I'm Free...

I was born nearly 4 years ago, and as soon as I was old enough to be on my own, I went to a house in the country far away, I was free from my litter mates and sharing my food, but I was free to explore my new world.  I was with a man who was not so nice and tied me to a post in the yard with plenty of chain.  I saw the kids getting on the bus and later that day, I saw them come home.  They were having so much fun running and playing, and I loved to watch, but I had to guard my little house and couldn’t leave, at least that's what I thought.  I even got to sleep in it, it was nice except when it rains, I kinda got wet and cold.

Several Summers and winter came and went, and I was taken from my chain and went for a car ride.  This was my first one, I was free.  I went to an inside cage in a huge building where lot’s of dogs were barking.  They were all unique, and some would go away together after being there for a few weeks.  Some man would hang a big “X” on their kennel door in the morning, and by afternoon they would find a new home because they never came back, they were free, but I had new friends to bark at that very afternoon.

Sometimes I would lose my balance and fall over, and when I would come to, I didn’t know where I was, but things would clear up, and I could walk again.  I saw the Doctor, and he would give me some pills, and then I didn’t do it as often as before, but I remember I would shake a lot and run in place on my side.  They said I had seizures.
“Heartworms” I’ve never heard that word, and I heard from the friendly people who were talking next to my cage, the people who would feed me my food.  They were looking at me but seemed very sad.  Maybe someone was sick but and the next few days were a whirlwind and I got to see the Doctor again.  The man with the cards with the big “X” was walking down the aisle.  “Pick me, Pick me,” I said, “I want to leave I want to be free, I’ve been here almost 4 months, Pick me!” 

I had to go to the dog hospital and got a couple of big shots in my back, something about that Heartworm word.  It hurt, and no one would let me run and play but then I never really knew how to do that, but I wanted to try.  “Where am I going, I didn't have an "X" on my door?” I wondered when they put me in a car driving me to something called Indiana.  The lady that took was so lovely, I miss her.

Oreo with friends at the farm
“WOW,” I said when I got out of the car.  No cages, lots of room, trees, fields and LOTS of dogs to play with.  I can play, play with other dogs on grass all I want to, is this heaven?  I’m free!  I slept in the house anywhere I wanted to and even went outside and walked and explored everytime I wanted to, but this was short lived because a GREAT home with my buddy Jessee was waiting for me and we played. 

Oreo with Jessee
We had so much fun, and they took such good care of me, I was free, what I always wanted, but I got very sick.  Going to the dog hospital I had so many seizures, and I was so hot because my temperature was 106 and in a coma, I was lucky because some dogs don’t make it when it gets that high.  When I came home, I was confused, I didn’t know where my doggy door was, and I didn’t know where I was at times, I needed special help.  I even became mean to my best friend Jessee, I couldn't help it.  I wasn't as free as I once was, my mind was foggy, and I couldn’t think.  

Elizabeth, my friend in my new home, was so much fun, they were with me all the time and could take care of me.  Life was good until one day it happened, I don’t know why but it did, and I don't know what came over me.  I couldn’t think, and my mind went blank I couldn’t function.  I went back to the farm.

I met my old friends and got to see my human friends and slept in the bed again.  The next day, we drove to the Doctor, I remember being hugged and loved on, things are fuzzy and confused but a face I have seen many times was right next to my face, he was always at the farm.  I heard the words "I love you" I shut my eyes, and I was free… Thank you!

"I know you, I smelled your smell at the farm, have I meet you?”  “Only in spirit until now, I’m Clancy.”    "Am I in heaven?"  

Oreo and I went to the Vet I once worked for in Louisville.  She rode on the front seat, and I rubbed her head and body the whole way down.  She was put to sleep in my arms, and I was with her until the end, I stroked her face and hugged her through it all.  I brought her home, and she rode next to me again.  She is buried here at the farm just a few feet from Clancy,  Ken…

In the middle again…

Well I don't know why I came here tonight.
I've got the feeling that something ain't right.
I'm so scared in case I fall off my chair
And I'm wondering how I'll get down the stairs.

Clowns to the left of me!
Jokers to the right!
Here I am stuck in the middle again.
Stealers Wheel - Stuck In The Middle With You Lyrics

Two times in my life I have been in the middle with dogs, and today I just realized it.

Many years ago, we raised Border Collies as most of you know.  It was so rewarding to see the pups born and to play with them in their early weeks but my favorite times were when they were 6 weeks old.  They form a bond with you, and I became their leader when they were weaned, one of the few times I was in charge of something, just ask Elaine… We had a heated and cooled kennel, and they lived a life of Riley.  

