“The Story of Emma”

or

“How We Learned To Live With a Celebrity Border Collie”

We didn’t know it would be like this.

 We meet other dogs and their people ask “Is that a Border Collie?  Aren’t they supposed to be the smartest dogs in the world”? 

As we walk Emma on the Sammamish River trail, an in-line skater turns backwards as she passes us and says “Border Collie –  greatest dog in the world.  I had one for 16 years!”.

Emma and I wait just before a crosswalk for traffic to clear, and a woman rolls down her window and asks “Is that a Border Collie?  She looks so sweet!”

Sometimes we meet someone who just isn’t sure – “Is that one of those sheepherding dogs, a……..”  We finish for them “….Border Collie.”  “Yeah, a Border Collie”.

Or “Oh look, she looks just like that dog in Babe!”

The other thing we continue to be amazed at are the number of people who, after learning Emma’s name either ask if she is the dog from Idaho or say “Oh, so this is Emma.  I know Janet (or Melanie, or Kathy, or Kim, or Lynn (or some other member of Border Collie Rescue)”.

In all seriousness, this is a testimonial to the great job all of the folks associated with Border Collie Rescue are doing, because if it weren’t for them, Emma would not be the celebrity that she is. 

In fact, Emma wouldn’t be around at all.

For the Border Collie Rescue folks, Emma’s story really began when she was found tied up at the Clarkston County (Idaho) Animal Shelter early one morning by one of the staff.  Emma was in a bad way, as she was completely infected with ticks, pregnant, and dying from infections.  Since she was not adopted, Emma was to be relinquished to Pullman Veterinary College along with two other dogs for experimentation and eventual euthanization.   An urgent plea for helping three doomed dogs on a pet rescue internet bulletin board was noted by the Seattle area Border Collie Rescue and they got the ball rolling to rescue all three (Emma, Idaho-Jake and Bob the bob-tail BC mix puppy).

All three dogs were picked up at the Clarkston Animal Shelter on June 13th and brought to Seattle in relays (we call this the “Border Collie Underground Railroad”).  The first relay was to Yakima where they were transferred for the run to Snoqualmie Pass.  From there they were picked up and brought down to Redmond. Emma and the puppy went to a rescue home in Edmonds and Jake went to a rescue home in Richmond Beach.

Because she was in such bad shape, Emma was taken immediately to a veterinarian where she was spayed.  At the time of her spaying Emma was found to have a life-threatening uterine infection. The litter of puppies, who would never had made it, were about 1/2 term and were thought to number about Emma’s uterus had swollen like a balloon and was close to bursting, and the pups and placenta, etc weighed 8-1/2 pounds. She also had conjunctivitis in her right eye and was completely infested with ticks.  After she was spayed and pumped her full of antibiotics, Emma returned to her rescue home on June 18th where she was nursed back to health.

At this point Emma’s story begin to intersect with ours, but first I need to go back in time about 3 years.  Within a period of two years, we had to put down all four canine and feline members of our family.  Both the cats (Suki and Floyd) and the dogs (Rocky and Lola) were “pound pets”, and were all about the same age.  The cats had been with us for about 16 years and the dogs for 14, so it was a pretty traumatic couple of years as we seemed to be taking one of them for their last visit to the vet every 6 months.

After this experience we decided to live without pets for awhile, as we missed them very much, and couldn’t deal with the thought of having to go through that experience again.  After a year or so had passed we began to realize that as much as we had loved our “Gang of Four”, we missed being greeted by either an exuberant tail-wagging dog or a supposedly aloof cat who, upon hearing the garage door opener start, would get up from wherever it was sleeping to be at the door in time to meet us when we opened it. 

At this point we started talking about finding another dog to join our family.  We read up on all the various breeds whose size, temperament, and characteristics appealed to us, went and visited some breeders and checked out both adult dogs and puppies.  In the process we remembered how eternally grateful Rocky and Lola were that we rescued them from the pound, so decided that we would not buy from a breeder.  We also did not want to go through the puppy thing, so we embarked on visiting all the Humane Society locations on the weekends looking for that perfect dog.

