It Was The Best of Times...

It was the Best of Times, It was the Worst of Times, Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.
And it certainly applies here. Last Sunday after church Elaine and I traveled to see Shepp several hours from home. If you are unaware of his plight, here is his story.

We received an email from his owner that they would be available, and if we wanted, we could see Shepp. We have exchanged emails for some time and just couldn't get a date to work, and I was determined to make this one work, no matter what.

Shepp 11-20-2011
We met with some friends of ours that live next door to Shepp's owners. They have two of our dogs that they purchased as pups a few years back, so it was going to be a grand visit. Bishop and Tessie, their dogs, are huge Frisbee dogs, so we had to have a few spirited tosses before we went to see Shepp. When we were done playing Frisbee, which they never are, I'm told, off we went. I will tell you, I had butterflies and was a little on edge because I just didn't know how I would react because this has been very painful and I missed him so. When we pulled into the driveway, out, he sprang from the house with the little bounce I always remembered. He took my breath, he was beautiful, and it was so good to see him. We took one of his favorite toys, a squeaky ball.  I have heard him walk around our house, squeaking that special toy for hours on end. After giving him the toy, he was lost in playing ball and paid little attention to us. I took my camera, and I got just a few shots before my camera battery was dead, maybe it was fate, I’ll never know.

In my heart, I had visions of him watching us pull up and running to greet us and getting in the car when we stopped, wanting to go “home,” but he didn't and my heart broke again, but only my selfish heart. What I actually saw, was a beautiful dog, playing with two beautiful children in a beautiful wooded location with many acres and ponds, getting everything and more than I could ever give him and knew that he needed.
After watching Shepp and Tessie play "ball", we were invited in for coffee and to chat. Of course, Shepp came in too because he is their "house dog."  I saw every member of that family touch, rub and pet him, and I knew right then, that Shepp was happy and I would never have any worries again. Shepp had everything any dog could ever begin to covet. He was the luckiest dog that ever lived.
At one point, I wanted Shepp to come to me, one of the children brought me a dog treat to give Shepp, he said "here, this is for you to give him" maybe he sensed what I wanted, but this was a wonderful jester for me, from that little boy.
Oh, Shepp did pay attention to us, but I knew he was “home, ” and I knew that everyone loved him, it was so obvious. My heart broke, but I was also happy for him and actually, the visit helped me know, he was happy, and he was...
After some good conversation, it was time to go, I just felt it. We all walked toward our car except Shepp. Oh, how I wanted him to jump in the car, but he didn't  He stopped with his owner and sat down next to him, just inside the garage and I swear I saw Shepp lean into him as if saying to us, “I’m OK, Thank You Dad.”
As hard as it was to leave, I’m happy because Shepp is happy. Goodbye old Friend, I’ll never, never, forget you……I will tell you, It was a long trip back home. Give your dog a hug, we hugged ours, that night……every single one of them, except Shepp...


Thanksgiving Day

Probably the best holiday for me is Thanksgiving, other than Christmas. It involves one of my most basic and coveted needs, “food,” and I always ask Elaine to make a lot because I love the leftovers. This year I wanted to include the dogs to help me share my beloved and much anticipated holiday.

In my conversations with the dogs, and don’t tell me you don’t talk to yours, we pondered what they were thankful for too. This year they let me in on some of their thoughts.

Clancy said he is thankful to be the “man” around the farm. He likes to strut his stuff and be in charge and thinks he looks so handsome when the wind blows in his hair, and the girls look at him with a gleam in their eye, and they swish their tail, just right. He also likes to come in and sleep on the bed with everyone and he likes it that he is “King of his Hill,” but he didn’t want me to tell the part where he loves to curl up, and just be a little puppy again without any worries or cares in the world. He is thankful that he has a big family and lots of little pups running around all over the world. Oh, he also said he loves to chew on rawhide and to be with Maddie Grace.

Just to Take the Edge Off.......OK?
Molly said she likes it that she is my Heart Dog but knows that everyone else needs attention too. She said she likes for me to pay attention to her, but understands that she has to share me with the others. Molly also said she likes to come in and sleep on the bed and also loves it when I talk silly to her. She always answers with grunts and groans and the funny part, I think I can understand her. She tries to keep her girls in order and does well, but it’s a big job when it comes to Dutchess. Nobody can control Dutchess, not even Dutchess…

I Want Some NOW.........
Dutchess spoke up and said, “I like my Frisbee, no my food, I mean my Frisbee…Can you put my food on my Frisbee?” She also said she likes to run and run rel fast. She can’t understand why people can’t run as fast as she can. She likes to play Frisbee in the house when the “man” is in his chair trying to sleep. “If I can’t find a Frisbee, then I’ll play ball, did I say I like Frisbee? And food, I mean real food off of a fork or spoon, it doesn’t matter? Do they make a Frisbee you can eat?” She also likes to talk and speak, something you should never teach a dog to do, “Bark.” She loves to get in all the cars when they pull in the driveway, no matter who is in them. I’m sure she is looking for a Frisbee or food.

