When I began writing Divine Guidance, my heroine, Marnie Reilly, needed a side-kick. It couldn’t be just any side-kick, though. This side-kick had to had to be loyal, intelligent, funny and loveable. It didn’t take long for me to write the character of Tater – Marnie Reilly’s devoted Border Collie, and her loyal, intelligent, funny and loveable canine side-kick. Tater was one of the easiest characters to create because, well, I love Border Collies.
I have been blessed with four Border Collies in my life – Murphy, Finnegan, Dougal and Callee. The breed is unlike any other. I do believe in my heart that once a person has been the proud slave to a BC, no other breed will ever quite add up. I know! I have and have had other dog breeds in my world – there’s just something about a Border Collie. All dogs are special. Border Collies are exceptional – outstanding – remarkable. Their intelligence, capacity for reasoning, cheekiness, and intensity is unmatched, and when a Border Collie flashes one of their trademark smiles, it melts my heart – every single time. Each Border Collie has taught me something important about life. They are funny characters.
Tater, Marnie Reilly’s faithful Border Collie, is bits of each of my Border Collie family – mostly Murph and Finnegan, but bits of Dougal and Callee appear in his character in Torn Veil.
Murphy was my first BC. Oddly enough, Murphy means sea warrior in Irish. I didn’t know that when I named him, but Murphy did love the ocean. My happiest times with Murph were the lazy Saturdays and Sundays we would spend at the beach playing fetch and running in the sand. He was my faithful co-pilot, and happily jumped into the passenger seat of my Jeep when I jingled my keys. He was always ready for an adventure.
Murph, Murphenstein and Murphymeister were just a few of his nicknames. He answered to all. My mild tempered boy rarely barked – unless something was amiss. He was calm, steady and loyal. Murphy crossed the Rainbow Bridge far too young. A snake bit Murph, and he died several hours later. The vet couldn’t help him. I consider myself blessed to have shared 5 wonderful years with Murph. His friendship kept me sane at a time when I needed a best buddy.
Murph’s memory lives on in Divine Guidance. Do you remember the bit in Chapter 26 where Danny asks him to shake, and Tater literally shakes like he’s shaking water from his coat? Yup. Murph did that.
What did I learn from Murphy? It is okay to take the day off, go to the beach and play in the sand. Oh… only bark when necessary.
About two weeks after Murphy died, a good friend called to tell me that there was a farmer near her giving away Border Collie pups. They had 8 pups, and didn’t want them because the mother was a champion working dog, and the father was a champion show dog. You see, the pups’ parents were never meant to breed, but, well, they did. The owner of the mother and the owner of the father didn’t want the pups – the father’s owner only wanted pups of show breeding, and the mother’s owners only wanted pups of working dog breeding.
Of course, I was more than happy to take one of the pups off their hands.
Finnegan means fair-haired in Irish. His face was mostly white, so his name was perfect for him. Like Murph, Finnegan had many nicknames – Finn – Finnie – Finnster – Little Man – Boomba Boy. Finnegan was handful. He was high energy, stubborn, incredibly vocal, and whip-smart.
One afternoon I watched Finnegan trying to bring a huge stick up onto our back deck. The “stick” was actually a tree branch that had fallen in a storm. He kept catching the branch on the step railings. Each time the stick would catch on the railings, Finnegan would take a step back, put the stick down, and try another strategy. After his third attempt, Finnegan picked the stick, set it vertically on the first and second steps, he walked up the third step, and pulled the stick up vertically. He then pulled the stick to where I was sitting, and barked at me to throw it. Clever boy!
Finnegan was 6 weeks old when he rescued me. He was 17 when he crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. I miss him – and I miss Murph, too. I think of them both every day. Whenever Tater flashes his smile or stares intently at something, I see Finnie’s face, and it makes me smile.
What did Finnegan teach me? He taught me that persistence is the key to success.
When Finnegan died, we missed his huge personality and his cheeky smile. Losing Finnegan left a huge hole in our hearts and our home, and it wasn’t long before I decided that we couldn’t go another day without a Border Collie in our lives. We could never replace Finnegan, but we could welcome another Border Collie into our home. I found a beautiful Border Collie puppy named Calabash on Best Friends Animal Sanctuary’s website. I filled out adoption paperwork, and waited… and waited.
Finally, about a week later, I received a call confirming that we could adopt Calabash. I ran into my other half’s office, and informed him that we would be driving to Utah on Friday. He asked why, and I thrust a picture into his hands, and said, “To pick up this puppy!” He said, “Okay. Let’s go!”
