My beautiful boy is finally all grown up. He is after all, seven. But Hazer was a late bloomer and he took much longer to mature than I ever thought possible. He’s also (still) an enormously challenging dog with a long list of quirks and idiosyncrasies that are enough to drive a Saint to drink. Dog-reactive and barky, he spends a good part of his day trash-talking any pooch in sight. And this boy loves the sound of his own voice. Sadly, we don’t. He’s got the infamous, glass-breaking Cattle Dog shriek and he uses it for everything. Happy? Shriek! Excited? Shriek more! Agitated? Shriek louder! Ug. To the moon, Hazer!
We’ve learned to laugh at some of Hazer’s odd habits, like burying shoes in the newspaper recycling box only to dig them out over and over again so he can rebury them elsewhere. Sleeping upside down, jammed into a corner much to small for his body. Spending fifteen minutes scrunching up the throw rugs, then going off somewhere else to sleep. Getting stuck in small spaces. (Well, getting stuck under the brush hog wasn’t all that funny)
If I’m going to be honest, I have a love/hate relationship with this dog. Our relationship is complicated. But he does try his hardest to do the right thing, even though he sometimes misses the mark horribly. He’s such a serious dog most of the time, but every now and then I get a glimpse of his lighter side. Many times I’ve wished he was a different dog, had a different temperament, but I wouldn’t have learned nearly as much if he had. Perhaps that’s his true purpose here, to teach me things no other dog before him has forced me to learn. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve become a better handler/owner because (or in spite) of it.
Hazer’s slowing down a bit. Not because he’s old, but because he has some lumbar spinal issues that I’m starting to notice more frequently these days. I’m careful to throw the Frisbee at face height so he won’t be tempted to jump as much and I’m planning to cut his herding lessons of an hour in half. I’m keeping him slim and trim and choosing not to have him go up and down the cellar stairs as much. Hopefully, Hazer will be with us for a long time to come, but I know he’s not going to be a dog who will tolerate a lot of medical therapy or intervention if his physical issues get a lot worse. So we’ll do our best to keep him happy and healthy (and herding) for as long as we can, but I’m seriously going to consider one last shot at raising another herding prospect if the conditions are right this spring. A lot of thought will have to go into that decision, partly because Hazer is not particularly tolerant of other dogs. but also because I’m not getting any younger either. So time will tell!