Meet Tag, Smooth Collie Spokesdog and Local Legend

Meet Tag, Smooth Collie Spokesdog and Local Legend

“Is your dog part Collie?”

Veleda, Tag’s owner, gets asked this question a lot.

Tag posing outside in front of colorful autumn trees.
Tag, a harlequin sable merle Smooth Collie.

The general public is unfamiliar with Smooth Collies, and Tag’s coat type plus his unusual coloring really throws them off. Blue merles are seen in Collies as well as other breeds, but when the term “harlequin sable merle” gets tossed out there… Well, most people simply have no frame of reference for that, so the confusion and assumption that Tag is a Collie mix is somewhat understandable.

A harlequin blue merle walks outside, very flashy with his marbled patches of black, white, and gray
River, a harlequin blue merle Smooth Collie. PC: Niki Whitham

Ironically, Tag is actually quite the blueblood. He shares a sire and an impressive lineage, just chock full of champion show dogs, with his half brother River. Veleda told me, “Tag goes back to Albert Payson Terhune’s famous collies. He and River have some pretty cool ancestors.”

River, a harlequin blue merle (different patches and spots of color in black, grey, tan, and white) Smooth Collie wearing a service dog vest.
River in work mode PC: Niki Whitham

River also has the distinction of being a PTSD service dog for Niki Whitham. Niki, Veleda, and I were having a conversation about their two boys on my Facebook page, discussing their shared parentage through Polar.

Polar, a harlequin blue merle Rough Collie, in a show ring, intently focused on his handler
Ch. Mar-Jo's Polar Express, co-owned by Jacque Bailey and Lynda Cox (Facebook @ColliesOfWych)

Niki said of Tag, “He’s so stunning. Polar throws some sexy sons.”

Veleda replied, “Not too sexy right now!” And sent this photo:

Visual description: Tag curled up in blankets, sleeping.
Maybe not "sexy," but definitely comfy.

Work Life

Tag may not have his brother River’s illustrious career, but he’s actually at work himself in that photo. You may be wondering, how can that be? (Technically, he’s taking a break to catch some zzz’s there, while waiting for the next customer to come into the office.)

And what does he do when a client arrives? Why, he greets them.

Tag is behind a desk, staring right at a computer screen, apparently hard at work.
Tag makes a fabulous receptionist.

Day Job

It may not sound like much, but it takes a special type to work customer service day in, day out while remaining unfailingly polite and pleasant – let alone enthusiastic. And Tag is fantastic at making customers feel valued and appreciated.

Tag wearing his Ahrens bandana, looking out the window and people-watching.

So much so that some clients make it a point to visit the office to pay their bills instead of just mailing in checks. And if Tag happens to be taking a rare day off, they get very disappointed.

On a typical day, Tag is content to sleep in his designated corner when he’s not busy greeting people. But sometimes he wants to be closer to Veleda, so he drags his bed right next to her chair or creates a den under her desk. In pictures, the progression goes like this:

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Being self-employed and managing your own company is a lot of hard work, but Veleda counts it a “plus… that my dog is at work with me daily.” For many (myself included), any work environment with a dog present is a better, happier place.

Tag is curled up on his bed, looking at Veleda upside down and apparently smiling.

Side Gigs

As an employee of Ahrens Heating & Air Conditioning of Minnesota, Tag is more than just an office greeter. He’s the company mascot, featured in ads and on a life-size cutout for home shows when he can’t be there personally. Tag also enjoys riding like royalty on parade floats to promote the business.

Tag, the Collie mascot
Spot the mascot!

He’s ideal for the job of spokesdog. Anyone who’s ever been involved in marketing knows – you want to stand out. As Veleda puts it, “Tag is unique enough that everyone has something to say.” There are even plans for him to be in a future TV commercial.

In an ad, Tag is posed sitting in front of a Christmas tree, wearing a bandana and wishing everyone a Merry Christmas

As if his full-time day job wasn’t enough, Tag also volunteers with Veleda as a therapy dog in his community, visiting a couple of local assisted living centers where she used to work. He is predictably popular, and many of the elderly residents have joined his adoring fan club. Tag loves basking in their attention.

