Cody Crazy Hair, A Collie Like No Other

You are currently viewing Cody Crazy Hair, A Collie Like No Other
Cody and Jeff

Welcome to Collie Chatter, a place for people who love Rough Collies and Smooth Collies. We cover various aspects of Collie care and discuss stories that highlight the special relationships between Collies and their people. I’m Emily Sowulewski, a writer who’s had Collies for over 25 years, and I’ll be your host. The song you heard, “A Dog on A Day,” is by Jeff Hyman, and it’s available as a s single on Amazon or you can purchase the whole album called Old Dogs New Tricks.

In this first podcast episode, I have a conversation with Jeff Hyman, who began his career as a musician with The Gaslight Singers folk band in the 1960s. Though always a dog lover, Jeff did not have personal experience with Collies until later in his life. Now he is a devoted Collie fan, and his Rough Collie Cody (who looks like he was in an 80s hair bands himself!) even helps him sell music albums. Together we discuss several topics: singing, the music industry, the differences between hunting breeds like Labs versus herding breeds like Collies, potty training a puppy, Collie grooming and shedding, Collie popularity, canine toothbrushing and oral hygiene tools, Collie temperament and intelligence, Collies with sensitive stomachs, Collies who are picky eaters, and other unique Collie characteristics.

Table of Contents

Jeff and Cody take a selfie, headshots of themselves close together while smiling at the camera
Selfie time with Jeff and Cody

Old Dog New Tricks Album

Emily
Jeff, I bought  your Old Dogs New Tricks album, and I absolutely love that you have a picture of Cody on the album cover with you. I’ve got to say that I really enjoyed listening to all the songs on there. I thought we could talk about how that album came to be, and a little about your music career.

Jeff
I think of myself as eclectic, because I do songs in different genres. When I did Old Dog New Tricks, that album was done on the East Coast before I moved here [to California]. I didn’t intend to make an album. “Love, Love, Love,” was the first song I recorded with some friends of mine, and then I liked the way it sounded. So I said, “Well, maybe I’ll do another one.” And before I knew it, I had – I think there’s ten of them on that album. So it just kind of happened.

Emily
That’s a neat way for it to just sort of happen. I mean, it sounds like you have a theme; it sounds like you planned it all out. I guess that’s sort of the magic – when you just fall into something like that.

Jeff
Yeah, I can’t say I planned it, because I don’t remember the sequence of the songs. But what happened was, I just found songs that I liked. Then when I was about three or four songs in, I wound up working with this gal, Beth Bradley. She sings with me on a lot of the songs on that album, “Somewhere in Time” in particular.

A very fluffy sable (tan) and white Rough Collie (longhaired Collie) stands on wooden stairs with guitars hanging on wood-paneled walls beside him
Cody, a Rough Collie with fabulous style

Jeff
And she knew this guy, Rob Carlson, who was in a band – I forget the name of it – a very, very talented singer/songwriter. So we started getting together in his basement every Wednesday night. I’d bring a bottle of wine, and he had this amazing recording setup. I didn’t record there, but we were able to put the headphones on with the microphones and really just have a great time.

Jeff
So I lived for Wednesday evenings. Out of those get-togethers, he wound up producing maybe six of the songs that are on that album. And he just did a great job. So I had him, and I had another gal that used to come – great singers. Beth plays an amazing guitar, and it just kind of came out of casual get-togethers that we had that spawned ideas that brought us into the studio.

Emily
That sounds really fun.

Jeff
Oh my God, I lived for it! I was working in those days. So I would get home from work around 6:00 or 6:30 and just gobble dinner down as quickly as I possibly could to get into the car to go to Rob’s house.

3 young men and one young woman pose with instruments in front of a gaslit wallpapered setting
Jeff (far left) with The Gaslight Singers in 1963

Jeff
You know, I had been out of music for decades. I left The Gaslight Singers in ’64, and I don’t think I touched my guitar for like, 30 years. And I got married, raised the family, went to work, and didn’t really bother much with it until much later on.

Emily
And then you had time, and it all came together. That’s pretty neat.

Mecca for Music

Jeff
So when I came out here [to California], which is four years ago after I retired, I just knew that this was like Mecca for music. And I got some advice early on about how to get into the music community. That’s what I did. I made the other album, I do the radio show, and it’s just part of the whole thing. I love it, and it really means everything to me.

an album cover reads "Jeff Hyman - Pick Yourself Up" with a picture of Jeff standing in a cave with his guitar and a larger Jeff reaching in through the cave opening with a helping hand to lift him out
Jeff's second solo album

Emily
Yeah, that’s sort of inspiring. Wednesday nights, my partner and I go and hang out with a group of friends, talk about spiritual things, and question things. I actually really liked your song “Let the Mystery Be,” because it’s sort of refreshing to find a perspective of: “You know, maybe we don’t know all the answers, but that’s fine – not going to worry about it.”

Emily
But we just talk about life. And I realized that almost all of us in that group formally sang in different groups, so I keep telling everyone, “We need to have a karaoke night. They have a piano at my friend’s house. We’ll see what happens just for the fun of it. I really miss singing with people. When I was listening to your album, it sort of had a feeling of closeness with the voices blending together. It just made me realize, I miss this quite a bit.

Jeff
Yeah, you know, if you have it in your DNA and in your soul, it’s really something that you want to let out and you want to experience. Not everybody has the talent to do things like that, whether it’s to play an instrument or sing well, but it really doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that they do it and that they enjoy doing it. Because I find that when I am making music, I am in a zone that I just love. It lets whatever’s in there out, so I can understand why anybody would want to do that.

A photo shows The Gaslight Singers in 1963 versus them reunited in 2013
The Gaslight Singers reunion

Jeff
You know, other people get into athletics. I was never athletic. When we played punch bowl or stickball – I grew up in New York and we played those games – they used to choose the girls before me.

Emily
I was usually picked last for kickball growing up, so I can relate.

Jeff
Yeah, I had this friend of mine back East, and he was like a great basketball player. He was so good that his job in the Army was playing basketball exhibition games for the soldiers. I said, “Neil, I’d give anything to be able to make a layup like you do.”

Jeff
And he looked at me and said, “Well, I’d give anything to be able to play the guitar like you do.” And therein lies it all. That’s just where it’s at. Do something, doesn’t matter what it is.

