Guide Mostly True: 15 Short Stories from a Border Collie and His Man

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He used to tear up many pairs of my sandals and even a nice pair of Doc Martens. Then he transitioned to milk cartons. It was the strangest thingI bought him all these fancy toys, but he would rather toss around and chew on a milk carton. Whenever I was engaged in conversation with someone and he thought he was being ignored, he'd crash around with his milk carton which had to be replaced every few days after becoming so twisted that he would cause his gums to bleed by chewing on it and there was no way you could avoid giving him attention because it was so funny.

Another favorite "game" of young Darwin's was to go after your feet but only if you directed him to. He would bite at your foot as you moved it from side to side while growling. Probably not the best habit for him to get into, but every guy I had over seemed to love to do this with him.

Over time, like many of Darwin's habits, this game faded too. Darwin was funny when taken on walks. He would always prefer to walk on the grass rather than the sidewalk. You'd see him zigzag from the grass to the driveway sidewalk, then back to the grass again at the next house. It was quite a sight. He also had funny habits in the snow. He hated stepping in the snow, so we had to shovel him a path. Even still, he would prefer to urinate on the driveway rather than step in snow. One of the reasons Darwin could "tapdance" was because he was terrible at letting us cut his nails.

He would bite if he wasn't muzzled up, and that was a task in itself. Usually, he was a very sweet dog, except for this. The funny thing was that once his muzzle was on, he acted ridiculous. He would act like he couldn't walk and would lay down and stay there. Then while you cut each nail, he would make a biting motion that was pretty scary, even though you knew he couldn't bite through the muzzle. For many years, he also wouldn't let his feet be touched, especially the front ones. He would always pull them away or nip at you if you tried to touch them.

Photography of Darwin. Click on each thumbnail to see the larger picture. Make sure to notice the black heart in the fur on his right side! This is his first photo. He is holding a note in his mouth that says "I need a home". We were planning on finding him a home, not keeping him, since he was a shedding dog and we have never had that type before. He was also a male, and my parents always preferred females because of the urinating on shrubs and such.

For several months, he lived with me at my parents' house with our other two dogs. The first shows Sweeties , Darwin and my mom. The second picture shows Darwin in back, Heather in the middle, and Sweeties in the front, obviously begging for something. The third shows Darwin and Sweeties hanging around while I do my homework. Here he is in my kitchen.

The first six photos were from a black and white white roll. All were taken at my house, in late Here are a few of Darwin in the kitchen. The first one was scanned on a previous scanner. These were scanned on different scanners. Here is Brian showing Darwin some love, and vice versa. Here is Darwin in May, just before becoming afflicted with tick paralysis.

Here he is in July with Brian, recovering from tick paralysis. His tail has been cut short because I thought he was going to die on the day the vet told me to put him to sleep, so I saved all his beautiful fur. He is pretty much back to normal now, except that his tail fur needs to grow in. Darwin loved to lay in the sunlight patterns in the den.

Here he is on a weekend morning in March I was actually photographing one of my cypress knees , but Darwin happened to be right there. August 22, September 2, Enjoying the fresh air in the backyard after a bath. It started to break open his skin and bleed, so it had to be removed. I thought everything was going to be fine, but unfortunately, the growth grew back. This time, it was underneath the skin and was even larger than before.

On March 13, , Darwin went in for a second surgery. Much of his lower lip also had to be removed. He looked like a horror show, but I know the doctor did his best to try to seal the huge wound. On March 18th, Brian discovered another similar-looking growth on his leg. It seems as though it is most likely a cancer that is spreading. He also coughs a lot. I think it might be possible that he also has a growth in his throat. In any case, he's not doing very well, but he still tries to remain in good spirits despite all he is going through.

Here are a few photos of him the day after his second surgery on March 14, He can't make even the few stairs down the landing to go outside anymore though and must be carried down. He can climb up with assistance though. Here he is laying around on February 10, Darwin laying on his favorite corduroy bed in the den on February 19, Resting in the guest room his tick paralysis recovery room that he started sleeping in regularly even after recovering on April 17, August 28, with toad Darwin is a very gentle dog and never goes after any small animals like some dogs.

He has always been very respectful of all my small pets. On his head is one of the toads I was cataloguing for my Wild Detroit Toads page. September 1, Sleeping in a funny position in the guest room. Here are some photos of him in front of the Christmas tree on January 1, Here he is asleep in his very own room at the new house on Darwin's Last Smile. Sadly, Darwin cannot walk unassisted anymore.

