Life Lessons from Nevada

Nevada was named after a long road trip out West.  Her colors match the desert, hence her name.

She's an old soul

We adopted her two weeks after adopting our Ridgeback, Shasta, from the SPCA, thinking two dogs wouldn’t be any more difficult to take care of than one.  For the most part this has been true, but having two larger sized dogs, both of whom are sight hounds and love to chase anything that moves, has not always been easy.

Nevada’s ancestry is a mystery, other than the ubiquitous “shepherd mix.”  We think she must be some type of herding breed because of her extreme need to always have the pack together, especially on walks or runs.  Of our two dogs, she is the quieter, gentler one, though she is also the more neurotic.  She was eight months old when we rescued her.  She has taught us a lot of life lessons that are very different from Shasta’s.


1. Be subtle.  When Nevada wants something she will usually do one of two things:  she will very gently walk up and softly nudge you with her nose, or she will stand facing you about two feet away and stare you down.  Unlike her in-your-face sister, she knows that subtlety is just as effective, if not more so, than pushiness.

This is her stare down when she wants something

2. Give frequent gifts to the ones you love.  When we come home, when we get up in the mornings, and sometimes when she wakes up from a nap, Nevada will always present you with some small trinket of love.  Usually it’s one of her bones or dog toys, but it can be anything.  Once I lost my shopping list before I even made it to the store, but when I came home it was the small gift Nevada presented me with at the door.

3. Do things together.  In Nevada’s perfect world the pack would always be together, 24/7.  She is visibly unhappy when Michael goes to work each morning, and it’s like the end of the world if the dogs are ever separated from each other.  In her world, families stick together.  Always.

4. You might have to work at it, but don’t fear the small stuff.  Nevada was a very fearful dog when we brought her home from the shelter, and her biggest fear was drain ditches.  Yes, those gaping black holes in the sides of curbs where water rushes in on rainy days.  I discovered this the first time I took her for a run and she nearly yanked my arm off when she came to a screeching halt before a drain ditch.  This happened over and over, at every single drain.  We have since worked with her in getting over this fear, but every once in awhile it still inexplicably stops her in her tracks. 

5. Run for the sheer joy of it, and don’t stop till you drop!  Nevada is a sprinter.  She loves to run all out for about two or three miles, then she’s done.  We have to keep her leashed at all times because she loves the freedom of running as fast as she can and has been known to go on long joy rides with Shasta. 

6. Speak softly, and be humble.  Nevada has no desire to the be pack leader.  She is more than contented to stay in the background and let others make the major decisions.  She is a follower and is more than happy to be led.  She accepts her place within the hierarchy of the pack and is appreciative of everything that’s done for her.  She’s no pushover, but she allows others who are less sensitive to take the lead.

7. Pay attention to the signals, and give things a little time, before you let someone get too close.  Nevada has a cautious nature, and that extends to the way she greets humans.  In general, she tends to trust women much quicker than she trusts men, and she’s leery of small children and their high levels of energy.  She has to know you awhile before she’ll let you get too close to her, and it has to be on her terms.

8. Routines and schedules can be a good thing.  Nevada doesn’t take change well at all.  She doesn’t like having her routines messed with.  She is the queen of daily sameness.

9. Let the rest of the family know when someone strays too far.  Nevada wants everyone together.  She’s happiest when we all take a walk, but doesn’t like it when anyone gets too far ahead or too far behind everyone else.  If we run, we have to stay closely together, like a military contingent, and she’s happiest right up front.  If someone lags behind, she’ll whine and nervously look behind until they catch back up.  If you should decide to completely break away from the group, she’ll yelp and whine to call you back.

10. There’s no place like home.  She’s a total homebody.  It’s her favorite place to be.  While she likes her walks and the dog park, there’s nothing like the safety and comfort of her own house, dog crate, dog mat, dog toys, and cool, hardwood floors.  Because home is her castle, and because of her hyper-sensitivity, she’s a great watchdog, alerting us to the slightest noises outside.  Home is where the heart and her family are.

Shasta and Nevada couldn’t be more different, but they strangely complement each other.  With Shasta I’ve had to learn to be assertive and confident.  Nevada has taught me to stand up to fear.  I was never much of a “dog person” before we got the dogs two summers ago.  Now I can’t imagine life without them.

Trying to hard to be good for a possible treat


  1. skippingstones

    I wasn’t a dog person, either, until a roommate convinced me to get a dog (about 20 years ago). But “big” pets are wonderful companions and teachers.

    I’m glad you have Shasta and Nevada, and I’m sure they’re glad they have you.

    • Mind Margins

      Yes, they are a lot of fun. Despite the aggravation from Shasta wanting to chase anything that moves, she is a real character. Nevada is quite simply the sweetest dog ever.

    • Mind Margins

      Thanks again for the Versatile Blogger Award. I shall cherish it always.

      You should definitely consider getting another dog. It helps to put the dogs together before you make your final decision to see how they get along. We did this at the shelter, and the first dog we liked did not like Shasta at all. We chose another, much calmer, dog (Nevada) and it’s been great.

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