Commentary: Baxter Black offers an ode to border collies

Baxter Black with Blue

Just a word about one of the greatest genetic creations on the face of this earth…the border collie.

Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall fences in a single bound.

The dog that all sheep talk about but never want to meet. The fur that legends are made of. Makes coyotes cringe, sheep trip the light fantastic, and eagles soar somewhere else.

Invested with the energy of a litter of puppies and the loyalty of Lassie, they ply their trade on sagebrush flats, grassy fields and precipitous peaks from sea to shining sea.

 “Away to me!’ I command. They streak and sail, zipping like pucks upon the ice. Black and white hummingbirds, in out, up down, come by. 

Sheep. With head up, one eye cocked over their shoulder asking directions. To the gate through the race. Mighty dog moves behind the bunch like a towboat pushing barges around a bend.

And heart. Do they try? 

“Just let me at’em, Dad!”

Stay … “C’mon, I’m ready!” 

Stay … “Can’t you feel me hummin’! Listen to my heart! It’s purrin’ like a cat! I am primed! Aim me, point me, pull the trigger!”

“Away to me!” It makes me feel like Robin Hood. He leaves my side like an arrow.

Working dogs is like manipulating a screwdriver with chopsticks. Like doing calligraphy with a plastic whip. Like bobbing for apples. Like threading a needle with no hands. Like playing pool on the kitchen table.

There are no straight lines in nature. Only arcs. Great sweeping curves of sight and thought and voice and dog. Always having to lead your command about a dog’s length.

Sheep bunched like logs on the river. Dogs paddling in the current. Always pushing upstream. An ewe breaks loose. Then another, another. The log jam breaks. Dogs and sheep tumble about in the white water.

Calm again, they start back upstream.

Border collies. Are they truly smarter than chimpanzees? Cuddlier than koala? More dedicated than Batman’s valet?

Can they change course in mid-air? Drag Nell from the tracks and locate the missing microfilm?

Yes. I believe they can. They are the best of the best, the epitome of “above and beyond the call of duty.” 

Head dog. Top Gun. 

I salute you, for man has never had a better friend.