An old black and white photo of Jeff Hyman in his twenties beside his dad
Jeff Hyman and his dad back in the day

Emily
Yeah, play to your skills, and don’t worry about what you can’t do, I guess.

Jeff
Right. And your talents, God-given. If you have it, then you should use it.

Singing Is Soul Cleansing

Emily
Yeah, I agree. So a little bit inspiring, and maybe I need to get back into that. It’s just a nice emotional release. Singing is sort of soul cleansing, isn’t it? If you really feel what you’re singing.

Jeff
It is. And if you’re doing it with others, there’s a camaraderie that you have. The thing that I love about singing with others is that everybody is sharing the exact moment at the exact time. You have to, if you’re singing in group or you’re singing background or harmonies or whatever, you have to be right in the zone with everybody else. And so you can have three or four people sharing a precise moment in time. Together. And where where else do you do that? (I mean, if you play a team sport, that’s another way to do it…)

The Gaslight Singers at the US Naval Academy in 1963

Emily
Yeah, there’s just something about singing in a group that really grounds you in the present, because you have to pay attention.

Jeff
Exactly. Or you’ll get thrown out! Unless you’re just doing it for fun – then it doesn’t matter.

Emily
Yeah, I’ve had a lot of fun singing with off-key singers. They were tone deaf, but oh the joy! They had so much fun. In my college singing group, when we were recording, we would set up our microphones in a circle. Singing in that circle, you could really hear each other. Great memories.

Jeff
Well, back in the old days and the folk music days, they called it hootenannies. I’m talking about the very, very early 60s. Kingston Trio was really big, and everybody wanted to be a folk singer. So we would go down to Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, and everybody would show up with banjos and guitars or whatever else they played and just like cluster together, play songs together, sing songs together, then move along to another cluster. And it was amazing. You don’t see that anymore.

An old album cover labeled "Hootenany Tonight!" featuring songs by several singers

Emily
That sounds fantastic, actually – an open air sing.

Jeff
Yeah, and it was facilitated by the genre. If you’re doing heavy metal, it’s hard to do that. But folk music – it’s called “folk music” for a reason. You know, you didn’t even need an instrument. You could just show up and sing along.

Emily
Yeah, just burst into a capella. Well, hey, it was great talking about music with you, since I downloaded the album that had a picture of you and Cody on it. We’re supposed to be talking about Cody, but I guess I could probably talk about music for a long time with you.

cd album cover picturing Cody and Jeff posed together beside a guitar
Cody says more album covers should feature dogs

The Cody Trademark

Jeff
Well, if you get me started on Cody… You better make lunch, because I can talk about him all day!

Jeff
You know, I put him on the album. It was just something that came to me, which is how most things happen with me. I just all of a sudden get an idea. And I got this thought about how cool it would be – because he’s so beautiful – how cool it would be to put him on the cover with me. And I figured, if nothing else, he’ll get the attention instead of me, and maybe people will buy the CD.

Emily
That was a good marketing strategy, really.

Jeff
That’s what it was; it was primarily a marketing strategy. So that’s what happened. When we did the photo shoot for the album, the guy came and took a lot of pictures (had a great photographer), and there he was – old Cody.

Emily
Well, the thing about him is, with all that hair, he’s just so recognizable. I mean, talk about having a brand. I’ve never seen another Collie with the facial hair like that, the bangs (or whatever you call them) in front of the ears are very, very unique. So whenever he popped up in the Collie [Facebook] groups, you knew it was Cody right away from the hair. With other dogs, there are so many sable and white collies. You’re saying, “Which one is that? Do I know that person?” But with him, you never wonder. It’s like, “Oh yeah, that’s definitely Cody.”

Cody stands at the top of the stairs with his bangs straight up in the air from static electricity
Bedhead looks good on Cody

Jeff
Well, that’s his trademark. I get comments on that all the time. I just posted a picture of his – I don’t know whether you saw it – about a week ago. That hair he has: people call him Fabio, Rod Stewart… He’s got that look. When he shakes his head, it stands up like Einstein. And I’m coming up the stairs the other day, and I round the corner, and he’s just standing there looking down at me with that hair straight up in the air. I just grabbed my phone, took the picture, and put it up on the Rough Collie [Facebook] group. As of today, it’s gotten about 932 reactions, and about 175 comments.

Emily
That’s a lot to keep up with!

Jeff
It definitely is. And I respond to every comment, at least with a heart or something.

Emily
To acknowledge it was seen?

Jeff
Yeah. He’s very popular because – the hair. Everybody’s always asking me about it.

Cody and Jeff lie beside each other propped up on pillows and looking deep in conversation
Sharing sleepover secrets

Emily
Yeah, I think that’s the one that I saw and commented on. You know, just that sheer mad genius energy. Then I messaged you and it sort of led to… You know, I’ve used a picture of Cody before. Why haven’t I used him as a featured image? (The one that shows up when you post a link to an article.) And then I thought, Well, hey, if I’m going to give him a featured image, why don’t I give him his own story?  Then I thought, Well, Jeff seems like he’d enjoy a conversation. So, you’re my guinea pig, Jeff. You’re my podcast guinea pig – you and Cody. We’ll see how this goes.

Jeff
Well, I’m honored. Would you like me to tell you a little bit about him and how we got him?

Hunting Dogs Versus Herding Dogs

Emily
Yeah! So you had told me a little bit about how you got into into Collies with your wife, with the blue merle Ricky, who was destined to be a show dog, and then you ended up adopting him. So I guess start at the beginning. I really liked what you said about having Labs [Labrador Retrievers], that they’re like the guy at the party with the lampshade on his head.

Jeff
Right, exactly. That’s how I describe them. I’ve had Labs. I’ve had a lot of dogs. Actually, my first one was a German Shorthaired Pointer, which as a puppy was given to us as a gift when my wife was like eight months pregnant with our first child. So it was a little challenging.

3 labrador retrievers (chocolate, yellow, and black) sitting outside lined up in a row
PC: Field Dog Imagery

Jeff
But I had Labs for most of my life and I loved them. You know, they’re just the friendly guys and gals, and they love you, and they’re happy. Some of them are very exuberant. Some of them are more laid-back. That’s why I use the term that they’re like the guy with the lampshade on his head at the party, because that’s their nature. And I always had them.

