Lessons From a Border Collie

FinnA couple months ago, I went to a shelter to adopt a new dog. I came home with Finn, a two-year-old border collie.

The important thing you need to know about Finn is that he’s a fanatic. If I bend over to pick up a stick, his entire posture changes. He quivers with eagerness. His left ear stands straight up. He wags not only his tail, but his entire body. His front dips down, and he actually whimpers. He wants this stick bad.

Then, since I’m not heartless, I throw it.

But Finn’s not great at fetching. I usually throw sticks instead of balls because not only does he fail to bring it back, he wants to take it away and chew it to death. If I approach him when he has a stick in his mouth, it’s the only time he tries to stay out of reach. That’s his stick. If he gives it to me, he won’t have it anymore.

I’ve tried many things to get him to give me a stick or a ball, but the only one that reliably works is to pick up another stick. Then he drops his current toy to the ground, completely forgetting it. His entire attention is on the one in my hand.

On top of that, Finn loses track of the stick in the air. He misses at least a third of them, and I don’t do anything even remotely tricky when I throw. When he finally decides he can’t find the stick, he races back to me, his entire body on ready alert. I’m supposed to come up with another stick. Out of raw firmament if necessary. Finn has complete faith that I can manage this.

It’s a good thing I live in a forest.

My point is that by any standard, Finn isn’t very good at fetching sticks. If he was in school, he’d need special classes.

And this is absolutely no deterrent to him. His packmate’s superior fetching abilities, my expectations, and the incredible number of lost sticks dampen his enthusiasm not one bit. If I pick up a stick, all he cares about is getting that one. Now.

And maybe, as writers, we need more of that attitude. It’s so easy to get discouraged. We’re overwhelmed with all the hats we’re wearing—drafting, editing, blogging, and perhaps promoting our work. We submit our writing for critique, and let’s face it, most of the comments are negative. Someone’s trying to help us make our book better. This is often not a painless process.

But don’t let yourself forget the wonder of being able create your own characters and worlds. We can create a story anywhere, and our tales can be filled with wizards, space ships, or even men who always remember to replace the toilet paper roll and put the seat back down. That’s awesome cosmic power.

Every story ever created uses the same words we have at our disposal. We can grow and study and learn, and our words can make magic to rival that of Tolkien or Rowling. Eventually. 🙂

Remember this when you’re wondering if you can even formulate cohesive sentences, let alone paragraphs. Remember the joy of doing what you love, and a border collie who won’t let anything get between him and the next stick.

Avid writer and reader of Faerie tales and noblebright fantasy.

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Posted in Reflections
20 comments on “Lessons From a Border Collie
  1. Cathleen, this is a wonderful story. Finn is beautiful and he appears to love you. Who cares about sticks with that kind of loyalty. The analogy between a dog who won’t give up and writers who shouldn’t give up is a perfect reminder for me – thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, I’m finding the analogy helpful. Trying to improve my writing and find an audience seem like overwhelming goals at times. But I can make mistakes and learn and get better.

      And Finn is incredible. He lavishes unconditional love on me, and all I have to do is throw the stick. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. sultanabun says:

    I love this. My dog is similarly challenged in the fetching department and, as you say, it doesn’t stop him. I’ve always been reluctant to try anything at which I wasn’t sure to excel. Writing is one exercise where I feel the joy of it is worth the pain of criticism. Mind you, pain is still awful sore.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know the feeling–what if I’m not good enough to do this? And the better the critique is, the more it can hurt. You know the kind I mean, where you wince because you didn’t catch these mistakes yourself.

      It’s just words. We all use them. We can totally do this thing–even if we have to mess up until we get better through sheer repetition. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Love Finn’s persistence and exuberance. 😀 A handsome fellow too.
    Outstanding analogy. So true. Nice pick-me-up, Cathleen. ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ann Coleman says:

    Excellent post! We should all be a lot more like Finn. (And I loved the photo of him!)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Auntysocial says:

    I like Finn 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hariod Brawn says:

    I just love Border Collie’s to bits. Sadly, I lost my Nellie about three years ago, but she was the most amazing creature I’d ever known. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • They really are special dogs. I had one before Finn whom I loved just as much, even though they were very different. But the absolute loyalty is the same.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hariod Brawn says:

        Were/are they both a bit eccentric, yet highly sensitive? That was Nellie’s main character trait, and she seemed to know what I was thinking before I did at times, as if one’s subconscious plays out in body language or facial expression, perhaps?


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