We have always had a Farm dog. They have all been Border Collies. Despite the breed, none have been true sheep dogs. They were farm dogs. Not even pets really. A farm dog is there for a purpose. They would greet visitors and family, and serve as an effective deterrent to those who may not be welcome. They were always present and watchful at chore time. They kept coyotes away from the sheep pen, deer out of the garden, and occasionally salesmen in their vehicles. They played ball, kept the barn cats in line, and were protective of the family, especially the kids. All of our dogs through the years were valued members of the family and farm enterprise. And then there was Dolly.
Our last dog, Hank, was killed in a freak accident in the spring of 2008. We both missed having a dog, and the howling coyotes at night made us nervous with new lambs on the ground. But neither of us was willing to take on another puppy, (regardless of the cute factor). So we checked out the alternatives. I watched the listings at the local animal shelters, but very few farm suitable breeds were available, and no Border Collies. So, with some reservations, we filled out the paperwork and applied to the Nebraska Border Collie Rescue. And, while the process was intimidating, we soon found the people were not. We were approved, passed the inspection, and invited to look over the selection of dogs waiting for adoption. Impressed by the intention of placing the right dog with new families, we jumped at the chance to meet the first suggested candidate.
We brought Doilidh (aka Dolly) home on Fathers day. As predicted, she was a challenge. At 18 months, and having been confined all her life, and through unknown stressful circumstances – not to mention being a Border Collie – she was energetic to say the least. She had a few problems. But it was clear she was highly intelligent, and eager to please. She quickly learned some manners. We learned which behaviors to ignore, and they gradually disappeared. Six months later, she had effectively wagged, whined, and won her way into our hearts, and much to our kids’ astonishment, into our house! For the first time in over 30 years, we have a semi- house dog. She lies at our feet while we eat supper, and spends the evening on her couch – the specially designed original ‘Bark-o-lounger’. Until 8 or 9’clock, when she asks to be taken to ‘bed’ in the kennel. Yes, she really is a farm dog, and is still improving on her ‘Farm’ skills.
She is now a genuine part of ‘Us’ as a team member. While she will never be a ‘trial’ dog, she provides Don with invaluable assistance in moving the sheep, and unequaled company to Rhonda as she works in her shop and studio.
Dolly has been the inspiration for a line of new products. ‘Dolly Dogs’ are miniature replicas of dogs, mostly Border Collies of course, made of needle felted wool. ‘Mutton’ the fleece sheep is one of her favorite toys. And, of course, there is the Bark-o-lounger.
In the fall of 2010 Dolly’s story was included in “Lost Souls: Found”, a book of inspiring stories about dogs, published by Happy Tails Books. We are happy for this opportunity to share her story, and offer hope for other Border Collies in need of a happy herding home.
In March of 2011, Dolly was seriously injured. Don came home from work one day to find her side split open from shoulder to elbow. We are happy to report that thanks to a good vet, patience, lots of care and the incredible spirit of Dolly herself, she is once again well, happy, and herding. We are grateful to have our faithful companion fully with us again. You can’t keep a good Border Collie down, and you can’t be down long with a Border Collie around.