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Where is the Border Collie Going?


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My Dream and the Border Collie

 

In the dream I woke up having enlisted in the Army/Navy. I knew immediately that this was a mistake. I didn’t want to be a sailor or a soldier – it was nuts to even think about it – but here I was. I was on some kind of ship, even though I was just started in basic training. There were men and women in green fatigues. I was lying in a metal bunk under an olive-green wool blanket. I was lying there wondering how this had happened when I noticed a cellophane-wrapped package next to me, on top of the blanket.

I remembered that an elderly woman had given it to me. I was to deliver it to another young woman who was also recently enlisted. It contained a sort of mobile/wind chime thing. I got up and went out on deck. There were people everywhere doing cleaning, painting and drilling.

Somehow I found the woman for whom the package was intended. She was off-duty, (as was I, seemingly) sitting on the threshold of the door to her quarters. I gave her the package and she thanked me. We fell into conversation, and I told her that I felt I had made a huge mistake in joining up. She listened without speaking as I explained why I felt I didn’t belong. As I spoke I noticed that there were several other people listening – “grunts” and one lieutenant. Their faces darkened as I went on, and the atmosphere became palpably hostile.

I said that I supposed there was no such thing as quitting, once you were signed up. The woman said, “Oh yes, you can quit. Things are quite different now.”

I turned to the officer and asked how to go about arranging to get out. He was angry and said, “So you want to leave because you’re scared, eh? Well, that’s a rotten excuse!”

I said I was scared, but that I imagined that all soldiers must be scared at least some of the time, and that my reasons for leaving were more complicated than that. I felt that I was unsuited to the rigors of combat by my anxiety disorder, which would make me a liability in a battlefield situation, and by my convictions that war was morally indefensible except as a response to an invasion.

He was unmoved by my reasoning, and the waves of hostile and contemptuous feeling continued coming from him and from the other men and women sitting and listening. I thought about their behavior for a while, and reached the conclusion that it was only natural. They were soldiers – warriors – and anyone in there midst who was not “in tune” and committed to their agenda, was likely to be a danger to them all – a weak link that must be cut out and discarded if they were to be able to go forward with confidence and relative safety. Why should they not do their best to exclude me? It was vital to their self-interest, possibly to their very survival.

Then I woke up.

 

I thought about this dream after I woke up and I thought that there was a resonance in it with the strong feelings I encountered on the BC Boards about the AKC and BCs as show dogs. A Border Collie was for a long time, by definition, a sheepdog. Dogs that didn’t do that work and do it well were weeded out. It was the only logical course.

Now, all these “Barbie Collies” have “joined up.” They have taken on the name of Border Collie, but they cannot possibly do anything but weaken the “troops.” They are not good in the “trenches” of sheep herding and they are bad for morale.

 

Unfortunately, it is not at the moment possible to discharge them from the ranks. For better or worse they seem to be here to stay. I have heard it said that the AKC should choose a different name to call their Border Collies. If this were possible I would think it the most satisfactory course.

 

I have also heard another story about naming Border Collies. I heard that in England when working collies first were “discovered” and chosen to be show dogs they immediately began to change. Their appearance morphed into a “pretty” dog and they quickly began to deteriorate as sheepdogs. These new dogs were called “Collies.” (Note the upper case C) They became popular with the show set, and started cleaning up the ribbons in the all-breed show rings. Once, when a group of working collies was brought to a large Collie breed show to do a herding demonstration, they were ostracized by show dog people. They were scorned as weedy, scroungy mutts unworthy of the name “Collie.” It is said that that is when these useful and talented collies took the name of Border Collie. I don’t know if this story is apocryphal or not. But perhaps the time has come for the name Border Collie to be abandoned. It is coming to mean (at least in the eye of the public) the same thing that the word “Collie” means – that is, a dog that looks a certain way and may or may not be of any functional use.

 

If we can’t get them to stop calling the AKC dogs Border Collies, we can choose another name of our own liking and register working Border Collies under a name that will describe their essence – their ability and use – and transmit that information to anyone who hears the name. For instance, “Shepherd’s Collie” would suggest to me a dog that works with a person to handle livestock. It does not conjure a dog, extreme in conformation, standing in a show ring, or one snaking through a set of weave poles. Some other name might be better. Let those who actually work these dogs choose it.

 

We already have a registry, which existed before the Border Collie was co-opted into the AKC, over the protests of those who actually used the Border Collie for its intended work. Now the AKC is proceeding to warp this dog, shaped by centuries of working criteria, for the purpose of meeting a standard. Perhaps the original registry could retrench and not only choose a new name for the dogs who work for a living, but institute safeguards to insure that their organization valued livestock working ability over all other characteristics.

 

I think it is no use to adopt an attitude of “We were here first!” about the term Border Collie. The damage has been done. Whether you like it or not, if you say “Border Collie” to the average person, they do not picture the dog that is lying next to you. Just read some of the “That’s Not a Border Collie!” threads on this BBS. And they certainly wouldn’t picture a red merle, prick-eared, medium-coated dog slowly advancing, head down, on a group of cattle, or anything else but a black and white, very fluffy dog with ears tipped just so, standing on a manicured lawn.

 

I am new here. I do not own a working sheepdog. I’m not even absolutely certain that my dog is 100% Border Collie. But I’m not happy about what has happened to the breed in the hands of the AKC either. I have racked my brains to come up with something that would help protect the breed’s genetic integrity, (read herding ability) and improve the public’s idea of what a Border Collie really is. This is my humble suggestion. I will be delighted if any part of it helps in the smallest way.

 

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OK, nobody seems to have read this, or at least no one has responded. Am I nuts? Is this the stupidest thing ever written on these boards?