Jeff
Then I met Donna, my current wife, and she came from a family that was a college family.

Jeff
Her brother, when he was eight years old, was a huge Lassie fan. Everything just revolved around Lassie. One year he went to camp, and while he was away, his parents got him a collie puppy which they named Happy.

A joyful sable and white Rough Collie puppy with a Lassie blaze runs down the road
PC: Laura Hark-Plumley

Emily
Aww, that’s a good name.

Jeff
And this was everything to Jimmy – everything to him. He was always a huge Collie fan. Then later on in life, he had 4 of them at the same time. That’s what he had when I met Donna. So I go to his house, and there were these 4 Collies. They actually looked a little odd to me because I wasn’t used to the long nose. I didn’t know anything about them. And they went about their business, as Collies will do.

Picasso Filled in the Rest

Jeff
Then when Donna and I got engaged, Jimmy gave us a Collie as an engagement present and he was the most magnificent blue merle. He was 8 months old when we got him. Like you said, he was supposed to be a show dog, but they changed their mind. I used to say that he was born white, and Picasso filled in the rest. That’s how beautiful he was with his coloring. I would take him out and people would say, “Oh my God, he’s so beautiful!”

Jeff
And Ricky had a much different personality than Cody. Ricky was very circumspect. My son described him as he was like Joe DiMaggio, Joe D – just smooth as silk, a lot of class, you know? That kind of a thing. He knew how to work a room.

a blue merle Rough Collie (longhaired Collie with grey/blue/black/tan spots and white markings) lies outside regally
Ricky in all his classic glory

Jeff
I noticed when we first got him that we’d call him, when we’d be in the bedroom, and he’d come to the door. He’d look, he’d just take the measure of the room, see what was going on – I could see the wheels turning – then he would decide whether he would come in or not. And that was his personality. He was very sweet, very loving, very protective – but circumspect. You know, a little on the… cool side.

Jeff
Cody, on the other hand, is totally different. He loves everybody. He can’t wait to interact with everybody: the tail is going, and he’s smiling. I take him to the dog park, and he doesn’t really bother with the dogs. He’s always working the humans for butt rubs and things like that. He’s just got a totally different nature, just the sweetest guy.

Emily
So Cody thinks everyone’s there for him. That’s why they came?

Jeff
Yeah, Cody thinks that everybody loves him as much as we do. And I could see why, because he’s never had any interaction with a human that was unpleasant. They always flock to him.

Cody takes a selfie with Jeff and two of his singer friends
Cody and Jeff with Kelli L. and Wendi

Frequent Flyer

Jeff
He flew with us in the cabin three times. We went to Florida one year and back. Then the flight out here to California, and he flew in the cabin with us. He sat on a seat, in between the two of us when we came here,  for six hours and didn’t move a muscle. He just sat. He had water; he had pretzels. If he’s with us, he’s cool. That’s his thing. And everybody made such a fuss over him, as you can imagine. And he loves that. He just loves people – children in particular.

Emily
Wow, he’d be a great therapy dog. You could take him anywhere.

Jeff
He would. You know, I’ve been wanting to get him – I can’t do it now because of Covid – but I’ve been wanting to get him to like, nursing homes with seniors.

Cody on the plane beside Donna, calmly lying with his head in her lap while she reads
Cody and Donna having plane cuddles

Emily

Oh, they would love him! They would eat him up.

Jeff
Exactly. Or even hospices. You know, one of the Collies in the group does that. (Only one that I know of.) And Cody brings such joy to people; they light up when they see him. I thought it would be really nice to bring a little light into their lives. So when we’re able to do that, we will.

Emily
Yeah, it sounds like he would be ideal, and everyone would say, “Lassie!” Then they would probably ask why Lassie’s hair kept growing.

It Only Took a Week

Jeff
They say, “Lassie” all the time. When I had Ricky, the merle, one guy looked at him and he said, “Lassie in camouflage.” I thought that was pretty funny.

Emily
Yeah, that’s a perfect description of a merle. They’re just so unique looking. So did you have any Collies between Ricky and Cody?

Ricky the blue merle Rough Collie poses wtih Jeff's son Scott at Scott's wedding
Ricky and his buddy Scott

Jeff
No. When Ricky died (he got cancer and he died at 11 years old), we were looking at retirement. So we said to ourselves, “I don’t think it makes sense to get another Collie now, because we’re thinking about retiring and suppose we want to travel? Maybe we shouldn’t.”

Jeff
It only took a week without a Collie. The house was so dark, spiritually and emotionally without Ricky, because we just loved Ricky with all of our hearts, obviously. And it was like the light went out, and the house was unbearable. And we said, “No, no, we’ve got to get another one!”

Jeff
But it took a while, because what’s interesting is you never see Collies. I mean, I never see them anywhere. But yet when you go to get one, it’s not that easy. My brother-in-law had a relationship with one of the really good breeders in the area. And after about four weeks, she found a puppy in Pennsylvania, at a breeder that she works with. So Donna and I got in the car on a Saturday, drove to Pennsylvania, and picked up Cody. From the moment he got out of the car at our house, he was just calm and at home – and it was just amazing! I have a video of it on YouTube actually, of the first day, of how we got him.

cody as a fluffy puppy stands confidently beside Donna with his front feet on the back of the couch
Cody the confident Collie puppy

Emily
Oh, you also have a YouTube channel! We’ll have to put that in a link.

Jeff
I do. I have a couple of them actually.

Emily
So what are your YouTube channels?

Jeff
Well, one is “Jeff Hyman Music,” and the other one is just “Jeff Hyman.” I wish that the content was as easily definable, but I have music on one on the Jeff Hyman channel before I did the Jeff Hyman Music channel, and I think the Cody video – it’s called Cody Comes Home to Stamford” – is on the Jeff Hyman channel. If anybody wants to see it, they could just Google it. I’ve got Ricky videos on there. I did a video of Ricky actually “talking,” and it was about 30 minutes of him telling us what it was like to live with us, what life in the Hyman house was like from his own perspective. “Ricky in His Own Words,” I think that’s what I called it.

Emily
Okay, I like that idea. We’ll definitely put links, because I think people will enjoy that for sure. So how old was Cody when you got him?

