Border Collie Wisdom

Perfectly executed Ruby snow loop

This afternoon we returned from a few days in the relatively snow-less mountains to 12 inches of fresh powder at our house. Hubby was dying to get in the snowshoe trek I had so carefully avoided in Steamboat. Realizing I was beaten, I acquiesced. We geared up and headed out onto the open space behind our house, four people sporting snowshoes and one four-legged leader. (We have a border collie. She’s neurotic. She’s intense. She’s smart. Hubby would tell you that she’s a lot like me, only slightly furrier.)

As we hiked along together, I noticed that Ruby kept making loops in the pristine snow. She would run out away from us, turn, run back toward us, and complete her loop. She did this over and over and over. Large loops. Small loops. Skinny loops. Fat loops. Nearly each time she would take off she would return and cross over her starting point to close her loop. She was systematic. Someone walking along after us would have to wonder at her repetitive, circular art, her snowy crop circles.

Steve and I have spent most of our lives in the company of dogs, but nothing we experienced before now prepared us for life with a border collie. Often noted for being the smartest dog breed, they are truly special. Before we got her, I did a lot of reading. One book advised that you should not get a border collie unless you’re prepared to spend your days trying to outsmart your dog. That sounded like a challenge. I like challenges. Sure enough. Ruby is an enigma, but she’s never dull. I can both respect and relate to that.

She is closest to her true self when she is running off leash on the open space and her border collie instincts take over. Today, as she was making her rounds (literally) as we hiked out on our snowshoes, she was positively blissful. At one point, I swore that she must be trying to write something to us in the snow. I’m sure if we could have taken an aerial photograph of her loops we would have seen messages, trotted out with characteristic border collie fury and wisdom: “Forge your own path. Finish what you start. Find joy in nature. And, for dog’s sake, walk me more often, you losers!”

Okay. Maybe I’m reading more into her loops than I should, but I still feel like my dog is trying to teach me something. Maybe it’s just that there is a great yet simple joy in being present on a long walk on a winter’s day.



  1. I saw the “crop circles” out our window, and wondered who made them. I figured it was a little kid having a ball. I didn’t expect it was a dog having a ball.

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