I recently watched a very beautiful tribute on David Henry's "Holly" done by Denise Wall. In case you would like to see it, it's on Vimeo.com- search Border Collie, and you will see it.
It made me think of my young girl, and the journey we are on. Lucy came to me from Australia, after having seen many dvds of the parents, and talking with, and becoming friends with her breeder. Lucy's given name was "Blondie" referring to the almost white tan that she had. I got to watch the litter grow up. I had to pick a registered name for her, and it was "Red Sky at Morning", as she was a red bitch, and I liked a hint of trouble in there- yeah, little did I know... The name Lucy just fit her from day one. I had gotten Lucy with the idea of running her in agility. I had been running two dogs, and with Kylie especially, we zoomed through the classes, and I figured I was ready for another.
Well, when I got Lucy home, her joie de vivre was obvious. She was just a very happy dog. I did a small amount of contact training and little jumps, but I swear, Lucy would look at me as if to say "why are we doing this?" I also had become rather tired of agility- the sport had changed so much since I first became interested in it (in the mid 90's), and I had begun to resent the overt technicality of each run, and the dissections that came with it- I would actually send my dogs the wrong way just to see the faces on people ;) It was then, that I knew I needed a break. The other thing was having just learned about the arthritis in my knees- I needed something a bit less, shall we say, running oriented...
When Lucy hit six months, I took her to two clinics. The first one was with a trainer who used a rake, and bopped Lucy in the face one time- which I wasn't comfortable with. The second clinic was BC oriented, and Lucy was a lot of dog for the trainer- but she clearly had interest.
Then, at one of the last agility trials I was at, a fellow competitor suggested I go up to this guy's place for training- that he was the best around. So, with some trepidation, I made an appointment with him. When Lucy was brought into the training area, she immediately went into fast circling, with the occasional chasing after "the one that got away". I swear she had a smile on her face. Well, after that, as they say, the rest is history. She was only 8 months at that point, and that sealed our fate as sheepdog/shepherd partners.
Lucy opened my world up to what sheepdogs do. The innate instinct that screams to them, you must control these animals, and at all costs, bring them to your shepherd. That desire to work with me, that never quit attitude. That feeling of accomplishment after a long day of work. The bond that is created through all of this is not something I can describe. I know, that no matter where, no matter when, if I need something done with sheep, Lucy will do it. She has no choice- it's in her DNA.
I remember our first trial.. Oh my Lord was I nervous. She did get around the sheep, but that was it- well, the sheep were fetched to me, but we retired... Lucy is a slow to mature dog; I believe she is about a year slower than the Border Collies I know, in terms of maturity.
We have continued to train, though a bit less of late, due to costs associated, and now that Lucy is the big THREE, she is really settling in, and drilling is not needed. It's a nice place to be.
There are so many good memories, already. Like the time that Lucy was trying to cover a flock of Scotties who were running pell mell for the exhaust. She stopped all but one, and that one made it to her intended destination. Lucy got her off that fence, and marched her back to me, past the rest of the flock. It was something amazing.
Another time, on those same Scotties, Lucy did a beautiful outrun and lift, only to be faced with the whole group of 7 or 8 staring her down, which, is not something a young dog comes across. There was silence by the onlookers- what would happen? Well, the next thing you see is the whole group turning, and beating feet. Just a 30 lb dog... But, with the heart of a lion.
Then, one time, I was at friend's place and the sheep were in the woods. I had Lucy fetch them to me, not knowing how many there were. She brought them to my feet, and then ran like heck off into the woods. I thought it was for a squirrel- until I see 3 sheep coming out of the woods, with Lucy moving them with purpose. You see, she knew she had missed some, and went back of her own volition to retrieve them.
One time I sent her up the hill to fetch sheep, and she went the wrong direction from how I sent her. That meant the sheep were behind a person and a garden cart- bottled up behind it. That little girl figured it out- how to make her own dog leg fetch and bring them to me.
You see what I mean by her having the need, by way of DNA to always bring me my sheep? And, she doesn't need direction in doing so. She just needs to know they are there. You cannot purchase that in a dog, anymore than you can purchase a dog's loyalty. You either have it or you don't.
Lucy has been the touchstone in my life, "An excellent quality or example that is used to test the excellence or genuineness of others"
Very few of us on this planet see the good things we have, before we lose them. Well, I am blessed to know that I don't believe that there will ever be a better sheepdog than what I have in Lucy. The courage under fire, the work ethic, and the loyalty is second to none. Sure, I may have a better trial dog some day, but you can bet your bippy, every single other dog will be measured against my Kelpie Lucy.