Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Black and White Bridget

Bridget has decided that we needed to explain how DreamCatcher Farm came to be, how we met and how this wonderful breed of dog brought us to the place we are today.  This will be an ongoing story about the dogs in our lives and how they have shaped our lives.  We hope you enjoy!

Border collies.  They're really what started Dreamcatcher Farm. We were just their tools in this plot you see. It all started on my side 25 years ago when I got my first Border collie. At that point in time the movie Babe hadn’t come out yet and after much research I picked this breed because they weren’t AKC dogs, were breed for intelligence and their ability as herding dogs. I had been charmed by a story on NPR about a therapist who used her Border collie to escort people from the waiting room to her office and when the allotted 50 minutes had passed rose and escorted them out again. Both my former significant other and I were mental health people and he was hooked as I was. Unlike today it took awhile to find a Border collie. Finally we found a farmer who had a litter of seven who was perplexed that we wanted a Border collie as a “pet” but after we had made our selection of an energetic and friendly male, eagerly took our $75.

We discovered very quickly that this new puppy we named McGuffin, was not typical in any way of any of the other dogs we had known. First of all his energy was amazing and secondly his learning ability was so rapid that the bar was raised. Digging further into information about this wonderful breed we were horrified to find that having them as pets was considered an insult to the breed and a sign of gross naiveté on the part of the owners. For these dogs were breed to work and to partner with their owners not to be pets.

Charley and Mick working goats
 So we set out to make this right. We knew no herding people nor did we know anyone else who owned a Border collie. The first thing I learned is you don’t train Border collies in the same way we usually think of training dogs. Instead you encourage them to use their natural abilities. So out of that herding background we soon found ourselves with a dog who loved to gather anything-laundry, newspapers, fallen branches, my shoes the mail and of course the beloved balls and Frisbees.


Secondly, since the Border collie’s herding developed out of the wolves’ habit of hunting by circling their prey and driving it back to the alpha wolf, the Border collie is keenly tuned to the direction of his human both verbal and in body language. This makes them “very biddable” but also extremely attuned to their human. Many will lie across the room rather than at you feet so they can watch for any sign that you want them to do something.

McGuffin one day stood at the bottom of the bed as I was making it and shifted his eyes from me to sheet then back at me. I asked him if he wanted to help then said “pull.” He grabbed the sheet and pulled it up then came to the other side of the bed and repeated this. He did the same with the blanket. He eventually learned to take my shoes and socks off and take them to the closet and retrieve four different pairs of shoes knowing each by name.

Nora, Jenny's niece
After having this amazing dog for 7 years we found a breeder who had sheep and brought our second Border collie home. This was Jenny. Jenny became my therapy dog and went to work with me at a psychiatric day treatment program where she plied her healing presence and sprit to help the healing of many people whose pain she somehow understood. But still nothing about sheep you say. Well that is farther into the story… be continued!

Happy New Year :)!


  1. Can't wait until the next installment!

  2. It'll be on its way soon! Thanks for reading :)!