Bonding takes time, lots of time
I might have the most neurotic dog on the planet. Todd is a border collie who showed up at our house and has never left. A beautiful black and white dog, Todd was probably only a few months old at the time, but he had obviously had it rough. A broken rope hung from his neck, suggesting that he had been tied to something and had finally broken free. He was very thin, and was afraid of all of us.
Attempts to touch him caused him to run in the opposite direction. We had to sneak up on him and grab hold of him to cut the rope from his neck, but we did because it needed to be removed. We spent weeks trying to coax him inside at night to sleep near the warmth of the fire, but he refused. The first winter, he curled up outside the back door and slept there, melting many an icy circle into the snow by morning.
No matter what time of day or night my husband is outside, Todd follows him at a distance. If he goes to the farthest corner of the farm to check fences or cows, Todd runs beside the quad. We can tell that Todd is feeling more and more at home, but still does not accept much petting.
Todd spends a lot of time beside the back door of the house these days. When my husband comes in from the garage or the barn, Todd barks and growls at him as if he is an intruder. When we have company, he waits an hour or so after they arrive and then goes to the driveway to woof, snap and snarl at their vehicle, as if seeing it for the first time.
When our Great Dane, Duke, was living, Todd would play with him. Duke would put Todd’s entire head in his mouth and slobber all over him, but Todd only occasionally seemed to mind. He has gotten along well with nearly every other animal we’ve had here, even occasionally sleeping with the bull in the barn.
The only exception to his amicability is with chickens. As I type, he is standing in the doorway of the chicken coop, barking. After a minute or two of barking, he turns and runs 20 feet away. Then he lies down, looks back and repeats the whole thing. He cracks me up!
He also herds children into circles, and often sleeps with the cats. He won’t take a treat from your hand but will eat them all day long if you throw them to him. He prefers cat food over dog kibble. He won’t play with toys. He doesn’t like the tire swing. He follows the kids to the school bus stop and barks until they get on it, then trots back to the house like he has accomplished something big.
He is the strangest dog we have ever had. But we accept him as he is, and we love him. We are pretty sure he loves us too, but he is still playing that close to his vest. After all, it has only been six years.
Laura Zoeller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.