“Dark stranger” is the Irish meaning of Dougal’s name. It is quite apt because Dougal’s is main color is glossy black with bits of white and sable. “Stranger” does fit if we are speaking of extremes of strange – which he is – in a good way. Dougal is stealthy – one minute he isn’t there, and then suddenly he is. It freaks me out daily. Punctuality and order are of extreme importance to Dougal. Yup. He has OCD. There is no denying it, but that’s all just fine because Dougal is all love. I don’t know how else to explain my boy. He gives hugs – he actually asks for hugs. He is also incredibly smart, athletic and lightning fast – especially when chasing his archenemies, the squirrels.
Dougal, like our other pups, has a few nicknames – Dougally, Doogie, Dougal boy, Little Man, Baby Boy, and Boofhead, to name just a few.
Anytime Tater places a paw on Marnie’s leg or when he shows sympathy for another character, that’s all Dougal. That’s my boy!
What have I learned from Dougal? Give and receive hugs often.
When Dougal came to live with us, we already had three other pups – Pip, Midget and Mags. Pip (Pippy Lou) crossed the Rainbow Bridge about 8 months later when she was 17. She was a wonderful girl – a Jack Russell/Kelpie cross – and Finnegan’s best friend. When we lost Pip it left a huge void. I know! We had three other dogs!
Midget and Mags were rescued together – they are sisters, and were found in a cardboard box on an old dirt road in the middle of Palm Desert. They are crazy, playful Parson Jack Russell cross something or other. Problem was, they didn’t like to play with Dougal. They excluded him from their shenanigans.
We rescued Callee from Carolina Border Collie Rescue. Her name was originally Lilly. The original owner’s daughter surrendered her to Carolina Border Collie Rescue because the original owner had been abusive. Her foster mother named her Carly. We didn’t want to change her name too much, and so we named her Callee – which in Irish means “from the forest” – which is perfect because we live at the edge of a forest.
Callee, also know as Psycho Bullet, Crazy Callee, Cal Cal, Calster, Daddy’s Girl, and Baby Girl, is our funny, lovely, silly, LOUD, beautiful, snuggle monster. She is also Dougal’s best friend, and Midget’s and Mag’s archenemy.
Callee is quite boisterous and bossy. She yells at us when we don’t do as she wants, she “sings” when she’s happy, she speaks her own crazy language, and she warms our hearts with her silly antics.
When Tater rolls on his back and sleeps with his legs in the air in Torn Veil, that’s all Callee. All Border Collies do this, but Callee does it more than most.
What have I learned from Callee? It’s okay to be crazy because others will join in, and everyone will have fun being silly for a while.
You may have noticed that all of my Border Collies have Irish names. That’s an homage to my maternal grandmother. Her family was originally from Ireland before they settled in Canada. Plus, their names suit them, and that is all that matters.
Every Border Collie has their own unique personality, but every BC I’ve been lucky to know have a few things in common – a high degree of intelligence, cheekiness, compassion and agility. If you ever do have the chance to be owned by a Border Collie, don’t pass it up. A BC will change your life for the better. ❤️🐾🐾❤️
Border Collie Facts
Here are few facts about Border Collies with some help from the American Kennel Club.
The Border Collie is one of the most talented and hardworking dogs there is. A BC will impress you with their intelligence and win you over with their eagerness to please. Here are 10 fun facts about Border Collies:
They Are Extremely Smart Dogs
We cannot talk about the Border Collie without talking about his/her intelligence. Dog experts widely agree that the Border Collie is an intelligent workaholic. They are capable of learning a remarkable number of words and commands, and they are happiest when they are put to work every day.
Dougal and Callee both have jobs. Dougal’s job is keeping his sisters, Callee, Midget and Mags, under control. He herds them and watches over them. Dougal is also in charge of keeping Callee quiet. When she gets too loud, Dougal scolds her. It works – she usually stops barking when her big brother tells her to do so. Callee’s job is to keep Dougal busy. Together, Callee and Dougal patrol the yard to ensure squirrels are not eating out of the bird feeders. Callee also entertains the cardinals. She plays chase with them for as long as they are willing to flit from tree to tree.
Each time we leave home, we tell Dougal he’s in charge. He’s never failed us – he keeps the others in line brilliantly.
Their Name Comes From Their Home Region
The Border Collie was originally developed in Scotland and thrived in the region on the border of Scotland and England. The word “collie” is a Scotch word used to describe sheepdogs. Because this breed flourished in the border region, it was christened the “Border Collie.”
