I grew up in small apartments in a big city. No back yard. No dogs allowed. So, when my kids began pleading for a dog, I hesitated. After years of pressure, I gave in. My son wanted a Husky. I looked up the breed online and found it was the most high-maintenance dog to choose! They said Huskies were amazing, but should never be someone’s first dog. Being the genius that I am, I said, “OK, we’ll go one down on the list. Australian Shepherds. They look beautiful.” Ha! Since you are on this site now, you probably understand what I was about to learn!
The kids named our new Aussie puppy Alice, and it was instant insanity! I joked to friends that I should have never gotten a dog smarter than I am (in my case, that probably means I should have never gotten a dog). Alice was super bright, and always, always looking for something to do to feel useful. Her mind needed constant challenge, or she would find her own challenges!
Her herding instinct was set to 11. She was extremely well-trained and obedient normally, but if someone moved suddenly away from the group, Alice would leap into action, nipping and barking to bring everyone back together. She bit a neighbor’s kid. It was a little herding nip, not an aggressive attack bite, but go ahead and try to explain that difference to an angry parent. And, it doesn’t matter. Either way, she could potentially break skin. We started to become anti-social, no longer inviting people to our house, in fear that Alice would bite and possibly injure someone. One day, I was told a family decision had been made to try to find Alice a better home, where she could be happy and free to express her natural instincts. “Maybe a farm will take her,” my wife said gently.
But I had started to fall in love. Sure, Alice had a very strong personality and her herding instincts were crazy. But, she was also the most loving, faithful soul in the world. She just wanted to help. When I looked into those sweet, intelligent eyes I saw a loyal friend, as conscious as I am. It was with a heavy heart that I sent an email to an Australian Shepherd rescue organization, full of the usual lines: “She needs a home where she can get more attention.”; “We are afraid she might bite a child.”; “She would be great on a farm.”
I knew it was the wrong emotion, but I was filled with joy when I got a terse email response saying simply, “We don’t have the resources to help you.”
I decided to go All In. If I had a child with special needs, would I simply discard her, because she would be hard work? Of course not! Alice and I can do this, I thought. I voraciously consumed everything about dogs. I felt like the Dog Whisperer. I worked hard to understand her. And with her energies properly directed, Alice felt happier and more in tune with me, too.
We even got a chance to herd sheep! We live in a highly populated area, so I would have to drive Alice an hour each way just to get to the nearest herding place, but she loved it!
My relationship with Alice has grown into a beautiful partnership.
She’s getting older now, and I’m cherishing the time we have left. I will not take it for granted. And, in typical herding breed fashion, she still keeps me on my toes!
I decided to create Guild of Shepherds and Collies for all those who understand how magnificent herding breeds can be; how smart, fun, loving and loyal they are. It’s been an amazing journey, and an incredible honor to be a part of this wonderful community.