This is a list of some things I had forgotten about living with a herding dog. Things you ought to know if you are thinking of adopting an Aussie, Border Collie, Cattle Dog, Sheltie, or other high energy working dog.
If you see a herding dog make a mistake, pretend you didn’t see. Until I had a cattle dog-collie mix, I had no idea a dog could look embarrassed. Please, look the other way.
You probably will not know if your dog is in pain. You have to be really observant and it helps if you know the dog well, like since he was a puppy. If not, like me, you are guessing. It took me a while to realize that he is happier with a several shorter walks than one longer one.
Fortunately because of his age, Huff has not searched out many jobs to do. I haven’t had to deal with destructive interior decoration or intense wardrobe sorting. Thank goodness. He has chosen two primary jobs, both in the safety field.
He is better than the weather service at predicting severe storms. He does not whine, but he will herd me repeatedly into the bathroom (since I refuse to go into the garage) until I pay attention. Once I set up a comfortable padded space on the floor, he curls up by the bathtub, goes to sleep, and lets me guard the door.
He will tell me if something in the oven is burning. Unfortunately I am slow to catch on and figure he is merely being needy. (See below.) He continues to paw at me and nudge me. He gives the kitchen meaningful looks, trying to draw my attention in that direction. Eventually, my incredibly dull sense of smell and his persistence penetrate my brain.
As I take the charred remains of our intended dinner from the oven, he drops to the floor with a loud “huffff.” The volume of the “huff” is directly proportional to the length of time it took me to heed his warnings.
You might have noticed that both of these jobs benefit him as much as me. Well, I noticed.
Herding dogs demand a lot of attention. They need to be loved on, petted, groomed, and told how wonderful they are. They want to be a part of whatever you are doing.
Huff has learned to be patient while I fiddle with the computer - telling his story. But the minute I get up, he expects to be involved in whatever activity I plan to engage in. He really doesn’t get the concept of bathroom privacy.
Your golden retriever or labradoodle will always look at you with adoring eyes. Border Collies, not so much. Clearly though, Huff is willing to let me make my own mistakes. Like all working dogs, he is obsessed with schedules but has a lack of respect for weekends.
After dutifully waking me at 5:30 (am!) - being certain my eyes were open and I was forming words - he accepted that I preferred to stay in bed. He collapsed to the floor with a loud “huffff” and curled up on his blanket. I am so glad he can’t form sounds like “tsk, tsk.”
Young herding dogs are awesome in their own way. But they require so much energy and attention, they are not for most people. Seriously, they aren’t for most people.
But old herding dogs are great companions, because they have added “napping” to their list of jobs. At least Huff has. He has the sharp mind and willingness to please of a young dog, but is perfectly content to curl up by my feet while I write. Assuming of course, that the weather is clear and the oven is turned off.
More Adventures with Huff
For the latest: See The Huff Diary