Category Archives: Mick of Borderland
As I work with more dogs, I only become more convinced that, as hokey as it is, dogs are people too, and also, (although it’ll raise hackles), people have dog in them too.
Case in point, this year-old foster dog, a Border Collie mix called Baxter. Baxter arrived after several days of travel, long hours in a crate, strange places, people, sounds. His medical records said he arrived at the shelter aggressive and severely emaciated. Most dogs I get after ordeals are withdrawn and hyper-vigilant. Traumatized. They’re refugees from unspoken wars. Until they can trust that they’re safe now, they conceal themselves physically and emotionally. They study my family closely, treading cautiously on the web of our densely-woven household culture. Depending on the severity of their stress levels, which vary not just according to history but toward temperament, it can take days before they relax enough to show me who they really are. It reminds me of children new to a playground, adults new a workplace, a lover new to a family. It shows emotional and social smarts to suss the situation.
Baxter, however, is blessed with such resilience and irrepressible good humor, he leapt from my car into my household with a bounce and a grin. He blew into my dog pack like a young braggart, clapping everyone on the back, telling jarring jokes, and pinching Maisie’s backside with a wink. I thought he was wonderful–who wouldn’t love such big happy eyes and that roguish tail, carried high and always to one side?
My dogs, that’s who. As usual, Mick performed the circle-butt-sniff, wagged, and went back to his deep and serious work of Frisbee retrieval, which immediately rendered Baxter invisible to him. As usual, Spiffy fell madly in love for about a day, until he was convinced the newcomer was not going to be the next Anastasia Steele to his Christian Grey. As for Maisie, her hackles went stegosaurus-high.
Baxter was cheerful, friendly, playful, and polite, but all three of our dogs went cold. They allowed him to enter their ranks as an equal, and they tolerated him, but there was no nose-bumping, head-ducking, tail-wagging, no play bows. I figured it would come. Baxter didn’t mind–he was joyfully oblivious to the chill, and I envied him. I can feel rejected in the most welcoming atmospheres. I come equipped with a factory-installed outcast setting. Not only had Baxter come happily through hardship that traumatizes most, when he rolled over, I saw he was also recovering from a recent neuter. It’s not that he’s stupid. He’s a quick study, as you can see in the training video below. Unlike most characters I know, human and otherwise, Baxter has an unshakable faith in himself, bright as sunshine, untouched by the cloud of anyone else’s frown.
That evening, while we watched television, Maisie didn’t join Mick in the nightly tennis ball marathon. She curled up on the couch between Alby and me. We looked at each other and wondered. The next morning, while we ate breakfast, Maisie didn’t join Mick in the daily dock diving practice. She curled up under the table. We’d never seen her like this, and I began to worry she was ill. Ignoring her body language, Baxter tried to climb on her, I scolded him, he backed off, and Maisie brightened. She felt protected, and by backing off, Baxter gained a little of her trust. Later that morning, I took Maisie and Baxter into the back yard and threw the ball. She retrieved happily, and soon she and Baxter were wrestling. This video was taken that same day:
I’ll never really know what was going through Maisie’s mind the first hours of Baxter’s presence here, other than sexual tension. Perhaps he still smelled of testosterone. Perhaps that hormone is partly responsible for his brio, and it’ll soon subside. Despite his good manners and good sense, perhaps his confidence comes off to his peers as obnoxious. Maybe they just don’t really like him, the same way I sometimes just don’t like someone, even when I want to, even when I have no idea why, and keep trying, and keep trying. Sometimes it’s something superficial and unchangeable, like a grating voice, and other times it’s something beneath my reason, a warning from my gut I should know better than to ignore.
Baxter isn’t without neediness. Although he’s 13 months old, he knows nothing. Not one command. He’s essentially without language. It’s not that he doesn’t know our household protocol, he doesn’t know any household protocol, which is okay; it’s common in fosters. The difference is that his particular combination of ignorance and heedlessness unnerves my Border Collies, who are so very sensitive, sophisticated, and proper, easily anguished by someone else’s blithe blunders, especially in one who lacks the puppy excuse. Other dogs come who know nothing, but this one doesn’t seem to care.