Tag is wearing a Superdog costume, posing with Veleda and Marie
Veleda and Tag visiting with Marie, a 99-year-old resident, on Halloween.

Veleda’s miniature horse, Frankie, even rode the activity bus to make a therapy visit, strolling right into the lobby. “I have a really good rapport with these two homes,” Veleda explained.

Brown Shetland pony looking fancy after being groomed
Frankie looking dapper.

Home Life

The Pets

Tag may not be a working farm dog like many Smooth Collies, but in addition to Frankie, he does live with quite the menagerie. Veleda also has 2 large horses (an Appaloosa named Shotgun and a Mustang/Pony of the Americas cross named Spitfire), a Shetland pony named Casper, 4 barn cats, 6 hens, 2 ducks, “and a partridge in a pear tree,” she joked.

When it comes to the horses, Veleda describes Tag as “a big scaredy cat. But, to be fair,” she amended, “my mini horse would eat him.” In fact, shortly after this picture was taken, Frankie attempted to bite Tag on the nose and demonstrated a general desire to take him out. Being a wise dog, Tag has decided to keep his distance.

Tag sniffs noses through a fence with Frankie, while Casper gives him side-eye
Tag, Frankie, and Casper

Due to shared indoor living space, the animal with whom Tag interacts the most is a grumpy, old, house cat called Ginger. Veleda’s husband, Wade, is a cat person, so it was important for them to get a dog who wouldn’t react violently if Ginger was unfriendly. Tag was a perfect fit for their household.

Veleda says, “Tag just wants to be everyone’s friend and doesn’t care that our cat smacks him on the nose periodically. His big sister Ginger may not like him much, but I think she enjoys tormenting him.” (Sometimes, though a feline may actually be fond of a canine, they can’t be seen to be affectionate. That wouldn’t do at all.)

An orange cat is lying in her cat bed, glaring at Tag standing in front of her.
"Come no closer, peasant." - Ginger

The People

The wonderful Collie disposition,” according to Veleda, was a big part of the reason she decided to get a Collie again, after 10 years of being without one. She needed a dog she wouldn’t have to be concerned about around her grandchildren as well as her clients.

In Veleda’s estimation: “Collies tend to love people, kids, and other animals. They are just gentle dogs. I think they are one of the safest family breeds.” (I quite agree, obviously.)

Wade, Parker, Lucy, and Tag lounging on a blowup floor bed
Wade and Tag lounging with grandkids Parker and Lucy following a sleepover.

Veleda trusts Tag so much that she gets him a costume and takes him out trick-or-treating with the grandkids each year.

Veleda outside with Parker in a G.I. Joe costume, Lucy as a princess, and Tag wearing devil horns
Halloween 2018 with Parker and Lucy.
Recommended Gift Ideas With "High Reviews"

This past Halloween, Veleda said, “Two toddlers came up to us in costume and asked to pet him. When I said yes, one just reached over and hugged his whole face. Tag loved it, and I knew he would… I didn’t have to worry about him reacting badly.”

Veleda poses with Tag in Superdog cape/vest, Parker dressed as Spiderman, Lucy as Supergirl, and Ellie wearing a pineapple hat.
Halloween 2019 with Parker, Lucy, and new grandbaby Ellie.

The Predecessors

Past experience with her previous three Rough Collies had given Veleda some idea of what to expect from the breed as a whole, although she says they were each “unique in their own ways.”

Veleda’s parents had a female Collie when she was just a toddler, so she has dim memories of Topsy and her puppies. Tragically, Topsy died after being struck by a car. But Veleda never forgot her, and she grew up reading Lassie books and watching the TV show. Around middle school, she also discovered Albert Payson Terhune’s books about Collies. (Is there a Collie person who hasn’t encountered Lassie and Terhune at some point?)

Baby wearing a bonnet and dress sitting in a chair, reaching to pet a puppy being held up to her.
Baby Veleda with one of Topsy's puppies.

