THE “R” WORD

I’ve had a good life, a good run.  Who would imagine a rescued Border collie serving with three Therapy Dog organizations, being invited to play a key role a children’s TV show episode, featured in several newspaper articles, Frisbee competitions, being a diplomat for Great Lakes Border Collie Rescue…AND going bye-bye in the car!?  The second organization I worked with was THE EXTRA MILE MINISTRIES (www.faceofcrisis.org).  My Dad had read about their service at Northern Illinois University…after the shootings in February 2008.  They checked me out, tested my personality, my behavior around other dogs, people, children…I like everyone.  Just don’t try to mount be from behind…that will turn into a teaching moment.  The K9 Crisis team returned to NIU in February of 2009 for the one year memorial and the candlelight vigil, and I was a member of the team.  Yes, you’re right…several Golden Retrievers (they’re sooooooooo laid back), a pointer, a beagle, a black mixed-breed, and me – the only Border collie.  We were all, very COOL.  Yellow vests, well-behaved, and we all got a lot of attention from the students.  That Saturday had been a long day and by the time the Candlelight Vigil had ended, I was the only dog left.  My Dad brought me into the Student Center and I collapsed on the cool, terrazzo floor…I was laying on my side, stretched out, time for a nap!  The students and family members slowly made their way from the candle lit plaza into the warmth and quiet of the Student Center.  My Dad had stepped away from me, I’m sleeping, I’m a good boy, I am always calm, cool, collected. Even though my eyes are closed and I am still, my senses are always working…my sense of smell, my hearing, my intuition, are always processing…I am always thinking, aware of my surroundings, odors, smells, vibrations,  aware of another’s presence.  There is no noiseless environment, even in sleep.  I knew, I sensed, that the chilled grievers, returning from the vigil were approaching me, forming a circle around me, touching me, petting me, speaking softly to me.  There is no need to open my eyes.  There is no need to move.  I know in my heart that the humans encircling me are sad.  I smell tears.  My presence, my stillness, my acceptance of their touch provides them with all that they need…at that moment.

This morning, My Dad and I were out for the second walk of the day.  A new maintenance guy, Tom, for Village Green, pulled up in his older, gray, rusty Jeep Cherokee.  I was sitting on the sidewalk, off leash.  When Tom turned off his engine, I slowly stood up and walked over to his driver’s door.  “Hey, I’m Cody, I’m cool, its OK, to pet me – just do it.”  And he did, he reached out right away, no hesitation.  He petted me, rubbed my head.

“He’s really a good dog,” Tom said from his Jeep.

“He’s a retired Therapy Dog,” My Dad said proudly.Image

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HERDING THOSE WHO NEED HERDING

I know…Border collies can be a little wacky.  When My Dad first adopted me we would go for long on-leash walks, and these walks moved to off-leash walks.  But, My Dad soon realized that is was always better to keep me ON-LEASH during walks near the railroad tracks.  Certain moving objects and I have a…how do I phrase this?…a unique relationship.  One night, My Dad and I were walking along the railroad tracks in Glenview…do you know where the train station is, right by Grandpa’s, a local watering hole?  Here comes a freight train, I am OFF-LEASH, and I run right at the train…HERDING required!  Fortunately, I am a good listener…(CODY WAIT!)…so, I stop, look at My Dad and WAIT.  One weekday morning, several years ago, My Dad was buying a coffee and gas at the Marathon Station in Glenview…across from the Audi Dealer…on Waukegan Road…right by the railroad overpass…do you know where that is?  I am in the front seat of My Dad’s Ford Explorer…he was inside getting a coffee…here comes a METRA Commuter train…rush hour, about 800am. I nimbly jump out of the Ford Explorer, border collies are VERY athletic, through the driver’s window, and I am off to catch that train, to herd that train.  Somehow I successfully traverse the four-lane Waukegan Road and make it into the parking lot of the Audi dealership…that is where My Dad found me.  When I saw My Dad, I immediately sat down.  He was very glad to see me.  He picked me up, carried me across Waukegan Road and back to the Ford Explorer.  After that close call, My Dad ALWAYS put the windows up high enough so that a very athletic Border collie with a propensity for herding moving objects would be unable to jump out the window.

A couple of years a go, My Dad announced our mid-day walk, opened the door, and out I went.  I am always out the door first, leading the way, on the lookout for…everything.  I always announce my presence, to anyone who is within earshot, “EVERYBODY WAKE UP, PAY ATTENTION, THE BORDER COLLIE HAS BEEN RELEASED…IT’S ME, CODY!!!”  And guess who has just entered the parking lot?  The brown cube, the despised brown truck, the very annoying diesel rumble of U-P-S.  This is one object who needs some SERIOUS herding, and I am just the canine to accomplish this task.  Without hesitation, I run right at the UPS truck…head-to-head, stop, STOP, S-T-O-P…you will bend to my determination, my resolve, my decisiveness, my obstinacy, my fixedness.  And, the UPS truck did bend to my determined border collie-ness, halted at the sight of my obstructive nature…My Dad simply asked me, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”  (what does it look like I am doing?)

On Friday, another herding opportunity – THE MAILMAN!  That tiny white truck, the blue and red markings, the surprisingly deep rumble of the low horsepower engine…I cannot stand it.  The mail truck has just been parked by the farther set of mailboxes.  I rush this daily source of irritation, charge the mail truck…head-to-head…BARK  BARK  BARK..”Hey Cody, what’s up dude?”  The mail man is pretty cool with me, he knows I am not, and never have been, a biter.  But the mail truck, I really despise the mail truck.

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ELLIE (A Border collie) with her Dad, Carl

My Dad had soccer yesterday.  I was left at home…too warm, too humid, to leave me in the car – even with the windows down.  So My Dad set our apartment air-conditioning to chilly, made plans with his sister Mary to walk me, and left me home alone…sigh.  I just sleep.  I’ve NEVER dug through the trash, wastebaskets, or done stupid things.  Like I’ve said, I am a VERY good Border collie.  My Dad was back about 9:00 p.m.  He was still in his fluorescent green referee jersey.  We went for our last walk of the evening and he was talking about meeting a very cute female Border collie and her owner in a tree-shaded area adjacent to the Glenview Park Center.  The BC’s name was Ellie.  She is a traditional, black-white, BC with a very sweet disposition.  Her owner/handler was Carl, from Northbrook.  Carl has three Border collies and has had Border collies in the family for almost 25 years.  My Dad said he talked to Carl and visited with Ellie for about 15 minutes.  My Dad was very impressed with Ellie…she was a slender, wispy, BC…about 40 pounds, with a very outgoing, affectionate, personality.  She liked to “nuzzle” for extra petting – just like I do.  Carl said that Ellie comes from a long line of exceptional working sheep dogs.

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