She got Her Wish...Frisbee with Food
Meg said she is thankful that we let her make spoons in bed with us. She said thanks for going to agility class with her even though she threw up on the console of the car as we were pulling in for class. She also said thanks for not getting mad for doing it 3 times in a row. It’s the same console I thought she took her last breath on when she impaled herself on a piece of steel, and I rushed her to the dog hospital. She said thanks for all her tennis balls and Frisbee's that we have, even though Dutchess hides them.

Is It OK To Be Here?
Abbie said she is thankful that she has a home. She said when she left us as a little puppy, she thought she was going to a real home with kids and things. She didn’t understand why she came back here, only to go away again, just to come back again. She said she didn’t know where her home was, but now she knows. It’s with us, forever, never to leave again. She is also thankful for the warm spot that I make when I get out of bed. She likes to get right on the warm spot before I come back to bed.

Annie said in her puppy way, “I’m thankful everyone likes me, even though I am different” I felt like a misfit toy once, but you made me one of you, even though I “am” different. “I love my brothers and sisters, ” and you teach me a lot of stuff, especially love, and now I can jump in your lap all by myself.

“Well guys, you told me what you are thankful for, I guess it’s my turn.” “It’s a little more complicated than what you are thankful for. But let’s start. You are my friends and my companions. You are always near me, even when I’m in the hot tub or just trying to put my shoes on, always giving me licks and kisses.  You listen to me and have no idea what I am saying except “Let’s Eat, Ball and Frisbee” But, your vocabulary will far exceed mine on many fronts because you can say so much with your eyes. You know just when I need something or everything. Watching you enjoy life, makes my heart skip a beat because you really do know how, something we all should learn to do, but never have time, until it’s too late and then we can’t.

Just a Little Pre-Clean, You Don't Mind Do You?
You have saved me many times in so many ways, even once when I fell and knocked myself out on a cold and icy walkway. I was home by myself, and you all licked my face until I woke up. There is no doubt that you would give your life for me and I hope you know mine for you. I remember once Max fell through the ice and was trapped and couldn’t get out. My shoes were off, but he climbed out on his own. I knew my duty, just like you know yours. Thank You…

You pick up my spirit and allow me to wander through your world, making me part of "your" pack, which is an honor, something, not every human can do. You love me for just being me, taking me as I am. I never have to dress up or comb my hair or put on my fancy clothes. Shorts or suits, it doesn’t matter, you love me as I am.
You have always been loyal and have never left my side, even when I have scolded you, you crawl to my feet, looking up from your bowed head, your eyes take me straight to your heart, teaching me another lesson. They say Border Collies are the most loyal friends, and I believe it. You are more dependable than most humans, and we should all take lessons from you.

I am thankful for the many many beautiful people that we have met that have a small part of us with them. Your little pups, I have seen it time and time again. People are so happy when they arrive on the day that the little puppy goes home. I see so much happiness in their eyes and know that they can’t wait to call their little dog their own. I get stories all the time about how the pups and the big dogs are doing. Thank you, Clancy, Molly, Dutchess, Meg, Abbie, Annie, Gabby, Doc, and Shepp for making me what I am today. I am living a dream I didn’t know was possible.

Happy Thanksgiving; give your dog a hug today. Thank you for a wonderful holiday and an incredible journey. Ken and the Crew


Puppy Breath

There is just something about a puppy.  Sammy is going home today and he has been here with us inside the house enjoying all the comforts of home.  We will surly miss him.  He has learned many things in just the short time he has been inside with us.  The most important is that he is potty trained.  He has not had one "accident" yet.  As soon as he goes out to do his "business", he goes, and we scoop him up and love all over him and right back inside.  He has not even had an accident in his kennel cab, which he has become accustom to through the night.  He has done great and is a very loving puppy.  Today he will go home and be a farm dog and will have plenty of things to do and kids to play with.  He is one lucky dog, and the new owners can't wait.
One thing that I will miss, is something that is somewhat of a mystery.  It occurs in every dog and is unique.  Because we usually get in the floor and play with them, (and of course, they will lick your nose right off your face if you let them), we get to sample this quite a lot.  Puppy Breath....
I use to think it was because they were nursing with mom.  When I would pick them up at around 2 weeks or so, they will nurse the tip of my nose if you get them too close to your face and you can smell their breath, but when I would wean them, they still had the same sweet order and would last until they went home.
It's seems like a lot of people like the smell and there is even several Facebook pages devoted to it 
Whatever the reason it reminds me of the innocence of a puppy and the tender times that they have, just rolling around on the floor and puling your shoestrings. 

