The Sage Connection

End of soggy March, and doggy conundrums


March is about to end, and April is just around the corner. Spring is officially here (although the weather gods haven’t noticed), and I am in dire need of sunshine, flowers and floors that don’t have wet paw prints all over them.

The upside to the wet paw prints is that our dogs do not fear the rain, hail, or snow. Especially the snow, which they appear to consider an outdoor “gift” from the weather gods, created just for them.

On our family compound we have a total of six dogs – two very large Malamutes belonging to one set of grandkids, a small white, albeit perpetually dirty terrier, belonging to another set, and our dogs – a 90+ pound neurotic lab belonging to my daughter and son-in-law, a tiny neurotic chihuahua that belongs to another daughter and my own sweet Bella Rose, whom I was just informed by her vet, is a border collie and not a heeler as I previously thought.

This clarification certainly explains why she keeps trying to shoo our free-range chickens back into their coop.

Normally, when I share information with our vet about something new I found on the internet, (like why I thought Bella was a heeler) I get the gently rolled eyes. But Dr. Miller is a very caring and patient soul and very good at explaining why you should ask your vet, and not Google, important questions – like “what kind of dog is this?”

Bailey, our lab, is seven years old and came to our household as a pup. At that time, we had two other senior dogs that had little, if any, interest in playing with a very active puppy. Today, I think the only one happier to meet Bella Rose, other than me, is Bailey.

Perhaps she is enjoying her second childhood, but she romps, plays and generally tires out Bella Rose on a daily basis.

I do not wish to give the impression that Bella is not contributing her share of fun. She has taught Bailey the joys of digging three-foot-deep holes all over the backyard. Hopefully, the spray Amazon promised would put an end to this will work. We will find out this weekend. And her favorite toy is a sock which she sneaks outside, tosses in the air and catches…over and over… until someone notices and retrieves it.

After the latest trip to the vet and finding out I had a dog I knew nothing about, I went back to the internet, where I found, according to Wikipedia, that border collies are considered the SMARTEST breed of dog.

In the past, I have had the very independent “I think I am a cat and I will let you know when I require attention” yorkie and the sweet, lovable shih tzu. For all of their wonderful qualities, neither one ever learned to come when called other than at mealtime.

I am happy to report that after her second day here, at the age of three months, Bella not only mastered the doggie door but immediately potty trained herself. Not one accident since she arrived last December.

She also comes when called and sits and stays when asked. This may not seem like a big deal to other dog owners, but if you had dogs like my previous pets, you would understand my excitement.

For example, my yorkie took himself for walks every chance he got, slipping out through the door every time it was opened for any reason. He never came or slowed down when called. After a while, even my neighbors began chasing him with cheese whiz to help me catch and return him.

Classes at PetSmart and private lessons at home yielded no positive results.  I adored him, but he was definitely the alpha.

The only struggle I have had with Bella Rose is her refusal to walk on a leash.

She sits down when the lease is attached to her collar and won’t budge. Back to the internet I went and tried leaving her leash on while she meanders through the house and yard so she would get used to it. This went on for two weeks.

The leash itself didn’t seem to bother her, but she wouldn’t move if I picked it up and attempted to get her to follow me.

I dutifully reported this to her vet, who whipped out a pretzel stick, sprayed it with cheese and got Bella to move - one foot.

It’s a beginning, and hope springs eternal. I have ordered the cheese from Chewy and bought the pretzel sticks from Safeway. This weekend we will see how far I can get her to move on the leash.

Wish me luck. After all, she is part of the SMARTEST dog breed in the world. That being said, I welcome any tips fellow dog owners are willing to share. And I promise not to tell my vet where they came from.

Kathleen Anderson writes this column each week from her home in Olympia.  Contact her at or post your comment below.


1 comment on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • Drutty

    I too rescued a "border collie/retriever mix who was the delight of my life and way smarter than I was! They love a challenge and to learn new skills. Food is often good motivator so a small amount of Doggie treats in your pocket can lure her perhaps out the door (on a leash) and on a walk (giving a tiny treat morsel every 6 ft) . Good luck and don't give up!

    Thursday, March 30, 2023 Report this