Sometimes I would sit down in the middle of them and let them craw on me and nip my fingers.  They would untie my shoelaces, and if you put them up to your face close to your nose, they would nurse the tip.  Life was GRAND and the puppy breath… nothing better, and every night at bedtime, I would sing to them…

Because of our website and word of mouth, we would get several calls a week from people wanting a Border Collies.  Having restricted litters, we didn’t have extras to sell because of a waiting list.  Whether they got a pup from us or not, I would always try to direct them to reputable breeders that I knew.  Before the end of the conversation, I usually heard the reason they wanted a BC.  Nearly 90 percent of the time it was because they had one and it had passed from a tragic event or old age.  It was always devastating to both of us to re-experience it again.  Usually, they would cry, and I wouldn’t talk much because I was choked up too.  I was in the middle and hated it…

Several weeks ago, I had been going back and forth via email about a family that had to give up their border collie of 5 years.  Not going into the reason, it was necessary, trust me.  When the week arrived for the transfer, I contacted the owner, and we talked the mechanics of the handover.  I notice her voice starting to break, and that was enough for me because mine did too.  I told her I understand because I have been there and we both broke down.  I gave her directions to the farm and said we would talk and walk around the farm, and discuss Clancy’s Dream and assure her that we will find the perfect home, and we will. 

Because of a family emergency and she was on the way from out of state I told her to put her dog in the kennel and someone would be there soon to take over.  When I arrived back, he was out playing with the other dogs and one of our Board members, and he was beautiful and perfect.  After settling in, I checked the bags and material that she left in the kennel that was his.  Exploring through all of it, I came across a small bag paper bag that was neatly folded over.  Inside was a single decorated dog cookie for him.  They had celebrated his birthday early because he would be gone, I gave it, and it broke my heart for both sides.  I have seen this scenario many times.   It breaks my hears, and I know I am a softie and wish there was an easy answer…

When we find homes for the dogs, regardless of you’re a short time foster, or they are with you for a few weeks you fall in love with them.  Just ask Elaine, out of the 10 dogs we have, seven of them were given to us.  When they leave, you miss them and wonder if the new owners will love them as much as you.  Many tears of joy have been shed when that match is made in Heaven.

You see, as a rescuer, you’re in the middle just like when we raised pups.  You see both sides and feel the pain and shed a tear from a tragedy and a success.  Maybe I’m just a softie, but I’m stuck in the middle again…   Ken

Clowns to the left of me!
Jokers to the right!
Here I am stuck in the middle again.

Together Again...

For nearly 18 years, Smokey and Sapphire were best friends and lived together.  As much as they look different, they are the very same age and from the very same litter.  They were best friends to the very end.

“Early Thursday morning of this week. I walked down the driveway toward the end of our lane to get the mail.  As usual, I walked to Clancy’s gravesite for a visit, and I stood there soaking in the early sunlight and the cool breeze I reflected on the events of the past week and the things to come soon.  As always, the wind chimes were talking, and life was good.  I pondered for a moment and soaked everything in and felt grand and in an audible voice as if I was speaking to someone, I said “it’s a beautiful day,”  and it was.”  Two hours later, Sapphire was laid to rest here at the farm.

I got to know Smokey and Sapphire several years ago.  Their owner moved from out west when life circumstances changed for her.  The owner moved to our community, and we became friends because of our dogs.  We exchanged pleasantries and ideas and spoke of the topics of the world.  When Sapphire passed, it was decided that she would be buried here with Clancy and our dogs.  Saffey, as we all called her, loved the farm and enjoyed rolling in the leaves as she would slide down the hill on her back. 

One of the hardest decisions that anyone can make in the dog world is when is “it time.”  I have pondered that decision for years.  We had a cat that we brought from Louisville that was our only pet, and we loved him so.  He came to us as a stray and just stayed, I guess he liked us.  He loved it and had trees and meadows to run in and explore.  He got sick, and when an ultrasound was run, he had a large tumor that could not be removed.  The Vet said to take him home and love him and when “it’s time” come back.  “How do I know when that is?”  “You’ll know,” he said.  And I did.   “Tat’s” food bowl is in the china cabinet and his photo is still on the refrigerator even after 18 years of his passing.  It was "time" for Smokey...

Several weeks ago, Smokey took a turn, but not for the better.  He always fought a good battle, always winning the fight, but he was not to win this one.  He moved a little slower than the other dogs, but after all, he was 119 in human years.  He loved to take long walks at the farm and doze in the sunlight. When Sapphire passed, it was plain to see just how much he missed her.  He was a robust, gentle dog, taking nothing from anyone and he loved life and lived it to the very fullest.

