Our small New England town is ten miles from downtown Boston, Massachusetts, five miles from Harvard Square, and a hundred miles from the nearest flock of sheep. The homes sit on one-eighth acre lots of perfect green lawns and tidy flowerbeds. The town's canine control laws are strict and enforced: every dog must wear a leash, all dog droppings must be picked up and disposed of properly, dogs are not allowed on town fields, and no dog is allowed to bark for more than ten minutes. If the town had its way, dogs might be banned altogether-certainly anything larger and more active than a pug or a dachshund.
The Phoebe Chronicles
Genabacab Quick Step, aka "Phoebe," now 15 weeks old, has been duly socialized to a multitude of experiences: cars and lorries, streets and fields, college students and elderly neighbors, and any other stimulating encounter Kay Laurence could produce for her and her littermates.
Just two out-of-the-ordinary experiences await her. How will young Phoebe respond to nine hours alone in a crate on a jet 30,000 feet in the sky, only to land in place so far away that every smell and even the sounds will be new and different?
At 10 ½ months old, Phoebe, a.k.a. Feebes, the Feebinator, and Fubilation, is pure high-octane adolescent border collie energy and zoom.
Luckily, this household of three boys is accustomed to adolescent zoom, and with a little planning we can meet her needs, even in Tidy Lawn, U.S.A. Phoebe is a cooperative and gentle member of our family if she exercises at least three times a day and solves a puzzle at least once a day.
Winter stretches on in Tidy Lawn, U.S.A. The temperature on this early March morning is -15 C, and may rise to -5 C by noon. The first day of spring, just fourteen days away, sends no harbingers this year.
Dog walks this winter require snow pants, boots, a down vest topped by a down jacket, muffler, hat, and thick gloves. Phoebe and Esme wait patiently while I prepare for the elements. The cold doesn't seem to bother them, but the salt spread on the roads burns their feet and the snow packs into their paws. Esme's arthritis flares up in the cold, and some days she would rather wait on the front steps than come along on our walk.
Phoebe and I have just accomplished a new trick that's been on my wish list for a while: circle me tail-first. It isn't an easy trick to learn or teach, but we managed it whenever I found five minutes to bring out the clicker and treats. The breakthrough, Phoebe's "aha!" moment, came one day while Nathaniel, my five-year-old, joined us for the training session to tell me all about turtles. (He's been interested in reptiles and amphibians lately, and we've all heard a lot about frogs. A lot. Now turtles will have their turn.) As I gave him my ears and Phoebe my eyes, she made a full backward circle three times in a row! Time to name the behavior. The cue? "Turtle".