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Cliff, the border collie rescue, has been with us 1 year.

Cliff is one month shy of 2 years old. Two years is when border collies become mentally adult.

Cliff is a happy part of our household. He knows and loves our routines -- in fact, he reminds me vocally to keep me on schedule.

Cliff is very affectionate and loves scratches, hugs, etc. He has a special kiss for me with a soft little vocalization that I take to mean “I love you.” Although he is more dignified now, Cliff occasionally still does his somersault into my lap. He even tolerates being brushed. He has recently blown his undercoat and is now sleek, shiny and well-brushed.

I have placed a thick mat on the floor next to my favorite sofa spot, so Cliff can stretch out comfortably under my hand when he doesn’t feel like lying on the sofa.

Cliff is slim but very muscular. DH takes him on long hikes (such as an 11 mile hike last week). I walk him off-leash about 2 - 3 miles per day.

Cliff is now well over 50 pounds, with big hindquarters and large, muscular legs, a deep chest and a slim waist. Due to his relatively placid temperament, brown undercoat, agouti fur and general form and movement style, DH thinks Cliff is probably mostly a German Shepherd in a border collie coat. Cliff occasionally still gets “the sillies,” but he is not hyperactive like a true border collie. He is content to keep us company. Cliff does have plenty of herding ability, as shown by the way he herded a group of wild elk (he recalled on command).

Cliff is a beta dog by nature. He allows Tyree to be alpha, which Tyree always wanted. They get along well.

Cliff still sleeps in a large, open-door crate in the bedroom. I sometimes think of taking the crate out, but he seems to like it. The crate has a memory foam pad plus fleece blankets that Cliff rearranges to suit himself. Cliff crates himself when he wants peace and quiet, so I will probably leave it where it is.

Cliff is still wary of strangers, but now follows the “Friend” command to sniff their hands without barking. If he barks after that, he gets a sharp correction to not bark at friends. Cliff now knows many of our friends, neighborhood people and dogs from our daily walks. He approaches them for greeting, but isn’t super-friendly with other people.

Cliff is still somewhat timid and has never descended the spiral staircase into the basement. Cliff is also fearful of large groups of people. (Faith, my deceased border collie/spaniel mix boldly ran everywhere and never showed a moment’s fear of anything.)

Cliff is improving but he is still far from perfect. I’m sure that it will be a long time (if ever) that he could pass a Canine Good Citizen test. He mistrusts strangers (especially men) and wouldn't stand still to have a strange man handle him.

Cliff generally plays well with dogs, but occasionally shows hostility to a dog for no apparent reason. I sharply correct him when he does this.

However, Cliff has improved tremendously since we got him. He is housebroken and follows all standard commands. He also knows how to say “Please” (sit and politely raise a paw) and will retrieve items by name. He is far more sociable and will even get into a stranger’s truck with DH. Cliff is also conversational, with many vocalizations to communicate.

Cliff was very helpful when we kept our hospitalized friend’s wildly super-hyperactive English cocker spaniel. Cliff played with the 15 pound 1 year old and disciplined her gently until she learned to behave.

Cliff is settled in, content and strongly bonded to us and our home.

Cliff shows the problems as well as the joys of rescuing. Although he learned quickly, he was not an easy dog.

Cliff still has some of the same problems that he had when we got him (especially difficulty with socializing, fear of groups of people and the occasional but troubling hostility to other dogs). I hope that these problems will gradually subside as Cliff matures and becomes more experienced.

I think our situation (experience with border collies, constant companionship, never leaving him alone, plenty of outdoor exercise) was probably close to ideal for Cliff as a forever home. He’s so sensitive and timid that he could have been ruined in a different environment. In fact, he probably was ruined by a poor environment as a puppy. Who knows if he will ever fully recover? Meanwhile, we do enjoy his company.

Overall, Cliff is a good dog. He is affectionate, intelligent, loyal, energetic and eager to please.

Our experiences with Cliff show both the joys and pitfalls of rescue. Each dog is an individual. Some may be easier to acclimate and others may be far more difficult than Cliff.

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