A Week of Fun...

Border Collies are like kids in so many ways.  Just ask anyone who has both kids and dogs and you will feel my pain along with so many great memories too!  I’ve seen all the aspects of their life, both the good and bad times, just like I have with my kids.   My kids were so cute growing up and they were so loving and sweet until they tell you to shut up or call you so stupid which most of us can relate to at some point in their upbringing and I'm glad they keep growing and become wonderful family members, but Border Collies seem to stay at that three year old mark and find things to get in trouble...

Puppies are so cute when you bring them home and you can’t wait to let them run around the house and play with everyone but it’s a little different when you find “that” mess, or your furniture is tore up but before long, they grow up, like your kids and things balance out.  Both get a mind of their own and use it and things can be pleasant. 

Here at the farm, I usually have lots of things that need attention from cutting grass, cutting wood or little jobs throughout the day and it seems like I never get ahead.  It’s a blessing a curse to be busy but keeps me active.  It’s so funny to watch the dogs when they don't see me.  As usually, after they eat breakfast, they want to play or explore the trails or lake.  This means playtime for them and as we start out for work, someone will grab a ball and carry it with them just in case we have the chance to stop and toss a few but sometimes that’s not the case.  

If I have a project going, which I usually do, they will attempt to get me to play but then realize that it’s futile.   That’s when their fun starts for them and they will invent games to keep themselves busy, I’ve seen this a million times.  They will chase each other and Molly always starts it, she will run toward the pack, stop and prance her feet, bark and turn and run.  Well everyone chaises her and they will run around the small pond at least three times.  They will rest a while and do it again until they are tired and then its nap-time. Which everyone enjoys including me. 
Something new has started and even the guest dogs will join in, it’s swimming classes.  I didn’t notice it at first but a few of the dogs will come back where I am working and they will be wet from head to toe.  I once spied on them and several will go to the lake and swim, playing each other, cooling off and getting having a little water time. 

Even the guest dogs join in and find their way to the lake...
Meggie and Abby will play “stare” and if you have ever been here, you may have seen it.  All the dogs are busy doing something and you might not notice it at first.  First you will see Meggie, just staring off in the distance, being perfectly still.  “What is she looking at” you ask and you will look in the direction her nose is pointed in and see Abby, staring back at her and whey will play “face-off” not breaking the stance.

Gabby is helping...
The first to move is the loser and then they will run, stop and do it again and can be anywhere from twenty to a hundred feet.  I was on the roof cleaning the gutters several years ago and when I looked toward the dogs in the yard, someone had found a ball and at that very moment Dutchess had the ball in their mouth and if I didn’t see, I wouldn’t believe it, she slung it sideways tossing it nearly 15 feet and the others chased it for some time, scary at times.

I thought this was funny until I thought about it...

It amazes me what they can learn on their own, just like a three year old, when you can’t hear them, you better worry, they’re making a mess.  With all I have seen, it won’t surprise me to see the Jeep driving down the driveway, and furry head barking out of each window…  I better start hiding the keys...   Ken

Should I be worried?

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Unknown to most, we had a very hectic week.  It’s one of those decision that you may regret and you even know it before doing it but it was resolved this week…
Nineteen years ago, Elaine and I talked about getting a dog for the farm because we live right next to the Hoosier National Forrest with thousand’s of acres of undeveloped land.  It seems that the land does develop countless numbers of the white tailed deer which are cute but very destructive and we needed some counter measures to halt their mammoth appetite.  We tried everything under the sun but to no avail, nothing except a dog.  We always wanted a German Shepherd Dog (GSD) but before the internet, you needed to watch the paper and there were none to be had except the ones available if you mortgaged your house, which we couldn’t do.  Other arrangements were made but the Shepherd was always in the back of our mind and time marched on.

Eight months ago, we finally got "our" Shepherd because she needed a good home, she was beautiful, loving, and good with our dogs but the only downside, she didn’t like to ride in a car.  She was here to stay, I just knew it… or so I thought.

Eight months later and because we had too many dogs I told Elaine, “We need to find Dahlia a home, we just can’t keep doing this, taking dogs in, we’re full.  I can’t help other rescue dogs if we can’t bring them here and work with them, we’re full.”  I made a knee slap executive decision, Dahlia needs a home!  Just by chance, we had friends over for the weekend and I made my feelings known to them, they knew someone who may be interested.  Just a few days later, a date was set for a visit and my problem would be solved, but later that week the conversation was heavy;
“It’s a shame it won’t work out, I’m going to miss her” I said…
“I know, I always wanted a Shepherd”
“Me too”
“She is so good and so well mannered, even in the house and with our dogs.”

I walked around the house the last week she was here, watching her run with the pack, sleeping on the bed or trying to get in my lap it was hard on me.  At times, before bed, I would walk past "her" bed, her tail would start wagging and she would raise her head and lick my face.  We had a routine, I would bend down to her and “play” bite her ear and this was our bond… This last night, I held her close and rubbed my head next to hers.  I took several deep breaths, smelling her musk and knew I would never do that again and that moment lasted forever in my mind, I had to keep something.