Cody as a puppy lies outside with a rabbit toy between his front paws
Calm Collie puppy

Easy Potty Training

Jeff
Ricky was eight months. Cody was eight weeks, and he was just very easy from the beginning. He wasn’t much of a chewer, but we made sure that he had lots of things to chew on. And he was very calm.

Emily
How easy was he to potty train? You were probably answering that next!

Jeff
Yeah, I was just going to say, we crate trained him. He got the idea pretty quickly. I guess he just maybe needed to figure out how to control it, so I’m going to say maybe three weeks.

Emily
That’s actually really good. I mean, some people talk about how easy their Collie puppies were to potty train compared to other breeds. You know, other breeds can take a year or more sometimes. Most people I talked to say that their Collies were potty trained within a few months, definitely under a year. So that is pretty incredible.

Fluffy puppy Cody stands outside with Donna, while his tongue hangs out the side of his mouth
Fluffy, derpy, happy

Jeff
Maybe four weeks – no more than that.

Emily
I mean, I believe you! Some people have said a week or two. It’s just really remarkable how they can pick it up so quickly sometimes.

Jeff
Yeah, well, after about three or four weeks, what we did was: there were two entrances to the kitchen, so I got a couple of gates and then we would leave him in the kitchen. So he didn’t have to be in the crate, but he couldn’t get out of the kitchen. The kitchen had a tile floor, so if anything happened…

Emily
Oh, that’s perfect!

Young Cody stands with his front paws atop a baby gate
Baby gates are helpful housebreaking tools

Jeff
Yeah, and he had an occasional accident, but he was young. For the most part, he did pretty well.

Jeff
But Ricky, on the other hand, pooped on my carpet his whole life. I’m not saying he did it all the time (fortunately, it wasn’t that often), but he did it. I mean, my living room carpet – forget it. We used to call it the old Indian dumping grounds, because he would invariably have a surprise for us every now and then.

Recommended Breeders

Emily
Oh, wow… So would you recommend Cody’s breeder to other people?

Jeff
Unquestionably. Can I say who it is?

Emily
Yeah, yeah – that would be great.

a small blue merle Rough Collie puppu happily licks the cheek of a smiling young girl
Photo credit: Cando Collies

Jeff
Oh, okay. It’s Cando Collies, and the owner, Linda Wooleyhan, is a great breeder. Cody’s mother is one of Linda’s Collies. His father is a Milas Collies: that would be Lynn Butler. She’s got champions all over the world, Lynn does. So Cody came out of Cando, and I would recommend Cando – or Lynn – in a heartbeat. High quality, and they know what they’re doing.

Emily
Well, perfect, because we have a breeder directory on Collie Chatter, and we like to list breeders that have been recommended by other people as having good Collies.

Jeff
That’s a big help. When people are looking for one, that’s an excellent guide to have. Because otherwise, if you don’t know, it’s easy to get involved with a breeder that you shouldn’t be.

Emily
Right, yeah. So it’s definitely a word of mouth, trusted source sort of thing. Like, “We’ve had a good experience, and we think you would too.” I think that helps people, when they’re searching.

Jeff
Oh yeah, definitely.

A woman rides a grey horse, while one mahogany (dark) sable and white Collie stands on his hind legs to greet the woman while another smiling Collie looks on
Photo credit: Milas Collies

The Fantastic Fur

Emily
So my next question… When Cody was a puppy, was there any indication that fantastic fur would grow in, or did he look normal?

Jeff
You mean on his head? No. If you look at the picture on the album cover – now let’s see, how old would he have been? Maybe he was a year old at the time when that picture was taken.

Emily
Oh, so he was still a baby!

A young smiling Cody showing off his spiky forehead poof
Young Cody and his spiky poof

Jeff
Yeah, maybe a little more: it’s possible. But his hair in that picture is spiked, and it wasn’t that long. That’s why it was at a length where it just stood up. It was pretty cute, actually, where it stood up.

Jeff
But as he got older, it grew and grew and grew until finally it is what it is now. It’s very long and very unique. It’s also very fine. People say to me, “Well, can you style it, you know, put a little gel in it?” I’ve tried to braid it, because I thought that would be cool; but it’s too fine. It won’t hold the braid.

Jeff
I have one picture… A friend of mine came over and put a rubber band in it down by the base of his head, so that it stood up. And he looked like a Japanese samurai in that picture!

Emily
Oh, perfect!

Cody displays his bangs held upright by a rubber band
Cody rocking a high ponytail

Jeff
But there’s really not much you can do with it, you know. It is what it is.

Emily
Well, if you can find that picture and if you want to send in a few more… I’d really like for people to see a sampling of Cody’s hair in different phases, or moods, or static electricity.

Jeff
Alright. I only have, I don’t know, 3,000 pictures, so I should be able to find…

Emily
A few that’ll do?

Jeff
Yeah, you don’t need all 3,000.

Emily
Probably not, but, you know, a good sampling of your favorites or his finest moments.

Asmall blond-haired young boy stands with his arms around Cody's neck
Cody and Jeff's grandson Graham

A Class by Himself

Emily
Have you ever seen another Collie like him, as far as the facial fur, the bangs, or whatever you want to call it? Or is he really in a class by himself?

Jeff
I think that everybody who knows him or sees him would say he’s in a class by himself. I’ve never seen a Collie with hair like that (at that length in the way it is), although others probably do exist. But there are Collies in the group that have similar hair. One of them that comes to mind is this Collie Izzy who’s owned by Carolyn G. Izzy is a girl, she’s beautiful, and she has hair very similar to Cody’s; but it’s not quite as full or long.

Emily
The male Collies always seem to just have a little more majestic flow to their fur in general.

Cody sits inside on plush carpet that is very outplushed by his fur
An extra-plush Rough Collie

Jeff
Yeah, and the other thing is that Cody also has an amazingly full coat. Ricky didn’t. Ricky’s coat was was flatter, but Cody is like thick and lush. So the combination of that coat and his hair kind of make him very special. People have to see him to understand, because I’m sure that most people that will be listening have never seen anything like it. I mean, every time I post a picture of him or a video or anything, there’s always, always a lot of comments about his hair – even from people who have commented ten times about his hair already. It’s just something that people notice.

Emily
It is incredible. Every time I see a photo, I laugh. Like, “There’s Cody again.” Just his existence brings joy to people who see the photos, I think.

