I Fell in Love on the Internet

"I'm just looking!" I said defensively to my husband, Mark. He had caught me looking at border collies online. We had been talking about getting another dog sometime in the future, and were interested in bcs, but the timing wasn't quite right and I was "just looking."

Our dog Sam, now 9 years old, was adopted from a shelter at 12 weeks old and from dubious decent. His papers said he was a healer-lab mix. His coloring is like a shepherd, his coat length like a golden retriever and his personality like a herding dog. We hadn't any experience with this kind of dog, so were taken for the predictable ride when it came to training, socializing and co-existing with Mr. Psycho. In the end, we were madly in love. "Let's have another one!" was the attitude.

So I was "just looking."


In my defense, I think I looked for almost a year. I was exercising great self-control. I was in graduate school and working full-time and even though Sam occupies major portions of my day and one more would just be along for the ride, I knew it wasn't that simple. But I kept looking.

I don't know how I stumbled on to the Great Lakes Border Collie Rescue website. But there were oh-so-many beautiful dogs there and I wanted them all! I started sending out emails to foster folks, just fishing a little. Everyone told me to fill out an application, so what the heck, even though I wasn't really ready for another dog, no harm in having the information on file. I kept looking.

I looked at Cole and Keeley and Twilah and Keefe. Xyrr, Kern and Flash all caught my eye, being fast, Frisbee-looking dogs. Some dogs had lovely faces and some dogs had heart-breaking stories. Some dogs I knew wouldn't be right for our family and I hoped they would find good homes.

Then there was Louie. In his picture, Louie was fat. I did not want to take on a dog with health problems. His description talked about what a gentle dog was. Louie was older, six, according to the website. While we didn't have our heart set on a puppy, six is getting pretty old. His description talked about how he was getting stronger everyday, with walks and Frisbee for exercise. I kept going back. There was just something about Louie...

Louie's foster dad, Ray, and I emailed a few times. I told him about Sam, our farm, the chickens, my sister's cows and pigs, and Ray told me about Louie. One story was about the time Louie walked into the middle of ball game at the park and leaned on the second baseman. Another was how Louie stuck his nose in a baby stroller and licked the occupant. And how Louie lost his original home due to his owner's aging and declining health.

I think I found the dog I want," I said to Mark and my son, Dustin. I was a little breathless after talking to Ray. I was already in love with Louie. "Come see," I told them. I brought up Louie's page on the website.

"He's fat," Mark said.

"He's kind of old," Dustin added.


"I know, but he is a really good boy and he just needs some exercise and he really needs a home." I was practically begging. I added that this would be a dog that Sam could abide. Sam is a little on the flighty side and I was afraid that a "Master-of-All-Toys-and- Frisbees" kind of dog like Flash (who Dustin had his eye on) would be too much for Sam to handle. "Whatever you think is best," Mark said amicably. He lets me be the animal person in the family. Dustin conceded, saying he guessed I was right about needing a calmer dog for Sam. So I wrote to Ray. I told him I was already in love with Louie and would like to be considered for Louie's "Forever Home."

We needed to work out the home visit. There aren't many GLBCR volunteers in Wisconsin and it wasn't looking like anyone could come over anytime soon. Someone in the process (I can't remember who) suggested a video. On a hot July day we taped a tour of our little farm and some of the places we like to walk. I am the world's worst videographer, but the parts Mark videoed turned out well and the rest gave a good idea of where we live and play. I sent my tape to Ray and held my breath. I really wanted Louie to come our home. Somehow, I got a very strong sense of meant-to-be about Louie. I felt he belonged here.

I guess Ray thought we looked like an okay home for a border collie because before I had much time to even think about it we were on our way to pick up Louie in Illinois where Ray and his wife Chris arranged to meet us. I was nervous and excited. I started to worry. What if Louie didn't like us?

When Ray and Chris pulled up, two dogs came out of the car; one wiry, elegant, small-sized bc named Parker, followed by Louie. What a couple of visual foils the two of them were. Parker was dainty, Louie lumbered. Parker was intense...her eyes said, "Throw my Frisbee, throw my Frisbee, throw it." Louie was a little distant. I'm sure he was wondering what his topsy-turvy life would bring next. Still, I sat down by Louie to say hi and he licked my face. I melted. I was really in love with Louie.