Just a few updates on other things.

Dutchess had an injury that kept her quite for a while.  She has cause some soft tissue damage to her right front paw and it has been a real trick trying to keep her quite for two weeks, but that's soon to be over and back to wiggles and twists.

We are going to take a much anticipated road trip today after church to see Shepp.  His owners have invited us to see him and see how he is doing.  We'll take one of his favorite squeaky tennis balls that he would carry in his mouth (new)  and squeak time and time again just walking around the house.  OH how I miss that noise.  See you soon Sheppie...More Later

Note:  I will be posting a special Thanksgiving Issue on Thursday morning from a dog's point of view...

It's OK to Grieve - Update

For the last few weeks, I have posted events on the website that have led people to believe we may have puppies for sale. The readership ranges from 2500 to 3000 people a month that read the blog, and when I mention the pups, I will get nearly a hundred or so calls and emails a week from people who want one. Nearly 90% of the people, who call, have had a border collie before, and just wanted to experience the joy and thrill of the breed again.
The sad part, the same people have lost their best friend, companion and a large part of their life is empty because of a multitude of reasons including accidents and illness and old age of their pet.  Most everyone will share their stories and photos with me and I love to hear them, sometimes, bringing both of us to tears. I have even shared some of their stories on my “Rainbow Bridge” Section. Some people that I have never met or talked with before, will call and tell me their story about their pet and they “just wanted me to know” because they knew I would understand, and I do, only too much.

At one time I use to think it was un-manly to express grief when a dog or cat of mine had passed on, and I was even embarrassed by my grief. I was burying my beloved “TaT” in our "family" graveyard and a neighbor passed and stopped the car just to talk. I stopped him and motion for him to move on, because I was crying so hard and I didn’t want him to see me. Grief is very real and can affect a person in many ways. Everybody reacted different, but I know I was hurting and at times I still do. I even remember my very first dog, her name was “Daisy”.  I was five years old and she came to the house because she was cold and hungry. Little did I know, her stay would be very short, she had distemper and passed away a few days later. To cheer me up, my Mother bought me new crisp pair of blue jeans and a green button down shirt that I can still see in my mind's eye. Tears were streamed down my face as I tried them on but nothing would stop them. Little did I know how that event would shape my life.

I got an email from a friend about a new book by one of my favorite author, Jon Katz. He writes about border collies and life on his farm. He was a city dweller and purchased a farm to help with his border collie “Orson”. It’s a wonderful book called “A Good Dog”, until the end of the book. The only thing I will tell you, He did everything he could do to help Orson.   I would recommend the book.
The name of his new book is “Going Home, Finding Peace When Pets Die”. It puts a lot of things in prospective and in a positive way, helps with grief. It is an easy read I would highly recommend it too, especially if you have lost a pet.
Here are a few excerpts from one of the last chapters.

Going Home, Finding Peace When Pets Die  By Jon Katz
“Letters from a dog
Dear Friend,
It is my time to say goodbye. My legs are weakened, my sight is failing, smells are faint. I am wearying . My spirit is fading, and I have been called home and away from you.
I wish to be strong again, to roll in gross stuff, to snatch greasy bones, to eat all the things you hated me to eat, to have my belly scratched for all time, to run through the fields and the woods, to smell the stories of life, and to raise my nose to the wind and see the world all over again.
I am going home. I know I leave you in loneliness and pain. That is the way of people when they say goodbye. Dogs are different. We don’t have regrets or wish that we could alter the story of life.
Although I have been called away, I leave you with the memories of our life together.
I remember a cold winter’s night when you sang to me in the dark as the wind howled and snow drifted outside the window. I felt your loneliness and knew my work.
When you looked at me and the corners of your mouth turned up, you smelled and looked different. Lighter, happier. That was my life, my work. Nothing more clearly defined my purpose. When you smiled, I knew why I was here.
I never tired of watching you, of being with you while you lived your life. I sat by your side, entering into the spirit of the moment. I supported your life, wherever it went, whatever you felt, whatever you did. I was your witness, your testament.
I remember my heart jumping out of my chest when you came home and called my name, or grabbed a ball, or took me outside, or fed me. I hope you know that I loved all of these things-whatever you chose to bring me and give me, whatever time you spend with me, I loved.
And I thank you.
I always knew where you were, even when you forgot me or couldn’t see me. You had no secrets from me. You showed me everything. We trusted each other.
I smelled and felt all of the worries in a human life, but I am different. Like other animals, I want only what I need. Your life is too complex for me to grasp. There are so many things in it that are meaningless to me.
I am so much simpler that you.
I love you and I love all the people and animals in our home. And I love food and smelly things in the woods and balls and Frisbees and bones. There is not much more to me than that, and yet you loved me for that, and despite it.
By now, you must know that there is always a goodbye hovering in the shadows of a dog. We are never here for long, or for long enough. We were never meant to share all of your life, only to mark its passage. We come and we go. We come when we are needed. We leave when it is time. Death is necessary. It defines life.
I will see you again.
I will watch over you.
I hope, in your grief and loneliness, that you will consider how sad it would have been had we not had this time together, not had the chance to give each other so much.
I do not morn or grieve, but I will miss standing beside you, bound together on our walks through life, even as I know that there is a long line of others waiting to take my place and stand with you.
Thank you. It was nothing but a gift.
And finally, I ask these things of you:
Remember me.
Celebrate me.
Grieve for me.
And then, when you can, let me go, freely and in peace.
When you are ready, do me the great honor of bringing another dog into your life, so you can give and receive this gift again....