After years of dedicated begging, Veleda finally got a sable and white Rough Collie puppy of her own as a Christmas present when she was 15. Treasure was from the Twin Creeks bloodline, bred by Joius’ Collies, so Veleda gave her the registered name of “My Xmas Treasure of Joius’.” 

Veleda seated on the floor indoors, Treasure lying next to her.
Velda and Treasure back in the day!

Treasure lived to be 13 and was, in Veleda’s eyes, “the best dog ever.” She gave this glowing description of her:

“Treasure was brilliant and super easy to train. She never took a wrong step and was a star student in obedience classes. Honestly, she was a dream dog that belonged in movies. I could control her off leash in the dark, from a distance so far we couldn’t even see each other. Truly one in a million.”

A beautiful sable Collie seated outside with her fur blowing in the wind.
A true Treasure.

After Treasure passed, Veleda specifically searched for another Collie from the Twin Creeks bloodline and found Trinket, a two-year-old female blue merle from Candyapple Collies (a co-breeder of Treasure).

Veleda described Trinket as “a sweet, timid, little girl – quiet and quirky, not the outgoing type.” Sometimes people who didn’t know about Trinket would come over the house, visit, and leave – never realizing Veleda even had a dog!

Veleda and blue merle Rough Collie Trinket seated outside before a pine tree.
Trinket, aka "Candyapple Neon Haze."

Though Trinket could not be trusted off leash since Veleda said she had “some issues with wandering,” she was “a true couch potato” whose idea of a perfect night was lying at Veleda’s feet watching TV. Sadly, Veleda only had her about 5 years before losing her to a malignant brain tumor, which may have been present from the start.

Veleda and Trinket seated indoors in front of an old TV.

Prospects

Shortly after losing Trinket, Veleda married Wade and moved to a new area. She wasn’t in a hurry to get another dog, wanting to wait until they had a place in the country. “I waited 10 years for the right time and the right dog,” Veleda said. At first, she was open to a Collie mix or possibly another breed altogether. She searched at rescues and humane societies, but none of the prospective pups were quite a good fit.

“Although I love all dogs, Collies must be in my blood. Eventually, I decided that I was serious about wanting another Collie. I felt that was best for our family.”

The decision to get a Smooth Collie, although they are harder to find in Minnesota, was one of practicality. Wade and Veleda have a woods on their property that they regularly traipse through. With Veleda’s busy life, she didn’t need the added work of constantly pulling burs and sticktights out of a long Rough Collie coat. A Smooth seemed like the perfect solution to have less coat maintenance but still get that great Collie temperament.

Veleda sitting astride a brown and white spotted horse.
Veleda and her Mustang/POA horse, Spitfire.

Puppyhood

One day while scrolling through Facebook groups on her puppy hunt, a picture popped up that really struck Veleda. She contacted the breeder and asked a few questions before showing Tag’s picture to her husband. His comment was simply, “That looks like it might be a nice dog.” Coming from Wade, a confirmed cat person, it was practically a stamp of approval.

A young Tag standing outside, smiling at the camera
Tag as a 7-month-old puppy: the picture that started it all.

“That was it. I contacted the breeder again and said we wanted him. After a little more back and forth, it was agreed: Tag would be coming to live with us.”

When I asked Veleda if she would recommend Tag’s breeders (Collies of Wych, Mar-Jo’s Collies) for our Collie Chatter breeder directory, she had nothing but good things to say. Tag came with a whole bag of treats and toys, and a guarantee that if any unfortunate life changes happened, they would come and take him back. Veleda said it was obvious that Jacque and Lynda were breeding for quality over quantity and that, more than anything, they want their dogs to go to good homes.

Since Tag came pre-registered with the name “Tag You’re It” and it seemed to fit him, Veleda decided to keep his name. Ironically, this continued the unintentional tradition of Collies with “T” names (Topsy, Treasure, Trinket). When Veleda took Tag to visit her parents, they also visited her previous Collies’ resting places.

Tag lying outside under a tree next to a pawprint gravestone.
The dogwood tree that marks Treasure's and Trinket's final resting places.

