Down here in Texas we use “bless her heart” for many reasons. My favorite use is for softening a possibly less-than-flattering comment or critique. Thus:
- She’s cranky as can be, bless her ole’ heart
- Billy Bob’s a handful, bless his little heart.
- Aunt Mary’s sure a gossip, bless her sweet heart.
So you’ll now understand when I say that some dogs – notably some big breeds, some hounds, and even some sporting breeds – won’t win many Nimble Awards,bless their doggie hearts.
After all, if they were bred for power (such as a Plott Hound bred to chase down large animals), we can’t find fault when they barrel into us when we step in their way. These big, fast, and strong breeds may love us dearly (bless their big ole’ hearts) but they can’t always stop their momentum.
In contrast, acute body awareness was bred into some groups of dogs (notably herding dogs, but others as well), for specific reasons. These breeds dominate the agility sport scene, but also can conveniently turn on a dime in the house or yard, thereby not tripping us or knocking us over.
My daughter’s Australian Shepherd, Cooper, recently turned a corner in the house at relatively high speed, and then almost magically side-stepped to avoid bumping into my one-year-old granddaughter. The other family dog, a Lab-mix, means no harm, but he’s a tad Klutzy (do I have to say “bless his heart” when he’s one of my own?)
Of course it makes sense that herding breeds are quick on their feet. No good comes of a herding breed that crashes into piglets, lambs, or calves. Breeds such as Border Collies and Australian Cattle Dogs need to be quick and keenly aware of their body, not only to avoid hurting little animals, but to avoid being trodden by big hooves.
“When I did agility with my Border Collie, Chance, I would sometimes make a mistake and give him a cue for the wrong obstacle,”says trainer Julie Flaneryof Philomath, Ore., Rally-FrEe creator. “He was so great at stopping in his tracks and re-directing to the new correctly cued obstacle, he rarely went off course.”
Flanery’s Cattle Dog/Border Collie cross, Jack, showed equal sprightliness. “One time Jack was running full speed toward the road from my house, intent on chasing some cyclists,” Flanery says. “He was at the top of the driveway, just about to head into the road, when I called to him.” Jack spun on his hind quarters without breaking speed, returning to Flanery (and nor did he knock her down!).
Other breeds that are light on their paws include Shetland Sheepdogs, Papillons, and Standard Poodles. That’s another way of saying if they step on you, they probably did it on purpose, bless their little hearts.