For the last 5 days, he has only had about 2 cups of food. We've tried every kind of gourmet and home-cooked meal we can think of. He will only drink water. He is near the end. On May 14, , I got really sick with some kind of cold and had to stay home from work. It was probably a good thing I was sick because he doesn't have too many days left and I haven't seen him "smile" in many days, maybe months.

That was, until today. I decided to bring him up to my room to rest since I needed to be up there and didn't want to leave him alone. He'd never been on my bed before. He looked like he was actually smiling, so I had to grab the camera. On Friday morning, Brian said that he was crying before he left for work and was laying near Darwin and he put his head up and licked his tear off.

He was such a sweet dog. By the time I came home from work that day, he seemed like he may have a respiratory infection as he was having some mucous in his nose and his breathing was rather labored. I was almost convinced I should take him in to be euthanized that night because I didn't want him to suffocate and die like that, but then Brian was able to clear some of it out and help his breathing.

Even though we didn't take him in that night, we had both decided that we cannot let him suffer anymore and I looked into some places to call on Saturday morning. We tried to get someone to come out to do a home euthanasia as I don't want to traumatize him by the car ride and being at the vet , but they couldn't do anything until Monday morning.

So at this time, it had been decided that Monday, May 18, will be Darwin's last morning. It was good that he made it through Sunday because Saturday was raining all day, but we got to spend the most beautiful Sunday afternoon with him I thought it would be a nice idea to take him outside one last time since he hadn't been out but a few times over the winter.

It was only about 58 degrees Fahrenheit, but rather sunny, so it felt nice. After Brian laid him on the blankets and pillows, he went right to sleep. He loved being out in the sun patterns. He used to sleep in the patterns on the floor in the den at the old house. I always loved the photos from these times and I thought these natural ones I took today turned out quite nice, considering they were some of the most difficult photos I have ever taken and I could barely see what I was photographing through the tears.

Darwin's last night was partially spent in the family room with Brian and me as we tried to watch something on TV, but it was too difficult to concentrate, and Darwin was rather agitated and vomited a couple times. He also defecated, but it was more like bile since he hadn't eaten a real meal in so long. However, he did eat more today than the last 5 days or sowe think that may have caused his stomach to get upset.

Anyhow, we ended up moving him to his normal bed and tried to get him comfortable, but he kept softly whining. His gums had turned almost completely white after the second time he vomited and stayed that way. He had two small seizures. Right around this time, the story I wrote when I was 7 years old came into my mindit was about a dog with wings. I remembered how quick and agile Darwin used to be when he was young. Then I pictured him with wings. I told him in my mind to fly away with his wings and that it was ok to stop breathing.

His breathing was labored and he was mostly using his mouth to breathe. He had another seizure that made his eyes get jittery. Then he suddenly looked straight ahead and then his eyes were no longer looking at this world. I could feel a faint heartbeat and he appeared to still be trying to breathe, but without success, although it was just his body going through the motions. You could tell his eyes could not see what was happening. Brian and I were right there beside him for the whole thing and talked to him gently until he stopped moving.

It was a strange night because I knew he needed to die and I was ready to do it for him this morning first thing by having the home euthanasia vet come out. I really didn't want to make that decision, so I was so happy that Darwin made it for me instead.

Today was a special date if you know me well enough, you know that I add up the numbers of every important date to arrive at one number that added to 7. I really wanted him to die on a 3- or 7-day. And he did. Darwin was a magic dog, and left this world with a magic ending. I'm so glad he didn't have to die alonethat was one of the things I worried about most. I hope someday I will see him again. He was taken to be cremated the first time I've ever done this with a pet and his remains will be kept in this beautiful urn glazed in a copper matte raku by William Turner , in the room of my house I used to call the "pet room", but now it is called "Darwin's room".

To his left is the Vegetanimal Woodburning I made, with tufts of his tail fur coming out of sea urchins. Above the Vegetanimal is an original watercolor by my friend, Robin Street. I also kept cuttings from the "heart" on his right side that I hope to someday turn into a Lifegem when I get enough money saved. I washed and cut his tail fur in sections and preserved most of it so that it can be used for some very special works of art someday.

I was surprised by my strength to be able to do this after he had died, and my ability to drive him to the funeral home after everything had happened. There was a bright, crescent moon in the sky with a bright shining planet or star to its right. A nice, clear sky. The day of the 18th was another beautiful, sunny day, so luckily no dreary conditions to make things feel even worse. This was the first day of my entire life that I have been without a dog. All of my previous dogs had overlapped one another, so even from the day I was born, there was a dog in my life.

I tried my best to be happy that Darwin was no longer suffering and be grateful for all the years we had together and the memories that will never be forgotten. At this time in my life, I have never even lost a person that I have cared about this much. To me, Darwin was a person, and a much better one than many. I know he will continue inspiring hope and love in others for as long as I can continue sharing his memory. Click here to see Youtube Videos of Darwin.