On an early sunny day, I got that call, “it’s time,” from Smokey’s owner.  After doing everything that could be done, there was nothing left to do for him.  I grabbed my shovel and went to a peaceful place where there are several Adirondack chairs and a canopy of trees that lets sunlight in and started my task.  The spot had already been picked, right next to his best friend and littermate Sapphire and they were to be together again along with Clancy.

Smokey and Sapphire led a whirlwind life.  Living right on the California coast, meeting celebrities and living the good life and it was grand.  They both were greatly loved by their owners, friends, and neighbors and spent their time doing the things they loved to do and being outdoors.

Smokey, Mark, and Saphirre together again
Smokey was placed in his burial shroud, but before he was gently lowered to his new final resting place, he was loved on and caressed, and tales were told of his happy life.  It wasn't a sad day, it was a beautiful day,  Smokey, Sapphire, and Mark are together again.   Sometimes it hard to imagine how much dogs make an impact on our lives and some will never know.  Ken...

You Silly Girl…

If I have said it once, I’ve said it thousand times.  “We’re not getting another dog.”  I should have known that eating crow can choke you and leave a bad taste in your mouth and it did because I ate those words.

Many dogs have come through our foundation, and nearly every one of them was a keeper.  That’s how I would always judge a dog, is it one that I would keep?  When we have rehomed a dog, and I often state to the new owner, “I would keep him,” and I actually would have.  Now Elaine would keep all of them, and my comeback to her was always the same. “if we keep them, we won’t have room for another one that needs help.”  Well… that’s where I was served the crow…

JoJo came to us a couple of months ago.  She was very loved and spoiled and had great dog parents.  They also have her brother Jett, and he is a stunning and a majestic dog but several large dogs playing and running through the house is a bit much.  We kept them when they were 14 weeks old, and I fell in love with both of them.  When something needs to be done to halt the bedlam, I was contacted.  Needless to say, JoJo first came to visit and then to live, and I was thrilled, to say the least.
JoJo and Jett, on their first visit to the farm, they were about a few months old.

Jett, JoJo's brother.
Nearly 20 years ago, when we moved to Dogwood Ridge, we looked for a dog.  We both wanted a German Shepherd and looked in the newspaper.  There was minimal internet availability then, and we watched the paper.  Only one was listed for weeks, and we couldn’t afford the $600 they wanted so we got Max from the “Free to a good home” section in the same paper.  Max was a Border Collie, and we loved him so, and it was him who started Shuck’s Border Collies, and you know the rest of the story.
JoJo settled in very nicely, as she had visited here before with her brother, so she knew the lay of the land so to speak.  It was like putting a pre-schooler in with a room full of senior citizens with my dogs.  The older dogs want to rest and watch TV, and the child wants to run in circles which is about the same here.

She is so comical, she flops around on my desk, slapping my keyboard when she visits which is every time I come to my office.  She lays under my desk, popping her head up to get her ears rubbed between my legs and then going back to sleep until her ears need scratching again.  
JoJo's spot on my bed
Sleeping… you ask, she sleeps next to me putting her head on my pillow right next to my nose which leads to a few nose kisses during the night.  I have taught her tricks, she can eat from my fork and will even take food from my mouth which leads to her making a visit when I’m eating, and I have taught to jump up on me.  While this is unacceptable to some, I think it’s endearing.  Just today as she greeted me, she jumped up, putting her paws around my neck and licking my nose.

I guess the just of this story is that time has no time.  We moved on to the world of Border Collies when we couldn’t find a GSD, and it was a fantastic ride that has helped many dogs through Clancy’s Dream, it was meant to be, and we loved it.  We don’t always understand why things happen, but I’ve always thought it was like throwing a rock in a calm pond.  It makes a splash, and the ripples travel, getting smaller but not going away.  If you really watch them, they hit the shore and return back to you, just like life at times.  


Jett and JoJo have visited each other and it's fun to watch them play and run together during a play day and they pick up running, playing and play fighting.

Dogs are different than any other animal on the face of this earth, and I can’t think of any other animal that can connect with us.   Remember what you ask for because it may come to pass.  Twenty years ago, I would never have thought we would have two well behaved GSD that fit in with our pack.  I guess I’ll play the Lottery…  Ken

Are you ready?

