[Julia & Mercy]
Mercy is a Border Collie, rescued from the pound by a good friend and neighbor. She was about a year old when she came to live with us, and she and I fell happily in love. With a lot of help, I set about continuing our neighbor's work, training her in the things she would know to be an accepted canine member of human society... to come when she's called, to sit and stay, lie down, not leap up onto people, and so forth. Mercy possesses a strong desire for approval and attention and was an attentive student, and she in turn taught me much about training and working with intelligent non-human animals. We began to run in Dog Agility trials, where she blossomed with the excitement and attention she received for exhibiting her natural speed, grace, and attentiveness to me. The excessive shyness she exhibited from apparent abuse at her first home slowly gave way to increasing confidence in herself. We took many classes and would often spend whole weekends at various trials. We ended up winning a lot of blue ribbons, and relatively few qualifying runs--our strength was still speed more than control--but we always had fun.
[Mercy jumping]

Mercy performing in an Agility trial.

[Mercy red tunnel]

She loves tunnels!

Some Links
  • Agility Ability - information and resources about dog agility
  • NADAC - the North American Dog Agility Council was our favorite official agility association.
  • All About Border Collies - an extensive guide to this remarkable and demanding breed. I agree with their stance that Border Collies should continue to be bred as they always have been: for intelligence and working ability, not for appearance or show.

Border Collies have been bred for many hundreds of years to herd sheep, but Mercy didn't meet any sheep for several years. In the mean time, her favorite things in the world were Frisbees in flight. To my knowledge, she never needed to be taught to play fetch, to chase after toys or leap and catch them, or bring them back, or willingly deposite them at the feet of the nearest human being. My only improvement on this routine, which she seemed to have always known and love, was to teach her to hold her toy up at hand level when she returned it to us, for the sake of sparing our backs as we took it and threw it across the yard again and again and again. She seemed to know when she'd made an exceptionally good mid-air catch, and would run and extra loop or two across the yard, tail held high, before returning for her next round. Mercy has always been a creature of seemingly boundless energy.

My mother eventually did some sheep herding with Mercy. I briefly attempted to teach her to herd the chickens, and I'm certain she could have learned, but I quickly decided that it was simply too traumatic for the chickens. She can speak and roll over and carry things. On days when we had to stay inside we would play "Find it!" where I would let her sniff an object, have her stay, and hide it somewhere in the house. I'd release her and she'd tear down the hall and seek it out and bring it back. Often she slept on my bed. We'd take long walks and runs.

As of this writing (Jan 2003) Mercy is alive and well, but definitely showing signs of age. Both of her back knees are weak, and have had surgery. She can no longer play fetch, but my family still takes her for frequent walks. We are always delighted to see each other when I visit at home.

[Mercy on her bed]
We celebrate her birthday on July 23rd. Return to pets