Border Ballads: Have You Herd? Border Collies Don’t Track

We all like to think ourselves safe from the depredations of common criminals, particularly if we reside in suburban America, but a few days ago, I had an experience that shattered my faith in both the pastoral character of my neighborhood and the general usefulness of my dog.

Sometime just after noon, I was walking home from the grocery store with a sack containing six pork chops that I had planned to barbecue for dinner, when suddenly I was waylaid by a felonious cur who demanded that I hand over my package. Fearing for my life, I naturally gave the miscreant my parcel, and he ran off with it in the general direction of my house. However, just before the varlet seized what was to have been my evening repast, I took a photograph of him with my cell phone camera, a copy of which I have posted immediately below this paragraph.
Alas, as everyone can see, the villain cleverly disguised himself with a mask, and so I could not identify either the individual dog or his breed. After fruitlessly searching for this canine criminal for the better part of two hours, I decided to return home to enlist Jack, my Border Collie, in the task of bringing this malefactor to justice. In this hope, I was to be bitterly disappointed.

I entered my house and yelled, “Jack, come quickly, I’ve been robbed!,” but my loyal dog failed to appear. After calling him a few more times, I walked to the back of the house, and there he was, napping on my bed. I called to him yet again, and he opened one eye and said, “Please, leave me alone. I’m trying to digest a rather hefty meal.” I was surprised that he had eaten, since he usually waits for suppertime to arrive before ingesting anything substantial, but he is sometimes a mysterious dog.

“Listen,” I persisted, “I was coming home with a sack of pork chops, when a malevolent mutt accosted me and ran off with them. Here, look at this photograph of him that I took with my cell phone camera.”

He dragged himself off the bed, yawned loudly, and then condescended to scrutinize the picture. After examining it for a long moment, he said, “Beastly cunning of him to wear the mask, since it disguises him so completely, and while I cannot identify either the dog or his breed, I must say that he is an uncommonly resourceful and devilishly handsome rogue.”

“You’re neither grading an aptitude test nor judging a beauty contest,” I insisted, “but given what might be termed his somewhat foppish appearance, do you think that he could be a renegade poodle?”

For some reason, Jack winced noticeably at this suggestion, then started to say something but thought better of it and remained silent. After a moment’s reflection, he somewhat testily said, “Most things French are renegade is some manner or other, but this splendid creature possesses far too much poise, wit, and style to be a poodle.”

“Well, then,” I asked, “do you have any suggestions? Can you help me track him down?”

“My dear chap,” he replied, still a bit peevish, “how many times do I have to tell you that I am a herder and not a tracker? If you want to put an expert on the trail of this perpetrator, I suggest that you find some flea-bitten hound to assist you. Or, better still, why don’t you go down to the K9 Unit at the local constabulary and ask to borrow Fritz for a few hours?”

Jack made the latter suggestion in a tone thick with unalloyed sarcasm, since he invariably refers to Fritz, the German Shepherd who assists local policemen (whom Jack, ever the proud Anglophile, calls “Bobbies”) in their search for illicit drugs, a “perpetually stoned Nazi dimwit – all snout and no brains.” In truth, Fritz is a bit, well, slow on the uptake, and Jack loves teasing him, though “mocking” might be a more accurate descriptor. For instance, the last time that they met in the city park, Jack looked at Fritz contemptuously and said, “Well, how are you, my dear Seig Heil? I must say, our lads really kicked your Hunnish butts at El Alamein. Don’t you agree?” Fritz, who had understood little or nothing of what Jack had said, nodded his head slowly and replied, “Jah, Jah, it is a very nice day, thank you.” I would not be seeking help in apprehending the pork chop thief from old Fritz.

Jack then yawned again, and said, “I’m going outside for a bit of sunbathing, and I do not wish to be disturbed.” As he was about to walk out the door, he paused, belched loudly, and added, “Oh, and we’re out of barbecue sauce.” Then he swaggered into the yard, leaving me to ruminate darkly about “man’s best friend” – a treasured belief come decisively to grief upon the grim shoals of Border Collie actuality.

For a time, I considered putting up wanted posters containing a picture of the supper-snatching brute all over the city, but Jack convinced me that the enterprise would prove a waste of time and resources, and so I have made this posting instead. Anyone who has information that might abet the capture of this masked bandit can contact me through this Web site, and until this brazen highwayman is in police custody, I counsel everyone to be wary when walking the streets of my neighborhood, especially if he or she happens to be carrying pork chops.
Jack: The Border Collie In Sun-Drenched Repose

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3 Responses to Border Ballads: Have You Herd? Border Collies Don’t Track

  1. Johnnie_Sanchez says:

    Hey Dr. Neralich 🙂
    (I’m the girl with red hair in your “Ulysses” class, Johnnie).
    I can only imagine the life your dog must have. The mask is priceless.
    I tried looking for your phone number on the internet but when I call it says that it has been disconnected. (Yes, I am that kind of creepy stalkerish girl). I’d really like to talk to you. A lot. I miss you. Okay, well email me back when you get a chance.
    Mr. Burke leaves on October 13th, I can’t believe it.


  2. Rachel H says:

    Hi Dr. Neralich!
    I have stumbled upon your site finally. You’ve told me to check it out numerous times, and I looked at it once. But now I have broken down and subscribed or logged in or whatever it’s called. I love this little story about Jack; he is my favorite border collie! I haven’t seen you around town for a long while, and I know you’ve long since left FHS. So I was wondering what you are up to in life, and maybe if you are around we could get together. I have two dogs, one of which is wonderful and would love to meet Jack and you. The other one, Hobson, is truly terrible and doesn’t get to go out in public much. Oh and this is Rachel Harrison, 2007, the drug dealer..if you didn’t know. I would love to hear from you! My email is

  3. aHetherington says:

    We questioned “our” border collie the first time she assumed a position at the head of the dinner table. The six course meal she now demands nightly is really taking a toll on our lives. I’m failing nearly all of my classes trying to keep up with her menu, and will soon be suffering from chronic exhaustion because she has started inviting her friends. They stay up all night, noses high, making harsh remarks about our upkeep and worthlessness–like cranky, old Chinese women that don’t cook!

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