Last year, Veleda had all three of her Collies’ pedigrees traced and learned that Tag also has Twin Creek bloodlines like his predecessors. Plus, all of them were connected by being descended from Terhune’s Sunnybank Collies! 

Tag sitting posed behind photos of Treasure and Trinket.
"Family Photo"

But Tag broke with tradition by being not only a Smooth Collie and a male, but a general holy terror as a puppy.

“He chewed everything. He’s the first dog I’ve ever crate trained, and I’m so glad we did. For a long time, he had to be crated at night and whenever he was home alone. Several magazines, game boxes and games, a 64-count box of crayons, a loose piece of trim work, and chew marks in our TV remote are a testament to his puppyhood.”

Tag turned two years old on November 4th, and Veleda is grateful that he is past the teething and chewing stages. “Although,” Veleda says, “an occasional box left on the floor is fair game,” he can now be trusted to roam free overnight and when they’re away.

Tag wearing a birthday party hat!
Veleda made applesauce muffins for Tag's 2nd birthday.

“Anyone considering ANY puppy should be aware that some will be difficult; but time, training, and love will get you through. A difficult puppy certainly doesn’t mean that they won’t be a great dog. Tag is such a good dog now that we can easily forget that naughty stage. He’s truly grown up.”

Mentally, some dogs are not fully mature until they are 3 years old; but even though Tag is becoming an adult dog, according to Veleda, “He’ll always be our baby.” Veleda is proud of Tag for how far he’s come, knowing that whether in public or at home, she can count on him to be a good boy.

Velda posing with Tag the mascot
Tag's first obedience school graduation.

Personality

I asked Veleda to share some of Tag’s traits, quirks, and how he specifically differs from her other Collies. I’ve related to several of these with my past and current Collies, and I suspect I’m not the only one who can!

“Tag is a total sweetheart, but he’s definitely got a stubborn streak. We joke that he takes cues from our cat. He’s very smart, as collies generally are; but he chooses when he wants to listen. I believe it’s called selective hearing.”

Tag with the tip of his pink tongue sticking out.
Tag sticks his tongue out a lot.

Adorably, Tag has an extreme fondness for blankets. When he was younger, he used to collect the blankets from the furniture, arrange them into a nest, and fall asleep on his pilfered pile. But he doesn’t steal Veleda’s blankets anymore now that he has been given his own, and he gets very excited whenever he is given a new one!

Tag lying curled up on a blanket.
Blankets for life.

“He’s super proud of his bones, and he’ll prance around with his head in the air carrying one. Tag loves to either nap or play; there is no in between. He alternates between lounging in his chair and bouncing like a wild thing from sofa to sofa, barking, while we egg him on. He can be a total goofball. Every evening he jumps his front half into my husband’s lap and gets him to play with either his blanket, a ball, or a bone.”

Tag's Favorite Things to do With Humans:

Wade, Tag, and Veleda happily posed in the woods.

Veleda monitors Tag’s weight since he has his lazy spurts; but at 70-75 pounds, his rubbing can almost tip a chair! He does have his own favorite chair in the living room. While he likes to be close to Veleda at the office, he is usually content to be in his humans’ general vicinity at home.

Tag asleep with his head hanging off the arm of his favorite chair.

“When he comes to wake us up in the morning or checks in on me during the night, he sticks his wet nose in my face or on my arm. There is nothing sweeter than that cute face looking at me, and I swear he’s saying, ‘Hi, Mom, just checking in to let you know I’m here.’ Tag has won my husband (a non-dog person) over.”

Tag is lying in his chair, Veleda is sitting on the floor, leaning back against Tag and using him as a pillow
Snuggles with Tag

For such a young dog, Tag already has an impressive start on his professional career, yet he does an excellent job leaving work concerns at work and focusing on his family at home. We can all take inspiration from him!

Tag is sitting outside, sniffing the wind in his face.

*All photos courtesy of Veleda Cordes, unless otherwise specified.

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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.
  • Another great article – yes Emily tells how wonderful the Collie truly is. The smooth is perfect as they are literally wash and wear – they shed just as much and very important to brush frequently – I use comb or bristle brush – actually I use both.