It’s a beautiful day in early summer. The scrub oak and aspen are fully green at last. Bees and butterflies move lazily among the purple nettles and sunflowers. Birds and squirrels are a constant distraction, but The Ivy Dog stays close. She is very intelligent, and she knows the rules about chasing wildlife.
However, she also knows she is WAY smarter than her humans. Humans only see half of what is going on, and sometimes she has to make her own decisions. For the good of everyone.
So when a trailside rustling catches her ears, she’s gone.
I stop running and start yelling, “Ivy no! Get back here! IVY NO! IIIVVVYYY NNNOOO!!”
Anyone watching this scene would probably make some (unfair) judgments about the relative intelligence of the two species involved.
But this time I’m vindicated.
A wild turkey crosses the trail, Ivy hot on its trail. My yelling increases in volume, but not effectiveness. I add some arm waving.
The turkey crosses back over the trail. Now I see that there is a baby turkey running with it, and Ivy closing in. Then the momma turkey turns. The next time they cross the trail, Ivy is the one being chased, ears flat against her head with fear and embarrassment.
The Ivy Dog has an incredibly efficient stride and the sleek conformation of a racehorse. She easily outruns the turkey, then veers back to the trail. She glances back casually, as if to say, “I’m just running along; nothing happened.”
The Ivy Dog is a complicated and multi-faceted creature. She will bark at cars right in front of me, even though that is a clear rule violation, then immediately put herself in the kennel as punishment. Sometimes I come home to find her in the kennel, ears flat with shame, and I’m left to guess what kind of crime spree she went on while I was gone. But maybe she did nothing. Sometimes I feel like she holds the guilt of the world on her small shoulders. She takes our guilt and shame for us, since she is stronger. Kafka might have written his longest volume on the guilt The Ivy Dog carries.
Or maybe she was just really naughty while I was gone.
The Ivy Dog is a Border Collie/Australian Shepherd. She uses her herding skills to keep me on the trail and to help me get to the barn in the backyard. She also helps me with cat herding, which is possible if you have the right dog. She was named when she was a tiny puppy after she disappeared into our English Ivy, then popped her little head up, just like Flower the skunk in the movie Bambi.
Ivy is a sweet little girl, except to Clayton the Malador. Clayton the Malador is easily twice her size, but The Ivy Dog attacks him mercilessly if he goes on a run without her. She also attacks him if SHE goes on a run without HIM. She attacks him if I pet him, if I look at him, if I say his name… But she also loves Clayton the Malador. When they run together, they forget about me. They are no longer shackled by the two-legs that hold them back, they run like they were meant to run, a pack of predators chasing down a squirrel, a chipmunk, a leaf. When Ivy comes across prey, ancient instincts kick in and she hops high into the air like a fox and dives nose first into the grass. Fortunately, ancient instinct has faded too much to make this move successful.
The Ivy Dog completed a 25k this spring. She refused to pay for her registration, so she was technically a bandit, but she put in the miles so I think it counts. She ran with my daughter, who is the fastest runner in the family, and we learned the following:
-Everyone loves The Ivy Dog and The Ivy Dog loves everyone. She was fawned over and petted by dozens of people, mostly women, and she loved them all in return. She was told she was pretty approximately 113 times.
-The Ivy Dog DOES wear out. Her previous long distance was 11ish miles. By the time she reached the end of the 25k she was exhausted. She stopped running up to greet all her new friends and just gave finishers a tail thump.
-The Ivy Dog takes too long at aid stations.
-The Ivy Dog doesn’t understand the whole competition thing. At the top of some switchbacks, she spotted my husband coming up. She sat down in the middle of the trail and refused to go on until he reached them.
-The Ivy Dog doesn’t like members of the herd to leave the trail. A runner left the trail to answer nature’s call and Ivy tried to go after him to bring him back to the trail. Fortunately she was leashed.
-The Ivy Dog sometimes causes falls, sometimes makes falls worse, and is terrible at first aid. Some of this was learned before the 25k when she tripped my husband and then crawled all over him in an effort to make it all okay. At the 25k my daughter tripped. It might have been one of those “almost falls” but Ivy kept running and the pull of the leash made her fall. Then The Ivy Dog crawled all over her in an effort to make it all okay. Crawling all over fresh injuries doesn’t really help.
If The Ivy Dog had thumbs and a little more language (she can say OIL,OIL,OIL but not much else) she might have been a microbiologist, a surgeon, or a nanotechnologist. Instead, she’s a dog. She is aware of her superior intelligence, but she’s seldom condescending. She loves me in spite of my relative blindness and deafness. She runs with me in spite of my slow and clumsy two-legged gait. She keeps me on the right trail and scouts out potential meals, just in case.
But she leaves the turkeys for the dumber dogs.