Monday, February 23, 2009

The Six Pack

The photos came up in the reverse order that I uploaded them, oops. But, we'll go with that for now and I'll introduce you to the pack. The first photo is my youngest, Jess. The next photo is Trim. We see Jess again when she was younger, followed by: Bonnie, Zach, Sophie and, the one that started the whole family, Porsche. Maybe I can figure out how to get the photos over to the right when I have more time. Sophie's photo, which I love, was taken following her run at a trial. She was hot. Sophie is by far the most photogenic of the pack. It is nearly impossible to get a bad photo of her. When I look through all my photos, I find three times as many of Sophie than the others.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Getting Started

It is a rainy day in Virginia so we are all spending the day inside. I thought it might be a good day to continue knitting my various projects and trying to set up a blog. I've been teaching myself how to knit for over a year now with the help of a neighbor, a friend, and google, smile. In addition, I'm taking a class on how to knit socks using the magic loop method. I'm almost finished with the first sock. When they are finished they will be a gift to my hubby. In addition to that project, I've nearly finished a hat, am also knitting a Harry Potter scarf in the round, and a grey scarf that will have a little ruffle on each end of it. I've found it is best to have several projects going at the same time so when I make a mistake I can pick up a different project and keep knitting if I'm in the mood.

I'll introduce my 6-pack of border collies now. The first border collie that we have is Porsche. She is red and white, and, I dubbed her my 'mid-life' crisis dog as at the time I was competing in agility and wanted a fast, sleek, border collie to have some fun with. Since I could not afford the red Porsche convertible I was lusting after, I thought what better than a red and white border collie puppy. That is how Porsche earned her name. I suppose like most border collie people, when I say that Porsche is special sounds pretty trite. I've not found words that adequately describe her meaning in our lives. She is the most empathic, funny, smart animal I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Porsche has been my partner in various activities, including agility, herding, obedience, dock diving, rally-o, and, has worked with me in both my private practice and at the hospital. She has helped a child with selective mutism speak freely and has assisted a number of people hospitalized realize their potential as well. Porsche continues to take care of the humans in her life as well as our dog pack. She alerts us to phone calls, knocks on the door, a dog that is whining or in trouble. Porsche just turned 8 years old and has quite a following of people who have met her and loved her.

The next border collie in our lives is Porsche's sister, Sophie Brecka. Sophie is a full sister from a repeat breeding. They are both similar in traits and dissimilar in other traits as most sisters are. Porsche is a smooth coat, sleek, but, built like a Pit Bull. We affectionately call her 'The Pit'. Sophie is a rough coat, with beautiful wolf-like features around her face. We dubbed her 'The Beauty Queen'. Sophie specializes in herding. She is also quite funny and has some interesting hobbies she likes to engage in. For example, Sophie likes to play with a giant easter egg, pushing it all over the yard, tossing it up in the air, jumping after it. She also loves to swim (ok, all my border collies love to swim), but, she especially likes to jump in the pool and swim around, regardless of the weather or temperature. Sophie also likes to relax by sucking on a stuffed toy while kneading it with her paws. Like her sister, she is also empathic and loves to snuggle when she can. We feel so fortunate to share our lives with these sisters.

Our next border collie is Zachery Taylor. He is Porsche's son. Porsche was bred one time and produced four lovely puppies. They are all in terrific homes which I am most grateful for. Zach is a black and white, smooth coat. His most distinctive feature has to be his ears. They are huge. And, they did not go up, but, instead are airplane ears that flop down giving him quite the dorky look. We dubbed him 'Noodle' because of his long legs. He is a big boy, and, pretty much a 'baby'. He is obsessed with balls, sticks, giant easter eggs, and, anything that he can retrieve. Zach does not care who or what might enter his path when he is on a mission to retrieve an object. He loves to jump into the pool after a ball. He also tosses the ball or other object (egg) into the pool himself so he can retrieve it. That is probably his favorite game of all time, walk around the pool, toss something in, and jump in after it. He also loves loves loves to herd sheep. Zach will turn five this week. It hardly seems possible that he is going to be 5 years old.

Bonnie came to us next. We rescued her from our local Border Collie Rescue group. She had been severely abused and neglected. Bonnie is a black and white, rough coat, with tear drop ears. She is awesome. We've had her since she was 18 months old. Bonnie just turned 5 in January. When we brought her home she was afraid of most everything, going through doorways if we were near her, anything in our hands, hats, loud noises, strangers. She was so afraid of most everything and watching her fear really tugged at our hearts. We made a promise to Bonnie that she would never be hurt again or leave our family. Today, Bonnie has shed off most of her fears. She still shows some reluctance around doorways, but, for the most part, doesn't give it too much thought. Hats no longer bother her. She's happy to meet most strangers, especially if they are here at our home. But, even on the road, she now looks pretty relaxed when she has an encounter with a stranger at a rest stop or trial, etc. We are pretty proud of her and she holds a special place in our family. Her spirit is beautiful. How anyone could have harmed her is beyond me. OH, how could I have forgotten? She was terrified of men. Terrified. Guess who she adores now? Yep, my hubby and my son. And, when she wags her tail, she pretty much wags it in a complete circle with her little butt wiggling so much she nearly loses her balance. She is soooo cute.

