Remember last year, when we got a puppy?
In case you’ve forgotten, this is what I wrote about Folly way back in 2013:
The mess, the smell, the training, the chewing, the barking…all that pales in comparison to what a dog can bring to family, if she’s loved and trained properly.
Oh, last year me, that was adorable. And absurdly idealistic. Here, let me just fix that sentence for you:
The mess, the smell, the training, the chewing, the barking…all that pales in comparison to what a dog can bring to family, if she’s loved and
trained properlyyou can keep her from trying to herd the golf carts, cars, and occasional school bus with just the power of her ferocious bark and bared teeth, while convincing the neighbors that she’s not actually dangerous and simultaneously wrestling her out of the jaws of hungry alligators.
Yep. That’s better.
Last year, I was not concerned about the fact that our house backs up to a canal filled with alligators and faces a busy (okay, busy for Ave) street, and that we have no fence. Last year, I thought, “this place is perfect! As soon as we’ve trained her to heel and come on command, we can let her roam freely and it will be just like Where The Red Fern Grows!”
Here’s the thing about Folly — she’s a herding dog. A black-mouth cur, to be exact, which means that she’s extremely attached to women and children and really protective of the kids. But she has a burning need to keep us all together and protect us from every single threat ever, whether it be an alligator or a golf cart.
She really is the sweetest, most long-suffering dog in existence. She lets Tank the Destroyer ride her like a pony, stick his fingers up her nose, and try to put Legos in her ears. She never growls when he tries to get down next to her and eat out of her bowl at the same time she’s eating out of it — she just backs up and lays down with her head on her paws, sighing in exactly the same tone I’m sighing and giving him exactly the same look I’m giving him.
She somehow knows that Liam gets upset if she doesn’t get in bed with him at bedtime, so she curls up next to him until he’s asleep and then comes out and sits all over the clean laundry I’m folding and watches me watch The Walking Dead. She’s a great watch-dog, too, since everything from dandelion fuzz to delivery men sends her barking ferociously at the door at any hour of the day or night. She plays great with other dogs, and even formed an uncomfortably intimate relationship with my parents’ female boxer Kylie last summer.
But her herding instinct is so strong that when we go running or take her for walks, every single member of our family must remain within licking distance of her tongue, or she nips at our heels and tries to herd us. It was pretty funny at first, when she was tiny, because if the Ogre or I called for one of the kids, she’d go chasing after them and daintily knock them down, then sit, cock her head at us, and wait eagerly for approval.
It’s not so funny now that she weighs 50 pounds. Also not funny is the way she really, really wants to have control over the motorized vehicles traveling up and down the street, especially at 3:45 when school lets out. This is somehow always the exact same time she manages to escape, because if between the hours of 3 and 5 I have to, say, pee, Tank immediately pushes a chair to the front door, unlocks it, opens it, and then claps his hands joyously when Folly streaks past him and yells, “Folly out! Folly out!”
I’ve tried to combat this situation by peeing with the toddler in my lap, and when that proved to be just as awkward and scarring as it sounds, I started putting Folly in her kennel.
Then Tank learned to open the kennel.
When she escapes, she stops being Folly and starts being the Platonic Form of Herding Instinct. She sprints all over the street, barking ferociously at cars and golf cars, darting in front of and between their tires and snapping at the wheels because she’s trying to herd them. As soon as they stop, she loses interest and chases something else. Or if they gun it and keep driving, eventually she loses interest and chases something else.
But if they slow down…oh, God help us, if they slow down, she runs circles around them, and I run after her, and everything is awful.
She has never, never, and I mean never bitten anyone. She doesn’t even jump up on people who aren’t family or friends (or our long-suffering babysitter). And she’s completely terrified of small dogs, since they never want to play and always want to eat her face. But when she’s tearing around the neighborhood with her ears laid back, she looks mean, and I have to tear around the neighborhood with her, assuring everyone in a yell that she’s not mean. (Shocker: they never believe me.) And when she goes barreling down the side of a canal to try and herd the alligators, she looks like dinner, and I have to save her life.
For Christmas we’re getting her a shock collar, which we’ve been trying to save up for since dang, those things are expensive. It sounds like a horribly evil Christmas gift, but I’d rather not have someone accidentally hit her because she wanted their car to go a different direction, and I’d rather not have someone shoot her because she looks “like one of those mean breeds”, and I’d rather not watch her get eaten by an alligator.
Because at the end of the day, I’d do it all over again. She’s part of our family, and despite appearances, she’s the gentlest, sweetest part.