I was asked recently why I need my service dog to be nearby when I am swimming.  I could as easily have been asked why I need her nearby when I have tea with a friend, go to the dentist or try on red, high top Converse sneakers.  The answer is, I need her with me all the time, just in case.

Service dogs spend a lot of time waiting, waiting for their partner to get up and take hold of their harness, signaling that they are on the move, waiting for the phone to ring so that they need to alert their person to a sound, waiting to see if pain is on the way so that they can hold it at bay, the way a protection dog might keep a criminal from running off.  Being there is a good thing, even when there’s not much to do.  Because if you aren’t there, you can’t help should the need arise.

Of course, this means that working dogs need thoughtful management, lots of long walks, a chance to play ball, play with other dogs, swim in a pond, and even time just to be, to take in the scents and scenes and think their own thoughts and recharge their batteries so that when more than waiting is required, they are up for the job like no one else on earth.

Lots more about the raising, training and care of one particular service dog in Do Border Collies Dream of Sheep?   Donald McCaig writes, in Bark Magazine, “As a child, I was enthralled by Jack London, Eric Knight and Albert Payson Terhune.  Somehow, magically, the stray mutts my family took in became like White Fang, Lassie and Lad of Sunnybrook Farm.  Do Border Collies Dream of Sheep? stands comparison with those classics.”