The morning that Darwin died, I had never even gone to bed. I wasn't able to get any sleep until about one in the afternoon that day. Still, I only slept 3 hours. Then, I couldn't sleep at all that night, not even a single minute. I had to go to work the next day too. After that long day was over, I figured I would come home and take a nap, but I still couldn't sleep.

I didn't fall asleep until about 2 a.


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The best thing was that Darwin was there at the end of my dream and I was able to remember the ending clearly. I was in my old house late at night and hanging out with some girl I don't know in real life. We saw some kind of motion out the window, some shadows or something across the street near the side of a neighbor's house. She opened the front door and walked out onto the porch to take a closer look.

Border Collies In Need: Life With A Border Collie

We thought the shadows looked like people, but they seemed to be just shadows with no substance. Then, I noticed that Darwin was laying out there on the porch by himself something he never did when I had him. At this point, the storm door was closed and my friend was outside.

I opened the storm door to let Darwin inside because I was feeling nervous about what those shadowy people were and wanted to keep him safe. He got up and went to come inside, but just then, my alarm went off and woke me up. It continues to bother me because I wanted to see what he looked like and what would have happened next. He appeared only in shadows, but I knew it was him while I was having the dream. After this dream, I haven't had any more with Darwin in them.

I thought it was interesting that he was totally fit once again and had no trouble walking or anything. And when I was having the dream, it was like he never died and was the same as always and just part of everyday life. I thought it was nice that somehow, there was sunshine for 8 days straight since he died that Monday morning. The following Tuesday was the first cloudy day. There was no rain until Wednesday, the 9th day without him.

By then, the gloomy weather didn't bother me as much as it would have in the beginning. Before Darwin died, it was rainy or cloudy at least every three days or so. I don't remember having 8 straight days of sunshine for quite a long time, maybe even years. After that 8-day stretch, it was rain every days again as normal.

On the weekend following Darwin's passing, Brian and I selected some of our favorite photos to put in a special memorial display. I resized them, printed them and mounted them in the frames. Since Darwin lived most of his life in the kitchen of the new house, I always expect to see him there and it has been very difficult to keep walking into the empty kitchen and then remembering. I decided to put his display in a prominent corner of the kitchen, right by the doorwall.

It helps to see his smiling face in the corner all the time while I'm in there. His urn now holds his ashes in what we used to call the "Pet Room," but now it's "Darwin's Room. I decided to keep some of his fur and some photos in there. It is also displayed in his room. His collar was hung on his picture. It almost looks like he's going to smell it, which is something he loved to do every time his collar was removed for a brushing or a bath. Beside his urn are his special dew claws that usually get removed on most puppies. I loved these little claws.

I saved the only two that I found broken off in the house over the years the small ones and I clipped off the other two the ones in the middle after he died. During the times I would have been really sad because my mind would have time to think about him, like driving in the car, I found that the music of Joe Satriani really helped me to avoid crying.

I could focus on the continuous guitar solos that I knew well and they kept my mind busy enough. I listened to only Satriani for about two weeks. I am writing this update on February 3, This morning, I finally had another dream about Darwin. We were in what was supposed to be the backyard of my old house, where he spent his life with me minus 6 months.


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  • It didn't seem like he could walk though. I think I had rested him on a small hill and he was so happy that he rolled over on his back and smelled the grass and started rolling down the hill a bit and I had to grab him. I told him, "You love this yard, don't you? I also spent time in the backyard while he was laying there and found a very strange, brown caterpillar that was about 9" long.

    I couldn't get it to eat and I thought it was ready to make its cocoon, so I found this special place under some kind of wooden structure that already had cocoons there and I released the caterpillar. Then I woke up. I still miss him so much. The pain has not faded much. I am in tears as I type this now. I still cry several times a week over the loss of him.

    I still feel so empty without him. I didn't have another dream about him until August 18, In this dream, for some reason, he was still living at my old house I think a neighbor was letting him out and feeding him or something while I was living at my new house.

    I had decided to pick him up and take him to the new house. I arrived in a car that wasn't anything I currently have. I called his name from outside and someone held open the door to the house. I heard a jingle bell ringing as he bounded through the house and ran outside to greet me. The bell was around his neck, just like my old dogs Heather and Sweeties used to wear, although I never put a bell on him his whole life.

