Monday, June 6, 2011

Meet Miss Mariah Marie!

 This intriguing face belongs to Mariah, our 11-year-old blue merle Australian Shepherd. I’ve always felt as if the random colors in Mariah’s coat look more like a crazy quilt than a dog’s hair. And “crazy” aptly describes this girl for the first few years of her life.

You see, Mariah wants to be Empress of the world. She doesn’t just want to be Queen, she wants to be a deity! This little 32-lb girl has the focus & drive of an Olympic athlete! And woe be the sheep who challenges her!

Mariah came to us at 3 months old. Oh, she was cute & cuddly at that age, but that just lulled me into a sense of complacency. That’s when she struck! Out of nowhere, Miss Cute & Cuddly became “Little Miss Mudpuppy” or “Sabretooth” or “Destructo-Dog”! Those are just 3 of her many nicknames!

I blame myself. I had always owned Collies & Shetland Sheepdogs, and was totally unprepared for the intensity of a high-drive Australian Shepherd. What no one ever warned me was that dogs like Mariah NEVER TURN OFF unless they’re dead asleep!

Her eyes are a unique greenish-yellow color. But behind them, a super-intense mind is always calculating how to overthrow the government! I remember one occasion where I was very sick. When I would get up from the couch, Mariah would jump up into my seat, & she wouldn’t want to move when I came back! Or I would get a glass of juice & set it down & leave for a moment, & she would drink the entire glass! No simple rebellion from this dog -- this was a coup!!

I had to learn to be firmer with Mariah than I’d ever been with any of my previous dogs. She required constant vigilance when she was younger, as I learned to manage her very intense Aussie temperament without crushing her spirit. Now, at 11 years old, she still requires some observation, because she will sneak up onto my bed or steal my food at a moment’s notice!

At about 4, she suddenly began to settle down & made it her life's goal to become my ideal companion (I know, lull them into a sense of complacency...). She is the benevolent, but no-nonsense, pack leader of my 5 dogs. She tolerates no rebellion from the other dogs, but she also loves to invite them to play with an Aussie smile & her wiggly butt.

She became a tremendous herding dog, altho our sheep tremble at the sight of her! About 2 years ago, she injured her cranial cruciate ligament, so we pulled her out of the herding ring for good. She’ll always walk with a limp, so it’s not safe to use her to work sheep any longer. But sometimes, just for the fun of it, we trot her out to the sheep pen & put the fear of God into those silly sheep! When a dog has a personality like Mariah’s, it doesn’t take much to keep them in line.

Somehow, somewhere along the way, she became my best friend. It's hard to look into her 11-year-old eyes & know that someday in the future she'll be gone. So I just concentrate on enjoying our time today, & watch my back in case she decides to stage another coup!

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