Friday, December 3, 2010

Affection Ignorant of Fault

It's been approximately 18 months, two weeks, four days, and a couple hours since we rescued our little Border Collie, Maddie, from the chopping block. And I don't think she's yet finished revealing all her neurosis.

I've never been much of a fan of the herding breeds. Their pendulums tend to swing either too standoffish or too obsequious. They slink. They cower. They eyeball you from across the room. They con and cajole and bargain. They plan. I'm used to dogs that wear their hearts and their zest for life on their sleeves. Dogs that live in the now, that approach life in a straightforward manner, that are easy to figure out and easy to train. Pit bulls, for instance. Also, Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, Dobies. You know, the frat boys of the dog world. Not the tortured artists.

Maddie, she is such the Van Gogh. Drama is her middle name. Although she can certainly beat you to the ignore when she wants to.

Her list of fears are legion: kids, cameras, bicycles, fly swatters, water, gunshots, thunder, the crinkle of the bread bag (but not aluminum foil).

Then there are things she will fearlessly stalk down and attack with a grim determination that makes Ivan look ADD: Birds, squirrels, mice, lizards, chipmunks, and automobiles (unless you stick your head out the window and glower at her so that she knows you are part of the machine and have not actually been eaten up by it.)

Then there are the "behaviors." Whereas Ivan gladly gobbles up his dinner each and every day, twice a day, Maddie is another story. I've never seen a dog carefully suck the soft food off the hard bits, meticulously spit them onto the floor next to the bowl, and then refuse to finish her meal until you scoop up all the discarded bits and place them back into the bowl.

She also refuses to sleep with us in the bed. Not that I want her to, but she won't even get up when invited. Not until the next morning when it's time to wake up, and then she'll jump on the bed and make a nuisance of herself. But she does sleep with the babysitter and her husband.

Also, she regularly walks backwards. Not sideways and not just for a few steps. But full on backwards for multiple feet at a time. I know dogs can do this, but I've never seen them do it in quite the way she does. Ivan, for instance, if he reaches an obstacle, he either tries to go through it, go around it, or wait for someone to remove it. Not Maddie. She walks herself backwards with a precision and grace that's kind of like that scene in the Exorcist when Linda Blair spins her head all the way around: fascinating and yet utterly freaky at the same time.

Which I guess is really the best way to describe her. Freaky. But I've decided to love her anyway.


Buzz Kill said...

"Her list of fears are legion: kids, cameras, bicycles, fly swatters, water, gunshots, thunder, the crinkle of the bread bag." I have all the same fears. Bwahaha - especially kids.

moi said...

Buzz: Don't worry, it will all be over in, what, a couple years when they go away to collitch? They are going away, right?

LaDivaCucina said...

Awwww, Moi, thanks for the insight on your doggy! Funny about the walking backwards, I never knew that! It must be strange to have such a quirky dog when you are used to another, less complex type.

Poor Buzz, he knows well enough to be afraid of kids. Do you really think that college will change anything and it will all be over? No chance! haha!

Big Shamu said...

I love the shepherds. They make me work so much harder for their love but man, once they figure it out, they don't let go. I have to say my boy dog Jake has many of the same fears but what I figured out was part of it is the emotional responses tied to those things. Like flies. I hate flies in the house. So I usually find something to WHACK! them with. The noise is usually loud and loud noises and Jake don't mix. So once that fly enters the house, his shivering and skulking begin, before I've even reached for the Whacker. Loud emotional discussions? He tries to nuzzle you to stop.
Man I love these dogs.

Karl said...

Good evening Moi,

I once had a Collie with similar habbits, maybe it's the breed.

Boxer said...

Coco is part Australian shepherd and it's the part of her I understand the least. Drama! Oy! The drama! She is the most "sensitive dog" when it comes to the car, food, etc.

And yet.... they are a working dogs and absolutely break my heart. Shamu is 100% when she says "man, I love those dogs."

Me too.

Your Maddie is a beauty and very lucky to have found you and S.B.

Pam said...

Awww, I love Blue Dog. And I've always fancied a border collie. Don't know why. They can just DO so much. But to do it, that takes training, which I know I would never have the patience for .... How do they compare with German Shepherds? (my other dog wish). Oh wait, I always wanted a Cocker Spaniel named Joe. Joe Cocker Spaniel. I could go on. But nothing is better in this world than a smart dog. Having said that, I have an ADD cat you can borrow.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you could add a third canine to the pack? I've heard that neurotic dogs can be positively influenced by a calm fear-free companion.

A female Akita would be a good fit, methinks.

moi said...

La Diva: Kids are like the mafia. Once you let 'em in your life, they're yours forever.

Shamu: Maddie is situationally inconsistent in her reactions. On hikes, she meets and greets people and other dogs with a happy heart and waggy tail. But she shuts down in crowds. She will not tolerate children approaching her but if they're sitting or lying down, she's right there next to them loving them up. So, while it's annoying, in some ways I think the behavior is pretty sophisticated.

Karl: I always preach treating each dog as an individual, but there are certain traits that run through certain breeds and I've found herders to be very much like this.

Boxer: What I love best about her is when she's relaxed, she is one of the most engaging dogs I've ever met. Quite the flirt, too. On those rare days S.B. takes the dogs on a walk without me, when she gets home she tears through the house looking for me and will fling herself into my body or onto my lap as if it's been years since we've seen each other. Very cute.

Pam: Very smart dogs and they can do just about anything. But there's a reason why top Border breeders refuse to place their pups in non-working homes. Must have job. Impossible to wear out. We're lucky that Maddie is comparatively mellow, but I've spent hours running her up a mountain and back down again only to get home and have her plunk a tennis ball at my feet. I don't know much about German Shepherds or Cockers, but if you're interested in either breed, find a good rescue that's had one in their foster program for a while so you know as much about them as possible.

moi said...

Troll: We've thought of a third, but the Ivanator is now full on into his dotage and likes things just so, so I'm not sure how fair it would be to him. Plus, I've done three and the work increases exponentially. Funny you mention Akita; I thought of you a couple months ago when we ran into one out on a hike. I know almost nothing about the breed, but I always thought they were rather standoffish? Not this fella. He was a big, goofy boy who play bowed and bounced around Maddie but she was having none of it. Shame. He tried so hard.

Anonymous said...

An Akita bitch won't annoy Ivan excessively. Generally, young Akitas are friendly to new humans and aggressive with new dogs they encounter. As they get older, they become more standoffish with both.

Almost cat-like.

As you know better than I, all breed tendencies can be shaped by caring owners.

moi said...

Troll: Hmmmm . . . cat-like in a dog? That must mean they groom all that fluff by themselves, then. 'Cause that's a lot of fluff. Still, our next dog is most definitely going to be a pit bull. I'm just a sucker for all that goofy gameness.

czar said...

Makes me miss my departed, neurotic herder. We have a great pound puppy now of many hypothetical origins and few neuroses -- other than incessant scratching and testicle-licking. We're trying to nail down potential allergens on the first and will eventually "fix" the second. One curious trait so far is that the sound of a teakettle whistle hits him in some uncomfortable range. Gets a very funny look on his face.

moi said...

Czar: Aw, I know, and my sympathies once again. Bottom line is, dogs can't really help what and who they are and training only goes so far in certain instances. So we just have to love them in spite of their "faults."

The Poet Laura-eate said...

She sounds like a real barrel of laughs, especially the walking backwards!

Anyway how could anyone not love that face? :- )