    On the morning of October 24, , Darwin visited me again in a dream. I was originally dreaming about teaching. I was in some school I didn't recognize, teaching math. When the kids turned their homework in, for some crazy reason, they also turned in money. There were 1s, 5's, 10's and 20's in the pile I collected. Then it was lunch time. Instead of eating inside the school, I went outside and found an unlocked car and sat in the passenger seat. I was counting through my money and somehow it got mixed in with the money that the car owner had in the vehicle.

    Then the vehicle owner arrived, but he wasn't mad after I explained to him that I always look for a peaceful place outside in some random car to eat lunch in. He was some executive guy visiting the school for the day. I told him that these bills must be his and removed them from my pile.

    Then when lunch was over, I went back in the school, but somehow, it was time to go home. I went home to the old house though, and Brian was living there as he actually is in real life as of late September The natural life span of the Border Collie is between 10 and 14 years, with an average lifespan of 12 years. Leading causes of death are cancer Collie eye anomaly CEA and epilepsy are considered the primary genetic diseases of concern in the breed at this time.

    In Border Collies, it is generally a mild disease and rarely significantly impairs vision. However, other eye conditions such as PRA [15] slowly disintegrates the retina and can cause Border Collies to lose almost all of their vision at night which can progress into complete daytime blindness. There is now a DNA test available for CEA [16] and, through its use, breeders can ensure that they will not produce affected pups.

    Radiographs are taken and sent to these organizations to determine a dog's hip and elbow quality. Two types of hearing loss occur in the breed. The first type is pigment associated and is found in Border Collie puppies, although the puppies can have congenital sensorineural deafness from birth as well. A study is currently underway at The Translational Genomics Research Institute to identify the genetic cause of adult onset hearing loss in the breed.

    Based on this discovery, Animal Genetics develop an assay to detect the genetic variant associated with Border Collie Glaucoma. A paper will be published outlining all of the work. Neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis NCL is a rare but serious disease that is limited to show Border Collies. NCL results in severe neurological impairment and early death; afflicted dogs rarely survive beyond two years of age. The mutation causing the form of the disease found in Border Collies was identified by Scott Melville in the laboratory of Dr.

    Trapped Neutrophil Syndrome TNS is a hereditary disease in which the bone marrow produces neutrophils white cells but is unable to effectively release them into the bloodstream. Affected puppies have an impaired immune system and will eventually die from infections they cannot fight. The mutation responsible for TNS has been found in Border Collies in English working dogs, in show dogs that had originated in Australia and New Zealand, and in unrelated Australian working dogs.

    This indicates that the gene is widespread and probably as old as the breed itself. There is no cure, but a DNA test is now available to detect carriers as well as affected dogs. Other diseases found less commonly include juvenile cataracts , osteochondritis , hypothyroidism , diabetes mellitus and canine cyclic neutropaenia , carpal soft-tissue injury. Elbow dysplasia may also occur in the breed.

    The cause is currently unknown. Border Collie Collapse seems to be related to high intensity exercises that are found to be particularly exciting to the individual dog. For example: some dogs cannot retrieve a tennis ball, as they find this activity highly stimulating, but can run for several miles with no symptoms of Border Collie Collapse. Symptoms commonly include: disorientation, mental dullness, loss of attention, unsteady hind legs, dragging of hind legs, and ultimately the need to sit or lay down.

    There is no current diagnostic test or veterinary workup that can confirm Border Collie Collapse and the diagnosis is often given as a diagnosis of exclusion or based on clinical symptoms. There is no current treatment recommended, and it is advised to limit the episodes by avoiding the activities that trigger the collapse. The Border Collie is descended from landrace collies , a type found widely in the British Isles. The name for the breed came from its probable place of origin along the Anglo-Scottish border.

    It is also thought that the word 'collie' comes from the old Celtic word for useful. Many of the best Border Collies today can be traced back to a dog known as Old Hemp. Old Hemp, a tricolour dog, was born in Northumberland in September and died in May Hemp was a quiet, powerful dog to which sheep responded easily. Many shepherds used him for stud and Hemp's working style became the Border Collie style. All pure Border Collies alive today can trace an ancestral line back to Old Hemp. Wiston Cap b. He was a popular stud dog in the history of the breed, and his bloodline can be seen in most bloodlines of the modern day Collie.

    Hetherington and trained and handled by John Richardson, Cap was a biddable and good-natured dog. His bloodlines all trace back to the early registered dogs of the stud book, and to J. Wilson's Cap, whose name occurs 16 times within seven generations in his pedigree. Wiston Cap sired three Supreme Champions and is grand-sire of three others, one of whom was E. Edwards' Bill, who won the championship twice.

