Image copyright Edwin Barkdoll.

Recently my husband, Edwin, and I took our three dogs, Ruby, Elsie, and Hershel, for a walk along a beautiful stream near our home in Maine. At the end of the trail we discovered a new path that crossed the water and continued along the other side. We decided to come back on this new trail, but when the trail re-crossed the stream, the rocks that provided the stepping stones were icy and slick, and I didn’t want to risk slipping into the water. But Edwin, Ruby, and Hershel had no problem, and they crossed over.

Elsie – whom we think has border collie in her – wasn’t happy at all. She stayed with me but was constantly looking for a good place for us to cross, too. She’d look at me, start crossing, and if I didn’t follow, she’d return to me. At one point she must have thought she’d found the perfect spot for both of us, so she crossed; but when I couldn’t make it and continued on the other side of the stream, she became distraught. She cried out repeatedly with her high-pitched yelps, so agitated and upset, and finally returned to me, even though it meant leaving the pack and recrossing the stream. I never did make it across the stream, so Elsie just stayed by my side until we found our way back to the car from the other side and met up with everyone else. She was clearly happy when we were all back together.

I’ve been reflecting on Elsie’s behavior. If she does have border collie in her as we suspect, then generations of breeding have gone into her passion for keeping a “herd” together. But whether this is behavior bred into her or not, her emotions are real and deeply felt. She cannot stand to have us apart. But neither will she leave my side. She is the most loving, devoted dog. She hugs me. Literally. And when she does, she throws her head back in bliss and abandon (see photo). If this isn’t love, what is?

~ Zoe

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDxConejo talk: “Solutionaries”
My TEDxDirigo talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach
My TEDxYouth@BFS “Educating for Freedom”

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