I see a lot of  simularies in this story about myself, grief and also my dogs. One thing I learned from reading this book, it’s OK to grieve over your pet, that’s part of healing your soul.  As I think about my own four legged friends and companions and the hardships that will surly come, Lord knows I will need to understand it.
Thanks for letting me share part of my life today and to the many people that call for a pup, I'm so sorry for your loss, but "do me the great honor of bringing another dog into your life, so you can give and receive this gift again", no matter where you get them from...
Run Free Daisy, I'll see you at the bridge.  In just a few short days, you made a big difference in the life of a 5 year old....Thank You.
Give your pet a hug today, they’re waiting for you, and always will.   Ken

I got this email just a few hours after I made this post...

It is with a very heavy heart that I send this email.  Our beloved Oreo was killed yesterday when a delivery truck hit her.    To say that we are devastated is a great understatement.  She lived with all us, but she "belonged" to my 8 year old daughter.  Telling her the news was the hardest thing we've had to do as parents this far.  Her little heart is broken-She cried herself to sleep last night.  Today is no better.  Oreo was absolutely the sweetest dog we've ever met, let alone owned.  We just wanted to say thank you for allowing her into our lives for the short year she was on this planet. We will always be grateful to have known her.   I just wanted to let you know.
Grief is tough, my heart goes out to the family.  Again give your dog a hug.  Ken

Their Guardian Angel

There is a little unknown ritual that takes place with every litter of pups that leaves our farm. It started with the first litter and continues today and it is something I have come to cherish and look forward to. Every pup that has been born and leaves our farm, with the exception of just one, (because of a snowstorm) has been loved and cooed over by a person that holds them very close to their heart. I guess you could say they have a Guardian Angel that checks them out and gives them their final approval for this big old world.

My cousin Peg is making the trip from Kentucky today to say goodbye and good luck to the little ones that will venture into the world next week. It is sometimes hard to imagine all the dog kisses and untied shoestrings that she has endured, and I know she loved every minute of it. In just a short time, she gets to know them and will call them by name. She will ask me about certain ones years after they have left, if I have not heard from the owners, I will email them and send her updates and photos when possible.
Peggy’s Mom and Dad and my parents were very good friends and at times they lived just a few blocks from each other. Her Mom and my Dad were brother and sister and we are alike in many ways. I remember spending time with her parents and her Dad would teach me things, that I still carry today and have even taught my son the same lessons.
But she comes today. She loves to cook and today she is bringing my favorite, “meat loaf”. We always have a nice sit down meal and then go to the kennel to see the pups. Sometime we will sit in the yard or just play in the kennel with them. She is so tender with them and will allow them to kiss and lick her, and of course, they all do. It almost seems like they know why she is there, because they all make a special effort to get her approval, or so it seems. All of them will gather at her feet and jump for attention, and in time they all will have their turn in her arms, safe and secure and out of harm’s way.

She has always said “how can you let them go” and I know if she had the space, she would keep them all and to my knowledge, she has never owned a Border Collie of her own, but I feel that she is part owner of mine. You see, it was Peg who rode with me to a farmhouse in southern Kentucky to help me pick out our first full blooded Border Collie. I remember so well, like it was yesterday going to the old farmer who at the time had two litters in the old barn, all of them running and scampering and barking. It was quite an ordeal and hard to pick. With Peg’s assistance, we chose “Molly” my heart dog, and on the long way home, Molly slept on her lap, and the bond was made with Border Collies for both of us.
So to all of my dog owners, before your pup met you, they met Peg who started them on their wonderful pathway to your door step. I can assure you, they were loved, hugged and even cuddled beyond belief. You might even say they are who they are, because of her. When I get updates and photos from our little ones, I will forward them to her and she is so pleased of their progress. Don’t ever think that she is not watching over my shoulder, making sure her baby’s are doing OK. Thanks Peg, you have made a difference in so many lives and pups and even mine.