Richard G. Petty, MD

Lassie and the Shepherd

On the same day that I read some research purporting to show that dogs aren’t much good at sounding the alarm if a human is in trouble, I also read about a Scottish shepherd who collapsed after having a stroke while herding his flock. His two sheepdogs, Border Collies – surely the smartest dogs in the world – kept him warm overnight as he lay in a field. The following morning he was found by helicopter rescuers after one of the dogs ran around trying to catch their attention.

The research ended by saying that Lassie would probably have left Jimmy in the well.

But I’m not so sure. When I’m not traveling, I’m around animals all day long. They all have their personalities: they have their favorite other animals, their favorite – and least favorite – humans, as well as a clear sense of propriety. If one of the clan gets attention, then they all expect equal amounts of talking to, petting and generally being made a fuss over. They are all very good barometers of the character of the people whom they meet.

Some people come to the house and the dog and the cats are all over them like a nasty rash. With others they keep their distance or avoid them altogether.

If they like you they will do anything for you in their own feline, canine or equine ways. If you are not on their most favored humans list, they probably wouldn’t cross the road to spit on you if you were on fire.

I don’t see any evidence in the research that the dogs’ subjective feelings were taken into account.

It’s a safe bet that the Scottish shepherd loved those dogs like his own children and they probably reciprocated. You have to fabricate some really creative explanations as to why two dogs would stay out in the perishing cold with their human when they could have just taken off and found themselves a warm place for the night.

And as for my comment about the intelligence of Border Collies? You may have heard the jokes about how many dogs it takes to change a light bulb:

Golden Retriever:

The sun is shining, the day is young, we’ve got our whole lives ahead of us, and you’re inside worrying about a stupid burned out bulb?

Poodle: I’ll just blow in the Border Collie’s ear and he’ll do it. By the time he finishes rewiring the house, my nails will be dry.

Border Collie: Just me. And while I’m here I’ll make sure that your entire wiring is up to code.

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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