The road trip was hard on our dog Ike -- the last couple weeks of getting our house ready to sell were also hard on him. Being on his long leash here was also hard on him (and the altitude adjustment, climate adjustment)… Like us, he's getting to be an old dog!
We had no idea how Ike would take to our land — he didn’t come with us when we came out for short camping visits. Ike takes off when he gets a chance, goes crazy when he sees squirrels or rabbits, and is terrified of rain. Our land is 140 acres with no fences, we see jackrabbits and hear coyotes every day, and we arrived during the monsoon season, with almost daily wind, rain, and/or thunderstorms. We were afraid our first day on the land could be the last time we saw Ike.
Protection & Depression
We kept him on leash during the day and in the popup with us at night. We had a thunderstorm the first night so Ike was freaking out (as at home, but this time within the confines of the little popup) and started running all over our previously sleeping faces, threatening to claw or jump through the tented walls of the popup... Chip took him outside and crated him under the popup.
Ike was kind of depressed the next day, which we attributed to the unfamiliar space, the heat, the altitude, and more thunderstorm threat. We had set him up with a longer lead tied to a juniper, but he was used to his leash-free, crate-free run of a house and yard. He was very lethargic.
On our second night an obviously tame pale tan cat showed up... not exactly what we expected out in this wide open ranch land! It meowed like crazy. Ike treed it a couple times but at bedtime we crated him again. The cat meowed all night and then broke in to our popup! We easily got it out again (it's perfectly happy for us to pick it up but we avoided any friendliness). Via email we learned it belongs to our "next door" neighbors (1/4 to 1/2 mile away over ~3 ridges) who are out of town and leave the window open for the cat to come and go. The cat was gone in the morning.
Our third day we went into town and ran some errands, and after some discussion decided that we felt OK leaving Ike here either crated or on his lead — we were still worried he’d run.
We opted for the lead so he'd have more freedom (and crossed our fingers that he not become coyote or puma bait).
When we got back he was laying in the dirt looking depressed or sorry or something. Turns out he was stuck. All of our plants (we brought four houseplants with us) were knocked down and we saw that his lead was wound all around them -- he knocked the agave down almost on top of himself and I'd be surprised if he didn't get a few good pokes from it. Come around to the other side of the popup and we see that the kitchen is in a shambles with the awning poles all knocked down, and we can hear the cat meowing from inside the popup. After freeing Ike I drove the cat back to the owner's house and let him out at their gate with a good hiss. They should be back home today, so we hopefully won't see "Sunny Boy" any more, except maybe at their place!
We had no idea how long Ike had been trapped… he took a long drink of water and we cuddled him up, but he was dragging. I pulled out a dog brush we had just gotten in town and started to brush him, long soothing strokes. He stretched, closed his eyes, and completely relaxed.
“Ike’s blissing out!” I said, as Chip came around to where we were sitting, in front of the popup. Ike just lay there. His endearing surrender to the brush amused me. “You’re not dead, are you Ike?”
Chip jumped over Ike, crouched down across from me, and said, “Oh no— oh no— Kimi… Ike!”
“He’s not dead, he’s just blissing out…”
“No, Kimi, he’s dead! He died! Ike! Ike!” Chip picked up Ike and flopped him back and forth like a rag doll. Ike didn’t respond.
I felt a knot in my chest. “Is he dead? He’s not dead… His paw moved. Chip, I saw his paw move.”
“No, Kimi, he died! Oh, Ike!”
Finally Ike slowly blinked and lifted his head, confused. Sheesh!
Inching Toward Freedom
We went for a walk with Ike off leash and he did run off but came back to us, and when he finally disappeared we found him back at camp. So we started treating him like the other ranch dogs in the area and let him have his freedom during the day. He was MUCH happier. And it was a very calm and lovely evening and night, so he slept on the floor of the popup without incident.
Defined Confinement = True Freedom
It took us six days after arriving before we finally set up the perimeter fence. It’s a simple temporary fence we used “back home” to separate Ike’s area from the chickens. We have a big hoop tent, a big juniper, and some netting creating one corner of our space. We had enough of the temporary fencing and gates to complete a circuit so our closable “compound” covers about 800 square feet.
Ike *loves* the fence, which we did not expect! He livened right up and starting making circuits, all businesslike. At night when we get ready for bed he makes a few more circuits of the fence. Chip wondered aloud if that’s where they got the name “Border Collie.”
Patient Old Ranch Hand
During the day the gates are open, and Ike has his run of the world. He wanders, but never too far, and comes back frequently. He walks “with” us, usually 2 or 3 times farther than any leash, sometimes more. We had pegged him as a runner, but he only wanted the dignity of choosing his own distance. He takes lots of side trips and sometimes gets hyper-focused on a lizard or rabbit hole, and we continue on. If we run he makes a point out outrunning us and getting out ahead again. If he gets tired he finds a cool culvert to rest in, or heads back home. He still sacks out in the afternoon heat (as do we), and tries to dig himself a cooler den… but in the morning he prances around like a puppy, cajoling us into early morning hikes when the day is cool.
We’ve decided that some time before the Border Collie Rescue found him as a stray, he must have been a ranch dog. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but our old dog already had some tricks hidden up his sleeve that the right circumstances helped him rediscover… all these years he’s been waiting for us to see the light!
Hopefully the other two old dogs in our crew will rediscover our old tricks, too!