Foolish me—trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear—and what a fine sow's ear my dog Poem is. Not a go-to-town gal, she's a down-on-the-farm dog, a sheep herding Australian Kelpie. Her predecessors in my life, Miss and Shade—mother and daughter—are gone now; they were Kelpies who lived in the house and went to the sheep with me.
Poem is different. She is not a house dog (we tried; she would work Jet & Stripe, the house cats, hour after hour to the detriment of her training) she is not a companion animal in the traditional sense but we are becoming a team when working sheep.
She now stays in her kennel at the farm and seems happy there. When, twice-a-day, I come to take her to the sheep, she is happy to see me, as happy as I am to see her. We need the distance, we need a reason to meet, a reason to be together, we need the sheep.
When she and I were together all the time (this truly can breed contempt), I had to shout commands to her, over and over, as if she were deaf. I tired of yelling. I now speak quietly to her, "Go round, come behind, easy, down..." In the clamor of moving sheep, her big ears listen for my voice, she attends, she minds me.
Poem you are my dog, but my dog your way—I'm learning—proof you can teach an old dog new tricks.