Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Border Collie Perimiter Search

At the moment this is almost exactly the view from my chair.

Every time I get up, it causes a shuffle here. 

Being the Alpha in this pack, I have to be watched.  A Place For Everything, Everything In It's Place. If I get away, I will be watched over until I settle back into my place.

On the other hand, there's an interesting behavior that this wondrous breed has that is, while obsessive and would be called OCD in a human, makes sense to a herding dog. 

We go for long walks here in Wilton Manors.  The City makes a significant effort toward making the area as Pedestrian Friendly as is possible, and is actively trying to change it into a textbook for New Urbanism where you can leave your car behind and walk.  Typically we get back after around a half hour of being away.  I walk in, first, then I am followed by Lettie.  I remove her leash and harness and let her go about her business.

In her case, Her Business is predictable.

Go get a drink of water.
Then Search the Perimeter.

She will trace the entire house, room by room, including the closets and bathroom until she is satisfied everything is where it should be.  Saves time for me, but if I forget to get that leash off of her, I won't get it off of her until she's finished searching.


The Herding Dog will, when charged with her flock, keep her flock in an area and make sure it goes from point A to point B where appropriate to the time of day, conditions, and instructions.

However with an older Herding Dog, things can get ... Interesting.

She's older.  She sleeps deeper than she used to.  She'll run in her sleep for hours and twitch while she's at it.   It really can be entertaining. 

If I have a need to move around the house, as a result, she may lose me.   Oh I know where I am going, but she doesn't.   It's a small place of only 1200 square feet, plus the "outdoor living area" like the Lanai and the Pool, but for the most part we stay indoors. 

Blasted Mosquitoes... I'd put a dome over the place if I could!

Staying indoors means that she expects to know where I am.  So if I'm quiet, I can walk out of sight and make a noise.   She'll look up and immediately, that curled up Dog Ball becomes Officer Dog, Border Collie of the Tropics! 

Now the house will be searched.

On the other hand, it isn't particularly efficient nor is it in any specific order that I can divine.   I think it may have to do with some sort of weighted average that her little dog-brain has made up and an internal calculation of dog-statistics and dog-probability occurs.

I was never that good at Statistics.

She'll wander the most important rooms first and search them twice and sometimes three times before she gives up on those and moves to the lower probability rooms.

What that means is that if I want to have a little fun, I can play hide and seek with my dog.  Not that you can hide someone who is 6'4" and 225 pounds easily, but it can be done.

At night, we do not use the laundry room.  Actually to call it a room is being generous.  More like a cell.   The washer and dryer are a matched set and take up 2/3 of the foot path in the room, and the doors are held open by the wall on the opposite side of the "room" by the fact that it rubs against the paint on the wall on the outer wall of the house.   5 feet wide and 10 feet long can be a very small space indeed.

I can get up quietly and she may not notice.  Walking out to the laundry through the darkened kitchen I can stand in the back by the washer and she may not notice.  Once she wakes up, she will look around for me and begin Job One, herd the Moose.   The perimeter search begins and every room is searched.  If I am quiet and far enough back in the laundry she won't go in and see me. 

Not that I, a grown man, play hide and seek with my dog often, but every so often that twinkle gets in my eye and I give her a challenge.

During the day, Thursday and Friday, I tend to do my laundry early so that becomes one of the places she will search first, but the rest of the day or week and it is forgotten. 

We have certain Dog Stations that have mats on them for her to lay at.  They're positioned strategically so she's not obsessing.  The one in the bedroom is in full view of the bathroom door.   She doesn't like to go in there because she doesn't want to give me the idea to give her a bath.  On the other hand if it is just her and me, the bathroom door will remain open because if it isn't she's outside sniffing it or even scratching at it if she can't tell that I am in there.

So why am I writing about this?  

At 10 years old, after two strokes, she's slowing down.  The Border Collie articles tend to be read well, and well after they fall off the first page of the blog, someone somewhere in an out of the way place will find them via Google or some other search engine. 

After she's gone, I'll have my memories and this writing about the fearful little black dog that joined me for almost 9 years of my life as the Ambassador from the Canine Realm to the Snowbirds to Wilton Manors.

And so shall you.

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