Acquired: Other (stray, given dog by friend etc.)
Posted November 6, 2013
When Claire, my collie, came into my life, she was only seven months old and had been treated poorly by the family who had her first. She was terrified of people, especially water and the bathtub, but intensely curious and intelligent.
Her curiosity and my family's constant patience and coaxing brought her around within six months and her true personality shined.
Though she was a purebred, she was considered deformed because she was pigeon toed but that really made her a great football player.
Claire was very smart. She understood both verbal and non-verbal commands and obeyed without question. She was willing to do a few tricks such shake, roll over, and play dead, but her biggest joy was being outside walking, playing football, or playing in the snow. Her coat was very thick which meant constant brushing but she always sat patiently for it. When she went outside and dug in the snow, she'd come in with huge snow clumps between her toes. It was very important to get these out because her pads could get super tender if they were cold too long. We used tepid water to ensure the clumps all came out. She loved to be groomed, but she hated baths (due to her previous experience) though she always let us bathe her with no fuss. She just gave us the giant brown puppy eyes as if she couldn't believe we'd put her through such an ordeal. We took great care to dry and brush her after bath. Because Collie's have such thick undercoats, it's important to ensure there are no knots, mats, or tangles.Grooming is a constant activity but it's a great bonding experience between dog and owner. I found it also relaxed it her greatly just before bed time.
She was very gentle, especially with smaller animals and elderly people. Collies are bred to herd and she constantly tried to make sure she knew where all her people were and, if we were all outdoors, she ensured we were safe by keeping an eye out for dangers such as snakes, holes in the ground, and wild animals.
Claire's greatest trait was her personality. She had a sense of humor, was very sly, and liked to do the unexpected.
Sneaky & Sly (but in a cute way) - my father was sitting in his recliner watching a football game and snacking on crackers and cheese. He would make a little cracker sandwich then get focused on the game or conversation with my brother, all the while holding the cracker on the arm of the chair. After the third or fourth time, Claire snuck over, raised up just enough to see the cracker and ever so gently slid it out from between his fingers and ate it. He never even noticed. She moved around to the other side of him and got his attention by barking lightly and wagging her tail. He pet her head, made another cracker and got distracted, whereupon the scenario repeated itself. This happened about five times before he caught her.
Sense of Humor - Claire really did have an almost-human type of humor. She loved to watch Saturday morning cartoons, but would get very intent when Tom & Jerry came on. She seemed to always be rooting for Jerry (the mouse) because whenever he won, she yipped and spun in circles.
Unexpected - I've mentioned she liked to play football and I mean really play it. She would be the defensive lineman on our team, lining up exactly as we did and when the ball was snapped, she'd tackle whomever caught the ball. One time, though, we were losing pretty badly,so she snuck behind one of the players on the other team and started digging a hole so he'd fall in. Fortunately we stopped her before it got too big.
Claire was also very sensitive emotionally. She was empathetic to the atmosphere around her and particularly disliked when people argued. She enjoyed being talked to and she talked back with soft whines, yips, and barks.
Overall, I'd say owning a Collie was one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had. In a nutshell they are smart, considerate, compassionate, and all around great dogs. They do require a lot of time and attention in the emotion and grooming departments but the reward to the owner is just as great as it is for the dog.