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The First Week with My New Border Collie Mix

Chris enjoys photographing the places he visits. He shares these photos as travel articles and also mixes them with creative writing.

Darby at the Dog Park

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It finally happened. I’m in a relationship. This is something I’ve been thinking about for quite some time. Long black hair with grey highlights caught my attention, but personality eventually topped all the reasons that led me to make my decision. As you can tell from the title of the article, I’m talking about a dog.

His name is Darby. I decided to change his name, even though he is four years old because I couldn’t live with the name he already had—Chump. The previous owners believe he is a Border Collie mixed with Australian Shepherd. This is my opinion as well because of the grey characteristic of the Australian Shepherd around his eyes and mouth as well as on the front part of his hind legs. Many of his behavior traits are Border Collie, such as the low profile herding position. I find the comparison of the Border Collie’s crouch to that of the hunting lioness to be interesting. It is a predatory trait that intimidates the sheep as the dog herds them.

Comparison of the Border Collie's Herding Technic and the Lioness's Stalking Technic

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Why do people get dogs or cats or pets of any kind? Don’t they complicate life more than is necessary? Suppose you want to go for a vacation in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Most of us would not take our dog, cat or guinea pig. We have to find someone to see to all their needs including feeding and exercise. Why do we go to all this trouble?

Why Have a Pet Dog?

I want to relate the progression of Darby’s and my relationship over the first week together. On day one, it was mostly me petting him and the dog ignoring me. He would not obey a command and was oblivious to the offer of a treat.

On day three, we had made some progress, I thought. He would make eye contact with me, accepted treats, and enjoyed me petting him. I took him to secluded Kelly Island Park in Missoula, Montana between the Bitterroot and the Clark Fork Rivers before they converge a half mile downstream. I removed the leash. He wandered away, sniffing the ground. I moved toward him, and he countered my move. I continued moving to his right, pushing him toward the Clark Fork. Finally, he was caught with the river on his left and a logjam in front. He dropped to the ground and allowed me to put the leash on.

I believe it was my mistake to pursue him when I thought he was going to run away. If I had allowed him to explore, maybe all would have been well. On the other hand, our relationship changed immediately. He became more compliant to being on the leash.

The Clark Fork River, Missoula, Montana: Spring Snowmelt From the Mountains

Day four was a day of some progress as well. I took him to a dog park and let him loose to run and play with other dogs. He socialized well with humans and dogs. He came up to me several times, put his head between my knees and stood quietly.

Day six was interesting. It was Saturday, and I wanted to go camping. I gathered all my gear and off we went. I drove north and then west until I entered National Forest property. Then I turned onto a NF road and drove up for several miles to just below the snow line. There was a creek with water rushing down the mountain, a result of the spring snowmelt.

I knew it was going to be difficult to set up the tent while holding the leash. I could have turned him loose, but I didn’t want a repeat of Kelly Island. Finally, I took a knee in front of Darby and talked gently as I removed the leash. I stood and went about my business. He moved away and did his thing of sniffing everything thoroughly. He wandered a bit, but not far. I walked back to my Jeep and he followed. I began collecting firewood, and he was right there with me. For the rest of the evening, when I moved, he moved.

Campsite on a Montana Montain

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Four other things stood out to me on that camping trip. When I finished putting up the tent, I crawled inside. He marched right in and lay down beside me. This was a big deal to me because it was cold and raining. I didn’t want to leave him outside.

The second thing he did that seemed significant was that he wanted to play fetch with the ball I had bought for him. Up to this point, he had completely ignored it. He retrieved the ball after each throw and brought it back to me and dropped it. The third new thing he did was to lick my face when I was down on my knee.

The fourth behavior he exhibited requires a delicate description on my part. Remember, the dog and I were near the top of a mountain on National Forest land. There were no facilities, so when I needed to urinate, I did so away from my campsite and away from the creek. The dog saw what I was doing and came near to wait until I had finished. When I walked away, he immediately urinated on the exact spot. He did this every time. Here is a poll for you to share your thoughts about the meaning of this last example of the dog’s behavior. Keep in mind the progression of the relationship over the previous day.