If so, tell me why. I came here to learn. I don’t imagine that I have the answer to the problems of the world. Not even the problems of the Border Collie. But I do imagine that there ARE answers. And I strive to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. So tell me. What do you think?

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Geonni, you are covering plowed ground and I commend your efforts. This is a great topic for the Politics section! Those of us who have been around awhile, even fought in the Dog Wars (the effort to prevent the AKC from recognizing the Border Collie) have long called for a recognition that the breed has split. I don't have time ATM to ramble on, but if you search Dog Wars, or breed split, or renaming the working border collie, you might find some older threads that have discussed this very thing.

 

Welcome to the Boards! I am enjoying your posts!

 

Amy

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Geonni, you are covering plowed ground and I commend your efforts. This is a great topic for the Politics section! Those of us who have been around awhile, even fought in the Dog Wars (the effort to prevent the AKC from recognizing the Border Collie) have long called for a recognition that the breed has split. I don't have time ATM to ramble on, but if you search Dog Wars, or breed split, or renaming the working border collie, you might find some older threads that have discussed this very thing.

 

Welcome to the Boards! I am enjoying your posts!

 

Amy

 

Thanks! I've learned so much in the past few weeks! Oh the things I never knew...

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OK, nobody seems to have read this, or at least no one has responded. Am I nuts? Is this the stupidest thing ever written on these boards?

If so, tell me why. I came here to learn. I don’t imagine that I have the answer to the problems of the world. Not even the problems of the Border Collie. But I do imagine that there ARE answers. And I strive to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. So tell me. What do you think?

 

Screaming, which is what these bolded, large font posts represent, IMO, is not the way to get folks to read your posts.

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If we can’t get them to stop calling the AKC dogs Border Collies, we can choose another name of our own liking and register working Border Collies under a name that will describe their essence – their ability and use – and transmit that information to anyone who hears the name. For instance, “Shepherd’s Collie” would suggest to me a dog that works with a person to handle livestock. It does not conjure a dog, extreme in conformation, standing in a show ring, or one snaking through a set of weave poles. Some other name might be better. Let those who actually work these dogs choose it.

 

Geonni, I agree with you in theory that we should change the name of the working border collie. I would do it right now if I had the power, but in practice, it is not that easy. The number of people "who actually work these dogs" is huge. They are very diverse, and very independent. They vary considerably in their perception of the threat -- some look ahead and see trouble down the road for our breed, but others have no familiarity at all with the AKC and/or the genetic consequences of different breeding standards, have other more immediate worries in their daily lives, and don't see why they can't just go along the way they always have. If working border collie people were a monolithic entity, this idea could work. But they're not, and I don't think it is feasible, at least at this point. There will probably come a time when enough working dog people will feel the need for a radical protective measure like this, but that time isn't here yet, and we can only hope that when it comes it will not be too late.

 

We already have a registry, which existed before the Border Collie was co-opted into the AKC, over the protests of those who actually used the Border Collie for its intended work. Now the AKC is proceeding to warp this dog, shaped by centuries of working criteria, for the purpose of meeting a standard. Perhaps the original registry could retrench and not only choose a new name for the dogs who work for a living, but institute safeguards to insure that their organization valued livestock working ability over all other characteristics.

 

The registry is member-owned, and the number of members is huge, and they are not all working dog people. So many members would not want to give up the name "border collie" -- which is part of the registry name, and which people feel is the "right" name for their dogs -- that I don't think a name change for the working breed is practicable. But even if it were, I'm not sure I would favor whatever "safeguards" you have in mind. The ABCA is outspoken now that livestock working ability is the essence of the border collie and the chief characteristic to be aimed for in breeding, and that is good. But instituting some kind of compulsory test of working ability before breeding -- and apologies if that is not what you meant by "safeguards" -- would in my opinion do more harm than good, because I have never been able to think of a way it could be implemented fairly, rigorously, and economically (i.e., without driving the cost of registration so high that the average farmer/rancher would no longer be able and willing to pay).

 

But I'm glad you are thinking about this issue, and sharing your thoughts with us. If there IS a solution to this problem, that kind of thinking and sharing is the way it will be found.

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Screaming, which is what these bolded, large font posts represent, IMO, is not the way to get folks to read your posts.

 

Ok, sorry, I didn't mean to scream. I just thought that if I put that part in a different size font it wouldn't get lost in my first post. This is my first experience with being on a BBS, and I'm learning as I go. Thanks for pointing out my bad manners... If I find myself in this situation again I'll try a different color font in the same size.

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I am going to hop in here [i am a visiting nurse and this site is a nice distraction from my chartwork]. I had Pembroke Welsh Corgi dogs and this dilemma about the Border Collie reminds me of what has happened to the corgi. When I got my first corgi I bought Deborah Harper's book on the PWC, which was what I would call 'the bible of the sport'. I was amazed at what the PWC's looked like in the 1920's and 30's. They actually had legs and their coats were rougher. Their heads seemed a bit big for their bodies. The body was not dachsund length as many of them are now. What was considered the best of the best would be thought to be something 'other' today. A fault. I kept mine dogs trim with lots of exercise but we used to joke about the 'tick sausages'. The no legged fat corgis.

 

Beauty is different things to different people. For some, watching a dog do what it was intended to do is beauty. For others, their visual beauty supercedes their intention. For me a pretty dog does not bring tears to my eyes but watching a dog and his owner work together to accomplish a task can make me teary. I feel this way about horses and their riders as well.

 

The inherent problems of breed standards seem to exist with every breed. Those that work dogs will continue to do so and hold dear to the trueness of their breed.

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