The collies all jostled for attention, all happy that I had once again returned home to them. They all took turns greeting me, expressing their happiness in their own unique ways. Scarlett, the youngest of my adults, pushed her way to the front and jumped up to say hello. I was well aware that I should put more of an effort into teaching her not to jump up, but I didn’t have the heart to scold her while she was gazing at me with that special sparkle in her eyes and her tail wagging fast and furiously. After giving her a hug and a kiss, I nudged her down and turned to the next collie. After greeting each collie, and giving them hugs and petting their soft heads, I turned to place my purse on the table. But before I could put down my purse, Scarlett was back looking for additional attention and love.
“What is it Scar, did you miss me?” Scarlett just snorts her answer and grins up at me, her tail wagging all the harder. Looking at her sweet, happy face, I couldn’t help but smile down at her. She never fails to make me smile; she is just such a happy, joyful collie, that her enthusiasm is contagious. While I finally put down my stuff and kick off my shoes, Scarlett runs off to find a toy. She quickly spots the perfect toy, and it’s no surprise, it’s the one that her sister Kori is carrying in her mouth. Scarlett delights in taking toys away from the other collies. And even though she is the youngest of my adult collies, none of the others will challenge her for possession. She quickly prances back to my side; her whole butt is wagging now, as she proudly displays the stolen stuffed sheep. “What do you have Scarlett? Did you steal that from Kori? You are such a naughty collie!” Scarlett’s only response is to snort gleefully and dance around the room carrying her new treasure.
In the meantime, Kori is on her dog bed looking up at me. Her eyes can melt any heart, as this girl has the most soulful expression I have ever seen on a collie. When she is happy or sad, Kori’s eyes have the ability to touch my heart. When I look into her eyes I can read her thoughts and her feelings, as everything is clearly displayed for me to see. Anyone who doubts a dog has a soul needs only to look into Kori’s eyes to know the truth. I sit down on the couch, tired after a long work day. “Hi sunshine girl, did you have a good day?” Kori jumps up and as graceful as a deer, she is quickly by my side. Hesitantly, she wags her tail, waiting for an invitation. “Come here sweet girl, come sit with me.” Kori jumps up on the couch next to me, and stares questioningly into my eyes. “What is it Kori? What do you need?” She jumps down and runs to the back door, clearly asking to go outside, as she glances back to make sure I understand.
I stand up and cross the room, opening the backdoor, all the collies swarm around me, each hoping to claim the coveted spot at the head of the line, ensuring that he or she is the first one outside. Ryder claims the lead, but not surprisingly he is pushed aside by Scarlett, as she races down the stairs, leading the pack. As I watch their antics, I think of the videos I have watched of well trained dogs, and I tell myself that I should train them to wait by the door until I give them permission to go outside. But instead I allow them the freedom to dash outside, indulging their need to compete for speed and position in this one small way. As I watch them sprint around the yard, I consider all the times they have to wait for permission for even the simplest desire. As my dogs, they have to wait until I choose to feed them their dinner. They have to wait for me to let them outside, wait for me to take them for a walk or a car ride. And when we go on walks, they have to stay by my side, tethered to me by their leashes. So in some things I do indulge them, because no creature should live her life unable to make even the smallest choice. When I take them for walks, I let them choose the direction we will take, and when they want to stop to investigate some new smell, I let them stop. Our walks are more than just a way to get exercise; our walks are a way to bond with my dogs, by doing something they want to do. Too often people forget that dogs are sentient beings, capable of thinking and feeling. So I may consider trying to put an end to the chaos that results from my asking “do you guys want to go outside?” But I know that allowing them this freedom to dash outside willy-nilly is a small pleasure for them, so why would I deny them?
I see that they are tired and ready to come in, as my two old ladies are already standing by the door. So I reach for the handle, and I call them inside, and one by one they saunter inside, order once again restored after their mad race around the backyard. The last in line to come inside is always my sweet Abby. Even though she has been with me the longest, and even though she is the mother of Ryder, Kori and Scarlett, my Abby does not have a dominant bone in her body. Always a sensitive and gentle collie, she always hangs back when the others rush around demanding attention. She is the collie who is the most devoted to me. If I go into a room and shut the door, when I come back out Abby will always be lying across the threshold waiting patiently for my return. When I single her out for attention, her happiness and joy is evident for all to see. Filled with bliss, the years roll back, and she begins playing like a puppy again. Abby is such a faithful friend, such a sweet companion, that I cannot imagine my life without her by my side. When I look at her beautiful face, and see the grey hairs that clearly mark the passing years, I worry about the how much time we may have left together. I wish dogs lived longer, but then how many years would be enough?