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home : opinions : columns   May 3, 2016

8/14/2013 8:11:00 AM
Column: Smart dogs and life

Kevin Caufield
NT Reporter

A little more than a year ago my wife and I welcomed into our home a months-old Border Collie we bought from a sheep farmer in Southern Illinois. We named her Nox, after the Roman goddess of night.
Nox is about 14-months old now and she continues to impress us. She knows more than 80 commands and tricks. If you want her to bow, make eye contact and say “bow.” Or, stand in front of her and when you bow toward her she’ll return the gesture. Or, place your hand near your hip and swipe it in a downward motion and she’ll bow. If you want her to do it perfect each time it’ll cost you a peanut or a small piece of ice.
The past few days I’ve been watching Nox a little more closely because I’m reminded of a dog in the news recently: Kali, the Peru Police Department K-9 officer who died in a terrible traffic accident while on duty.
For those of you who may not know, Kali was a Belgian Malinois — a breed that carries most of the same temperament features as a Border Collie. Heck, they might as well be twins.
Both have exceptional intelligence and are easy to train. They share a very intense prey-drive. That doesn’t mean they are aggressive or dangerous. Prey-drive comes from a wolf’s natural tendency to spot prey, fixate on it, stalk it, chase it, grab it, and kill it.
Through the years humans have bred dogs selectively keeping some of these traits while discarding others. Nox, and other herding dogs like Kali, for example, no longer have the “kill it.” If Nox did, her ancestors wouldn’t make very many sheep herders happy. However, many K-9 dogs are trained to protect their handlers so perhaps Kali’s “kill” instinct had been well-tuned through training.
 The Belgian Malinois is a little larger than most Border Collies, but both are generally medium-sized dogs with strong, lean bodies and possess fantastic athleticism. You’ll find both of these breeds have no problem plucking Frisbees out of the air.
They also have very high energy which is great for herding or police work, I’ve taken Nox to dog parks with other dogs and she’ll be running full speed after 40 minutes while me, the other dogs and their owners are loafing around tired.
But my favorite feature of herding breeds like the Belgian Malinois and Border Collie is their willingness to please their masters and solve problems. For example, Nox has learned to take her Frisbee and use it as a scoop to lift her tennis balls into the air. If I tell her “jolly” she’ll stare me in the eyes, cock her head for a moment, then run gleefully until she finds her big purple ball.
I can imagine Peru police officer Art Smith and his family have had similar moments with Kali. It must have been difficult for them and the entire police department to lose such a trustworthy friend, co-worker and if she was anything like Nox, a show-off.
We ask police officers like Smith and Kali to do things most probably would never do. We ask them to chase bad guys armed with guns at hundreds of miles per hour to keep us safe. And they do so without hesitation.
It’s unfortunate that a motorist got a green traffic light at that moment — and just like any one of us would have and has done thousands of times — pressed the gas pedal. It’s unfortunate that Officer Smith and Kali were doing what we ask them to do that exact moment. It’s unfortunate that at one precise moment their worlds literally collided and changed the lives of everyone involved.
There is no one to blame. It’s just sad. If anything, Kali’s death should serve as a reminder of the risks we ask police officers to make for us. It should remind us that our lives can change at an instant, sometimes horribly.
And it should motivate us to spend a little extra time with those we love, whether their ears are rounded or perked.

Kevin Caufield can be reached at (815) 220-6932 or

Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, August 17, 2013
Article comment by: MotherEarthSpeaks

Canines are unconditional lovers and healers--even the quiet ones that do not do tricks or sniff out danger.

We owe them much gratitude for the peace, comfort, gentle kindness and heart-based support they bring to all. They all have heart-smarts, a particularly valuable quality that sometimes gets overlooked. The healing canines brought to hospitals are examples, as are the mutts that traverse war zones and ghettos.

They are all deserving of our respect, love, honor, and love.

The ones WE place in danger volunteer with their hearts and souls. Kali chose to end that phase of her soul growth. She seeks a more gentle way next time...
Perhaps she will be that quiet, soft, ugly loving mutt that a family or individual in need discovers just at the right time.

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