A New Addition to Our Family

Meet Brennan!  He’s an eight week old Border collie puppy, and he’s joining our family (pack).

Bringing Brennan home has been the culmination of a lot of thought over a number of years, and some serious planning over the last few months for Kennard and I.

I’m sure there are many questions that can be asked about our choice.  Probably the two biggest ones are:

Why a Border collie?

Border collies are a breed with a yin yang reputation.

Border collies are the fifth most popular breed on dog in Vancouver.  They have been specifically bred for their intelligence and obedience.  Endowed with high energy, stamina and work drive, Border collies are used as herding dogs on sheep farms and ranches around the world.  They have been ranked as one of the most trainable and intelligent of dogs, suitable not only for herding, but also canine sports such as obedience, agility, tracking, and other competitions.  Chaser, a Border collie, was taught the names of 1022 items – more than any other animal.  She could also categorize the items according to function and shape.

On the other hand, Border collies are not a breed recommended for neophyte dog owners.  They require extensive training and exercise to keep them from becoming destructive or neurotic, and need firm boundaries and plenty of space. Border collies are workaholics that must have a job.  Bred for their instinctive herding abilities, Border collies will herd anyone and anything, including children, chickens, and ducks.

For me, making the decision to get a Border collie was like reaching for an old comfortable coat.  I’ve worked with other breeds of dogs, but have loved my time spent with Border collies the best.

I grew up on the Texas Creek Ranch, in Lillooet, and my father kept two female Border collies, Missy and Buttons, as cattle dogs for the ranch.

Mom and I, and Buttons, the mother of my first Border collie, a tri-color collie named for the brown spots above her eyes.

When I was four, Buttons had a litter of pups, sired by a Border collie/German Shepherd cross male.  Unfortunately, the litter was decimated by distemper.  The one surviving pup, named Rascal by my father, became my inseparable companion for many years.  I had the experience of training him and working cattle on the Sunset Valley Ranch, a large ranch in the foothills of Alberta that my father bought subsequent to our stay in Lillooet.

Rascal, a Border collie/German Shepherd cross.

After our time in Alberta, my family moved back to British Columbia, and eventually to an orchard in Keremeos.  At this time, another Border collie became my constant companion.  Shadow had a little bit of blue heeler (now known as Australian cattle dog) in his mix, and had heavy ticking in his white, giving him an almost blue roan coloration.

Shadow, a Blue heeler/Border collie cross, and me.

Why a puppy instead of a rescue dog?

It is truly sad that there are so many abandoned dogs requiring new homes.  The problem, unfortunately, lies largely with the people and not the dogs … people who had little knowledge or understanding of the responsibilities of dog ownership.  There are many good organizations attempting to remedy the situation by rehoming these dogs, and many open hearted people who are willing to take a rescue dog into their homes.  The problem of abandonment seems to be especially critical for Border collies, who are often much more of a handful than neophyte owners are able to deal with, and there are rescue organizations that specialize in Border collies.

That being said, all is not simple or easy when taking in a rescue dog.  Many rescue organizations make light of the issues that their dogs are troubled with.  Rescue dogs frequently come from homes where they were abused or neglected, and suffer from behavioral problems as a result.  This is hardly the best choice of dog for a neophyte dog owner, and many rescue dogs are cycled through the system several times before someone can be found who is able to deal with these problems.  Additionally, some rescue dogs have health problems, and were abandoned because their previous owners were unable to pay the vet bills.  People willing to take these dogs into their homes must have deep pockets.

We had some very specific requirements in our selection of a canine companion.  We wanted a dog that could be a good watchdog for predators (we have grizzly and black bear, cougar and wolf) and that had the potential to be a herd dog, should we choose to get livestock for our homestead.  Since we live remote, and veterinary services are at some distance and time from us, we needed a dog with a good health record from healthy parents.  This doesn’t guarantee that there will be no problems, but it does increase the odds that our new canine friend will have a good and healthy life in an OTG environment.  We also wanted a dog that was young enough to adapt to frequent travel in boats.  Older dogs with limited experience on the water often suffer from chronic and unresolvable motion sickness … it is easier to condition them to travel when they are younger.  And of course I was partial to Border collies.

I did do my due diligence to the rescue organizations in the Lower Mainland/Vancouver Island area.  The only collie available during the time I was searching was a young deaf and blind dog in Vancouver, which was unfortunately totally unsuitable to our environment, where large predators abound.  Other dogs were available, but as some great distance from our home, which meant both an expense to travel for viewing and interviewing (some rescue organizations have significant requirements to be met before you can adopt a dog) and an expense for shipping the dog to us, plus all the stressors associated with such shipping and handling for the dog.

In the end, it didn’t make sense either ethically or economically for us to bring an adult dog with unknown issues to a remote, off-grid site.  It turned out that we found a local source that met all our requirements – a young Border collie pup bred from ranch dogs with good health records.  We weren’t concerned with pedigrees, and prefer out-crossed lineages, so this was great!

And here’s Brennan …

Ty and Blue, Brennan’s parents.
Blue with the litter at approximately 9 days.
Brennan at 15 days with his eyes just opened.
Brennan at 19 days.
Brennan at 37 days.
Brennan at 37 days.
A bin of puppies. Litter at 38 days.
Puppies in a crate. Litter at 42 days.
Amazing! Seven puppies all eating out of their own dishes! Litter at 42 days.

Brennan is Irish for both raven and brave (does that say something about bold ravens?).  It’s also a name associated with a Robin-hood style Irish story (steal from the rich and give to the poor) … sounds like a good name for a canny dog!

As I write this blog, Brennan is scampering around on the cabin floor.  Kennard is playing chew-toy-on-a-rope with him, something like dragging a string in front of a cat.  I suspect that Brennan may well be the end of our vole problem!