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The Hardest-Working Dog in New England

The Hardest-Working Dog in New England
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Campion crates Flossie and comes back with Tam, a 5-year-old collie who was born in Sweden and had been trained in England before Campion bought him last year. She’d picked Tam up at Logan Airport and driven him straight here. “Within 15 minutes he was working sheep,” she tells me. “Some dogs take six months to do that. I knew right away he was special.”
Tam weighs about 29 pounds, more than 10 pounds lighter than the average male Border collie. Campion says he doesn’t have as much “eye” as Flossie and isn’t as serious, but he’s got better stamina, is a natural outrunner, and is looser, “flankier,” quicker. She sends him out and away from her, and Tam responds, a little impatiently for Campion’s taste, dividing the still-clustered sheep and delivering half of them to a larger corral. He circles back and divides the remaining sheep in half again, an advanced piece of work, requiring the collie to communicate two things at once: You come with me; the rest of you stay. Two ewes dart away, and Tam has to take extra time to get them back in line. “He’s been off for a couple of weeks, relaxing,” Campion tells me, “so he’s a little antsy. But he’s going to be a great one.” She calls him back, and Tam races back up the hill and stops by her. He’s barely breathing hard, ready for his next assignment. His energy is infectious, joyous, his running beautiful.

A client of Campion’s named Molly shows up with a 10-year-old dog who needs some exercise, and two promising young dogs who need seasoning. All of them are working dogs: their job not to move sheep but to move Canada geese off Connecticut golf courses and corporate grounds. Molly gives me some insight about what makes a trainer good at what she does. “These dogs have to blend instinct and obedience,” she explains. “One reason Carol is so good: She can somehow be inside the dogs’ heads and the sheep’s heads at the same time. That’s very hard to do.”

Tam is now competing for qualifying points for the Northeast Border Collie Fall Foliage Championship, set for October 6-8 (details at nebca.net). “I have many promising youngsters from his breeding line,” Campion told us this spring. “The talent is showing up in the next generation.” She added that she’d like readers to understand that Border collies don’t make great pets “unless the owner is willing to put in the work. They’re working dogs.”

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