So, some relationships just don’t work out. Both parties can be trying to be what the other needs in a relationship but if it isn’t there, it just isn’t there. That was what happened with Mikey and I. Mikey needed a stronger personality and will than I have (those who know me just went “whoa!” because apparently I am *ahem* rather strong-willed). I needed a partner and he needed a boss. We worked on it, we really did. But I couldn’t trust him off lead with either the sheep nor the chickens. He was great on lead, but I needed help beyond what he could do reliably for me. This is not really his fault nor mine. It just wasn’t a good fit for the situation that I am in. So, this weekend the breeder suggested that I try a different dog.
Rita is also a smooth coated collie. She’s a few months older than Mike and has had a litter of puppies. She’s also had a bit more training than he has. But most importantly, she gets it. She usually gets what I want her to do and is obviously trying to get it when she doesn’t. We still have a lot of work to do, but it’s progressing really, really quickly already. I’ve only had her at the farm since Thursday, but she’s already become part of the farm routine in a way that Mikey never was. Since coming to the farm, she hasn’t been on a leash once. She helps with morning and evening chores, even if it’s just keeping an eye on me. Rita will mosey off to see what’s new, but literally checks-in with me every few minutes to see if I need her.
Quite possibly the biggest difference between Rita and Mikey, other than levels of calmness and obedience, is that Rita is way more gentle with the sheep than Mikey was. She had to correct Alanis the other night and Alanis was more offended by not getting to be next to me than by anything else. I have seen Rita trying to move lambs by carefully attempting to pick them up by the scruff of their necks (I stopped this as soon as I realized exactly what she was doing, but I have to admit that it was kinda adorable).
Rita is also okay with kids. My oldest niece came out to the farm over the weekend and Rita was perfectly polite to her. She came to her when Maeve said her name, gave Maeve a quick boop with the nose when she realized that she wasn’t needed, and then right back to sniffing the farmyard smells. There were no growls and no standoffish behavior at all.
Now to answer a few questions before they are asked. First, nothing bad is going to happen to Mikey. He has gone back to the breeder (where he has gone back and forth all summer) and he will be worked with more until someone comes along who is right for him. This is all about finding the right dog for the right person, not saying that Mikey is a “bad dog”. The reason that I didn’t start with Rita in the first place is that she had just had puppies when I first went out to Wayne’s, so she was obviously off the market. But now her little miscreants are all weaned and half-grown and really don’t need her anymore. Wayne saw that I was becoming increasingly frustrated with Mikey and he had had a chance to work with Rita again and found that she might be more my speed. Thus, the switch. It’s also unlikely that Mikey is going to suffer any ill effects of having been switched out. These dogs often get worked with at different places by different people over time. Mikey and I never really bonded (don’t get me wrong, we liked each other, but we never bonded) so it’s not like he’s heartbroken about this.
I’m very optimistic about Rita as she has been fitting into the family really quite well and we’re already able to do things together that Mikey and I never were able to. Just last night we moved the entire flock from where they were grazing back into their pen with no magic bucket of feed! Yay! It wasn’t perfect but it sure beat the hell out of running ahead of the flock trying not to get trampled to death by a horde of tiny hooves.