The trip home was long and hot and Louie was very quiet. He had his chin on Dustin's leg for most of the way home. In the yard outside our house, Louie's introduction to Sam was relatively smooth. Sam barked a lot and Louie ignored Sam. It was the introduction to the cat that was hairy. Louie was laying in the dining room when Nero the cat came haughtily sauntering past, making a statement of displeasure about the new dog by wearing a crabby face. What happened next is a blur, but the short, easy explanation is that Nero bolted, Louie chased. I extracted cat from dog mouth, Nero spent the next 5 months, by choice, in the basement. This was very upsetting. Nero was 12 years old and had been with us, according to our friends, forever. "That cat's been around forever," they've been know to say.

I felt like I had traded one good friend for another. I had to make extra time in the day to visit with Nero in the basement. He wasn't eating and he got sick. And then he got really sick and ended up in the hospital, diagnosed with an unknown infection. I was devastated and I thought the cat was going to die. In the meantime, I felt a little cool toward Louie. There were conflicting emotions. It was very hard.

Then Nero came home and slowly recovered. We put a gate up between the kitchen and the hall to the basement. In time, Nero would venture up to the gate where Louie would be laying, staring, drooling, obsessing on the cat. By this point, I had forgiven Louie for his transgression and that warm feeling I had when I first read about him on the Internet was growing stronger.

Louie learned quickly to stay off the road on walks. He was getting better at running and catching his Frisbee. He watched the chickens, but he never chased them. He slept on his pillow on my side of the bed and woke me up with kisses each morning. He was warming up to us and I think starting consider this his home. One day that I remember as being very good was the day we turned off a road to walk through a field and Louie started to run. He ran into the field and barked and circled around back at me and ran after Sam and barked some more. It was the first time I had seen him display real doggy enthusiasm for the simple pleasure of a good romp in the fields. The warm feeling grew even stronger.

It took about 9 months, but Nero finally decided the house was his and he was taking it back. We had been opening the gate and integrating Louie and the cat under close supervision. Nero would walk up to Louie, smell his face, and then whack him with a paw. As long as Nero didn't run, Louie wouldn't chase. I didn't think it would ever be possible, but Nero is now free in the house with Louie at all times except when we are gone for the day. Nero is back to sleeping on the bed at night, with Louie right next to him on the floor. Sometimes Louie gets a little overly-enthusiastic with his nose and pokes Nero in the back. Sam has been known to do that too. We tell them to be gentle and they listen.


Though Sam and Louie are not friends, they tolerate each other and have even been known to work together in chasing wild cats away. One day they stood side by side staring at a cat that was stalking near the barn. There must have been some silent signal between the two, because they both bolted in unison. One took the north side of the barn and one took the south. The cat easily escaped, but they had done their job in warning it not to get too close to the chicken coop.

After a whole year with Louie, he is not so fat and certainly doesn't seem old. He is the love of my life. Every morning I wake up to his big beautiful face in mine. I scratch his neck and tell him how much I love him. Then he tells me "Ah-Roo" and runs to the door, wanting to go let the chickens out. I think this is his favorite part of the day. He runs and spins and circles and dances around the coop. To make sure the chickens are all out, he goes in the main door of the coop and comes out the chicken hatch. The hatch measures 18" high by 11.5" wide. Who would have thought that fat old Louie would ever be able to leap through such a small opening and do it with grace to boot! He intently guards the chickens who pay no attention to him at all. They have been known to jump over him when he is lying in their path.


Louie has his quirks. He barks at reflections of light on the ceiling and walls. He has learned that the sound of a knife coming out of the knife block usually means there will be light on the ceiling and he'll come running from wherever he is in the house to make a fuss. Sometimes we can divert his attention to toys. Sometimes, though not often, he has to go outside until the vegetables are chopped, because he just gets too worked up. Thunder and lightening crank him up too, but he's getting better. He slept through a small storm we had the other night. Louie doesn't like baths or being brushed too much, so we are working on that too.

I don't think Louie was allowed on furniture before he came to our house, so we don't encourage him to share those spaces with us. Sam likes that idea, as he has had free rein of all sofas, chairs and beds since he was a puppy. But every once in while Louie will come bounding and get his big body up on the bed. And then he thinks he's really something! He has this very unique was of throwing himself on his side and looking at a person as if to say, "Here I am, I did it, pet me, pet me, pet me!" And of course, I can't resist. Louie and I have our own quiet time on the bed sometimes in the afternoons when Sam prefers to be outside. We talk about how big and handsome he is. I tell him what a lucky girl I was to fi nd him. His puts his feet on my face and presses gently. Sometimes he very gently mouths my hands with his teeth, and then he licks me. And I tell him how much I love him. He breathes a big sigh of contentedness; so do I and I know that Louie and I were meant to be.