In the meantime I began to search the Internet for dogs, as I found that some of the Humane Society, PAWS, and other similar organizations had websites with listing of the available dogs.  This saved us a lot of wasted time, as we could check the sites to see if there were any dogs available that might be a fit for us, without having to drive all over Puget Sound.  We came across the Greyhound Rescue site and for awhile were looking seriously there, when one day I discovered the Border Collie Rescue Website.

We had looked briefly at the Border Collie breed in some of the research we had done, but hadn’t really seriously considered one because of some of the things we read about the characteristics of the breed; however, when we read the write-up about Jake and Emma we thought that perhaps one of them might fit in our family.

We first contacted the foster parent for Jake and made arrangements to meet him.  The poor little guy was very sweet but seemed too “clingy” for us.  He had just come through a bad experience and seemed to sense that we were there to take him away from his “mom”, and spent most of the time stuck to her like Velcro.  His “mom” suggested that we might want to meet Emma, as she seemed to have a little more self confidence, and might be a better fit for us. 

We made arrangements to meet Emma at our home, and when she came into our house, it was love at first sight.  Since a holiday weekend was coming up, we agreed to have her stay over to see how things went, and the rest is history!

Emma has been a joy to us over the last few months, and while she is not “Miss Perfect Dog”, she is close enough as far as we are concerned.  I have to commend the BC Rescue folks, especially her foster mom, for being pretty close to the mark in terms of what they felt her temperament was.  She was described as being housebroken, crate trained, not a barker or a digger, with some beginning obedience training, and this was proven to be accurate

She continues to amaze us as she has slept in our bedroom from day one, and has never had an accident yet (knock on wood), with the exception of losing her lunch one Sunday after we had taken her to watch a Flyball competition at which she got so excited and worked up she couldn’t keep it down!

In some ways Emma is probably not entirely characteristic of the breed, as she is a total couch potato when she is inside.  In fact she would rather be inside than just about anything.  She will lie quietly for hours if nothing is going on, but the minute you say “Walk” she is ready to go.

 Now before the reader thinks that Border Collies are not a challenge, Emma also displays what appear to be “typical” Border Collie traits.  She is definitely an “alpha” female, and while she is pretty obedient in and around the house, she will constantly test the limits anytime she is off leash (and many times on leash).  Her other love besides being inside with us, is to “organize” all the other dogs at Marymoor Park..  She is incredibly fast and can be gone in flash, becoming totally oblivious to us while racing around madly trying to herd every dog in sight.  At this point getting her to come back is very interesting.   She delights in pinning all the retriever types against the riverbank and not letting them fetch their Frisbees, balls or floats.  Of course this doesn’t go over to big with the owners, so we have had to severely curtail taking “The Terror of Marymoor” to the park, while we work on recall and off leash obedience.  Of course, to Emma, she is just doing her job.

 The things she really loves (or maybe hates) are squirrels.  She goes nuts when she sees one and will try to chase them no matter what.  Another reason why we have to watch her closely and keep her on leash most of the time.  There are a lot of squirrels where we live and she could easily dart into the street in pursuit.

 When outside, Emma, like most Border Collies, will get bored unless you keep her busy.  As the old BC saying goes, if we don’t find something for her to do, she will find something to do herself.  Fortunately, this has been limited to some very half-hearted digging (more like “pawing”) and dragging the pad out of her crate or the bed that we keep for her in the garage out into the rain and mud ( I guess she just wants us to keep them washed for her!) when we have to leave her outside for awhile.  She is just mad that she can’t be inside!

 Yes, Border Collies are very, very smart, and Emma is no exception.  She probably had some sort of rudimentary training, but she learns fast.  In fact,  she has learned exactly how to twist us around her paw and get us to do what she wants, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.  We feel very lucky to have been approved by the Rescue group to provide a home for Emma, and so far, no matter what mischief she might get into, she has been a delight to us.

So, as far as we (and we hope Emma too) are concerned, the Story of Emma continues on a much happier note then it started, thanks to the dedicated members of the Border Collie Rescue group who give so much of their own time and resources to saving these wonderful dogs and matching them with the right home and family.

 Thanks again to Border Collie Rescue, and Emma says “ROWOROWORORUHORRR”!