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My Life Saving Border Collie Keele - by Scott Glaser

In the summer of 2004, my best human friend died suddenly, my best and only dogfriend of life, my golden retriever, died of cancer, and the best man I have ever known, my father, also passed away.  In the middle of all this, I fractured my foot and also lost my other life's passion, golf.  Having lost my mom at a very young age, I knew there was a long road ahead to recover from this unbelievable summer. 

I recalled having seen a person run a course on a series of commands with a black and white dog on ESPN Animal Planet. I also recalled a similar type of dog doing a frisbee show at halftime at a New England Patriots game.  During that difficult summer, these faint brief memories flashed to me and research was then required.  

THE BORDER COLLIE.  Upon reading, it was apparent that this breed was the dog equivalent to ME! Only much smarter.  As a former owner of Siamese cats, and current owner of an African Grey parrot, the Border Collie seemed to be the smartest, most neurotic, most athletic, most communicative, heart-aware, and special dog in the world. As a result of this research, I knew at once I needed a Border Collie.  So at my desk with my broken heart and a boot on my broken foot, I searched endlessly for my new best friend. 

At that time, we had three wonderful rescued retired racing Greyhounds. As lovely and royal as these dogs were, training one for this fascinating sport of dog agility didn't seem to be the thing to do.  The Greyhound rescue people will tell you, they rescued us, not the other way around. I needed to be rescued by a Border Collie - to find a new teammate in life and sport. Even though I had been advised to find a puppy from a breeder, I would ONLY consider a rescue, so we could rescue each other. 

I found there were THOUSANDS of misplaced "BC's" in shelters or in foster care. Border Collies, it turns out, are not born trained; they are dogs with genius that requires some management and love. So when people realize this, too often the dogs end up being given up.  I had a hard time passing up many hundreds of candidates encountered during my search, until I found a complete goofball picture of a tri-colored 9 month old Border Collie named Keele.  

It was love at first mouse click.  I soon advised my wife that, in 2 days' time, we would be driving past hundreds of Border Collies to travel into the mountains of rural Virginia near a place called Hungry Mother State Park.  Over five hours just to see a rescue dog we'd never met.  My wife, being accustomed to my single-mindedness about some things, agreed.

 On arrival in Virginia, my life was forever changed. Keele ran to me and sat in front of me, turned his black and white face with copper highlights on me and I was owned. On the drive home, we spent five hours in the back of the van getting to know each other. He was much gentler, more lovable and calmer than I had expected. 

For a few days..... Keele bonded with my young Greyhound in seconds and they played racing and herding games in my yard that still make my heart race when I think of them today.  In an open field, the hound strode away at 45 mph to Keele's "lowly" 35 mph, but in the woods and around trees, Keele could catch up with him using the natural agility and athleticism only a Border Collie could possess.  

So Keele came into our home while I was still mourning my losses. Keele knew something was wrong. His behavior was a bit erratic so I called, Myra, Keele's lifesaver from the AMBCR. She explained to me that Keele was upset because he knew I was, and he felt helpless.  It was now time to go to work - we had bonded.  But I had to pretend to Keele that I was okay. Border Collies can't be fooled, so I actually had to be okay, FOR A DOG!!! He saved me. 

We went to basic obedience class, this was the first time I ever took a dog to a class, and I was 40 years old!  I felt very bad.....FOR THE OTHER DOG OWNERS!! Keele blew them away. He was begging to learn and to please me - he learned the first time he was shown something.  We repeated what we learned at home and expanded on it with CLICKER training. For a Border Collie, this took takes about the time it takes to throw two treats on a floor and click.  There are books on this, but it took Keele about eight seconds to equate the 50-cent clicker with the piece of turkey, and its meaning," that's correct and I love you" with...CLICK. 

So I introduced a jump and a tunnel in my yard, he took to it like duck to a pond except for one thing.  I failed to consider squirrel to tree.  Keele would leave my one sorry homemade jump and tunnel to chase a squirrel up a tree. It's something his herding-prey drive still adores.  We had to take the next step - distraction training. 

