Mainline Border
Collie Centre
Golcar Farm
Spring Lane
West Yorkshire
BD16 3AU
01274 564163
Meg - 1979 – 1992
Nine National trials
English team 1983
The first of our Main Line of dogs
and the inspiration for MBCC
Corporate Collies
Freedom of Spirit Trust for Border Collies

Old dogs are wonderful; they have been there, done that and worn all the T-shirts. They have their whole lifetime of experience behind them and they also usually know us better than most, in fact sometimes better than ourselves. But we mustn't let our memories play tricks on us; if we do we may make life hard for both ourselves and any other dog we take into our lives. People often tell me that their present dog isn't as well behaved as their old dog was. In fact their old dog was brilliant, it never did anything wrong, it was always obedient and very easy to train and never caused a moments worry from the day they got it to the day it died. The poor dog now in their life is probably sat wondering if it can ever possibly match up to the perfect image it has waving in front of it. Or is saying, yeah right then'!

My Hope was wonderful and I miss him like heck. That thick coat I could bury my face in, the kind and all knowing eyes he looked at me with, the patience he showed to young dogs, in fact everything about him was perfect - he was fifteen. I remember a shepherd once telling me that when a dog has finally got it right, can work on its own, knows what you are thinking and is truly your best friend, it's usually time for it to go because it will be well over ten years old. True some dogs have all those qualities earlier in their lives but if I've learned one thing about dogs it's that they get better with age, so those that are darn good at six will be unbelievable at sixteen.

I can remember my Hope when he was a pup and boy was he a cheeky little lad. His mum died when he was only three days old so I had to hand rear him. I can remember sitting one night feeding him and his brothers and sisters with a tiny bottle and then trying to 'top and tail' them to keep them clean when my Megan (not the one I have now) gave me a look that said I was making a real hash of it and got in the bed and cleaned them all up. Two days later she came into milk and between us we brought the litter up. But Megan was poorly and when she got them to the age of four weeks and they could be on solid food she died. She was only five and I adored her, so yes, she was perfect. Deep down I know she was keen on her sheep, didn't like the stop command, could bully her brother and was a real live wire but it was that feistiness that made her what she was and gave her the guts to rear a litter of pups that weren't even hers and that made her special.

So Hope was sort of given to me by Megan and that made him special, also a bit of a spoilt boy but he trained well for sheep and had potential to be a good trial dog. But his sheer arrogance and know it all attitude cost him that chance. Working sheep and pushing them on too hard, despite my instructions to ease off, caused damaged to a front leg when he got tangled in the flock. His tendons were ripped and he had to have a cast on his leg for many weeks. He went from fit dog in full work to couch potato overnight - not many dogs will do that but with a change of diet and a calm atmosphere he soon settled.

When the cast came off it was obvious he wouldn't be able to work full time as his leg wouldn't bend properly at the knee. But that doesn't deter a dog who lives to live, he went on to join our Corporate Collie team, do the Sheepdog Experience, accompany me on talks, appear on several television programmes, and in general keep the rest of the dogs in order - me as well for that matter. But, my memories of Hope are of what a fantastic dog he always was but they are not clouded memories. He was strong and dominant, he didn't like other male dogs and made it quite clear they had to keep out of his space, or else! But I knew his character and I managed it, that way he never got into trouble. Hope balanced his dominance by being an amazing mentor for his family of dogs and he never ever turned on his own. He was a strong young dog, with a touch of arrogance and mind of his own, but if he hadn't been like that he wouldn't have known enough when he got older to be the gentle wise old dog that I loved so much.

There are easier dogs. Max was very easy, in fact he almost trained himself to work sheep. I don't remember every having to argue with Max or to have to wonder how to teach him something new, he just seemed to know it all. But when I tried to get Max to do something that he considered to be a waste of time then nothing would move him. He trained so easily that he wasn't actually trained, he simply did it because it suited him - Max taught me a lot!

Every dog that touches us is special but none of them are perfect, if they were we would learn nothing from them and we wouldn't have the wonderful memories. If we think back about our own lives we tend to remember the unusual or the funny events that have happened, they are what make our happy memories. Dogs need to be full of fun, feisty and questioning when they are younger, and quite often the wonderful old companion dogs we love so much were just that.
@B Sykes
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