They Are Champion Herders
Border Collies were originally bred to herd sheep. They excel at the task because of their strength, stamina, intelligence, and work ethic. Border Collies are famous for using “the eye”— staring intensely at members of the flock to intimidate them. When the earliest recorded sheepdog trial took place at Bala, Wales, in 1873, the crowd was astonished that the Border Collies were able to herd sheep into a small pen, guided only by hand signals and whistles from their owners.
Dougal and Callee both have the intense stare for which Border Collies are famous. That intense stare is used most often on their humans when they want a treat. It works 90% of the time.
Callee has a slinking posture when she has her sights set on the object she intends to herd – like a squirrel, or Midget and Mags. Dougal is more of stalker – he stands tall, watches and waits. This is typical of an Aussie Shepherd – have I mentioned that Dougal is BC/Aussie Shepherd mix? That’s why he’s a bit more muscular than my other BCs.
Auld Hemp was a stud dog considered to be the progenitor to the Border Collie breed. He was owned by Adam Telfer, and was used as a working dog to herd sheep. His style was different from that commonly seen during his era, as he worked far more quietly than the other sheepdogs of the time.
Queen Victoria Loved Them
Queen Victoria was a true dog lover who took a liking to many breeds, but in the early 1860s she became an active Border Collie enthusiast. At this time, the Border Collie began to separate and become distinguished from the modern Collie.
One Was Featured in Scottish Poetry
The famous Scottish poet Robert Burns (If you don’t know him, think: “The best laid schemes of mice and men . . .”) owned a Border Collie named Luath that he loved dearly. Luath’s tragic death inspired one of Burns’ best poems, “The Twa Dogs,” which captured the special bond between dog and man. Multiple statues of Robert Burns include Luath right by his side.
They’ve Broken All Kinds of Records
A Border Collie named Chaser has been widely recognized as the world’s most intelligent dog; she knows the names of more than 1,000 objects. Another Border Collie, named Jumpy, holds a Guinness World Record for dog skateboarding: 100 meters in less than 20 seconds. Striker, a Border Collie from Quebéc City, set the canine record for rolling down a manual car window. In 2008, a Border Collie-mix named Sweet Pea set a record for dog balancing; she balanced a can on her head and walked 100 meters in only 2 minutes and 55 seconds.
They Make Great Actors
Border Collies have been cast in many films and TV shows. The film “Babe” — about a little pig that defies the odds and becomes a sheepherder — features Border Collies, as actors and as herders. Border Collies have also been cast in the movies “Animal Farm” and “Snow Dogs,” and in the hit ’90s television series, “Mad About You. Remember Murray?”
They Also Make Great Search and Rescue Dogs
In addition to herding, another common job for Border Collies is search and rescue. A Border Collie named Blitz recently saved a 51-year-old woman’s life in England. The woman had been missing for more than one day when Jess Ellsmore, a volunteer search and rescue handler, brought her dog Blitz in to search the area. Blitz found the missing woman under some thick foliage, where she wouldn’t have been visible to human searchers alone.
Border Collies Can Be Official Goose Masters
Border Collies have all kinds of jobs, but one career you probably haven’t heard of is “goose master.” One Florida company trains Border Collies to keep geese off people’s property. The University of North Florida hired a Border Collie named Bee to be the goose master for their campus. Bee keeps geese away from high-traffic areas.
Border Collies Talk
That’s right. They use varying tones of barking, whining, trilling and whimpering pending what they are trying to convey. While it may sound silly, I carried on conversations with Murph and Finnegan, and my other half and I carry on conversations with Dougal and Callee – and yes, they do respond. We don’t bother spelling words like park, or walk, or truck – they know exactly what we are talking about when we spell. Border Collie’s are just too smart to be fooled by a little thing like spelling.
The white tip on the tail of most Border Collies is called a shepherd’s lantern. It allows shepherds to follow their BC home at night in the dark. The long fur around their necks is often white, too. It’s referred to as a shawl.
I hope you enjoyed this little blog about the inspiration(s) for Tater, and the fun facts about Border Collies. Yes, I am a crazy dog lady – but I’m okay with that. Callee told me it’s okay to be crazy.
Interested in learning more about Border Collies? Click the link below.
You can read more about the characters in Divine Guidance and Torn Veil here: https://sharitmitchell.com/come-meet-the-marnie-reilly-mysteries-characters-from-divine-guidance-and-torn-veil/
More useful links are below:
MARNIE REILLY MYSTERIES LINKS
Torn Veil – Read the first 7 chapters
Torn Veil – View on Amazon.com
Torn Veil – View on Amazon.ca
Torn Veil – View on Amazon.co.uk
Torn Veil – View on Amazon.com.au
Torn Veil – View on Barnes and Noble
Divine Guidance – Read the first 7 chapters
Divine Guidance – View on Amazon.com