Never Boring

Ask the average person about their ideal dog and you’ll probably get answers like: Comes when called. Doesn’t pull my arm off when out for a walk. Only barks when absolutely necessary. Never chews my stuff. Has a calm and laid-back nature. Would never think of counter surfing.

And you know what? Hardly anyone remembers these ‘ideal’ dogs (if they actually exist) and their names are rarely brought up in conversation. That’s because there isn’t really much to say about them. The dogs who are truly memorable are the ones who are naughty, mischievous, imaginative, inventive, have a wicked sense of humor and are sometimes super smart. They give us plenty to talk about. They’re the ones whose names come up right after someone says, “You think that’s bad? Wait till I tell you what my dog did!”

They’re the ones who provide endless fuel for gabfests. They’re the reason some obedience enthusiasts wear shirts emblazoned with My Dog Never Did That Before. They’re never boring and – in case you didn’t guess – they’re often Beardies.

Brit crossed the Rainbow Bridge more than 30 years ago but his name still comes up when talk turns to escape artists. He was known as the hairy Houdini. Brit was the Beardie who could open any crate ever made in his day. And he would do it without destroying or even damaging the crate.

And then there was his outdoor pen which was six-foot high chain link topped with heavy-duty wire fencing. Brit would climb to the top, hang on and use teeth and paws to undo the wire holding the cover to the sides. Once he had fashioned an opening large enough, he’d squeeze through and scamper across the kennel building roof. Brit approached every escape as a challenge, a chance to show off his ‘smarts.’ Once free from whatever enclosure had confined him, he’d come and find me as if to let me know he had succeeded. I spent 15 years trying to outsmart him. I never did, and I know I’ll never forget him.

Karen Norteman likes to remember incredibly intelligent Duncan, her second Beardie. As a youngster, he chewed the corner of a fairly pricey book club book that she had planned to return.

Karen recalls, “I sat down with Duncan on the floor, showed him the damaged volume and explained to him I’d been raised with a great reverence for books – and by association, he’d have to develop one too. We looked deeply into each other’s eyes for a moment and then headed out for our evening walk. Duncan never so much as looked at a book again. I could leave library books next to his food dish and he’d never even blink. From that moment on, I was the only one of us who devoured any literature.”

At a large dog show, a lady approached the vendor who specialized in dog books and enquired if they had a particular title. She breathed a sigh of relief when she learned the book was available, explaining she had borrowed it from a friend and her dog had destroyed it. She bought it to replace the decimated book which incidentally was titled “Help, This Dog Is Driving Me Crazy!”

Declan, my beloved blue boy, isn’t interested in books but he acquired a taste for arm bands, as I discovered in his first try for his CD. Bored during the three-minute down exercise, he turned to the arm band beside him and proceeded to happily shred it while still holding the down. After a few more edible arm band encounters, I solved the problem by encasing it in a plastic holder which he sniffed and deemed not to his taste.

Perhaps the taste for turning cardboard into confetti runs in the family. Declan’s sister Lacie, who brightens Aline Brisendine’s life, pulled down a pinned up Christmas card from Aline’s brother and reduced it to snowflakes.

Self-confessed obedience junkie Laurie Lo claims the problem with training clever Beardies is their capacity to anticipate what comes next and not bother to wait for the signal. Vim, her current obedience dog, learned the ‘go-out’ command for Directed Jumping, then decided she knew when to turn and sit instead of waiting for Laurie’s order. A definite no-no. To counteract Vim’s decision to take matters into her own paws, Laurie resorted to giving the ‘sit’ command at various points along the go-out line. Then Vim elected to go out without waiting to be told. Laurie laments, “It’s always something when trying to out think clever Beardies.”

— alice bixler, Bearded Collie Club of America, bcca.us.