I recently volunteered to dog sit a young border collie named Lita. Her owner said that she was trained and wouldn’t bother the community clowder of cats but if she did, I could drop her off at a pet boarding outfit.
Her human was a little reluctant because she didn’t really know if she would get along with my own dog Schroeder, a cocker spaniel. We had met several times with the dogs to build a rapport so we could be pretty sure they would be tame together.
It turns out my cats and cockers taught Lita a few things. The cats taught her not to follow too closely or she’d get a swipe of her nose. Having herded her owner’s goats, nothing much deterred her from the crouching, guarding and bringing the clowder of cats from room to room and couch to love seat. I now think there should be an agility trial around canines herding felines. Quite a spectacle.
Her owner told me that she really doesn’t bark much; and that, after she first brought her home, it was a good week or two before she actually heard Lita bark. Nevertheless, at my house in town, it took one teenager walking by on the way to school before I heard Lita’s yelp. Then the neighbors on either side got in or out of their car. Then the mail delivery truck. Then the train a block away. Then the vans at the local shops a block away. Then a Magpie in the tree. Then the neighbor’s dogs warranted a battle at the fence line. Thank goodness for fences.
Her owner included not only a dog bed, but dog bones and treats when I picked her up. Straight away in the backyard when I didn’t stay and watch her, Lita chewed up a water bowl, then all the soft cat bowls and outdoor chair pads. The next day, I caught her acting like a raccoon and devouring tuna fish at the cat-feeding station on the deck. So, I’ve been trying to correct her behavior. When I run an errand, I steer Lita into the front yard, away from all the cat food.
Most enjoyable has been watching how Schroeder and Lita play. I came home from an errand last week and pulled up to Lita flying from the back to the front like she was a greyhound on a racecourse. The dirt was swirling, and Schroeder was close behind her dust cloud. The scene looked like the Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner cartoon.
Inside, they continue recess by dashing after each other from the back porch to the front room. She crouches and rolls over and Schroeder growls and holds his mouth open and then she does. She paws his shoulder after he taps hers. I think it is much like a doggie love affair.
At first, she wouldn’t eat when I placed her food down, dry or wet. Finally, I remembered that she was often fed outside by her owner; so, I decided to feed her outside with Schroeder. That was a win-win because she ate all her supper and so did Schroeder. Now, I alternate how I serve their dry food — sometimes with water or not, sometimes with canned food, or not. Last night, when I had a bathroom break, I noticed something on the rug by the back door. I was scared it was a Mourning Dove but when I looked closely, it turned out that Lita had killed a cat-food box. n fact, she shredded it.
On top of it all, I have been reinforcing her sit, down, no, come commands. Besides curbing her incessant cat herding, we need to work a little more on “leave it” and “drop it” and “Lita, stop!”
—Nelda Curtiss is a former substance-prevention media specialist, journalist, and retired college professor who enjoys writing and fine arts. Contact her at [email protected]