Since it's Pet Appreciation Week, it seems like the perfect time to tell you about Ryder!
Ryder, currently our only boy and our only rough collie, stands out among all the smooth girls. Like his mother Abby, he rarely does anything wrong, and when he does, I only have to tell him once to not do it again. He is abnormally sensitive, even for a collie, and his feelings are easily hurt. So I am always careful when I am upset, because he immediately assumes I am upset with him. Any arguments between the human members of the household will leave him trembling in a corner, so I always seek him out to remind him what a great dog he is, and how much I love him. Fortunately, in our home disagreements are rare, because it’s heartbreaking to see him looking so sad and worried.
He loves to go for walks and hikes with me, and he seems to really enjoy posing for pictures. I remember the moment when I realized just how attuned he had become to my needs. I was walking on the beach with Ryder, and saw some beautifully weathered wood. I paused, looked at it thoughtfully, and said to both myself and Ryder, "that might make a great background." Ryder immediately walked over, turned around and sat down, and began posing...I didn't even have to direct him!
When my mother broke both her arms one winter and had to stay in a rehab facility for 6 weeks, we brought Ryder in to visit her. He soon made friends with the staff and many of the other residents, and before we knew it, the staff were begging us to bring him in for visits. And with his sensitive nature, it didn’t take me long to decide to try Therapy Dog work with him. They were doing therapy dog certification tests at Sunnybank, and with Sunnybank’s history and importance to me , it was the perfect place to see if Ryder had what it takes to become a Therapy Dog. I signed him up, and drove to Sunnybank for the test last August. Ryder, being the perfect boy that he is, passed the test without ever taking a single Therapy dog class.
Being so calm, sensitive and laid-back has some drawbacks though. Our cat, Pumpkin, takes advantage of his gentle nature, and steals bites of his dinner while he is eating. He grumbles about it, but he never tries to stop her, so I have to chase her away from his bowl. The girls tend to pick on him, they love to play a game they invented, called “everybody get Ryder!” They all gang up and chase him, but while I monitor the game, I haven’t ended it yet. Because so far, Ryder seems to enjoy having all the girls’ attention focused entirely on him, and dances around them, tail wagging happily.
The only thing that seems to annoy my boy is birds. One Spring he was in the backyard, and we heard the sound of a lot of agitated birds. Somehow, and I’m not sure what he did, he angered the birds who live around our house. They were swooping down and pulling his fur. Being bombarded with these noisy, feathered missiles from above, he wasn’t sure where to turn. I had to run and save him, and ever since that day, he does not care for birds. Fortunately, he doesn’t fear them, but one day he made his feelings perfectly clear. We were out in the backyard, when Ryder suddenly leapt into the air. He lowered his head and spit out a small bird on the ground. He had caught a bird mid-flight! He didn’t harm the bird at all, and after a moment of stunned shock, the bird flew off. Ryder turned to me with a smug look, and I could see he clearly felt he had the won the battle.
Ryder is such an amazing dog, and he is such a pretty boy, that people and children gravitate towards him. When we are out taking a walk, people have stopped their cars in the road to tell me what a beautiful dog he is, and how you never see collies anymore. And with his personality he makes the perfect ambassador for the collie breed, which is why he gets invited to AKC Meet the Breeds events. When we attended the huge Meet the Breeds event at Westminster last February he had hundreds of people taking “selfies” with him all day long. Being his breeder, his owner and his best friend makes me very proud, and I'm grateful to have him in my life.