Are You Smarter Than a Border Collie?

Reader Contribution by Mary Carton

Are you smarter than a problem-child, hooligan, border collie? Right now, for me, that answer is a big NO.

Leaving for work once morning, Blackie and Levi were snug as bugs in a rug, each in their own pile of pine needles that I’ve been hauling from a friend’s yard. But as I got to the bridge, there was Problem-Child Patches sitting by the creek.

I backed up the road to my driveway, pulled in, opened the garage door, got out of my truck, and unplugged the underground fence. I went around the corner to the front of the house and called Patches in. She came lopping, and I thought, By the time I get back to plug up the fence, she should be in.

I plugged up the fence, got in my truck, closed down the door, backed out of the driveway, and started down the road. As I got to the bridge, there was my Patches, sitting by the creek.

I backed up and did it all over again. This time I had to go after her and pull her in. I plugged up the fence, got in my truck, closed down the door, backed out of the driveway, and started down the road. This time she stayed in the yard, so I went to work.

Somewhere, she has found a spot that the radio signal is not working. So that afternoon, I walked the three and a half acres with a break tester. I didn’t find a break. I redid the connections on the several splices along the creek where I had some tornado-damaged trees taken down.

Walking the line again, I noticed an old plant stake that had rusted and was bent over the wire location. I discarded it, smug that I had solved the problem. Patches was sitting there looking at me like, You just think you have me locked in, but you just wait. After that look, I checked her collar; it vibrated ten feet out and shocked as I got within in a few feet of the wire. Now I have her, I said to myself.

The next morning she was in, and I was really smug. Two days later, my smugness was deflated — she was out again and Levi was out with her. I checked the collars again, and both were working. They either could get out but not back in, or it was just easier to let Mom let them in. Something metal must’ve been cancelling the signal somewhere. I noticed a bluebird box on a metal post on the inside of the fence just inches from the wire. That had to be it, so I spend an afternoon after a rain digging it out of the ground. There, bet that works.

The next morning, they were out again. So it was back to the drawing board. I vented my frustration to a friend that a dog was smarter than me. She responded, “You are irritated that she’s just out-smarting you right now.”

The next day I went and got a new roll of wire to replace a section along the dry creek, from a connection at the bottom to back up near the house. It had several splices in it due to some tornado-damaged tree removal last year. As I got near the end of the roll, I start pulling a section that was buried an inch underground and found the plastic coating corroded off and the bare wire exposed. This will cancel out a radio signal in the area. The next day it’s back for another roll of wire, and I spent the day bypassing that section of wire and connecting it to the connection marked by the bluebird box. I also put the box back up outside of the fence.

I checked Patches collar, and it was working great. “Now I have her,” I chuckle. The next afternoon, there she was, lying on the side of the road, out again. When I got home, I gave Blackie and Levi a biscuit for being home. Problem-Child saw them getting a biscuit, tried a few times, and then just walked across the new wire.

By this time, I was about ready to take her collar off and tell her, “You want out, go find a new home.” I did take her collar off, attached the tester to it, and walked along the area she came over. The collar was working until I walked a few times away and back toward the wire. It stops vibrating and shocking for just a little while — just long enough for Problem-Child to make good her escape. I walked back and forth a few times, and it happened again. How in the world did she figure that one out?

I had a brand-new spare collar, put a new battery in it, and put it on her. So far it’s been a week, and she has been at home each morning when I go to work and every evening when I come home, sacked out in the pile of pine needles I have on the driveway for the new bed I’m working on.

We need to finish the koi pond before planting can take place. I have a solar pump and filter ordered for it. We had to move it a little bit after I chopped up the water line going to the house.

The temperatures for most of January and February have been extremely warm. Daffodils and star and saucer magnolias are in full bloom. Azaleas and quince are starting to bloom. My two-winged silverbell, lilacs, and maple trees are leafing out. The last time we had a winter like this, we had a hard freeze and snow in April, which killed a lot of my dogwoods and fruit trees. This coming week, the weather folks are predicting our best chance for snow this year. Around these parts, if you don’t like the weather today, wait a day or two and get something you like.

One nice thing about this time of year: the spectacular sunsets.

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