Age: 7 Years Old
Weight: 55 lbs
Height: 21″ Tall
Color: Blue Merle
Activity Level: Low/Medium
Located in: SE Minnesota (Contact – Nina)
September 22nd, 2017: Pepper is almost entirely a happy, calm, loving Border Collie. He loves to chase his ball, and gets very excited for breakfast (sometimes earlier than i am ready to feed him!) and dinner, but otherwise he is content to do whatever everyone else is doing. If that’s outside, then he’ll find something interesting that isn’t too far away. If inside, then he’ll snooze. He’s a dog that wants all the time to be right where you are. He is very friendly, and will welcome any new people with a tail that wags wide. Though he does bark when the gate clangs, so I suspect he’d make a pretty good watchdog too!
When Pepper needs a little reassurance, he will sneak over and lick whatever inch of flesh on you isn’t covered by clothing. Vigorously! And then he’ll curl up just a foot or two away, and, when he’s really calm, he’ll roll over so that you can scratch his ribcage and will play the peek-a-boo game with you that i’ve written about previously. He is incredibly charming!
However, he continues to have terrible storm fear. He doesn’t try to leave the county as he did when he first came here, but he does want to find a spot that he deems safe. He’s best left alone when thunder and lightning are imminent, but he wants to know that you are nearby. This is a big change for him! He used to try to escape his house when there was weather, but now he wants to keep in touch. With time, i suspect, he’ll be next to you all of the time, and while he’ll never be entirely comfortable when the skies are dark, he’ll trust you enough that he won’t be the unreachable, fear-driven mess that he was a couple of months ago.
Pepper is a phenomenal companion dog. He knows how to sit and lie down and is always eager to offer you one of his surprisingly delicate paws. He’s also old enough that he doesn’t have a young dog’s bad habits, and he’s young enough that he doesn’t have an old dog’s lethargy. He’d be thrilled to go for a long, interesting walk, and in the time that he’s been here, he’s developed an excellent recall. (Unless he finds something nasty to roll in. Then he’ll be AWOL until he thinks his fragrance is optimal.) He does NOT like to be grabbed by the collar, as so many dogs that have spent time being feral don’t, but he’s not going to fight about it. He’ll snap and that will be that. He’s very willing to be subordinate. He needs a human friend who will understand this about him, and not punish him for looking out for himself. He’s spent, I suspect, a lot of time trying to take care of his own needs.
More than anything else, Pepper wants to be someone’s dog. He’s good with other dogs, and with cats that aren’t hostile and livestock that aren’t uncooperative. He is afraid of being trapped, so is always cautious when exposed to a new situation. Sometimes he is hesitant, but he has always been obedient in the end. He requires patience, and a happy home for him will be one where the rules are absolute but instant compliance isn’t a necessary element of their enforcement. That will come with time. Pepper desperately WANTS to be someone’s dog, but he’ll require as much trust from you as you’ll expect of him.
August 31st, 2017: Pepper’s latest charming trick is to roll over for a belly rub, and when you’re done, he wraps his paws around his eyes like he’s a baby playing peek-a-boo! It is so adorable that you simply have to keep on scratching his chest so that he’ll do it again. And he will! And again and again and again. He just loves the attention.
He continues to make progress in overcoming his fearfulness. When we are out for a walk and a plane goes overhead, he at first bolts and then stops and begins backing toward me until he is right in “heel” position, and then he sits. He’ll stay there, visibly trembling, until the frightening noise has passed. Then he stands up, shakes, gives a quick grateful lick to the hand that’s patting him, and then is ready to resume the walk. When he is loose in my fenced yard and he hears something that is scary, he’ll run. But if you call him, he’ll come back at full tilt. He mostly seems to be reassured that he is not alone. This is all an immense improvement from his response when he first arrived here, which was to flatten himself to the ground and try to dig and crawl and bite his way toward freedom from restraint.
New experiences continue to trouble him, but he’s completely willing to try, which is another indication of his increasing confidence. The other day, I brought him into a building that he’d never entered previously, and while he skulked through it and made sure he knew where the doors were, he didn’t lose his cool. Instead, he explored, albeit cautiously, and after we emerged, he was willing to go back in again. This is a huge Pepper step forward, as he’s always been extremely resistant to entering places where he seems to fear that he might potentially be trapped.
