Cats were the topic last week. So, to be fair and balanced, we’ll discuss dogs this week: to honor the late great Tilly of Raleigh, N.C.
Tilly was an Australian Cattle dog my sister Betty Anne found at the North Carolina State Fair Grounds. The 8-month-old puppy went on to lead a rich full life, before succumbing to kidney failure at 16.
When Betty Anne brought Tilly to her first obedience class, the trainer asked her if she knew what she had. She said no. She had no clue she was about to raise an “energy machine.” Tilly attended weekly classes for three years, thus earning a Ph.D. in obedience.
Tilly obeyed commands and was a pleasure to walk but she craved greater challenges. So, my sister took her to sheep herding class. Tilly was a natural, guiding the sheep by “submarining” them into formation. The sheep became so tired of Tilly going underneath them; they learned to simply follow her through the gates.
Tilly also herded humans, making sure a group of visiting children remained on the couch. She was even stricter with cats, forbidding a neighbor’s cats to re-enter their own yard. All this work made Tilly hungry, which explains why she once opened the refrigerator door and devoured an entire roast chicken.
As wonderful as Tilly was, we have an outstanding dog right here in Forest Park. My beagle, Coop, though is not an energy machine. He’s an energy saver. Coop only exerts effort twice a day – at 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. While we fill his dish with hard brown chunks, Coop practically does back flips. Coop won’t waste energy chasing a ball, fetching a stick or soaring for a Frisbee. And he didn’t have much use for obedience school, dropping out after only a few classes.
Tilly only barked when a visitor came to the door. Coop is much more vigilant. He howls at other dogs and anyone who walks by. He even warns us of the danger of blowing leaves. Tilly would never jump on guests. Coop is much more animated, leaving paw prints on pants as a sign of his affection.
In the hunger department, Tilly would be no match for Coop. He spends his day fixated on any molecule of food that might fall to the floor. Sure, he never ate a whole chicken but Coop did scarf down four pies at a family party.
Like Tilly, Coop loves going for walks. Rather than passively walking at your side, Coop yanks you down the block, helping the whole family to build upper body strength.
Betty Anne hopes to find a new canine companion, who does not herd sheep. But if anything happened to Coop, I doubt we could replace him. It would have to be another obedience school dropout.