Jeff
That’s so sweet. You know, people tell me that all the time. He also has an infectious smile. You can see how happy and joyful he is in his pictures, and I think people pick up on that. And when people say to me, “Oh, you made my day; I’m so happy right now.” Or, “I really feel better…” It really, really makes me feel good. It does. I’m happy that they react that way to him.

Cody lies on a bed happily grinning at the camera
Cody and his infectious smile

Worldwide Collie Love

Emily
I guess that’s one of the the beauties of the Internet now. In the Rough Collies international Facebook group, you know, 16,500 people all over the world just loving their Collies together… It is pretty amazing.

Jeff
It is, and that’s only one group! There are other groups. But I’ve been a member of the Collie group since 2009. I was in a pet store one day – I had Ricky then – and this woman comes up to me. She has a Collie, and we get talking, and she tells me about this group. So I said, “Oh, wow, that sounds pretty good. I think I’ll join it.” And I did. I’ve just been an addicted member, I guess, for the last 11 years. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t scroll through and interact with what I call my “Collie family.”

Jeff
I did, I think about 11 Collie videos that are also available on YouTube. Those videos have pictures (sometimes a little bit of video, but it’s mostly pictures) of Collies in the group from all over the world. Each video has a different theme to it. One video shows a plane flying from point A to point B on a globe, and say it lands in Texas. Then the next thing you’ll see are Collies from Texas, and each picture has the name of the Collie. Then the plane flies to the next state, which is Alabama, and the Alabama pictures play.

International travel video featuring photos of Collies worldwide

Jeff
So every video has a different theme and a different way of exploring the geography of where these amazing Collies are from. And the music is good, you know, there’s music underneath the video and all of that. I have a section in there which I called “In Memoriam,” and those are the dogs that passed. It’s a lot of work, because I have to extract all of these pictures from Facebook and then organize them. So I haven’t done one in a couple of years: I’m just kind of a little burnt out on them. But they’re there, if anybody is interested in seeing them. There’s about 10 or 11 of them on YouTube.

Emily
Yeah, I’ll check it out. The guy who actually designed Collie Chatter – I just write the content, he makes it pretty – can probably relate more to the work that goes into those videos, because he likes to do stuff like that. But we’ll go through and put some links so people can view the archives.

Jeff
Yeah, I really think that your listeners, being Collie people, would enjoy these because everybody does. I got a great reaction to them. And what could be so bad about 30 minutes of beautiful Collies with some good music?

Emily
Yeah, that’s fantastic. It’s just so great to me that Rough Collies in particular (I know, Smooth Collies too), but Rough Collies in particular are so associated with Lassie that people know what they are worldwide. And not every breed has that. So it’s very much a uniting factor.

A young boy sleeps under a tree while Lassie, the sable and white Rough Collie of television fame, gently paws at his chest to wake him
The reason Collies are called "Lassie dogs"

Collie Popularity

Jeff
Oh, yeah, there’s no question. What’s interesting to me is the fact that I never see any. The only time I see a Collie is every October. There’s a rescue group here, Southland Collie Rescue, and they run an event at one of the dog parks. You know, everybody comes with Collies. I always go (I take Cody, obviously) and there’s maybe 25 Collies there. And that’s the only time I ever see a Collie.

Jeff
People always tell me when I meet ’em 0n the street… (Cody is like a magnet: everybody wants to touch him and chat.) And they say to me, “Oh you know, when I was a kid I had a Collie.” And I think to myself, If you had a Collie when you were a kid, how could you possibly not have one now?

Emily
Yeah, those of us who are breed addicts… (Uh, ME.) I will always have a Collie. I had ’em when I was a kid, and I can’t imagine not having a Collie now.

Jeff
Yeah, exactly. So it’s a mystery to me that I just never see them. Back East was the same thing. I never saw a Collie. I could go anywhere, and occasionally maybe I’d see one. Actually when we came out to visit here in California the first time… We didn’t have Cody with us; we were just visiting our kids for a week. We went into Fashion Island, which is a big mall out here. We come out of one of the stores, and lo and behold, right in front of us is this beautiful Collie. We couldn’t believe it. I think it’s the only one I’ve ever seen, outside of the get-together. I don’t get it.

3 Collies, 1 tricolor and 2 blue merle, race side by side through a fenced-in green park
Photo credit: Southland Collie Rescue

Emily
Now I’m in Jacksonville, Florida, so I have met a few Collies at dog parks. It’s a city of about one million people, but I’ve only seen a few. I see lots of other breeds, but Collies are just not that common anymore. I was just looking this up the other day. Collies are ranked 38th in popularity, according to how many get registered with the AKC (the American Kennel Club) every year. When you think about it… There’s *200 breeds, I wanna say, that are recognized by the AKC. So 38th in popularity is actually closer to the top.

Jeff
Well, I’d like to see the other 37!

Emily
I think they’re probably in the show ring prancing around, maybe not as much with the general public. I think the fur kind of puts people off.

sable and white rough collie stands at attention in a ring at a dog show
Rough Collie show dog PC: Dogster

Collies and Shedding

Jeff
I was just going to say, a very common question when I’m out with Cody is people will say to me, “Oh, he’s probably a lot of work, right? Does he shed a lot? Collies shed a lot, right?”

Jeff
And then I have to explain to them that they have topcoats and undercoats. Cody – and Ricky didn’t either – is not a big shedder. I mean, my Labs used to shed a lot more, because they’ve got short hair and the hairs fall out. They grow to a certain length; they fall out. But with the Collies, it’s always the undercoat where the the big growth is. When you brush them, all of that comes out. But I don’t get a lot of topcoat shedding, do you?

Emily
No, I tell people other than the big pre-summer blowout (once a year with my male and twice a year with my female), Collie shedding is not that bad. If you devote 10 to 20 minutes once a week and you keep up on it, it’s very manageable. A Collie friend of mine told me that when she needs to clean up the hair, she just turns on her ceiling fan, all the little fur tumbleweeds blow into the corners, and she collects it that way. I thought, That’s very ingenious.

A tricolor (black, white, and tan) Rough Collie poses beside his caterpillar toy and a pile of fur
Jake's human has got her grooming stystem down! Instagram: @colliejake

Jeff
It is. There’s no question.