    Collies were listed as imports to New Zealand as early as , but the type was not specified. It is unclear whether Hindhope Jed was a descendant of Old Hemp. Elliot himself is well known for his breed of Collies. At the time of her departure to New Zealand, Hindhope Jed was already in pup to Captain , another of the then new "Border" strain. Hindhope Jed had won three trials in her native Scotland, and was considered to be the "best to cross the equator".

    There are two types of tests, or standards, to determine the breeding quality of a Border Collie: the original ISDS sheepdog trial and appearance. The original test is the ISDS sheepdog trial. It is still used today, where a dog and handler collect groups of livestock and move them quietly around a course. There are certain standard elements to this test depending on the level: national or international. For both levels, sheep must be gathered as calmly as possible without being distressed. Five of those 20 sheep will have collars on, and at the end of a triangular drive, the sheep are gathered into a circular "shedding ring" and the 15 sheep without collars driven away as the five collared sheep are kept inside the ring and then penned.

    In nearly every region of the world, the Border Collie is now also a breed which is shown in ring or bench shows. For the people who participate in these events, the Border Collie is defined by the breed standard, which is a description of how the dog should look.

    Breed Characteristics:

    In New Zealand and Australia , where the breed has been shown throughout most of the twentieth century, the Border Collie standards have produced a dog with the longer double coat smooth coats are allowed , a soft dark eye, a body slightly longer than tall, a well-defined stop , semi-pricked ears, as well as a gentle and friendly temperament. This style of Border Collie has become popular in winning show kennels around the world, as well as among prestigious judges.

    Breed standards state that its tail must be slightly curved and must stop at the hock. The fur must be lush. It should show good expression in its eyes, and must be intelligent. It is energetic with most commonly a black and white coat sometimes brown.

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    It should have a very strong herding instinct. Away from breed standards, short haired Border collie variants are also found, offering householders a less demanding task clearing year-round shed hair. Crossing collies with German Shepherd dogs produces a strong intelligent hybrid of intermediate size, popularly named a "shollie", used as a working dog with livestock and as an animal companion.

    Other enthusiasts oppose the use of Border Collies as show dogs, for fear that breeding for appearance will lead to a decline in the breed's working dog traits. Few handlers of working Border Collies participate in conformation shows , as working dogs are bred to a performance standard rather than appearance standard. Likewise, conformation-bred dogs are seldom seen on the sheepdog trial field, except in Kennel Club -sponsored events. Dogs registered with either working or conformation based registries are seen in other performance events such as agility, obedience, tracking or flyball ; however, these dogs do not necessarily conform to the breed standard of appearance as closely as the dogs shown in the breed rings as this is not a requirement in performance events, nor do they necessarily participate in herding activities.

    In the UK , there are two separate registries for Border Collies. The International Sheep Dog Society [41] encourages breeding for herding ability, whereas the Kennel Club UK encourages breeding for a standardised appearance. The recognition was under protest [43] from the majority of Border Collie affiliated groups, such as the United States Border Collie Club, which felt that emphasis on the breed's working skills would be lost under AKC recognition.

    AKC registrations have gradually increased since recognition and by the year there were 1, new AKC registrations of Border Collies, with a further 2, for the year The ANKC provides a breed standard; however, this applies to conformation events only and has no influence on dogs entering in performance events. Agility organisations such as the Agility Dog Association of Australia ADAA have their own registry which allows the inclusion of any dog wishing to compete in their events.

    The criteria used are based on herding lineage rather than appearance. It is a two-tiered registry in that dogs imported that are registered with a foreign Kennel Club that does hold conformation shows are given a "B" registration, whereas those that come directly from other working registries are placed on the "A" registry. People who compete in performance events support the move.

    The CBCA is against this designation. The registration of working sheepdogs in South Africa is the responsibility of the South African Sheepdog Association. Dogs not registered can become eligible for registration by being awarded a certificate of working ability by a registered judge. Occasionally they will facilitate the testing of dogs used for breeding, for Hip dysplasia and Collie eye anomaly, to encourage the breeding of dogs without these genetic flaws.

    Border Collies are one of the most popular breeds for dog agility competitions. Working Border Collies can take direction by voice and by whistle at long distances when herding. Their great energy and herding instinct are still used to herd all kinds of animals, from the traditional sheep and cattle , to free range poultry , pigs , and ostriches.

    They are also used to remove unwanted wild birds from airport runways, golf courses, and other public and private areas. The use of dogs for herding sheep makes good economic sense for many farmers. In a typical pasture environment each trained sheepdog will do the work of three humans. In vast arid areas like the Australian Outback or the Karoo Escarpment, the number increases to five or more.

    Attempts to replace them with mechanical approaches to herding have only achieved a limited amount of success. Thus, stock handlers find trained dogs more reliable and economical.