Mainline Border
Collie Centre
Golcar Farm
Spring Lane
Bingley
West Yorkshire
BD16 3AU
01274 564163
Meg
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
The Barn Dogs
The story of nine happy little rescues

In November 2008 we rescued into the care of the Freedom of Spirit Trust rescue nine dogs that had all been neglected and were half starved. But far from being just sad little dogs they have been wonderful to live with, untouched and unspoiled they been quick to trust and eager to learn. Puppies in an adult body.
The circumstance of how they came to be in the barn and why they needed rescuing is rather sad. They were shut in a farm building in Wales, but let's not be too quick to jump to conclusions. A well educated gentleman trying to make a go of farming thought that by purchasing several well bred young dogs and pups that he would be able to make some money to help keep things ticking along. One could commend him on his initiative but we all know that trading in dogs to make money is not acceptable, but no doubt when purchasing them he didn't think of that and also had every intention of looking after them. After all they had cost him good money! What he wouldn't have bargained on was how circumstances can change and in a few short months life took a dramatic down turn with illness and money problems. He did his best to rehome the dogs, approaching a large well known rescue organisation with a request to take them in as he could no longer look after them. Entry was refused. When the Trust was approached we made arrangements to have them brought straight to us. A neighbouring farmer and friend of his offered to pick them up and take them to his farm ready for collection. There were twelve in total and they came in two separate trips. Anne Lewis took three very young bitches and the remaining nine came to the Trust, eight dogs and one bitch, Glen, Cap, Tip, Bobby, Moss, Drift, Scott, Kim and Ben.
Not one dog had been abused, mistreated or suffered cruelty; but they had been neglected. Their food had been in short supply so they were thin. Ben and Drift were emaciated, they were all filthy and they had received no human contact. But a happier bunch of dogs I have yet to meet! In our human terms they were neglected but the only real hardship for them was their inability to be able to fend for themselves. Because they were penned up they had no means of providing for themselves or of keeping clean by being nomadic. But in every other respect, alien though it may seem to us, they were perfectly happy living a normal pack life. Their struggle has been in trying to adapt to what we humans want, and expect from them. The need for them to be rescued, fed and cleaned up was essential, they were hungry, which had caused problems within the pack and they were all entire so more problems were looming on the horizon. But they didn't know any different and life for them was far more familiar and comforting than it can be for a dog being taken into an all human environment. Dogs understand how to be a pack and can relate to pack boundaries and although hungry their life was one of well organised fun.

It has been a fascinating experience working with the dogs and observing how their pack worked and their positions in it. Scott was, without a doubt, the pack leader. He was not aggressive, or even dominant, he was simply in control. None of the other dogs challenged him yet they would often be seen to argue gently with him, after which they would play together equally gently, but Scott would always be the one to call time. Kim was the alpha bitch and had a quiet calm about her. She was sensitive and intuitive and although she had a mainly male presence around her she could command good manners from them whenever when she wanted to. Moss was next in line to Scott and was an equally strong but calm dog but he knew not to push his leader too far. Glen, Cap and Tip would have been the hunters had they been in a position to hunt. Glen and Cap were compact and keen and knew how to play the hunting game with Tip being the agile one with a quick turn of speed when needed. Drift and Ben would have been the pacers in a normal pack environment. Pacing the prey until it was tired and then the 'big boys' would take over. Sadly Bobby was an 'in between' dog. He was older than a pacer but not compact or brave enough to be a hunter, he would have done a wonderful job backing up the hunters but he had no one to partner him (sadly the purchase of dogs by a human being doesn't take such things into account). They all had their places within the unit and in their own way were both content and happy, the fact that they were desperately hungry didn't change their way of life except at the times some food was thrown in for them, and then they pulled rank.

Ben, Drift, Cap, Glen, Tip and Bobby arrived in December the older three didn't come until January but piecing together their roles in the pack made it easier to understand them and their behaviour when introduced to a more domestic environment. It was a human being who brought these dogs together in the first place and a human being caused the pack structure to break down. Scott is white with blue eyes, a very striking looking dog but one that had the potential to breed deaf puppies. Drift is his son and is completely deaf! Ben and Drift were the young ones who should have benefited from the spoils of a hunt but as there was no hunt and food was in short supply they were emaciated. Cap and Glen had fun play hunting but didn't really help to produce a meal so had to make do with what was left when the older ones allowed them in. Bobby danced around hoping to grab a morsel whenever he could, too young to have first selection and not in with the hunters to form a united front. Tip was quick and agile and able to duck and dive for his food so his condition was better than the other young ones.
When Moss, Scott and Kim arrived at the Trust they were in better condition as the food they were receiving was only being shared by three dogs instead of a starving nine. But that hadn't helped Kim who arrived with the problem we had expected - she was in pup to a dog that could breed deaf puppies and could also be related to her. She was in no fit state to have a litter of pups, in fact it could have put her own life in jeopardy so the decision was made to abort the litter and then concentrate on getting her back to good health. Moss, as second in command, also had a problem. When Kim was in season he would have been wanting to supersede Scott, but of course Scott would not relinquish his rights as a leader so Moss had learned to pace across the corner of the barn they were in while Scott kept him penned there at bay from Kim. With that piece of information we knew to make sure that Moss couldn't see Scott so he eventually forgot his 'corner phobia' and stopped pacing. Scott was in good health, reasonably fit and with a quiet calm about him. Although nervous of the unknown he was, and still is, a confident dog in himself.

Ben and Drift were an interesting combination to study. When they arrived they huddled together in a corner, emaciated and filthy. Ben alerted Drift to any sudden sound or movement and because of this Drift was reasonably dependant on him. But Drift's deafness acted as a calming influence on Ben, as Drift settled down much faster after one of Ben's 'alerts'. It was essential to split them up, they were a perfect team but they weren't going to go through life in the pack they knew and they had to learn to be prepared for a solo life. Drift was quick to learn but sadly Ben missed his little white 'comforter' and took much longer to gain confidence.

Glen, Cap and Tip were the first three dogs to go into new homes; Kim was the next one to go and then Moss and Scott. They have all blossomed and they are a credit to the dedication and patience of their new guardians. Bobby took longer to settle down and out of all of them he suffered the most. He was beginning to respond when the three older ones arrived and in our quest to keep Moss away from Scott we put him in the same block of kennels as Bobby. What we hadn't bargained for was a festering argument being rekindled. For some reason Moss had a huge resentment of Bobby and each time he came out of his pen he made a beeline for Bobby's and threatened him through his wire door. Remember that poor Bobby didn't have any back-up in the pack and was therefore almost like an 'outsider'. They had been apart for two months but they both remembered immediately they saw each other, where Moss had been put in his place by Scott and kept as second in command he had vented his frustration on a dog that didn't have any back-up. So once again we had to play chess with dogs to make sure they were all content. They are all rehomed Ben and Cap share the same home as do Drift and Bobby - yes our little Bobby did make a friend and Drift has an 'extra' pair of ears.

They couldn't have stayed where they were and they couldn't have run loose as a pack. They are really lovely dogs and not one of them has a bad tempered or aggressive bone in their bodies. It has been an experience and a privilege working with them and watching each one develop into a strong, happy, healthy dog that can be someone's loving companion. But there is just a touch of sadness. They were happy playing in the barn, chasing paper feed sacks round and having fun as a pack but they had no freedom. They are now happy in their new environments as individuals, well fed and loved. But their freedom now is on human terms. Observing them has shown us how precious their life as a pack dog is and in our quest to make them as we want them we seem to take away just a tinge of their genuine natural freedom of spirit.

The photograph is of Drift and Bobby in their new home - friends forever.
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