The night before she was supposed to leave lasted longer than most and when we got up, all the dogs were let out out and as always, Dahlia came right back inside and jumped on the couch next to me while we had our morning coffee.  Times seemed different, I know it was her last day, but she seemed different.  Sitting next to me, she licked my face and pawed my arm, apparently trying to tell me that she loved me but I knew that...  I looked at Elaine who was sitting on the opposite couch and she watched me get choked up and after what seemed like an eternity I said;
“This is the hardest thing I have done in a long while”
“I know, we don’t have to do this.”  ” she said,
Out of nowhere and in broken English, tears streaming down my face, I said “I can’t do this, I just can’t do this.”
Elaine’s only statement… “We don’t have to do this,” hit me and truer words were never spoken, "we don’t" I said.  As fast as I could, I went to the computer and typed, “I’m sorry” which I was, “Dahlia was staying home.” and after hugs and kisses and tears of joy, home was a happy place again.

Just a few days later, Elaine arrived home from work and when she and Dahlia walked inside the house, she said “You’ll never guess what happened.”  “What” I said.  “Dahlia met me at the gate as I pulled in and as I was shutting it, she stood by the car and acted like she wanted to ride, I opened the car door and in she went, she sat down and we road to the house together.”  I'm sure it was her way of telling me she's trying just as I showed her.

Rest well pretty girl, you might not be a Border Collie but you have a piece of my heart...  Sometimes if you want something to work, it requires "work".  I’ve said many times, nothing in, nothing out, and most of the time joy and peace takes effort on our part.  It’s easy to cop-out and take the easy road but you may regret it forever, I'v taken that road before and regretted it but hopefully never again…  Ken

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Music to my ears...

Once in a while we will watch a dog or two for a friend or neighbor.  It helps our dogs socialize and also helps the guest dog meet new dogs in a unfamiliar environment.  It helps with socialization for all of the dogs and can come with consequences, some which drives me crazy.
Their first day or two they are here, everything is new and exhilarating because they can run free in ten acres of woods and jump into two lakes that are fenced and some of them certainly take advantage of it.  I guess I’m an old “mother hen” because I want to know where they are at all times because I am a worrier. 
At times, I couldn’t fine my dogs for what seemed like an eternity and walked this farm several times looking in what I thought was every nook and crevice with no luck only to find “Molly” in the mud room sleeping and when I found her, she was glad to see me, but not as much as I was to see her.
I don’t mind any dog exploring including my own, but just like my Mom use to say, “I want to know where you’re at” and “I” want to know where the dogs are too.  This can be exhausting at times because they are out of our house or kennel from 6:30 am to about 11:30 pm.  They sleep well with my dogs on the bed, porch or kennel and it seems to work well and the guest dog become ours during their stay.

Xena and Jack after a round of play
I do try to take precautions with them such as using “our” name-tag and collar with our contact information and if they are an explorer I have bells that they wear on their collar.  I know it sounds silly but just like a clock chiming is peaceful, a dog bell collar is also a sweet sound and can comfort me.  

Jackson with his bell
This works well if the dog is moving but can be unnerving if you can’t find the dog or hear the bell in the woods.  This starts my mind wondering and then I’m on a mission to look for the poor lost soul.  Several weeks ago, I couldn’t find a guest dog after playtime with all of them.  All the dogs were worn out and were asleep on the covered porch under a ceiling fan.  I was surprised that the guest dog was nowhere to be found.  I called and called but to no avail and I could not see or hear them.  I looked in the kennel, walked the farm twice, looked in the house and garage and things got serious in my mind.  I took off my orange Crocks, put on my tennis shoes and off we were.  

Doc and I ready to start our search
I starting the Gator to go out farther and when I was on the other side of the big lake, here they came, galloping my way as happy as they can be.  As angry and scared as anyone can be, it all vanishes when you see them because you know they are safe.   Back to the house we went and when I saw Elaine, she quickly mentioned “I found them”, “really” I said, “they came to me on the Gator.”  Elaine corrected me and said that as soon as I started it, they came out from under the porch, apparently from a deep sleep because of the play time… so… the next time I looked for them, I learned to go to the Gator, sit in it and start it.  From anywhere on the farm they came just like we do when hearing a dinner bell…
If we ever have a lot of guest dogs, I’m going to put different musical bells on them and teach them a song and we’ll be a hit in the neighborhood…  Ken

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As You May Know...

As many know, we have several dogs to say the least and with that being said, I see more than one personality in them and I will tell you they are all different, not good, not bad, just different, just like kids.  Each one has different needs, personalities, wants and desires. We think they would be the same, but they're not.  Some are needy, some independent, some loving, some outgoing and some are even aloof.  I have often wondered why this happens to some of our pups when I see dogs come back to visit but they are all over the gamut.  I know they left with the same upbringing and personality and I also think that most dogs start out the same, it’s the human aspect that makes them different.  We have a lot of people that visit just to see the dogs and watch and play with them.  If we come in the house with the dogs of their choice and play and interact with them. Everybody want to take Clancy home. He will always put on the charm, will jump on the couch with them and put his head in their lap.  I tell them if you want Clancy, you have to make him, he's inside every dog, but you have to work at it.  In the past, I've always told everyone that leaves with a pup, “Remember, whatever you put in, you will get out, nothing more, nothing less” It’s up to the owner, the fate of their dog is in their hands, it’s that simple.

