Sunday, January 5, 2014

Happy New Year?

Happy New Year?

It’s New Year’s Day 2014 and snowing and cold here in Kalamazoo as is usually is at this time of year.  It seems to me such weather may not be good for dinosaurs, but we persevere.

As with most people who write, I sometimes decide to check my facts against the foremost authorities.  In my case this generally happens after the fact because dinosaurs often “walk in where angels fear to tread.”  The authority for things I say about what makes a good Collie is the Collie Standard.  I realize some folks have never read it and many who have still don’t understand it or, even worse, chose to ignore it.  It has been a roadmap for me for over sixty years as a breeder, exhibitor, writer, speaker and judge.

I have complained in the past about Collies with extremely small squinty eyes.  This creates a hard expression which is not pleasing to anyone who loves the Collie.  The standard says quite plainly with regards to this “they are almond-shaped, of medium size, and never properly appear to be large or prominent.  Nowhere do I find a reference to tiny, squinty, or the smaller, the better.

One of my other complaints is one shared by many and a likely reason for the Collie losing popularity with the public.  If you ever watched the movie “Lassie Come Home” you know you were not looking at a show Collie in today’s world.  In spite of that this was a pretty dog and the public loved her (him).  To clarify I again quote the standard.  “The well-fitting, proper textured coat is the crowning glory of the Rough variety of the Collie.”  It further elaborates on proper texture and reminds us that incorrect coats regardless of quantity are penalized.  No mention of the more coat the better.

Another point I’ve noted has to do with properly grooming our dogs for the ring.  Again I’ll quote the standard.  “The forelegs are smooth and well feathered to the back of the pasterns.  The hind legs are smooth below the hock joints.  Any feathering below the hocks is removed for the show ring.”  We obviously have some exhibitors who are either poor groomers or haven’t read the standard or both.  Read it and reread it and learn what it really means.  The Collie Standard represents the best thinking of people who deserve our respect and for the good of the breed we should follow this road map not just do what we like.

On a more personal note, I want to write about our recent loss of a dog named Grace.  The story of how we acquired her from the local animal control shelter was told in Collie Expressions some years ago.  They considered her pretty much unadoptable due to her condition physically and mentally.  She was a forty pound bundle of distrust complete with fleas, ticks and a coat so matted with filth we had to cut much of it off.  With regards to her being unadoptable they had underestimated my wife, Phyllis.

We got Grace right after my knee replacement surgery in April of 2008.  She spent some time in an ex-pen with me on crutches reading a book to keep her company.  She couldn’t be out with the other dogs until she was de-ticked, de-flead, had her shots, and was free of worms.  The other dogs in time helped because she could trust dogs, but not people.

Phyllis reached out for help and found lots of people willing to offer suggestions.  Some worked and some didn’t, but Phyllis doesn’t give up very easily.  One of the real break-thru’s came from Marianne Sullivan who was very patient and had worked with some traumatized dogs herself.  Step by step, inch by inch, it came together.  After months and years we had a dog who was having a good time.  She never trusted strangers and barked at anything she didn’t identify quickly, but she had a great time and loved Phyllis above anything in this world.  As Terhune might have said “she had found her god.”  She might have been a recreational barker, but Phyllis figured out what it was all about much sooner than I did.  Grace barked at nothing until we came outside.  Then she only barked for good reason.  She had found people to trust finally and wanted them with her.  My wife, Phyllis, often tells me she wishes she knew as much about Collies as I do.  My answer to her is very simple.  She knows all she needs to know and has a way with dogs that we all might wish to duplicate.  She doesn’t give up!

As Terhune also often said “People live too long and dogs die too soon.”  Our goofy, recreational barking Grace is gone.  It’s time now to grieve her loss, or is it?  You can imagine that over sixty some years in Collies I’ve had to say goodbye to many dog friends.  You could ask yourself why continue to put yourself thru the hurt of losing them.  I won’t say my answer will work for everyone, but it works for me.  We gave Grace back her life and watcher her thrive as much as a dog with her baggage ever could.  She was well-fed, groomed, loved and had doggy friends who loved her as we did.  So I just think of the good things not the loss.  It relieves the hurt and helps me build on the only advantage of growing old – memories!  

Think about it!


  1. Love the words - keep writing

  2. Thank you for sharing your insights to the next generation of collie fanciers. Oh for the days ...of informed collie breeders with round table discussions.