My parents have a somewhat haughty infatuation with Golden Retrievers and we had two while I was living at home, so I grew up with dogs. There was always a dog by the front door, playing fetch in the backyard with my father, or fondly watching over my loud and dynamic family.
When I graduated from college in 2008, I moved to Manhattan and having a dog just didn’t make sense. I know people make it work, but I wasn’t confident that I could be the best concrete jungle dog mom.
Two years later, I was back in upstate New York working as a local newspaper editor and the search was on. I started and ended my days with intense Petfinder.com search sessions. I was still competing at the time and desperately wanted a barn dog to accompany me on the 40-minute drive to my farm, patiently observe my jump schools, and follow me on cool-down trail rides (preferably at sunset, because, Instagram).
My equestrian team coach in college had a blue merle Australian Shepherd that I secretly plotted to steal on several occasions, which led to a subconscious hope that I would find a gorgeous Aussie in need of adoption on one of my searches. But, it was no surprise that I was not the ideal candidate for dog adoption. I lived in an apartment with little outdoor space, my yard was not fenced, and I traveled quite often for work. The search continued…
I received a call one afternoon from my cousin and fellow dog lover. She mentioned a local family that may have got more than they bargained for when they brought an Australian Shepherd into their home. I drove the 30 minutes to the town where I grew up, pulled into a driveway less than a mile from my parents’ home, and was greeted by a small (by my standards), very vivacious black tri Australian Shepherd barking her head off at my car.
The family was in the driveway and I asked, “Is this the dog you were thinking of adopting out?”
The woman quickly responded, “Yup, that’s Izzie. You can take her today.”
I was stunned, but before I could rationally enter a place of sound decision making, my heart trumped by brain and I said, “Okay!”
Not more than two minutes later, the father emerged from the front door with a crate, bag of dog food, leash, and two food bowls. He put them in the back of my car and told me, “She probably won’t ride in the car. You’ll have to put her in the crate.”
I opened the back door to make more room and before I could make an effort to get her in the car, she jumped up and sat down like she had done it a thousand times. There was no hand shake, but she sealed the deal. She was mine.
Barn Dog Dropout
Izzie settled in just fine. I treated her like the dog I wanted her to be and she was (usually) exactly that. She was my guard dog in a town with a higher speed limit than crime rate, my running partner, and my company on long, lonely weekends. She always sat shotgun, napped while I worked, and reminded me when it was time to have some fun. She was a good dog and couldn’t help but feeling like I got lucky.
Her initial introduction to being a good barn dog, however, was less than ideal. I asked my then-boyfriend, now-husband Brian to come watch me ride and help introduce Izzie to barn life. It was also one of the first times he had been to the barn with me, but he had already fallen hard for Izzie. He’s a very supportive person, but horses just aren’t his thing and that works for us.
He stood by the entrance to the indoor, Izzie sitting beside him eager to find out what excitement she was about to encounter. She ignored the horses at first, which I found encouraging. Then, I picked up my first canter stride of the ride and rode past where they stood. Izzie’s herding instinct flipped on like a light switch and she was in the ring and chasing my horse to the tune of very loud barks before Brian knew what was happening. I heard and felt the impact at the same time. This particular horse was a cool cucumber and he landed a swift kick to Izzie’s head and cantered on about his merry way.
Izzie yelped exuberantly and ran straight back to the car, hiding under it until we coaxed her out. I thought it was the end of my barn dog fantasy and the end of my relationship as Brian held me solely responsible for the incident. They both got over it and after refusing to leave the car while at the barn for several weeks, Izzie eventually found her place. Several farms and horses later, she happily spends her time at the barn exploring the property, loves trail rides, and always respects the perimeter of the ring.
It didn’t happen the way I planned, but at 11 years old Izzie is and always was my dog. Today, she serves as the mailman alarm in my work-from-home life and is always there to remind me (to the minute) when it’s meal time, walk time, and time to shut down for the day. I’d like to say she’s slowing down in her old age, but I haven’t seen evidence of that yet.
On the average day, Izzie sniffs our entire front and back yards, naps, eats whatever she can find, and not-so-patiently waits for our nightly walk. I may be biased, but she’s the perfect office dog even if she isn’t the perfect barn dog.
The 4-1-1 on Izzie
Hometown: Saugerties, NY
Favorite activities: Fetch, going for runs, and any kind of exploring.
Least favorite activities: Going to the groomer and swimming.
Best tricks: Jumping a course better than some horses, the army crawl, high five, gymnastics lines.
Worst trick: Opening doors (yes, she can open doors and often lets herself in and out whenever she pleases).
When she’s on her best behavior: Responsibly herding, front-lawn lounging, couch cuddling, ring-side observing with her paws always touching, but never crossing over the rail.
When she’s on her worst behavior: Chasing (and sometimes catching) the neighbor’s chickens, whining for a place at the dinner table.