If you think Border Collies are the same, then you probably only have one or two of them.  I use to think that too until I got into more than nine and with the rescues, I see from time to time and hear from their fosters, no two are alike.  Oh sure, most have a hearing instinct. But some are far different than others.  Clancy was a natural leader and herder while Dutchess is a ball and Frisbee freak, not to mention a foodaholic.  Annie and Gabby along with Molly could care less about sheep and Annie will kill chickens and ducks. 

Abbie is not a sheep herder either, and when we went to try her on them, she could care less and wanted to play ball.  After just a few minutes, she was brought out of the sheep run and went for something she knew about, and it was her ball.  To this day, she is obsessed with it.  Because the age of our dogs and they have gotten older, we don’t play ball like we use to.  It was a ritual, we would usually play on the hills and straightaways, jumping the water with every other throw.  We would do this 3 times a day for 30 minutes or so.  Now, when we play ball or Frisbee for 15 minutes, Dutchess, Molly, and Meggie will have a hard time getting up off their bed because they are so stiff.

Abbie is different…  She has the energy of any dog I have seen, and she is always ready to go.  Sometimes she will bring me a stick and place it by my feet, and I will ignore it, but if I move, she moves it in front of me again.  One of the problems I encounter is when we all play ball, some of the dogs do not play well with others.  Shepp, for example, is a great ball player, he runs and fetches and will drop it at your feel.  If anyone is invited to play with him, he goes into his ninja mode. 

He will ignore the dog but focused on the player and run at them and nip them.  Doc, Dahlia, and Gabby will stalk them and just keep right beside them, never looking at the ball.

A solution to all of this is to take individual turns with the ballplayers, but Abbie is the always the most interested.  Inside, she will look at the door at then at me and then back with her dark eyes.  As hard as it is to schedule, she knows it’s “game on” when I look at her and just mouth the words “are you ready?” her eyes perk up, and she walked to the door.  

We usually go out the garage door because no one else has figured it out, but it’s our secret.  Abbie loves the alone time and is so talented, I will sit in a chair, and she will lay the ball right in my hands.  If for some reason it rolls out, she’s right back fetching it from the ground and placing it back in my palm.  As she plays, her tail is wagging as fast as it can and will let me know when it’s enough and back to the house we go, and no one is wiser but us.  Ken

Where have you been?

The weather is getting warmer, and things are starting to move outside and dry-up.  Spring is getting close, and things are starting to pop around the farm.  We have even had some “warm” weather, and I have even worn shorts on one beautiful day.  The dogs scampered through the woods and forest and discovered new things and sometimes not so new things… it's coming, spring is almost here...

The sun was out, Elaine had a few windows open, and a slight breeze was cleaning the stale air from the house… Life was sweet and clean.  “Was that you” Elaine ask while I was standing in the kitchen, also giving me a scowl.  “What,” I said, “You know, are you walking off a little air?”  “NO, I thought it was you,” I said and then ask her, “was it was you?”  “You know girls NEVER do that!” “Right,” I said, rolling my eyes and left it alone.  

“Could be something outside” and we both agreed not knowing the smell was standing at our feet.  Looking down, Shepp was sitting and looking at us with a Chesser Cat smile on his face.  The closer we got, the worse things were.  “Where have you been!” we ask in unison, and he rolled on his back for a belly rub.  “Out,” Elaine said, and while walking to the door, he left the aroma as a treat for us, giving back, he thought.  Shepp was covered with something, but it wasn’t poop or skunk, but it left a crusty residue on both sides of his neck.

That afternoon, Elaine cleaned him up and much to her dismay, it still lingered a little, not as bad, but it was still there.  She powdered and perfumed him, and he looked good.  Usually, in the warmer months, we will toss something in the lake for them to fetch a couple of times to wash it off but not this time it seemed too cold.  He was better, but the smell was still there.

During the afternoon, the dogs came inside after many trips running around the lake, down the trails, and through the woods.  Life was good again, we thought.  “Where have you been” and we were speaking to Meggie and Annie this time.  Same smell same crusty stuff on their neck and right behind them was Shepp, dirty again.  “Jesus, Joseph, and Mary,” I said, “where in the double hockey sticks have you been?”  With wide eyes and a scowl covering my face, I thought how can this happen and what is out there, call the EPA.

Somewhere on the farm, there must be a body of something, maybe an Elephant or Whale.  It’s got to be a carcass that is big enough for them to get inside I thought.  I’ve smelled a lot of shi… "stuff"  before and this is different.  It oily, brown, gooey and hard to wash off but smells like fish and I only hope they don’t think it’s something good to eat but I doubt it.