When the weather turns dark, though, Pepper continues to be consumed by terror. His fear might ease in the course of time, but i doubt he’ll ever entirely leave it behind. He does best in storms if he’s in his kennel, though if you let him out, he will immediately commence trying to find another, safer, quieter spot. And it’s best not to try to reason with him in this state—his little doggy mind believes that horrible things happen during lightning storms, and he’s not about to relent on a lifetime of certainty for something as minor as a treat. When the storm abates, he’ll be back to his cheerful self.
Perhaps the most exciting development in the last couple of weeks has been his recall. We were out for a walk the other day and he found a pocket gopher right on the edge of the road, halfway out of its hole. He was, of course, immensely excited! But the gopher must have had a dead-end tunnel behind it, because it aggressively came out after Pepper, and he danced away and then came back in for a nip and then danced away again. I went out as far as the leash allowed, and let Pepper and the gopher have their little bit of fun together for a minute. Then i called Pepper away. He hesitated for just a moment and then trotted off. I didn’t tug him or jerk the lead to get his attention—i just told him to leave it, and he did. He didn’t even look back as we continued on down the road.
He responds equally well when he’s off leash in my very spacious yard. He might be so far distant that i can’t see him, and yet when i call him and give a quick clap of the hands, he responds immediately, bounding back to me. He appreciates not being grabbed, as we’ve tussled over that in the past weeks, but he’ll sit if you ask. He wants to be obedient. He just takes his time trusting you.
So that’s where this beautiful, loving dog is now. He’d be so happy in a place that he’d never have to leave, with people who will respond to his hilarious antics. He needs guidance, no doubt, but he’s very ready to be guided. And when you think he can’t possibly win any more of your heart, he’ll show you he knows how to play some trick like peek-a-boo and you’ll be enraptured, as i was, all over again.
August 22nd, 2017: Pepper continues to become the border collie that he was bred to be, and not the fear-driven dog that much of his life seems to have caused him to become. He is always friendly at first blush, and, once he trusts you—it takes him only a few minutes now to make the judgment–he’s willing to try things that might seem otherwise a little scary. He fears being trapped, so that’s always something to watch, but as his trust builds, he’s much more daring. When i first got him, for example, he was afraid to venture into the bathroom to get a sip of water from the water bowl that is on the floor there. He’d keep two-thirds of his body outside the door and S-T-R-E-T-C-H so that he could sip water from the top of the bowl, inevitably causing a little miniature water spill. Now he’ll follow me into the bathroom and lap at the water like any other dog. He’d rather it were elsewhere, but he’s not going to quibble about it.
Overall, he’s become more predictable in his foster home. He comes when called when he’s outside, even if he’s trying to get away from something that frightens him. He’s wonderful on a leash walk—doesn’t dig in and pull, as some dogs do, and is completely calmly focused on what lies ahead—and when it’s time to turn around and head home, all the tension goes out of him and he’s a completely different companion. He’s interested in the scents along the way. He finds interesting trails to pursue. It’s as if he’s relieved that this walk wasn’t the one that would end with his being uncollared and chased off.
Pepper wants to live the rest of his life with someone that will let him be a completely dependable, utterly loyal Border Collie. He’s probably not a prospect for the activities that BC’s usually excel at—flyball, agility, herding—as he’s still bedeviled by his fears, which would interrupt his capabilities. Else he could be a champion at all, as he’s fast and quick to return when called and very interested in his ball. But he is loving and responsive, and entirely willing to be your valentine. He has quirks, of course. Mostly, he is exactly as you’d expect from one of his breed.
If he’s inside, he is perfectly happy to stay in his kennel once he’s done with chasing his ball. He doesn’t necessarily want to be shut in, but if you give him a kong with peanut butter, he’s more than willing to have a time out. Even a long one. He’s incredibly food motivated. He doesn’t go onto the furniture–even though that’s allowed here–even to retrieve his ball. Someone obviously told him that that was a truly heinous sin.
He still doesn’t want to play with his beloved ball outside—too many things distracting his attention—but he’ll at least pay attention. These are enormous steps forward for him in just a few weeks. In a forever home, he’ll be a different dog in no time at all.
On the other hand, if there’s an impending storm, he’s going to find the hide-iest hole available inside—even if that means kicking his foster brother out of his kennel—and he’ll stay there quietly, hiding, until the storm has passed. Though if the door is left open, he might try to find an even more cave-like hole, which might be outside in his mind and which therefore makes him an escape risk. He’ll stay completely curled up once he’s found somewhere he deems a safe spot, but he wants nothing more than to be left alone at that point. He’s at his most neurotic when there’s thunder on the range, though i wouldn’t describe him as a neurotic dog at all. As soon as it’s gone and he’s back to normal, he’ll let you know with a sharp yip and his wagging tail, if he’s in his kennel. He hates thunderstorms, but that’s just a fear that needs conditioning or accommodating. Whenever it’s done, he’ll remember that his first priority in life is to show you how much he loves you. And he will love you. He’s a devoted kisser.