But he does care. He’s so merrily assertive, it’s easy to forget he was recently starving to death. He craves constant interaction. Naturally stoic, he doesn’t show his anxieties except when I want to toss him in a crate or leave him outside to romp with my dogs a little while. Separation anxiety runs deep in him. Left outside, even in the calm, sane, and agreeable company of my dogs, Baxter wails as if reliving the Tet Offensive. Indoors in a crate, however, he trusts I’ll return. He still doesn’t like it. He resists. He has to be grabbed and wrestled into the crate, and that’s no way to live.
I launched a training campaign to help him: “Make Your Crate a Happy Place.” The techniques involve simple recoding of the crate. Instead of solitary confinement, it’s a cozy, private place to enjoy treats and alone time. Helping him learn to accept his crate time reminds me of the years I had a long and hateful commute. I couldn’t live shut up in the car for hours every day like that, but I had to. Then I discovered I could borrow books on tape at the library. Soon I treasured my hours sipping coffee and rolling in the pre-dawn dark listening to tales well told. When I arrived, I lingered in parking lots and driveways until not the journey but the paragraph came to an end.
Maybe there’s a place your dog resents and resists, like the bathtub or the car, and this video can help. If there’s a place you hate but have to go, (e.g. a committee meeting, the laundromat, your own home), maybe watching how Baxter’s learning to love his crate, you’ll see a way to toss yourself “treats” and ease your hours. What it really involves is a little planning, a little prevention, and a tweak in attitude. Doesn’t matter if you’re a dog. Sometimes taking the edge off a place can give you the mental space to figure your way out of it altogether. Once he learns how to be a house dog, Baxter won’t need the crate so much anymore. And I found a way to move closer to my job so I didn’t have to commute anymore. I do, however, miss those books on tape.
If you like this post, please follow Lisa Lanser Rose and The Border Collie Inquisitor. If you like the videos, please follow the Youtube Channel, Mick’s Tricks. It’s the little things that make us big. Thank you!
From what I hear, it isn’t enough for a writer to sit around writing alone. You have to force yourself to become an extrovert and network and platform and find ways to reclaim your introverted self in a snap and write in the cobwebby corners of your now extra-hectic life. If you’re like me, and find all that self-promotion queasy and sleazy, you find ways to promote not yourself but other people and passions you share. So I’ve been busy working behind the scenes on The Gloria Sirens, plugging away on Mick’s book, and letting Mick take me out in the world. He’s three now, going on four, and doing well. He’s a big brother to Maisie now, and he’s herding sheep, working his way through agility, counseling foster dogs, and helping me teach tricks at the Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club. With Mick and Maisie’s help, (they are working dogs, you know), I’ve braved the Youtube world, stumbling my way through videotaped tricks training lessons without knowing a thing about framing, lighting, editing, or sound. But it’s going all right (even though all of this is more and more unpaid work, such is the madness of love). I’m doing it because Mick’s tricks saved Mick’s life and I want to share what we learned so that your love for your dog might grow a little more fierce, a little more sweet, and a little sillier too. And we aren’t alone.
Trick training is an easy, convenient way to interact with your dog anywhere, anytime, and all you need are some treats and some know-how. Perhaps your dog is easily bored, or seems a little depressed, or distant. Maybe your dog’s been naughty, or you’ve grown discontent with your relationship for some reason–too much toilet-paper shredding, chronic weave-pole refusal, or a pathological Minecraft addiction (yours or your dog’s).
Maybe you’ve got a service dog and a few tricks would add so much charm. Imagine if your dog could shake a dialysis patient’s hand, give a child with leukemia a high-five, or even pray with patients?! Maybe you have an awesome agility or obedience dog but you’re both getting bored, or strained, or you want something you two can do in the living room without breaking a lamp.
