Carol Reiter: Once a border collie lover ...

March 7, 2009 

CAROL REITER

This time I was really sick.

I had suffered through a couple of infections in the past year, but this time, there was something else wrong with me. All I wanted to do was sleep, my friends said that I was slurring my words, and I couldn't keep my balance. I fell about 10 times in one day, smacking my nose and ending up with bruises all over myself.

So my friends took me to the emergency room. After ruling everything out, they sent me home with a diagnosis of vertigo. Wrong. I was back in three days, and ended up spending five days in critical care.

And guess what? During that time, I didn't miss my dogs. Not a bit. I had been so sick, and the dogs had been so bad when I was sick, that I was glad to get away from them. My friend told me the dogs were bad because I didn't take care of them. I didn't let them out as much as they wanted and their meals weren't always on time. But I was so sick, I didn't care too much about them.

Before I ended up in the hospital, I didn't eat anything for a couple of days. During that time, when I felt my absolute worst, Jan started jumping back and forth across my bed. I would try to yell at her, but she totally ignored me. Peg started barking almost nonstop, and found a way to get out of the house.

I would hear Peg outside barking, and I would get up and get her back inside. She would wait until I was asleep, and back out she would go. I finally put her in a crate, which made her bark even more.

Actually, the only dog that was halfway decent during that time was Len. He tried to convince me to let him out, but he actually spent most of his time sleeping, waiting for me to get up.

But once I was in the hospital, I didn't miss a one of them. I know, I know, that sounds terrible. But I had been so sick, and still was, that being away from those darn dogs was actually kind of nice.

I did miss my cat, Beto. He is a sweet guy, who loves to sleep with me, under the covers if it's cold. I missed him, but I'm not sure that he missed me. When I first came home, he wouldn't come around me for a whole day. Then he wouldn't leave me alone.

When I got out of the hospital, I didn't go home. I went to a friend's house, who took care of me for a few days. She has three dogs, just like me, only these dogs are like night and day compared to my dogs.

The three dogs have unbelievable manners. They don't get food off the table (are you listening, Len?), they don't constantly want to go outside (hear me, Peg and Jan?) and they only bark if there is something outside.

It was nice to be around three nice, well-behaved dogs. I had kind of forgotten what that was like. The littlest dog spent her days snuggled up next to me in bed, and the two big dogs snoozed on their couch in the living room. When I got up, they would greet me, but very politely, like the kind, gentle dogs that they are.

When I went home, I was ready for my dogs. I had decided that from now on, they would sleep in crates at night. This was fine with Lenny and Peg, they were used to spending time in crates because they can be bad at night.

But Jan was livid. The queen does not sleep in a crate. Period. It was a battle of wills, and Jan prepared herself for a long fight.

The first night, she flat wouldn't go in the crate. I had given Peg and Len their treats when they went in their crates, and Jan jumped up on my bed, in her regular sleeping place, and waited for her treat.

I told her no, she had to go in the crate. I called her to the crate, and she hopped over the open door and went down the hall.

I called her back, and blocked her way. She jumped over the crate door again; hey, this is a border collie, agility is their forte.

So the next time I called her, I was ready. As she started to dart by, I grabbed her collar. I pointed to the crate, and she went in. I gave her a treat, and went to the kitchen to get my book.

By the time I got back, Jan was barking. I thought, no problem, I can handle that. Then she started howling. This went on from about 8 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., when she finally quit. I was exhausted, but I figured the next night had to be better.

Wrong again. The next night was worse. I gritted my teeth, and tried to sleep. I still wasn't feeling too well, and that shrill barking got on my nerves. This time she lasted until about midnight before she shut up.

For the past few nights, it's gotten better. Jan only barks for a few minutes, then she pouts. She figured out that I can wait her out, and she gives up easier.

And after I was home for a few hours, I realized that I had missed my dogs. They aren't as good as my friend's dogs; they never will be, I'm sure. My dogs like to run, and get muddy, and leap over fences and crate doors. They like to hassle chickens and cats and horses, and Jan loves to ride in the back of the truck.

Even though it was nice being around nice, quiet, well-behaved dogs that were clean and sweet, I guess I'm just used to fast, ornery, dirty border collies. Once a border collie lover, always one, I guess. I'm feeling a lot better, but I'm still crazy, I guess. Just take a look at my dogs and you'll figure that out, real quick.

Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or creiter@mercedsun-star.com

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