JoJo's favorite place
After cleaning the best we could, night fell, and things were back to normal.  JoJo is the sweetest young dog I know, she sleeps on my bed and gets as close to me as she can at night.  I will stroke her head, and she puts her head on my pillow facing me, we will drift to LaLa land together but that night, Dammit, JoJo, where have you been?   Ken

Another Journey...

One thing about being the administrators on my four Facebook pages and an administrator or several others pages are the things you see.  As a rule, I always try to be upbeat and cheerful about all the things that go on.  One thing I won’t tolerate is all the political things that went around last year.  In the grand scheme of things, no-one’s mind was changed, and 50% of the readers were pissed off no matter which side you were on.

Let's just be happy...
It can be very trying when you follow a story that spans over several weeks about dogs.  You get to know them, love them, hurt with them and watch them die at times.  Sometimes I don’t know what button to chose on FB, and I will just do nothing, but I always read them and feel their pain because I have usually been in their shoes.  Some stories get to me more than others because it deals with things close to my heart.  I remember so well when “Buck” got hurt and “Else” lost her leg and now “Pipper” and that is the very short list.  I’ve watched all of the hurt and even sat in my chair and said a prayer. 

 Their journeys are places I have been and will be taking, sometimes sooner than I know or want to.  On the other hand, you have traveled with me on my journeys through some very happy times and some I wish I could forget, but can’t. 

A new journey will be taken during the first week of March.  You have followed me through the birth of Border Collies puppies and the death of our Clancy and the many surgeries we have had with most of our dogs.  Chemotherapy was a wild ride with Abby, and you led me through it.  People, some I had never talked to, much less met, send get-well cards, and a deep friendship was formed over a coat that was made for Abby because someone cared for us and our breed. 

Over the past several months, I have noticed a difference with one of my dogs.  The most significant difference I saw was when I was passing out snacks from my recliner, every dog watched my hand move from one to the other.  One did not, in fact, when it was their turn, I would hold it in front of their face, and they would look past it.  The next day we were at the Vet where she gave us the news and it’s wasn’t good.  Doc is going blind.  He is entirely blind in one eye and 70% blind in his “good” eye. 
On March 5th, Doc and I will travel to Blue Pearl Specialty Animal Hospital in Louisville, KY.  I am familiar with them because of their reputation, and it’s the same place we took Abby for her initial Cancer Screening and work-up with her treatment plan.

The one thing about social media is we all appear pretty smart on this end of a keyboard.  Some people become the expert in whatever topic that is discussed and will demand that their remedy is used.  I learned long ago to avoid dog topics like “When should I get my dog spayed/neutered?” or “What should I feed my dog.”  Everyone suddenly becomes a Veterinarian or nutritionist and will fight to the death with their keyboard to prove their point.  I have a "pat" saying that I use when someone asks about what they think “that bump” is in a photo or medical advice for their dog.  My comment is “Why don’t you check with your Vet, they are the expert, not someone on Facebook.”  I have always noticed that not single Veterinarian has responded to any person on this media or given advice.

My personal perspective is “I am not a dog trainer or expert, I just have a lot of experience with some subjects.”  Many years ago when I was working for a Veterinarian, there was a heated national election, and my side lost.  I was complaining about the results, and Dr. King said, “What will this really do to you or how will it change your life?”  and “nothing” was the answer and he was right.
I really could care less if you’re a Democrat or Republican, a gun rights activist, your lifestyle or if you're religious.   I don’t ask you to take on my lifestyle or beliefs and I won’t judge you for yours nor expect you to take on mine  What I do care about is how we interact with each other with love for our dogs and compassion for the suffering we sometimes carry and how we treat each other. 

Several years ago, a lady reached out to me and sent us a coat when Abby got Cancer because it was winter.  I sent her a message and thanked her for it and said: “you didn’t have to do that.”  I was overwhelmed with her compassion to someone who she didn’t know and lived over 650 miles away.  During some rough times for both of us, we would talk on the phone.  

The very coat, thank you, Karen
Having some major medical issues at the time,  we would try to comfort each other, and at the end of the conversation, she said: “I love you and thank you.” and it was comforting to know that someone really cared about me and it was something we all should say more.  Usually, the people we travel with have one common goal, and with us, it’s the love for our dog.  We all make mistakes and blunders, but we genuinely care for each other and our dogs.  
So on the 5th, we will take Doc Holliday to his upcoming appointment to found out his fate.  Doc has had a pretty rough life with his Heartworm treatment and his first couple of years in Texas but rest assured we will do whatever we can including surgery and I know you will travel with Doc and me because we have a bond.  I care deeply about your dogs, and I love you for your passion and friendship.   Ken