Can a dog be a workaholic?

Pets and people.
July 27 2006 6:49 AM

The Loneliness of Rose

What happens when a dog works too much.

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Rose had to maneuver through the donkeys—two of which were dying to clobber her.  She had to deal with the ram, too, who came off the trailer charging at her. She raced around and grabbed his privates, and when he groaned and grunted, ran around and nipped him on the nose. She spun him around and around for five minutes—keeping an eye on the donkeys and the sheep—until he ran into the middle of the flock of ewes and hid. Then she ran over and nipped Lulu on the butt, staying away from Jeannette and the baby. She gathered the sheep and the ram and moved them into the next pasture. In a few minutes, everyone was calmly munching on hay or grass.

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Rose comes from Colorado, from a herding line. Her favorite spot—when she is not working, which is her favorite thing—is to sit in the garden, rain, cold, snow or sun, and watch her sheep. She sometimes seems lonely to me. I think there is perhaps a price to pay for letting a working dog work: A working dog can't be a pet, at least not in the conventional sense of the term. She does the things I need, but few of the things that often please us most about dogs—snuggling, playing, tagging along, making friends with dogs and people.

Often, I will look out and see her blanketed in snow and ice. When I drive the ATV, the other dogs like to hop on the back rack and ride with me. Rose always runs ahead. When we walk in the woods, she is always in front, alert for chipmunks, birds, squirrels, or deer. When kids walk up the road from school, they line up to pet the dogs. Rose never comes up to say hello, and they never look for her.

I have asked about 200 people which of my dogs they would like to have. Only two have mentioned Rose.

Jon Katz’s latest book, Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die, was published by Random House last October. You can visit him at www.bedlamfarm.com and http://www.facebook.com/BedlamFarm or email him at jon@bedlamfarm.com.