Finding Lulu

Almost a year ago, I was searching the Internet shelter sites for a lap dog, a cuddly poodle about 18 pounds; a dog that would not shed. We had put down our 17 year old Australian Shepard, Merri, a month before and I missed her so. That little Aussie had escorted me through my Flamboyant Forties, the Fearless Fifties and well into my 61st year, bringing a goof-ball good naturednessto life; one big lot of laughter. I now needed a dog so badly.

The first day I went online, I noticed a dog grinning at me with her tongue hanging out. Her name was Lulu, but she was a Border Collie and I passed her by for about 2 weeks. At one point I checked out her stats. She was obviously too big,(she weighed in at a barrel-chested 68 pounds) obviously too hairy (she had beautiful flowing black hair with a white blaze and four pristine white feet, exactly like our old cat, Boutros) .

I found the Marley Brothers: three young poodles located in San Francisco, about fifty miles away. They were white, bright and totaled just 24 pounds. We had plenty of yard and house to accommodate 3 small dogs! I got the shelter’s phone number and directions, and exited the site.

On my way out I ran into Lulu again. Such penetrating eyes she has. Such a grin, I wonder what county she is in. OMG, Lulu is in a shelter several blocks away from our house; well, It wouldn’t hurt to go take a look, she’s so bright-eyed, so pretty…

Lulu was in the cabana, her bedroom, at the rear of her dog run, lying on her mattress with her nose sticking out the little doorway. I approached the dog run, calling to her, and she flicked only one ear. She stayed in the cabana. I called her again and she only raised her head. But when I used the grasping hand signal I had used when calling my stone-deaf Merri, Lulu got up and came toward me. She nuzzled at my hand, but didn’t lick. I left to go to the desk to see if I could meet outside with this gentle dog. I thought at the time that it was coincidence that Lulu responded to Merri’s hand signal.

When I returned with the technician and leash, Lulu had retreated to the cabana. When she saw us, she trotted out to greet us. As we walked outside, Lulu pressed her body close to my right knee. We let her off leash, and she ran in circles round and round and round the fenced enclosure. While she exercised, the tecnician told me Lulu’s scarce and scary history.

Lulu had been found wandering with one of her older pups (the vet guessed she’s had at least five litters in perhaps 6 years). Both dogs wore sturdy leather collars with their names carefully hand-tooled on them: Lulu and Butter. Obviously they were valued dogs, well behaved, and it was a mystery as to why they had been dumped.

The tech said Lulu was lactating when she and Butter were found in a WalMart parking lot, and pointed out her still-heavy teats. Probably her pups were kept as they would be easier to get rid of than more mature dogs. Butter had been adopted a few weeks prior, to a family with young children.

She and Butter were underweight and filthy when they were picked up. The tech cautioned me that Lulu was terrified of cars due to her Parking Lot Days.

Lulu ended our conversation by finding a ball and dropping it at my feet. She then sat down and put her head in my lap, and it was Good Bye Marley Brothers.

My husband and I brought Lulu home the following day, any thoughts about size, weight, lapdog and shedding gone out the proverbial window.

The next day we took her to the dog park and got our introduction to The Border Collie’s Purpose in Life! Border Collies herd sheep, and if they cannot find sheep, they herd anything. I later read of one dog that herded chickens and ducks.

So, on this day, Lulu, to our amazement and terror, took off like a shot on seeing the pack of 15 dogs racing to and fro in the park. The pack was approaching the far side, 70 yards or so away, and were ready to make the turn-back when we saw Lulu lay down in what I later learned was the stare-down position. Then she bolted, low to the ground in a semi-crouch, ears forward. She instantly caught up with the leader then with her massive shoulder, she leaped up and basically knocked him on his rear end. As the leader was down, the dog pack put on their brakes and milled around in confusion as Lulu circled them.

We stood there dumbfounded, never having witnessed herding before. Some of the other owners, who I now call Doggers, burst out laughing, then quieted as Lulu genty culled two puppies out of the pack and made them in effect go sit down. Once the pups were separated, the pack was allowed to break up but there was to be no more racing.
Some one named her Sister Mary Discipline because all she had to do was the staredown, and all dogs slowed to a trot.

On our way home, I confided to my husband that when Lulu cut the puppies from the “herd”, I didn’t know whether that was part of her herding instincts, or whether it went further back to wolf instincts preying on the young tasties. When I got home I decided I had to do some research on Border Collies, and get to know Lulu a little better.

My research filled me in I found that border collies are extremely intelligent and easy to train. I learned about the stare-down technique and how they used it to handle sheep. I was grateful to find Lulu did not have a nipping instinct for herding, rather she had the knock-’em-over instinct.

I also discovered that Border Collies are one of the most returned dog breeds in shelters because they require serious exercise every single day, and some sense of a job to do as they are bred for work. Otherwise this high-energy dog can become erratic, neurotic and possibly dangerous. Great, I thought. Here I am with arthritic spine, hips and pelvis with a 68 pound dynamo.

However, ten months later, Lulu has taught me not to worry. She is very much in tune with my osteo condition, and saves her rough housing for our grandson and his friends. I make it my business to take her out faithfully every day: our gentle morning walk for the both of us and an excursion to the dog park every afternoon.

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