Your Opinion About Darby's Behavior

While Darby and I were camping out over the weekend, we sat by the fire as darkness fell. I’ve always been a bit nervous at this point in my Montana wilderness camping experiences. Where I come from, the worst thing that could happen would be a skunk walking into my campsite looking for food. Here in the Big Sky State, the mountain lions are abundant, Grizzlies aren’t plentiful, but they cover a lot of territory. There are more than thirteen thousand black bears in the state. We sat next to the fire and I began to do one of my frequent perimeter checks with my flashlight. I looked at Darby. He was fixated on one spot in the utter darkness of the trees. He didn’t move. I watched him while he watched something else. After half a minute, he relaxed and lay down. I have a feeling in the future I’ll be doing fewer perimeter checks and looking over at Darby quite often.

Darby After a Weekend in the Montana Wilderness

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So that is the first week with my new dog, Darby. Overall, it is characterized by positive growth as we get to know and trust each other. He now obeys the commands come, sit and down. I am willing to spend the time exercising and training Darby. He is more than willing to learn and practice what I teach him.

Comments

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 17, 2018:

Shauna, Darby continues to be a bright spot in my life. He is loyal always and obedient...most of the time. We continue to explore western Montana together. He is a real friend on long hikes.

As far as the tinkling goes, he has stopped that entirely. I do believe that early on it was a challenge to my authority. That has largely been settled now.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 17, 2018:

Shauna, Darby continues to be a bright spot in my life. He is loyal always and obedient...most of the time. We continue to explore western Montana together. He is a real friend on long hikes.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 17, 2018:

My apologies to those who posted here and to whom I did not respond. It doesn't take much correspondence to bury me. I don't know how some here do it. Thank you for your comments.d

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on July 17, 2018:

Chris, having read this post after reading about your and Darby's hike up the mountain, I think it's amazing that the two of you have bonded so strongly in a short period of time. When I read that article, I had no idea Darby is new to you. BTW, I'm so glad you changed his name. Perhaps his last owner treated him like a chump and that's why it took him a few days to cotton up to you.

I think that he tinkles on your tinkle is pretty cool. I hope he doesn't do that at home! Ha ha. Did you ever find out what it means when a dog does what Darby does with reference to urinating in the wilderness?

I think he was basically telling you he's got your back.

Ann Carr from SW England on May 11, 2018:

This is wonderful. I think dogs respond well to patience and kindness, with a mixture of firmness so that they know who's boss. I also believe that dogs have a sixth sense and an intuition that means they know when a person is bad or good. I've seen evidence of this with my own dogs when they have uncharacteristically growled at someone (whom I didn't know and felt uncertain of); maybe they picked up my vibes but I think they have their own.

Great that you have such a lovely companion. I think Collies are one of the best breeds ever. I hope you both continue in this relationship for a long time. Sounds like a good partnership to me!

Ann

Jo Miller from Tennessee on May 07, 2018:

Camping with a Collie--what a wonderful combination. We don't have pets (except for chickens) because we travel so much, but if I were to get a pet I can't think of a better choice than a Border Collie. I've always wanted one.

Yves on May 03, 2018:

Sounds like a match made in heaven to me. Darby seems to be settling in just fine with his new Master---and why wouldn't he. Dogs recognize love when they see it. He's a handsome dog. I wish you many years of companionship together. The pics are delightful!

Suzie from Carson City on May 01, 2018:

Sounds great, Chris. Just a little reminder: His breed(s) loves structure & consistency. So much so that borders are considered the only dog that can tell time. They love a schedule. In a while, you will find him going through the motions of the next agenda. In other words, when it gets close to dinner time, he'll sit in the area where you feed him, in anticipation. If you normally sit & relax somewhere after dinner, he'll go directly there when he's done eating, & stretch out. etc. Each day as your bond progresses, you will marvel at things Darby does. They can engage in a battle of the wills, so ....stick to your guns, Chris. You need to show him who's boss. He will try to take over when you're not looking! LOL......Have fun!