Emily
And you can kind of ball it up between your fingers. It’s not spiky. I know what you mean, because I had Labs growing up, too. Collie fur doesn’t really poke you. It’s soft, so it’s different.

Jeff
Exactly. We take Cody once a week for a 15 minute brush. It used to be (when PetSmart was doing it pre-Covid) it was $8 for a 15 minute brush. Our backs can’t do it anymore: if we try to brush him, we suffer. So we would take him over to PetSmart. We had a great guy over there, and after 15 minutes he’d come out all puffy and clump-free. Then they stopped doing it because the Covid. Now they’ll do baths and brushes, but they won’t do just brushes. The vet has a groomer, and we take Cody there. He gets his 15 minute brush every Monday. It keeps him good, you know, clump-free for the most part. That’s all it takes. It’s not hard.

Cody after a grooming looking soft and silky
Cody after a grooming


Canine Toothbrushing

Jeff
The other thing I always like to talk about when we talk about our Collies – this is for all dogs – I’m a very big believer and advocate for brushing their teeth. I did a video on what I do with Cody. Now Cody is six years old, and if you look at his teeth, they’re pearly white and there’s no redness at all around his gums.

Jeff
When we had Ricky, he got to a point where I wasn’t doing that, and I had to have his teeth done (dental cleaning). They have to anesthetize them for that. Donna and I went to the diner [while we were waiting], and we were nervous wrecks. We just swore that was never going to happen again. After that, I started being very vigorous with his teeth brushing.

Jeff
And I do that with Cody every night after he eats. He gets fed once a day in the evening, then I brush his teeth with a manual brush, then with an electric brush. Then I have this antiseptic gel that I put onto his gums. He doesn’t get anything to eat after that so that his mouth is clean for 24 hours. (Actually, he gets a treat in the morning when I walk him when he comes back.) And that has really worked wonders on his oral health and his mouth. A lot of Collies – any dogs – just like people can have a lot of trouble if they have bad gums. So I always advocate that.

Emily
Yeah, and that’s excellent advice, especially with so many Collies having the MdR1 gene concern. So for them to get anesthetized can be… I mean, you were talking about the the anxiety that went with that.

Jeff
Oh, it’s awful!

Emily
For sure, because we know that so many of them do have sensitivities to those drugs. So, yeah, the tooth care is excellent advice, really. And that’s a good idea to do it after the meal. I don’t always do the daily brushing after each meal, and I should.

Jeff
If you skip a day or two, it’s not the end of the world; but really it needs to be done as frequently as possible. And the timing is key, because if you brush their teeth and then they eat, you know, what’s the point?

Jeff
It’s always best after the last meal of the day, and then to hold off on treats. Because anything in their mouth [like food particles] is probably better not being in there. I just am maniacal about that. The thought of him having to be anesthetized just – I don’t like that.

Oral Hygiene Tools

Emily
Yeah, that’s definitely a nerve-wracking thing. Great advice, thank you. You said it’s some sort of gel… Do you have any particular brand that you recommend?

Jeff
Yes, it’s called [Virbac] C.E.T. Enzymatic Toothpaste. I use the poultry flavor. Cody likes it. I think they make a beef, then there’s a clear one. The gel is called Oratene Enzymatic Brushless Oral Care. You just put a little on your finger, and you rub it on the upper gums. That’s like an anti-bacterial, so the brushing and the gel does a good job.

Jeff
I mean, I’m very lucky because my Collies were cooperative. They let me put electric toothbrushes in their mouth. A lot of dogs don’t even let you put a toothbrush in their mouth. And if you can’t get a brush into the mouth, you know, you try to do it a little slowly. They have these finger brushes, which can work pretty effectively. It just slips over your index finger and you can try to do it that way.

Emily
Yeah, I’ve noticed one of my Collies seems to prefer the finger brush and one of them prefers more of the traditional dog toothbrush. One of them likes the peanut butter toothpaste. One likes – it’s almost flavorless, I think – like a clear gel toothpaste. So they definitely have their preferences, and it’s taken a bit of work to get them used to that.

Gentle Collie Temperament

Emily
I used to be a veterinary technician. My first job when I was 16 was working at a vet clinic. There were some dogs, I mean – good luck getting anything in their mouth without having puncture wounds in your hand. So I’m really grateful that Collies – they might not like it, but they’re not going to put a hole in your fingers either. They’re very tolerant and gentle and just safe.

Jeff
They are. That’s what makes them so amazing. Their spirit, their gentle nature. I always say they’re humans in a Collie’s body. I really believe that. They have this elegant majesty to them, and that’s the physical beauty. People constantly say to me, “Oh, he’s so beautiful!” I always tell them that he’s more beautiful on the inside. Because Collies have sweet, loving, loyal, gentle natures to them. They’re just the most amazing creatures.

Emily
Yeah, the substance matches the outside. I’d say their exterior really reflects their interior. Just beautiful inside and out; you put it really well. And that’s actually something that gets Googled a lot, because we’ve been looking at what questions people are asking Google on a monthly basis.

cody sits outside like a majestic living lawn ornament
The interior matches the exterior

Jeff
About Collies?

Emily
Mm-hmm. Collie-specific questions. “What’s the Collie personality type?” “What are the Collie personality quirks?” “What are the Collie personality characteristics?” And it’s just funny to see that getting searched so much.

Emily
One of the things that gets asked, like you said – the hair care. “I want a Collie, but I don’t know if I could keep up with the grooming.” I think it reflects what people are thinking. Like, “Oh, I think I could handle the grooming, if I know what their temperament is like.” And to me, it’s absolutely worth it – every minute of tooth brushing or coat brushing – absolutely worth it for the kind of dog that you get.

Cody lies outside with Donna and the grandkids, one young girl and one little boy
Cody with Donna and the grandkids

He Understands Everything

Jeff
There’s no question. I always say that Cody has ‘two and help’ (me and Donna), because we exist to take care of him and service him. When we make dinner at night, say I’m in the kitchen or Donna’s in the kitchen making his dinner, he lies just outside of the kitchen and waits for his service. And then he’s served, and that’s it. You know, when we’re not with him, we’re talking about him. It’s Cody 24/7, and anything he needs –

Emily
The Cody Show!