 This brings me to my point. Why are they different? I think when a dog gets comfortable with the owner, they take on the personality and traits of the master or do what they are allowed to get away with. Sometimes we make it too complicated with our “stuff”. They are simple animals, and want nothing more than to be lead and loved.  They look to us as the “alpha” in their life. I have seen it time and time again, when something goes wrong, the human stops being the "alpha" and the dog takes up the position and this should never happen. We need to be stronger than the dog.
As I said earlier, mine are different. Abbie came back to us as a pup, she went to a house with 3 young kids and Abbie had problems or so we thought  After just a few days, Elaine and I looked at her and wondered what had gone wrong.   

Several days ago, I had most of the dogs up except Abbie. I had just got in the hot tub and as usual, Abbie got up on a small corner of the tub and stood there looking at me for just a minute. Then she wanted to get comfortable so she knelt down like a lamb folding both front legs down and resting on them before she curled into a small circle. At that point, she watched me on that very small space that had to be uncomfortable for her, where just a few feet away, she could have stretched out and lounged on a comfortable throw. A few days earlier, I was in the family room and had shooed her away because I didn’t want her to be involved in what I was doing. Elaine, knowing I had done this, watched her go to my “fuzzy” house slippers and push them together with her nose. She gathered them between her paws and laid her head on them. Elaine told me later Abbie “just missed you” and wanted to be near you, but you sent her away and she was crushed. 

Many times, we see dogs that come in and have anxiety issues, with people or other dogs.  I am stern with my dogs when needed but it always pays off because they will look to me as being in charge.  As a rule, when the guest dog realizes that their is a "boss", they relax and become my Velcro dog.   Never leaving my side, sitting under my me and sleeping in bed with me.  It’s not because I baby talk to them, it’s because they are comfortable with their surroundings and want to submit, this is their nature.

All of our dogs want to be near us in one way or another because we have always loved them and been in charge, touched them, played with them and included them in the many things we do each and every day. They are a part of our life and we are a part of theirs. Something that has always angered me is when I hear the comment, “it’s only a dog”. They are correct in that statement, but they are only a dog, because that is all “they” made” them to be.  I happen to want more, they are my friend, companion, cohort and at times my playmate. They make me feel special, needed and full of life. For the people that say that, they have never been loved by a dog. I feel sorry that they have never had that relationship and you have missed a great opportunity. I will tell you, it's wonderful and a good trade-off.

It's always a battle of the wills with them... always...
Be in charge but give your dog a hug, you might be surprised with what you get in return.   Ken

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The Postcard...

When I worked for a Vet, we sent them out every day. It was a postcard to remind you that your dog was due for its annual shots or checkup.  It is a friendly reminder to visit the Vet for a clean bill of health.  I received one this week that sent chills up my spine.  It was a harmless notice but it was a reminder that I didn’t want to see or think about but was forced to. 


While this seems harmless, and it is, I was reminded to think about the inevitable that is surely to come.   Dutchess and Molly will be 10 years old this year and Clancy is not far behind.  While I do get a 3 year rabies shots for the dogs, will this be the last one they get?  They will be 13 years old the next go around.

We have been so lucky with the health of all of our dogs, just cuts and scrapes and nothing more and with that being said, I have 1 Facebook page and the dogs have two Facebook pages and I am on several more.  The one thing I see often is dogs that have a serious illness or crossed the bridge.   It literally breaks my heart to see that and to read the comments because I don’t ever want to be reminded of it, but it will happen to all of us.

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.      Going Home, Finding Peace When Pets Die  By Jon Katz

I didn’t have any dogs for most of my life and our first dog was for my boys when they were growing up and now I have mine all bunched up which means that I will live the unescapable results in a shorter time span.   It is something I have thought about, and often, but it never hit me until I got the postcard which laid it out right in front of me.  Many people have asked me “how long do Border Collies live” While there is no real answer because there are so many factors, I would always say “12 to 15” years and when I checked with the Google experts, (which I really didn’t want to know) they said 13 to 15 years.

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.      Going Home, Finding Peace When Pets Die  By Jon Katz

I have been very fortunate to have been home with my dogs their whole life and I do have memories of nearly everything they have done from the funny to the very serious.  We make those memories together and often and the postcard is just a reminder of the unescapable day we all will face at some future time.  For some people it happens early, some later, but it’s a day I dread, not once or twice but 10 more times, making that long walk down our driveway as I have done before and know the path well, traveling to a spot very dear to my heart where our fur family is…  Give your dog your love and attention, not once or twice but forever...Ken

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.      
Going Home, Finding Peace When Pets Die  By Jon Katz

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