Nikki Khan from London on May 01, 2018:

Loved your Darby and his pictures, I love dogs but I’m more a cat lover, had kept my ‘Sweetie’ for 6 years until she died in an accident which was a horrible experience for me.

Keep on developing good relationship with him, it takes sometime before he’d become your real companion and a great friend.

manatita44 from london on May 01, 2018:

Keep working on it as it may take a while. Again, perhaps you are also meant to be where you are. Quien Sabe?

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on May 01, 2018:

Linda, thanks for your thoughts. I am happy I finally took this step. It's been a long time coming.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on May 01, 2018:

manatita, I think I've learned that he doesn't want to run away, he just wants his freedom to follow me his way. That is going to make for an interesting relationship. There is a spiritual lesson here that I haven't deciphered yet.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on May 01, 2018:

Larry, there is nothing like the friendship of a good dog.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on May 01, 2018:

Eric, Darby is a bit of everything you have mentioned plus he is an occasional pain. But that is as much me as it is him. Neither of us wants to give up the "top dog" spot. This will be an interesting battle.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on May 01, 2018:

Paula, I actually tried not to get a border or a border mix. I had been going to the Humane Society and Animal Control here in Missoula but hadn't seen one that grabbed my attention. On the other hand, I wanted them all. As for the possible breeds, someone suggested Belgian sheepdog as part of the mix. I do believe that border and Aussie account for color, markings and size very well. But there is a serious battle of wills going on. When we are somewhere he really likes and I want to leave, it is impossible to catch him. My only recourse is to simply walk to the exit to leave. Eventually he comes along and cooperates. I'm thinking mostly of the dog park. So the next items on the agenda are a good grooming and an obedience class so I can learn some things about how to train myself and the dog.Thanks for visiting, Paula, and for all the input and interest.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on April 30, 2018:

It sounds like the relationship is developing beautifully, Chris. I hope things continue to go well. I'm glad you and Darby have found each other.

manatita44 from london on April 30, 2018:

A big undertaking as you so nicely indicated.

I thought that it took to you quite quickly ... that it did not make a run for it when you set him loose.

Obedient dogs are very devotional and faithful. Better name.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on April 30, 2018:

Beautiful dog:-) I'm a dog lover, myself. I've had my rescue Jack Russel for 13 years now.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on April 30, 2018:

Go ahead and call him a spirit guide, or maybe a soul mate. Or maybe best friend with a tad of co-dependency. In that deep sense of brotherly love a loved one.

Don't really care about you, but that is one lucky dog ;-)

Suzie from Carson City on April 30, 2018:

Chris....You did it!! LOL. I'm happy for both you and "Darby" (glad you changed his name!) Sounds very much like you and he are off to a great start. I'm not surprised it all progressed well in a matter of a week. Both breeds he is suspected of being, are super intelligent, prone to obedience & aim to please. His loyalty to you right from the start is impressive and a very good sign you have yourself a best friend for life.

I wish you and Darby great times together! I expect you'll keep your readers posted! Peace, Paula

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on April 29, 2018:

Becky, thanks for that input. We will be out every day for extended periods. Now that he can be off leash, I can let him explore some of the places I like to visit. Soon we will be hunting morel mushrooms here in western Montana. If I can teach him to find those, I'll be rich.

Becky Katz from Hereford, AZ on April 29, 2018:

These are both very smart breeds. The combination of the two will keep you hopping to keep his interest. When he gets bored, he will most likely get into trouble by doing something that he is not supposed to do. Keeping him active and engaged in something will be very important in your relationship. This is just by analysis of the breeds. Looks like you are gaining trust and are doing well. Wish you luck with your new pup. Like I said, keep him busy and you will do better. They are both working breeds and do better when they have a 'job' to do. Guarding you will work well, as a job. He should do well with your active lifestyle.