Jeff
Yeah. We trip over ourselves to give it to him, but he deserves it because he’s such a beautiful soul and loves us so much. Anything I ask of him – anything – he does. I take him out – he’s off leash in the park, let’s say. We’re walking around and I say to him, “Cody, this way.” And he just turns around, follows me. And he understands everything.

Emily
Isn’t that beautiful? I tell people, their fur is the hardest thing about them, and that to me isn’t even that hard. And I have a profusely-coated male Rough Collie. So sometimes the brushing…

a dark mahogany sable and white Rough Collie with an impressive mane lies on the edge of a bluff
Sir Gustav, adopted at one year old

Jeff
Is it a sable?

Emily
Yeah, he’s a tri-factor – the dark mahogany sable. So maybe once a year in that summer blowout, I think, Why do I have a dog with such thick fur? But that’s once a year, and every other time they’re so easy to me.

Jeff
There’s no question.

Emily
You know, some people say, “Oh, my dog can do 20 tricks.” Yeah, but… Do you have to chase them down the street? Do they come when you call them? Can you let them off leash and have them stay right with you? And to me, that’s what I value more.

Jeff
Of course!

Emily
I don’t care how many tricks [a dog can do] or if they have all their toys named. I love that they’re so responsive, and the bond… I could talk about that all day. I love it.

3 dogs, 1 Australian Shepherd mix and 2 Rough Collies, sit side by side framed by the setting sun in the clouds
The Collie Chatter crew: Freckles, Yoshi, and Gustav

Some Collies Have Sensitive Stomachs

Jeff
Well, me too. But you know, there is one other thing about a Collie that I guess is a downside. You have to be very careful. Their stomachs – Collies have very sensitive stomachs. And I find with Cody, if we – well, how can I put this? I mean, he has his normal dinner, which is kibble, pumpkin, sweet potato, and we’ll give him some fresh salmon.

Emily
Oh, he’s spoiled!

Jeff
He needs an “accelerant” every now and then – because I don’t know about your guys or gals – but frequently he’ll go to his dinner, poke his nose around, and walk away. And he won’t eat it. So we give them what we call accelerants. So we put like some salmon in there, and then he’ll eat it and he’s fine. We don’t ever give him anything else. Not because we think it’s wrong to give him chicken or beef or sausage. I know some people give their Collies fried chicken, believe it or not. If they can tolerate it, that’s great. But Collies have a tendency – if you vary their diets or whatever, they can have diarrhea for days.

Emily
Mm-hmm. Yeah, that’s one thing. My female is a farm Collie who came from South Carolina, and she can have just about anything. She’s not quite Lab level when it comes to gut strength, but not much bothers her. And then Gus, you know, he’s from a show line and actually from a breeder. So I don’t know if that makes any difference at all; but I can’t switch his food unless I’m very carefully adjusting the portions as I go. He does great on Purina One or the Purina Pro Plans. We’ve tried several others, but – pardon me for saying this – but it is literally a shit show!

Jeff
No it is! That’s exactly what it is!

Gustav lies on the edge of a bluff while Yoshi, a smaller female Rough Collie with a white mushroom patch on her rump and a white forehead star, stands behind him
Gustav the fancy Collie and Yoshi the farm Collie

Not Like Other Dogs

Emily
So I have learned not to do that. And I’ve also had to be very careful, even with the chews that I give him. A lot of Collies, they’re just not chewers like other breeds of dogs are.

Emily
One of our Labs – we lived out in the country growing up – and she would run into the farmer’s field, yank out an entire stalk of corn, bring it back into our yard, shuck the corn, and eat it cob and all. I mean, she would eat whatever happened to be in the field, because the farmer rotated the fields. She would dig up sugar beets and eat them. You know, we tried to discourage that…

Jeff
Well, but if she could handle it.

Emily
Oh yeah. That dog ate an entire sponge once. We were washing the car, and we made the mistake of setting a sponge down. And whatever cleaner or wax was on that sponge – not a problem, not an issue! I’m glad that Collies don’t eat whatever is laying on the ground. They wouldn’t be able to handle it, if they did.

on the wooden porch of a house, a large black Labrador Retriever stands beside a large sable and white Rough Collie puppy
My childhood dogs Taffy the Lab and Luke the Collie

Jeff
Cody would. As you know, all dogs – and Collies have this long snout with the nose at the end of it – they always have their nose to the ground when you’re walking with them, and they need to smell everything. Cody has to smell every leaf. And I never know when he’s got his nose down for a period of time, whether something’s down there that he would eat. But he would. I mean, I have seen him find an old chicken bone or something. I was able to catch it. So I always have to keep my eye on him, because if he gets anything that he shouldn’t… Well, you know what that’s all about.

Emily
Like a toddler, they’ve got to experience it mouth first.

Jeff
Exactly. He does it nose first, but you’re right, the toddlers, the kids, they’re all about mouth first.

Jeff
So the stomach thing is always, I feel, like the sword of Damocles hanging over our head. We never know. (I mean, in my life, if anybody would have told me that I was going to inspect my dog’s poop every day, I would have told them they were crazy. But I do have to pick it up, so I obviously look at it. But I look at it, and if it’s the way it’s supposed to be: then I’m happy. It’s a good day. If it’s not, then I start worrying.

Jeff
Now, the funny thing about the Labs… I was talking about how Cody could be picky. Back in the day, I would give them (the Labs) a can of wet food. And the way I would do it is: I would open one side of the can and punch a hole in the other side, so that I could hold it upside down over the bowl. Then it would just come out and fall into the bowl. Those dogs would eat half of it before it hit the bowl!

2 dogs, a black Lab and a yellow Lab, walk with their noses to the ground
PC: The Labrador Site

Collies Can Be Picky Eaters

Jeff
Cody is like a cat. He goes and he smells. He wants it; he doesn’t want it. I’m not going to have it; maybe I’ll have it now. Nah, I don’t think I’ll have it… And he walks away from it. And frequently I’ll say, “Okay, Cody, have your dinner. I’ll sit with you.” And if I sit with him, he will eat it. So it’s like, he likes the company. Are yours like that?

Emily
Well, Sir Gustav was an only dog for a while, and yes, sometimes I would have to practically beg him to eat and mix enticing things in. And for a while I was going to the butcher shop and getting some ground meat to mix in with his food. I’ve heard of some people feeding their Collies by hand. I’ve never had to go quite that far. But when he was an only dog, he would leave his bowl. He got dinner, but he would graze on it throughout the night. And it might take him all night to decide that he was going to finish it off.

