Bronco grew up with several other dogs, a Labrador (Baylor), a German Shepherd (Baby), a Japanese Chin (Ryu), a Pug (Daisy), and finally a mini-Australian Shepherd Rollo. The book also describes some of the adventures of Bronco’s siblings and his interactions with them. This post is focused on Rollo and Bronco’s great patience with Rollo.
Six months after the passing of our Japanese Shin Ryu, we decided to get another dog. Rachel really wanted a miniature Australian shepherd, so we got one from a breeder in East Texas. We named him Rollo, after the Viking who was the first ruler of Normandy. In 885–86 CE, Rollo led the Viking siege of Paris but was fended off by Odo, the count of Paris. Our Rollo may not have been quite as brave as the medieval Rollo (or Odo), but he was cute and full of energy.
Rollo was not a big puppy, and at the beginning he was afraid of everything and everyone. However, he quickly warmed up to both Daisy and Bronco, and he was potty trained quickly. Rachel was the one who did most of the training: she stayed with him at night and put a bell on the door to the backyard, which he rang whenever he wanted to go outside. Every time he went, he got a little treat and praise afterward. It made him happy and proud.
We also tried to take him for walks, but he did not understand the concept right away. He would lie down on his back or stand on his hind legs and stretch his paws up, wanting to be carried. So we held him in our arms as we walked him around the neighborhood with the other dogs. He was happy up there in our arms, and he contentedly chewed on his leash and harness.
But even after he started walking on his own four feet, he was still a bit anxious and easily frightened. If we saw a cat, we had to turn around and walk straight back home. If we heard a truck engine-braking on the main road a quarter mile away, we had to turn around and walk straight back home. If we saw a man with a little dog, we had to turn around and walk straight back home. If we heard a duck quacking, we had to run for our lives back home. Ducks make strange sounds that can be very scary to little puppies. Whenever we walked or ran back home, I was right behind him as he pulled the leash.
There was one thing Rollo was not afraid of, and that was Bronco. Bronco was the biggest dog Rollo had ever seen—not to mention the biggest dog many people had ever seen—yet Rollo was continually testing Bronco’s patience. One time Rollo and I were sitting on the sofa, and Bronco was sleeping at our feet. Suddenly I saw Rollo stepping off the sofa and onto Bronco’s back, then walking across Bronco’s back down to the floor. Bronco was grumbling a bit, but he let Rollo literally walk all over him.
I also noticed that Rollo liked to play with Bronco’s tail. One day Bronco began barking at me intently, as he did when he wanted me to do something or pay attention to him. I couldn’t see anything amiss at first, but then I saw something going on behind him. I took a closer look and saw Rollo dangling from Bronco’s tail. He was biting it and using it as a swing. I got Rollo off right away, of course, which is exactly what Bronco wanted. He was being very patient with Rollo, but Rollo wanted to play.
Of course, the dogs often go in the backyard to do their business (I don’t mean the kind of business that’s taxable). This requires me to do pickup duty. On one occasion I was walking up and down the lawn, looking for poop and picking it up, when Rollo ran over to my left side and pushed me with his nose and nipped my shoes a little bit. Then he ran behind me and did the same thing on my right side. Then he ran behind me again and repeated the process, and so it went—over and over and over. Then I realized that to him, I was a sheep, and he was having fun herding me. He herded me down the lawn and back up again until all the poop was picked up. We were a team: he the herding dog in charge and I the pooper-picker-upper sheep. We performed this ritual several times. Claudia and I thought about taking him to one of those farms where you can let your shepherd dog herd sheep just for fun, but we never got around to it.
Rollo soon found something else he seemed to enjoy even more, and that was playing with balls—chasing them, fetching them, chewing them, pushing them, rolling them, kicking them, jumping on them, and biting them. It is a truly amazing sight. There’s so much energy and joie de vivre involved. To this day, whenever a ball rolls under a sofa, Rollo gets upset and barks at the sofa. Then you have to bend down and get the ball out. You better do what he wants or he’ll wail like a toddler.
Rollo also loved chewing on shoes when he was younger. Fortunately, he’s gotten over that behavior, but in the process we’ve lost a lot of shoes. One time I forgot that I had left my shoes under a table in our TV room. I was walking around the house when I met Rollo in a hallway holding one of my shoes in his mouth. He gave me a deer-in-the-headlights look, then he slowly turned around and tiptoed back into the TV room. He placed my shoe back under the table, right next to its mate, positioning it correctly so it was just the way I had left it. Then he tiptoed away as if pretending that nothing had happened.
Rollo could be quite an artist when it came to shoes. Maybe we should have framed his work instead of throwing it away. Maybe we should have established a little chewed-shoe museum so people could have paid admission to see it.
Rollo is also pretty good at finding weird things in the backyard and bringing them into the house—snails, lizards, strange-looking larvae and worms, caterpillars, and creatures that might have been space aliens. I’m not sure: I mean, I’ve seen Men in Black, and some of the stuff he brought in could have been small versions of the creatures from that movie. Our backyard looks like a typical backyard on the surface, but Rollo made us realize that it’s actually an amazing world full of amazing creatures.
One day as I was walking Daisy and Rollo, we saw a frog, or perhaps it was a toad. It was jumping ahead of us. Both Daisy and Rollo had been looking down, sniffing the asphalt and the grass. As the frog jumped in front of us, the dogs became very curious. They sniffed and looked closely at the frog, and then, for the first time, Rollo looked up at me, straight into my eyes, questioning. What is that? I got the strange feeling that he wanted me to explain.
I told Rollo, “It’s a frog.” Even though he doesn’t understand English—or at least I don’t think he does—it seemed like he wanted me to say more, give him some indication that this unfamiliar life form wasn’t dangerous. Then Rollo gently touched the frog with his paw and patted it a bit. He was enjoying himself, but the frog may have felt differently. The world is full of wonders when you’re a puppy.
It’s also full of things that can seem threatening. So even though we got a stroller for Daisy, the dog who I think uses it the most is Rollo—although not because he gets tired walking. On the contrary, he seems to have endless energy. But Rollo is a bit of an anxious dog, and he feels safe in the stroller.