Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), and several Kindle ebooks.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Reflections of a Young Border Collie, Part I

Because I'm too busy to post today, this entry has been written by my border collie, Maggie.

This picture was taken when she was about three months old and was resting from playing in the snow.

(She's a lot bigger than this now. )





By Maggie Mae Mushko

I have lived with my human parents since December 14, 2005, when I was a six-week-old pup. They love me very much. I do, however, have to share them with some cats, and they have been a little slow to learn what I am trying to teach them, For example, they do not understand that whatever is on the floor is mine, and they shouldn’t take things away from me. They have given me a lot of toys (I especially like my Frisbee, several balls, the stuffed horsie, and the chewies), but they don’t understand that I also want paper bags and whatever I can get out of the trash. However, Mommy and Daddy have learned that if I whine in a certain way I have to go out NOW and it isn’t negotiable, so possibly they’ll learn my other rules in time.

The first of the other household dogs Mommy and Daddy introduced me to was my Uncle Jack, a very old and slow mixed retriever. He has very nice manners and was patient with me when I was very small. They said he would teach me what I need to know about being a trail dog. When I was eight weeks old, they put us in the truck (Uncle Jack got to ride in back, but Mommy made me sit on her lap like a sissy!) and took us down the road to the farm. You cannot imagine what a good time I had. I ran and ran. Jack likes to hunt for moles, which I think is boring, but I tried to show him that I was interested. Jack was a good friend of Abby, the other border collie my mommy and daddy used to have. In fact, Abby was the one who found Jack when he was young and raised him as her puppy and taught him to hunt moles, so I think Jack likes border collies. (Mommy has forgotten a couple of times and called me Abby, but she knows that I’m really Maggie. She says that my mother Daisy looks like Abby did.)

The only bad part of that first walk was that Mommy picked me up whenever we crossed a creek. I told her to put me down so I could splash through like Jack did, but she wouldn’t listen. Otherwise, I followed Jack the whole way and didn’t get tired. Mommy said we walked a mile. Well, she might have walked, but I ran for a lot of it. She said when I got bigger, they would take the other dogs to the farm with me, but right then she didn’t want me hunting with Hubert the beagle or running fast with Harley the deaf Catahoula. Also, she said that Emma, the free-spirited mixed sheltie who is the boss in the kennel, might teach me to misbehave because Emma doesn’t like to obey commands until she is good and ready. I think I have been adopted into an interesting family of dogs.

It took me a while to get used to the house cats. Camilla, the little brown cat, popped me hard on the nose the second day I was here and told me that dogs are never ever supposed to poke cats with their noses. Luckily her claws weren’t out when she popped me, but my feelings were hurt. My Daddy’s cat Dylan has been jealous of me since the day I moved in. Once he got into my crate and wouldn’t let me in. A couple of times he has even peed on my crate. Dylan is an evil cat. Sometimes I chase him, but then he jumps up on something and spoils my fun. Consequently I’m not having much luck herding the house cats. Mommy and Daddy did take me to see the neighbors’ goats, and I found them very interesting. Ditto for the cows across the road and the horses who live next to the kennel, although I have been told that I’m not allowed to herd them. I still like to watch them, though.

The first night I was here, I slept through the night without making a fuss. I am very good about sleeping. I have a large crate with a good view and plenty of toys, so I can amuse myself. When I was a little puppy I stayed in the crate all night, but now I either sleep on the bed at Mommy’s feet or in the bathroom where the tile is cool. Sometimes, I spend the night in the kennel with the other dogs.

When I stay in the house, Mommy takes me out whenever I ask. We play in the dark after the eleven o’clock news, and I go with her down the driveway to get the newspaper just before daylight. When she works on her computer, I sleep under the desk with my head on her foot. Sometimes she rests her feet on me. But when I say “Wuff!’ in a certain way, she knows she’d better take me out NOW.

In the kennel, Emma is the boss dog and the only other girl. She made me feel welcome, and she taught me a lot of dog rules. Some days the kennel is muddy. Emma taught me about how much fun mud is. Mud is fun to dig in. It is even more fun to roll in. I love mud!

The first time I got covered in mud, Mommy gave me a bath. I liked it so much that I got right back into the tub after she took me out. Now I get into the tub by myself even when I’m not dirty, and I have to fuss at Mommy until she turns the water on. I have watched how she does it, and I think I will soon figure out how to turn the water on by myself. Anyhow, when the water runs, I either drink out of the faucet or I try to keep the water from going down the drain. I could play in the tub for hours if she’d let me. It’s as much fun as playing in the creek, which is something else I like to do.

Daddy used to take me in the truck to the farm where I help him pick up sticks. I rode on the seat beside him with my head on his knee. Once, I pushed a little button by the window with my paw and locked him out of the truck. Luckily he’d left the vent window cracked and was finally able to get his keys. That was the last time I rode on the front seat.

Daddy is a ham radio operator, so every morning we broadcast to the Possum Trot network in North Carolina. The first trick I learned was how to bark on command, so Daddy decided I could “speak” on the radio. The Possum Trotters mailed me a certificate for all my radio contacts. Mommy framed it.

Mommy enrolled me in dog school in April. The first night I almost got expelled for making too much noise. I barked at everyone and wouldn’t let anyone come near my mommy. The instructor got in my face and told me that I’d better stop that. I hid behind Mommy and whimpered. But I stopped barking. Also, I’ve forgiven the instructor and finally allowed him to pet me. I’m best in the class at coming when I’m called and I’m very good at sitting on command, but I hate to heel and refuse to do something so stupid and useless. My job is to go out front and clear the trail. If I’m going to be behind something, it had better be sheep or cattle—or maybe cats. I don’t know why I need to go to dog school. I already know plenty of useful things—like how to open the storm door and let myself out and how to jump into the back of the truck.

I don’t know how Mommy and Daddy managed before they got me. I have plenty of dog work to do here. Sometimes, when I get Daddy up in the morning, I have to jump up and down on him for quite a while before he wakes up. I’ve helped Mommy bring in the herd of cats a few times. The three tabbies work in the barn during the day, but they come in at night. They won’t walk to the house after dark unless Mommy walks with them. Those cats walk a lot faster when I’m behind them. I also try to protect Mommy from her broom. I don’t like the looks of it, so every time she starts to sweep, I grab it and hang on with my teeth and growl. I also saved her from a big plastic rake when she tried to do yard work once. When Mommy and Daddy refill the dog buckets in the kennel, I test the water quality by diving into a bucket and digging frantically. The water is always muddy when I came out. They gave me a tub of my own in the kennel, but I still love to dive into those buckets and dig.

A border collie’s work is never done.

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