I guess we are alike in a sense.
I made eye contact with them, and I smiled and they smiled, we knew one another, we knew that look in the eyes of the other, it says “come on, move! Let’s do it! Hey, come and throw this frisbee, or herd these sheep before the top of my head comes off!”
I know this look, I love this look. I came down the hill and these two dogs were eagerly waiting for me.
They know how to play people like me to give them what they want – work to do. There are no other dogs like them.
I leaned over but couldn’t reach over to the ground, where the frisbee lay. They made sure that I could see it. One of them right came up to me, looking impatiently at me, but tail wagging.
What was taking so long? I knew the look.
I know border collies, there is no animal on the earth smarter than they are. I pointed to the red frisbee, and then up to my chest. “Throw it up here,” I said, “I can’t reach it down there.”
The black and white dog with the big ears (I don’t know their names) looked down at the frisbee, and then up at me. I gestured again to my chest. He looked at me, then the frisbee. He figured it out in three seconds.
He picked up the frisbee and flipped it up in the air, it was simple enough for me to catch it, and then throw it. They two of them raced off happily.
Then we did it again. And again. For border collies, once is fun. Twice is a lifetime addiction.
The dogs had that mad and joyous border collie look, the black-headed one had rushed back with the frisbee and didn’t need to be asked, he just tossed it up in the air so I could catch it, a perfect toss.
And he knew he had me. His look in the photo say sit all.
On the way home, I joked to Maria that if that were Zinnia, she would stare at me for a month before she would grasp the problem – I couldn’t reach it. Border collies make those decisions all the time with sheep, it’s what they do.
I am very lucky and happy to have Zinnia.
As I write this, she is asleep, her head resting comfortably on my foot.
I love her calm and ever-present love, her affection for all living things, her way of slipping so easily into my life.
But I did love seeing these two dogs at Liz’s farm. They evoked Rose, and Izzy and Red, three of the greatest dogs I have ever had. In the years I had Rose, I’m not sure I ever spoke to her, it wasn’t necessary once we got to Bedlam Farm. She just knew what to do.
I believe dogs are spirit animals, they enter our lives and mark the passages of time. Rose had hers, Red had his, Zinnia has hers. Each one altered the trajectory of my life.
Maria says the border collies and I love each other because we are alike in so many ways – obsessive creatures with mad gleams in our eyes. And enthusiasm for life.
I don’t know yet why Zinnia is here, that has yet to be revealed. Rose disdained games, she would have scowled at me, Izzy loved to chase frisbees, playing was usually beneath Red’s dignity.
I do know that Zinnia, sweetest of souls, could never figure out how to snap a frisbee up in the air that quickly so that I could catch it and throw it for her to chase.