I first saw Liza perched on top of a rock, mistress of all she surveyed, in a fetching photo in a “Dog for Free” ad on the Used Victoria website. My eldest had recently lost her old border collie Ginny, who came home with K after her summer job at a Chilcotin dude ranch the year she turned 19. So I sent K the link immediately.
As a child K was always bringing home animals, and her Dad and I had, over the years, learned to roll with the punches. After surprise new pets ranging from a feisty cockatiel to a 16 hand Standardbred gelding appearing on our doorstep, a border collie seemed quite reasonable. Besides, to hear K tell it, with much shrugging of shoulders and “what else could I do?” Ginny had adopted K, not the other way around.
K always met her pet ownership responsibilities cheerfully and thoroughly, and we learned to just sit back and enjoy the ride. She even turned a profit on one or two of her acquisitions, although the Paint mare she bought one year did put her in the hospital with a broken pelvis for a time.
K emailed Liza’s owner right away, as did about a hundred other people. But K was one of the first, and the prospect of life on a hobby farm with a young, fit, work-at-home hiking enthusiast led Liza’s family to choose K as Liza’s new owner.
Liza’s first family loved her lots, and had vetted and trained her thoroughly. But family challenges, including divorce, another high-need dog, busy children and full time work outside the home led them to realize something had to give, and so they gave Liza the chance of a happier life.
Liza has been on the farm now for a couple of years, and is totally devoted to K and her barnyard crew. We all, especially Chance, love her dearly. She is a bit of a bitch, but we work around it, and anyway that facet of her personality just makes Chance love her all the more. She is learning to get along with Mocha, daughter #2’s rescue pittie, even though Mocha IS a FEMALE (ugh!) and DOESN’T let Liza boss her around (double ugh!).
These days, Liza stays busy around the barnyard, keeping a matronly eye on everything and everybody. If another dog comes to visit, and Chance gets playing too hard with the interloper, Liza steps in and settles things down, sometimes quite forcefully, to the point where she has earned the nickname “the fun police”.
If we call Chance to come, and he doesn’t obey right away, she disciplines him. Other dogs might take offence, but not Chance, he loves to be chased, and loves Liza’s attention, even if it is accompanied by a growl and a snap. They make a good couple.
If the horse or donkeys are running around like idiots, as they do from time to time, Liza will creep close, crouching low to the ground, begging K with her eyes to let her herd. But K never does, equines have sharp hooves and donkeys in general are known for occasional violence towards dogs. So Liza restrains herself, and simply keeps a close eye till things settle down again.
She has also self-trained into an awesome LGD – livestock guardian dog. Absolutely fascinated with chickens, especially the tiny cheeping ones, she has helped me with them, in a supervisory capacity, since day 1. All that exposure, coupled with her excellent mind, means she now knows exactly what the chickens are saying when they use their various calls. She speaks fluent Chicken.
Chickens have a language all their own, as any flock owner will tell you. Our flocks free range, which exposes them to many predators. Luckily Liza is on the job. When she hears a rooster give warning, she reacts as quickly as the flock, and often much quicker than me, sighting the danger and giving chase. It’s quite something to see, this dog racing across a field, head craned up, barking and growling at the sky like a crazy thing, tracking an eagle or hawk as they reconnoiter the barnyard hoping for a tasty meal of fresh chicken.
I always worry she is going to slam right into a fence, or the creek, or run out into the road, since she isn’t looking where she is going, but keeping her eyes trained on the danger. But she never does, and she always stops at the property line, then trots back to resume her supervisory role, with the satisfied air of a good job well done.