Jeff
Cody will do that.

Emily
Yeah. I ended up adopting a rescue mix (half Australian Shepherd, half Great Pyrenees), and Gus cannot leave food in his bowl: because she will eat it. It will become hers. My female Collie, the farm Collie, she’s pretty food-motivated, too. So Gus has learned not to leave it just sitting there, because it won’t be there.

Freckles (a tan/red and white Australian Shepherd mix) and Yoshi lie snuggled on a bed together
Freckles and Yoshi

Jeff
Well, yeah. So maybe that’s an encouragement or an incentive for him to to eat it. Cody doesn’t have that problem. But, you know, Donna gets upset if he doesn’t eat. I just tell her, “Look, you know what? Look at him. Does he look like he’s starving? If he’s hungry, he’ll eat.” And he does. I mean, if he doesn’t eat one night, he’ll probably eat the next.

Emily
Yeah. And I’m glad that they don’t tend to get fat like some other breeds that just naturally lean towards thickness. We were regularly having to put our Labs on diets growing up because they like to get chunky.

Jeff
Yeah they can get heavy.

Emily
Yeah, and to me that’s sort of a perk with Collies. You usually don’t have to worry about them getting fat. They kind of self regulate their eating, and that’s fine with me.

Cody lies indoors happily holding a tennis ball in his mouth
Does my fur make me look fat?

Southland Collie Rescue Gathering

Emily
So we’ve pretty much naturally stumbled into all the questions that I was going to ask you anyway, which is kind of nice. We have hit an hour, and this is great. I’d rather have more to sort through than not enough. One other thing I did want to circle back to: you mentioned Southland Collie Rescue having a Collie gathering. Where is that exactly? I’ll put a link to that.

Jeff
Southland Collies has the event at a dog park in Irvine. You could find their website, actually, and it’ll give you information. It’s usually August or October; it may be coming up soon. It gets a pretty good turnout. A lot of the people from the Collie [Facebook] group that live out here come to it. So it’s really nice because we get an opportunity to actually meet each other.

Jeff
Because we’re all pretty much virtual, most of it. But it’s always good to meet people and see their Collies, and it’s just wonderful. You’re immersed in Collies. How bad can that be?

Emily
Yeah, sounds like heaven on earth, actually.

Jeff
It is.

Several people sit and stand outside while a happy crowd of Collies congregate and get human attention
The Collie Gathering PC: Southland Collie Rescue

Nothing About Collies Strikes a Negative Note

Emily
We talked about the Collie personality type. If you were trying to explain Collies to someone who didn’t know anything about them and was maybe considering getting one, is there anything else you would tell them that we didn’t already cover?

Jeff
No, I always say that they’re humans trapped inside of a Collie body. They’re extremely smart, very loyal. The level of communication that you can have with them, you have to live with them to experience. I just think that, generally speaking, there’s nothing about Collies that strikes a negative note with me. It’s impossible to describe them, because you have to live with them in order to really experience it. Anything anybody tells you may sound good, but you’ve never experienced anything until you’ve actually lived with a Collie. There’s nothing else I could say about it.

Emily
It’s kind of hard to describe, isn’t it, to put into words? I did a story on a Collie in training to become a Psychiatric Service Dog. So it’s Stephanie’s first Collie and she said, “You know, I heard about it, but I didn’t quite understand the level of vocal range and vocal ability that a Collie has.” Like you said, you have to live with it.

Cody stands outside barking enthusiastically
You can have a conversation with a Collie

Jeff
To me, the most amazing thing is how they absolutely know what you’re saying and what you mean and what you want. I mean, Cody even knows the pronoun “he.” So if Donna and I say “he” this or “he” that, he knows we’re talking about him. And he’s able to communicate with us. We know what he wants; we know how he’s feeling; we know what’s going on inside his head, just by the way he behaves and looks at us. His eyes tell everything. And it’s actually like having another human that you can talk to that understands your language, understands, you know – everything. I think I’ve had about 11 or 12 dogs in my life, something like that. And I’ve never had anything that comes close to a Collie.

Jeff
And with that, I’m going to have to leave. My grandkids are coming. They’re three and five; I have to get ready!

Emily
Yes, definitely get ready!

Jeff
I’m going to also send the link to Cody’s Toothbrushing Video, because that’s something I feel very strongly about. I really want people to do that.

 

Emily
Yeah, I’m realizing I need to put more on Collie Chatter for Collie-specific care, because they are such a unique breed in some ways.

Jeff
Exactly. I had a great time talking with you. I really did. You know, it’s interesting being on this side of everything. When I do my radio show I’m the host, and I’m interviewing somebody else and having that conversation. So this was a lot of fun for me, and I could talk about Collies all day.

Emily
Yeah, me too!

Jeff
Thank you for having me.

Emily
Thank you. Have fun with your grandkids, Jeff.

Jeff
I will, Emily. Thank you so much.

Cody lies on the ground with his tongue sticking out slightly, while Jeff lies with his head on Cody's side while talking to him
Jeff and Cody hanging out

* Edit and footnote: The AKC currently registers 195 dog breeds, which means they recognize nearly half of the approximately 400 dog breeds recorded with other breed clubs worldwide. Currently, there are also 65 purebreeds under consideration for breed registration with the AKC’s Foundation Stock Service (FSS) program.

Jeff Hyman was a member of the popular Gaslight Singers in the 1960s. He now has a solo career, having released solo albums Old Dogs New Tricks in 2017 and Pick Yourself Up in 2019. Both are available for purchase and streaming on Amazon. Currently, Jeff also hosts the international radio program Somewhere in Time, on which he introduces his listeners to other interesting indie artists and discusses great music of the past. Check out his website and listening options here.

Jeff Hyman poses in a black shirt with his guitar held in front of him

Emily Sowulewski

Emily is an avid writer, blogger, and Collie lover who collects and posts stories about Collies from around the world. Submit a story, ask a question, or just say hi; Emily would love to hear from you.
  • Great hearing about Jeff and Cody.
    He lucked out – he found a gold mine getting Cody from Linda Woolyham – Lynn Hyman & Lotta Hedman (they are the best)
    Loved reading this!