Tale of 2 Border Collies, Series Brakes, and a Motorcycle Cop
by Rick Grant
Series Land Rovers and Border Collies have a lot in common. Both are highly idiosyncratic, tough to the point of obstinacy, exasperating as hell, and both go to pieces unless they're worked constantly.
Put two Border Collies into a Series ll and you just know the day will get interesting. So it was yesterday when I decided to give VORIZO a run to warm up all the fluids so I could spend the next few hours happily covered in hot engine oil, cursing at the oil filter, and generally doing really messy stuff. Now there's nothing our two Border Collies like better than riding around in the back of the Land Rover because they've got all the room in the world to charge madly from one side to the other checking out the other vehicles, the drivers and passengers, dogs and squirrels along the way, and no doubt hoping for a good satisfying sight of a sheep flock or more likely around here, a cattle herd. Tina, the four year old, is as crazy as any Border Collie but she goes into frenetic and deeply agitated whining when she recognizes a route that leads to one of the large, miles wide, areas I use to run them. But Tilly, who is only ten months, is a tru e and really bent Border Collie. She growls at dogs in other cars, growls at drivers that pull up on the side or get too close to the back, ties herself in knots barking at people on bicycles and doesn't like truck drivers at all. But Tilly's greatest hate is for motorcycles. I don't know why, and there's really little point in wondering when it comes to BC behavior, but she just about kills herself with outraged barking and growling when she spots a motorcycle. I'm a little concerned about the last behavior because the Hell's Angels have recently set up in Alberta and. . . well you can imagine the potential trouble. Anyhow, there I was charging across Calgary in VORIZO (at unknown speeds because I simply haven't gotten around to tightening that nut at the back of the transmission brake to stop the speedo needle from acting like a berserk metronome) when I started ne gotiating the large hills on the way to the dog place. I can't use the word p**k because the dogs will bark non stop once they hear that word, and for all I know they might be able to read too so I can't use it here. At any rate, the hills in Calgary can be really really long and a true test for the soundness of Series brakes. This summer I finally got rid of the double-pump but habit is habit and I constantly find myself giving the brakes the preparatory tap to mak e sure they're still there. Until I get around to switching over to a double hydraulic system I'm always going to be a little leery about the brakes. It was a nice day, perhaps the last one until May, and I had all the windows slid right open which meant the radio was at full volume in order to hear anything, likewise with the CB, the dogs barking and growling as they checked out the traffic, and the old motor just a roaring away. A truly satisfying noisy Rover run. And then it started. The young one, Tilly, started "helicoptering" in the back. This is a patented Border Collie behavior which involves vertical leaps combined with 270 degree twists in mid air accompanied by truly demonic barking. This sets off Tina who forgets she's a mature dog and the back of VORIZO is suddenly a whirling mass of flying and leaping dogs. All I can see out of the back is a motorcycle helmet and dark sunglasses. The guy was so close it's a wonder that the exhaust belch didn't gas the guy right off. I'm really concerned about this. I have a situation where I'm going to have to brake soon for a traffic light, a biker right on my tail who might run into me, and I can't think straight for all the mechanical and canine noise. Fortunately he drops back a bit, I double pump out of habit and the beast squeals to a normal stop at the light. The dogs are now leaping from the back, into the passenger seat and back again like crazed gazelles. The light turns and I lurch off only to see with absolute horror and deep dread of what is to come that the biker is a Calgary motorcycle cop and he's m otioning me off to the side. I'm so rattled by all this that I haven't switched off, so when he asks for the papers I can't hear a word he's saying what with two radios at full volume and two Border Collies who have slipped right over the edge into dog insanity. He actually has to motion his hand across his throat to get it through to me that maybe I should shut things down. Of course when I do this the dogs decide that they've had enough fun and they shut up too. They're suddenly wagging tails and pushing their heads through my s ide window so they can be patted. "Having trouble with your brakes?" he says. "No, oh no, they're fine," I say hoping like hell that they still are. He climbs in to give them a push and both dogs decide to lick his ears. I suddenly want to crawl under VORIZO and remember early childhood. "Nice dogs," he says. "Do you use them on your ranch?" Ranch? My view of reality is getting quite shaky now. Then I realize that I'm wearing a Cattleman's Association jacket given to me by a client. "Uh no, they're obedience trial dogs. Do quite well too," I say while wondering how dogs who can perform the most intricate of routines in the obedience ring simply have never learned to be quiet on command. "Nice truck. Don't see too many of these around. My dad had one when we were kids." I start to breath a little easier. He spots the OVLR grille badge and says, "Did you drive this all the way from Ottawa?" The very idea of driving that hot thundering shaky beast the width of Canada was almost enough to start me giggling. Instead I lied and said, "Sure did." "Well it must be in pretty good shape. You take care now. Bye doggies." And with that he roars away. The Borders give him an affectionate bark then they settle down on the bench seats and go to sleep.
I bought some beer on the way home. I didn't get around to changing the oil.
Reprinted from the OVLR Newsletter, November 1998