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My Life As a Border Collie

“Using her border collie, Daisy, and the characteristics of border collies as a background, Johnston has found an unprecedented and extremely clever way to teach readers about codependence. Her training as a licensed professional counselor and licensed substance abuse treatment practitioner clearly helps Johnston elucidate this important topic, but what shines through is her personal experience with codependence, her love and tremendous respect for her dog, Daisy, and her intense admiration for this remarkable breed called the border collie.”


Mary R. Burch, PhD

Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA-D) and author of The Border Collie: An Owner’s Guide to a Happy Healthy Pet

My Life as a Border Collie: Freedom from Codependency (Central Recovery Press, 2012) takes a serious and fun look at twelve behaviors that, in their more extreme forms, are associated with codependence. The book began by Johnston noticing behaviors in Daisy, her border collie mix, that resemble the codependent behaviors in herself which she has been working to moderate through her recovery. “Daily I am struck by our tendencies to attend to others, to herd, to over-react.”


This book takes great care to examine specific codependent behaviors rather than the broader concept of codependence. Codependence continues to be a real and yet controversial topic, not scientifically defined and confusing to many. Confusing, in part, because the very behaviors that we can call codependent can also be just fine: helping, giving, serving, pleasing. To this end, My Life as a Border Collie chooses to examine twelve identified behaviors not as absolutes but rather as behaviors that can fall on a continuum from “okay” to “going too far.” The twelve behaviors studied are:


Smart: I can learn new tricks.


Devoted: All I want to do is watch you.


Hard-Working: Keep me busy! Keep me busy!


Serving: Is there anything I can do for you?


Pleasing: I want to be good.


Sensitive: Please don’t be mad with me.


Compliant: I want what you want.


Herding: What’s everyone doing? Are you all ok?


Reactive: Woof! Woof! What’s going on?


Determined: I know you want me to stop, but I don’t want to.


Delighted: I can be quite pleased with little things.


Big Hearted: I love you dearly and will follow you anywhere



The main body of the book offers a chapter on each of the twelve behaviors described above which Daisy and Johnston share, Tales Told on each of them for that behavior, and then Lessons Learned. Through the Tales, the reader is invited to see the range of each behavior as well as its more extreme, codependent form, and through the Lessons, they are offered many ways to moderate their own behaviors so as to not go too far and lose their self in codependence.


The book acknowledges that this learning to notice and moderate our codependent behaviors is an active, on-going process. “In the same way that we actively re-establish our balance in numerous ways over the course of a day, for example with eating or exercise or work, so must us border collies learn to moderate the extent to which we are driven by things outside of our self and give our very self away.”

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