He had an incident about a week ago in which his head got shut in a door and instead of yipping and pulling away, as most dogs would, he nipped. But he didn’t hold a grudge against the 16-year-old who had tried to keep him from going into a part of the house that wasn’t available to him. Instead, he offered a toy immediately, and proposed to play. I think he was truly remorseful about his reaction.
Pepper really needs a strong, consistent owner who will give him adequate outlets for his energy, celebrate his accomplishments and accept his deficits and work with them. He’d be best with a middle-aged single or duo who want him to show his considerable charms. But children, at least at this point, are a little too much for him, I think. He needs to learn that he can trust people, and that they won’t betray his trust in them. A fully fenced yard is a must. Though, in time, i expect, he’ll learn that home is his ultimate refuge.
He’s completely fine with other dogs and with cats, too, unless he feels threatened. I have an elderly house cat that he nuzzles affectionately, and a hostile outdoor cat that has scratched at him several times, causing him to bare his teeth and snap. I have lawn calves that he’s chased off on occasion, though if they aren’t in what he views as his immediate scope of interest, he leaves them alone. He’s only had to been told once to lay off the barnyard fowl, though, as he IS a new resident, i wouldn’t trust him with them alone.
If you are interested in giving Pepper the home his big, thoroughly Border Collie heart hopes for, please contact Nina.
August 10, 2017: Pepper is a friendly, affectionate, enthusiastic, mischievous dog who hasn’t realized yet that he’s middle aged. He loves nothing more than to chase his soggy tennis ball, which he prefers above any of the other toys and which can keep him occupied all day long. And he’ll bark sharply at you to remind you that your part in the game is not to be distracted from throwing that ball just as soon as he’s rolled it over to you! He crates easily and voluntarily and is completely house trained. He goes willingly into the car and curls up quietly in the back for as long as you’re driving. Maybe best of all for a dog who seems to have mostly trained himself, he’s very food motivated, so will agree to just about any indignity–such as having the matts in his ears pulled at with a brush–if a nice treat is involved. He also wants to cuddle up for a quick hug and a couple of heartfelt licks. He’s also, obviously, unusually handsome.
On the other hand, Pepper is afraid of everything that he can’t easily assess for safety, especially that little room off the kitchen that his ball just rolled into, an unexpected person who just showed up in his yard and, most of all, thunderstorms. In the time since he’s been in the rescue (his second time around—he was pulled this time from a pound, as his unhappy trajectory led him there but his chip mercifully led them back to MWBCR), he has made a lot of progress, but he still doesn’t really like to be outside and simply will NOT leave his yard to take a walk on a leash. He won’t even chase his beloved tennis ball outside. Yet.
But he’s not neurotic. Rather, his life experiences have taught him that he can only rely on himself, and so he does his best to self-preserve. That means that when he’s outside, he’s keeping an ear cocked for something that might threaten him, and he wants to go back inside as soon as he’s done with necessities. That also means that you probably shouldn’t leave your dinner where he can reach it while you go to answer the phone. And you definitely SHOULD leave his crate open so that he can retreat into it if something scares him. He’ll come right back out as soon as he realizes that everything is going to be okay, but you won’t be able to coax him out until he’s determined for himself that whatever it was isn’t actually going to hurt him.
Pepper’s ideal home would be someone about his age—middle-aged—and willing to build his confidence before pushing him to overcome some of his more debilitating fears. He definitely needs a completely and securely fenced yard, as if he hears something that spooks him, he will run and jump and dig his way toward escape. He is probably not a good candidate for competitive activities, though with time and supportive affection, he will almost certainly revert to being a biddable dog. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to hear that he has become well-adjusted, too, under the tutelage of an experienced dog owner. And once he’s learned to trust you, he may well do whatever you ask of him because he has a Border Collie’s intense devotion and responsiveness. He’d likely do better in a place without small children, as he craves predictability and routine and quiet. He’s fine with other dogs and cats, and he only needs to be told once not to bother barnyard fowl and livestock. Though he doesn’t have a particularly submissive personality, he wants very much to please so that you will love him and help him overcome his uncertainties, and so that he can return your faith in him.