It was ironic that an ADD human, I had to take my Border Collie to distraction proofing but this has been the key to his life and performance career since.  Keele's priorities became ME first, and only after or if I gave him a release command, did Keele think about squirrel or anything else. He was so struck by this training, I wanted to take this class every day, and so I did. On my own.  I would ask Keele to stay in an area outside or inside, and make him wait various intervals and then recall him from a point further and further away. It was like playing hide n' seek. When he found me, we would wrestle and get all silly and he'd get treats (after a click) It was great fun for us both and remains a staple of our training and fun, as the two must be intertwined for the trainer and the dog. FUN!!!  Now I play this game with five herding dogs at a time and live to retell this love story about how it all started with Keele.

After the distraction training, Keele and I went back to playing around with the jumps and he was all about it so we began the early agility classes. The distraction training and Keele's love of pleasing me made learning the jumping and running and getting revved up for performance the easiest part.  But I needed to learn the sport to keep up with Keele now.   

Border Collies are so intuitive; we had some great experiences in our early training days.  Keele loved going over the 6-foot A-frame.  Another dog in our class (female, Keele is a ladies' man) was afraid. I had put Keele "at ease" but he ran to the fearful girl dog on the A-frame, and he SLOWLY...SLOWLY walked up it, as if to persuade her that it was okay. It was the ONLY time Keele approached an A-frame slowly!  Together they walked up and down it and when the lady dog came down to the bottom, Keele spun around a dozen times and ran back to me on my command.  He was quite proud of himself. He was now an instructor. Keele has a HUGE heart that you can see looking into his brown eyes under his copper eyebrows.

 Despite not being close to the end of our agility training, I entered our first trial. The novice courses did not look very difficult (for him!) but were for me.  In six runs that day, we placed 5 times.  The average for this for an experienced team is only 30%! I was hooked! 

We have had great and not so great days, but they are all memorable and wonderful.  It's been better than the 72 I shot at Currituck Golf Course, my lifelong quest for par, better than the hole-in-one I got after 30 years of golf. The reason? I have a teammate who is my also soul mate. No matter what happens in competition, I try to convince him after every run that he WON! To me, he always does. 

My wife of 21 years knows that I'd fight for Keele in any custody battle, and then we can talk about the human kids if needed. Keele loves my wife, he puts his cold nose in her ear and always gets the reaction he loves from her and then he smiles.  He looks for her after every run for his continued accolades. She participates in agility with her own dogs. 

We have finished training, but we go to seminars, take private lessons, and practice a lot. We have acquired four more herding dogs, three other Border Collies and an Aussie.  Keele remains my bestest buddy. Last weekend he placed in five out of six runs, surpassing his housemate, who runs in the Elite division. For the first time, Keele took the top honor of best overall time in an event.  When I go to sleep I still envision that 19.43 seconds of grace, genius and power and speed of this 38 lb. ball of fur.

Keele has earned titles in jumpers,"regular", tunnelers (his favorite), chances, touch 'n go, is close to versatility titles and runs at the Elite level in some events.  He's come a long way from a 9- month old pup who lived in a barn with a stray beagle and blind horse after being pulled from death row at a shelter by Myra. I thank Myra for saving my dog, and Spitfire Keele, for saving me. 

We paid Myra the largest compliment we knew how.  In 2006, we went back to her and adopted Shelby, who is the fastest Border Collie I have ever met. She soon may join my Frodo in FLYBALL. To adopt Shelby, we only had to drive from Raleigh, NC to near Lexington, KY. But it was well worth the trip to have the many "Shelby hugs" she gives. 

WE live in a white home with black shutters. The only color besides black and white on any of our dogs is the handsome copper shading on Keele.  Our neighbors call our home and dogs, "the black and white team". 

Thank you, Myra
Thank you, Keele (and Shelby, Frodo, Brady and Patch)