That is a rather philosophical title to talk about a dog breed, don’t you think? But no, I am not trying to be too over dramatic or pompous about it. And yes, at the end of the day I am, once again, going to talk to you about what a lovely, good dog a Border Terrier is. But today I would like to bring to the forefront how important it is living purpose filled life to a Border. You will find that, after becoming a Border Terrier owner, your own dog will have taught YOU how to find a purpose in life!
Our Indy, our purpose in life
Last week was an important week for us. Indy turned 13 on Monday, but he also had his check up at Dick White Referrals on Thursday to ensure there were not signs of his anal gland cancer re-occurring. I am most please to inform you that we are having double reason to celebrate: Indy was found clear of any cancer yet!!
I shall get to the celebration part of matters a little later on. My way of celebrating what a great dog and greater part of this family my Indy is by telling you yet again a little more about what a grand breed Borders are.
I have often spoken about the personality traits of Border Terriers, and why they are such good and lovely dogs, but I have never talked about our fears as first time dog owners. I am sure many of you share the same feelings as we did, and sometimes still do.
When we first came across Indy – or, as I have often mentioned, when Indy found us – we didn’t have the first clue about owning a dog, let alone about traits specific to the breed of Borders. In fact, our Indy then looked so scruffy, the vets were not even sure which type of terrier he may be. We went along with the general perception that terriers are yapping and full of life.
The only problem was that our Indy was not yapping at all!!
So full of life
For the first few months, we didn’t think Indy could ‘speak’ as he never barked. Yet he was a terrier alright! Everything that sets off terriers, played the trick with Indy too. So, for argument’s sake, walks in unknown territories where he could pick stimulating scents, the scattering of ‘creatures’ in wooden undergrowth and, of course, the odd territorial quarrel with other dogs, primarily males. And that is where we found our Indy indeed have a barking voice. Yes, the terrier-like arguments he has had in his younger years with other male dogs are something we will hardly forget!
But hold on, I am here writing about the beauty and fulfilling experience of having a Border. The last thing I want to do is put you off from ever considering getting a Border!
The point I am making is that Indy was, and still is, a full on Border. We believe he was named Indy for a reason: are you familiar at all with the Harrison Ford’s movies dedicated to the adventure prone character of archaeologist Professor Indiana Jones? We tease our Indy saying he is called Indy for his ‘Indy’…pendent spirit, but we equally believe that he is a true Indiana Jones at heart, as he loves his adventures.
Borders, habit lovers
Yet, the more I see our Indy, especially as he has started growing older, and the more I see or hear about other Borders, the more I realised that Borders love sticking to set routines. I have often mentioned how typically endearing the otter-shaped face of Borders can be more so, due to their grumpy looks, so resembling the one of older granddads.
In one of my previous posts (Border Terrier The Real Winner of Crufts 2017) I mentioned how Country Life Magazine back in one of their 2010 issues describes Borders like an old Englishman sitting by the fireplace, slippers on, smoking their pipe, glasses on the tip of their shiny nose and reading the evening edition of the local paper.
My Indy can look so much like that – especially in the evening, when he starts scratching our legs if we are sitting on the sofa trying to watch a program that lasts past half past eight, and then looking at us in contempt as we are still there when it’s bed time and we should all be asleep. Who are we trying to kid? Certainly not our Indy, as it’s 9 o’clock and, what are we all still doing at these untimely hour taking the liberty to watch some silly old programme on the telly? Come on people, it’s bed time!!
Yes, that is exactly what Indy ‘tells’ us every evening. And forgive our presumption us for trying to interpret his looks. We know that, if Indy could talk, he would say words to such effect.
Borders, living a purposeful life
So, how to combine the love for habit drive life with the love for adventure at the same time? The two concepts in fact sit at opposite ends. Well, not for Borders.
Borders are working terriers, and as such they have missions in life that they need to fulfil and accomplish. When there is no mission, a Border will, quite wisely, take it easy.
When first Borders were bred on the hilly borders between Scotland and England, they were ideal for farms as agile little bodied dogs, who could get in burrows quite easily to catch their ideal preys: mice, rats, and any other creature (see my Breed Info page). However now that Borders, like most other dogs, grown in houses or even flats, where thankfully there is not much to catch in the way of vermin, they need us owners to give them that mission – to give them that purpose in life.
And that mission can be represented by food, a toy, or an adventurous walk.
Purpose makes Borders a very intelligent breed
I am not at all suggesting that, unless they are hard at work, Borders are rather stupid. But they do like to laze about. The cosy snoozes in the Winter months, wrapped up in warm blankets next to a radiator or right in front of a fireplace, or the lazy sunbathing Summer sleeps in the most sun exposed corner of your house – these are Borders’ favourite hobbies. But that’s all they are: a hobby.
Borders display their unlimited intelligence when stimulated by that purpose.
So, fish out the treats jar and your Border will play wonders in learning new treats or new new behaviour training. Food is a great motivator for Borders and, as blackmailing as it may sound, literally you can get your Border to do absolutely anything and everything at the prospect of some food at the end of that tunnel.
Likewise, no matter however old your Border is, (s)he will always ready for a bit of ‘rough and tumble’. Our Indy, now age 13, still loves his squeaky toys as much as when we first adopted him 8 years ago. Don’t you find the same happens with your Border? The squeakier and older and smellier the toy, the better.
But what sets my Indy alive is walks that involve a car trip.
Normally Indy will want to stick to his favourite route round the block for his daily walk – as, yes, in the last few months, he is quite happy to go for his walk only once a day, and in the last few Summer months, this has regularly been at 9 in the evening, when it is fresher outside.
So, when we decide to go for a walk further afield, as he is very much set in his own ways, it will take some convincing to get Indy in the car – now we know, we end up lifting him and literally put him in his travel cot. But, once he realises we are going for walkies ‘in the car’, that can only mean good news as far as he is concerned. Because he very much knows that, when we get off the car, we will be in a new territory, where the walk will bring new smells and land to explore.
Back in April this year, we had one of such trips. Indy was so enthusiastic about the new environment, he kept walking for 4 hours – yes, 4 hours!!! – and when it was time to get back in the car, we struggled making him understand that it was now time to get home.
Indy gives us purpose
We watch Cesar Millan on telly, or Supervet on the UK channels, and we are invariably going to hear about the type of love dogs can give, which is alien to humans: unconditional love. And that is because dogs accepts us for what and who we are, with all our flaws, and do not expect anything in return.
However, in my mind that should not justify us not trying to give our dogs something in return. Our Indy has and will continue to give us so much love and hours of laughter. It costs us very little in effort to try and share in his moments of fun, by giving him purpose with a tennis ball in an old raggied sock, or with a longer walk outskirts.
Because, just like with our kids, there is nothing that fulfils us more than to see our Indy happy. A happy Border.
What is your Border’s purpose in life: is it food, or playing with the younger members of the family? Share your experience as owner of a Border Terrier below – leave your comment.