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December 30th, 2009


My dad’s tennis coach and long-time friend was very kind to us, driving us to the airport yesterday morning, and coming over for pizza the night before. A special treat: we got to meet William, his Border Collie. You hear about the intelligence of these dogs, but meeting one brings that reputation into focus, makes it palpable. William has such focus and purpose, it’s amazing. Even if it’s something as simple as “catch the ball,” he is there, a hundred and ten percent. As long as the ball was out, he was in a fore-paw crouch, eyes focused intently, ready to spring. Not hyper, unable to contain himself, like many dogs in that situation, but powerfully concentrated, even as he seemed at ease, almost relaxed, though ready to spring. After catching the ball, he would not necessarily bring it back to the thrower, but would drop it at a new person’s feet, as though he was being careful to include everyone.

I swear, the dog just radiated intelligence. The way he would look at you, you would swear he was indicating the appropriate human emotion in considered reaction to what was being said. Driving to the airport, I mentioned the considerable slobber he imparted to the tennis ball; when I glanced at him there in the back seat, he was giving me a low, sidelong look that for the life of me expressed suffered disdain at my lack of understanding and tact, holding it for just the right amount of time before settling down on his blanket to ignore me. At times, I would not have been at all surprised had he suddenly started speaking English.



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  1. Paul
    December 31st, 2009 at 12:14 | #1

    Border collies are famous for being among the most intelligent of breeds. They have an almost insatiable appetite for playing and working (the two are more or less interchangeable to them) and the bad reputation they get with some people almost always comes from owners who can’t get the dog the stimulation it needs on a daily basis.

    They’re awesome to watch in flyball competitions.

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