One of my dogs is an English Shepherd.
She was seized by an Alabama Sheriff’s department in the raid of a dog-fighting operation in which, at the age of four or five weeks, she was being used as bait.
I adopted her when she was about 12 weeks old, most of her physical wounds had healed but she’s always been a bit, well, wired. She is fearless and determined and, true to her breed, she likes to make her own decisions. Most of the time she will obey commands (she likes to think of them as suggestions) but if there’s something she really, really wants (like eggs that the neighbor’s bird laid just on the other side of the fence), there’s little that can stop her. And she’s clever, and the quickest things I’ve ever seen on four legs. She has dug under the fence to get to said neighbor’s chickens in 20 seconds flat. She has dug under the gate on the hard-packed gravel driveway in 30 seconds.
She can go from sweet and calm to terrorist in the blink of an eye (at least that’s what the other dogs seem to think) and back to sweetness and light just as fast.
She has always been a challenging dog, one who has tested my patience, skills and optimism for several years. I love her dearly, but it was looking like she was a perpetual rebellious teenager.
Until Hagar arrived.
Duffy is a tri-color ES, so she looks more like a Berner than any of the other dogs. I don’t know whether that was what made Hagar latch onto Duffy (literally as well as figuratively) or whether, as the youngest, it was her turn in the cosmic scheme of things. But latch on he did, and a transformation occured.
Duffy grew up.
She is patient with him, and accepts his jumping and mouthing calmly, only correcting him when he has *clearly* gone too far. She will run around the yard with him, staying just slow enough to allow him to catch up, and limiting how long they play – I know that she could go on for hours, but she will only run him for four or five minutes, he is still a very young puppy!
She has not challenged the fence since Hagar arrived, and she is much better about coming back inside. I think that even she is surprised at her response, I see her standing sometimes with a look on her face that can only be described as perplexed. Yet she has taken on this role with grace and good humor, and seems to even be enjoying it.
There are moments (few and far between!) when I miss the battle of wills in which we used to engage, but I consider this barely short of miraculous. I didn’t think she could provide any more surprises (I’ve always had to be ready for *anything* with this girl) but this was completely unexpected.
But I’ll take it!