Maybe you have multiple dogs and one’s been neglected. Maybe it’s your new puppy. Maybe it’s your retired agility or herding star, and you’re weary of feeling harried and sad. Well, if you can, shut the other dogs away for a few minutes right now. This is quality time to cherish your friend.
Get down on the ground and join us for some sweet interaction with your best friend. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned dog trainer, learning some charming tricks together can deepen your bond and soften your soul.
Or even give you some great new ideas and a belly laugh.
All it takes is two- to ten-minute sessions, your call. If you’re worried about overfeeding, you can use your dog’s regular food. If you hate how expensive dog treats have gotten, you can cut up some hotdogs or cheese or even use plain popcorn–stop making excuses and be creative! If your dog isn’t food-motivated, get a new squeak or tug toy and use it just for Tricks training–a special toy for a special time. And you don’t have to go it alone. You can work along with me on the Youtube channel or with other beginners in our Facebook group, Mick’s Tricks Spark Team.
The point is to share a goal with your dog. You two are in cahoots. Together you’re gonna nail roll over. Or you’re finally going to have a dog that can sit up and beg because it’s so darn cute and makes for great photos. Whatever your heart’s desire, this is one-on-one time. Eye-to-eye, here-and-now time. Low-pressure, high-value happiness time. It’s mindful moments you share with your best friend. It proves to the both of you that you are there–really there–for your dog. It doesn’t matter what the trick is or how quickly your dog learns it. All that matters is joy in your short time together.
That’s why every trick is magic.
- Somebody on Facebook whom I’ve never met in person asked me if I’d help foster a puppy. I said maybe, but I sure better talk to my husband first! The next thing I knew she was sending me a whole litter. It’s the damnedest thing–it didn’t even occur to me to say no. Do you think I had a mini-stroke? What are the symptoms? Maybe it never really happened. Do you smell smoke? I better go lie down. They’ll be here Saturday.
- In a weak moment, I’d gotten a enormous bucket of fried chicken. I was looking for a place to pull over and eat it when I saw this mob of desperate homeless people on the roadside with four fires, four spits, and four puppies. I got there just in time! I gave them the chicken in exchange for the puppies’ lives.
- I was out in the backyard, when the ground shook, and I saw this hole, like a den. And one by one, these puppies popped out! I waited for their mother, but no sign of her. And then out of nowhere, the earth shook, and the hole closed up. It was awful! I hope the mother wasn’t still in there! Didn’t you feel the tremors? I’m sure the it’ll be on the news tonight.
- I was driving back from coffee with a friend when this bright light blinded me, and the car stalled. Through the glare I could make out this huge tubular silver shape overhead. I thought it must be a drone, but then there was this bald creature with huge eyes, and-and-and an anal probe–I was terrified! I must’ve passed out. When I came to, I was still in my car–and dressed, thank God. I thought it was all a freaky dream, but then I heard whimpering in the back seat, and there were these three puppies! Do you think they might be aliens?
- I was in the mall and this guy wearing a turban with a sickle-moon pin on it came up to me and gave me three wishes. I was thinking about whether I should ask for world peace,a press pot, or unlimited funding for public radio when I laughed and said, “Wow, I’m such a yuppie.” He said, “Done!” and vanished. There I stood in the middle of the mall with three puppies in my arms.
On the eve of the new year, Terri and I want share with you this surprising article that conveys the big picture: love for dogs and everyone who loves them.
Happy New Year. Be safe! Be good! Have fun! Love big!
In Defense of Dog Breeders
by urban fantasy author and rescuer, Michele Lee
I’m a part of the rescue community here in Louisville. That’s a really loaded statement. There’s a lot of issues I have with some of the people and ideas I run into. One example is the rescue world’s view of dog breeders. Some people blatantly say silly things like “I wish all dog breeding would be banned” or “We should punish breeders.” Continue reading