Let's see. That leaves two left in the six pack to describe. Next up is Trim. First of all, I love her name. She was a total surprise addition thanks to a convoluted set of circumstances. But, oh, my gawd, talk about sneaking in and stealing one's heart. Trim is a black and white tri, rough coat. She is simply stated, gorgeous. Her coloring is symmetrical and set off by huge dark brown eyes. When she looks at you, well, let's just say, we are helpless in the pool of her eyes. Trim is going to be 10 this year. We have had her 18 months. I cannot quite remember what the heck life was like without her. So, how did Trim come to be part of our family, you might ask? Here's the story.

I am originally from New Hampshire and currently living in Virginia. A friend down here found a litter of pups in NH and wanted to purchase one. As it turned out, a friend of a friend also wanted one from the litter. Since I was going to CT to visit our children, I said I would pick the pups up in NH and bring them back. I was not planning on purchasing a puppy, just picking up two of them to deliver back to VA. So, as you might have guessed, something happened while I was in NH. Perhaps I lost my will power that day? I met the breeder of the pups and his wife. They were so gracious to me while I was there. I watched the breeder work several of his dogs, met the pups, and, also saw him work a dog named: Trim. We got to talking and I sort of asked if he had any 'started' dogs for sale. Trim was his most successful Open trial dog in his long, successful career. He was looking for the 'right' home to place her. He brought her back out to see if she'd work for me, and, before you knew it, she was in my car, heading to our home. So, by offering to pick up puppies for some friends down here, I ended up with Trim. I for sure cannot find words that can express what she means to our family. She has taught me so much about herding and life that whenever I look at her I feel a rush of affection that runs deeper than I would have ever thought possible. Anyone who thinks that the purchase of an Open dog to partner with in herding is any easy ride to the post, think again. Trim has brought me along in baby steps. She has taught me things I need to know in order to get to that level of competition. Trim let's me know when I am ready for the next level. We started off in Pro/novice, and, moved to Ranch last year. This year we will be, hopefully, walking to the post together in Open. Our debut will be in June, in New Hampshire, as I think that will be a fitting place to start our Open career with each other. Trim is by far the most 'determined' dog I've met or had the pleasure of living with. She has come so far. Trim was always a kennel dog, and is now a house dog, currently lying next to me on the bed. She let's me dremel her nails, blow dry her fur, and tolerates all the noise of this busy household, which is a complete 180 from how worried she was when she came home with me. I had NO idea what I was in for buying a dog of her age and talent. It has been a wonderful journey, complete with many challenges and wonderful, heartfelt moments of 'truth' that can only exist between creatures who completely trust each other.

Jess' story, our latest addition to our family, is entwined with Trim's. I not only left with Trim, but, was talked into buying a puppy. The puppy I bought was a male, rough coat, and, we named him Spot. He was a beautiful, handsome, loving, pup. At four months, however, disaster struck. I had been trying to ignore signs that something wasn't quite 'right' with him. He had trouble getting up after laying down, took a long time to get himself up and out of his crate. I began to notice that there was something off about his gait. Puppy legs I kept trying to talk myself into. Finally, I saw him bunny hop. Uh oh. No, even I could not deny that there was a problem. A good friend of mine, a Vet Tech, manipulated his hips for me while we were at a trial. His hips were popping out. The next day we had him x-rayed. As soon as the film was put up, I began to cry. Both of his hips were severely dysplastic. Gosh, his hips looked dreadful, way past mild dysplasia. We took him to a specialist and discussed what the options were of making him sound. Pretty gloomy business, heart breaking, to be honest. We called his breeder who said to bring him back and he would replace him with a sibling. After ten days of sheer hell, we made the decision to bring him back and to not subject him to surgery on both hips. That surgery would have had to wait until he was 10 months to a year, to do one hip; about 6-9 months of rehab; and, then, start over with the other hip. After the two surgeries, he would be pain free but never 'sound'. He would not be able to do what he was bred to do, what he had already wanted to do and showed so much promise. We loved Spot, and, to this day, thinking about him brings both joy and sadness to our minds. Spot taught me a lot in his short time with us. He reminded me that I was an independent woman and gave me the strength I needed to regain my sense of competence that I had lost somewhere when we moved to Virginia. I packed up 4 dogs and drove to NH to return Spot. I spent a week with the breeder and had some intense herding time with my dogs and learned a lot about myself, a lot about herding, and, was reminded once again, how difficult it is to lose someone you love. I returned home with Jess. Sad to leave Spot doesn't really capture how I felt leaving NH for the long journey back home.

Jess. She is a sweet, sweet, sweet, doggie. She is a black and white rough coat. It took us awhile to connect because of Spot, but, the connection is strong and powerful now. She's been so easy to live with and train. What a biddable dog she is. Good breeding produces nice results. I've loved working with her. I worry I'll mess her up somehow since she is more talented than I am with respect to sheep! However, I am still a student of Trim's, and, the two of them seem to be pushing me in the right direction to be the best handler that I can be. Jess also has a sense of humor that makes me want to hang around with her. She is attracted to anything 'plastic' and likes to sink her teeth into whatever she finds hanging around. For awhile she seemed to go on search and destroy missions every morning. Let's see, we lost some water hose ends, a few plastic clean out devices to our pool, the plastic handles to some scrub brushes I use for the water troughs, etc. In addition, she likes to de-stuff toys that are NOT in her crate. If they find their way outside, she de-stuffs them. If they are in her crate, she snuggles with them. She's been the only pup/dog I have ever had that isn't 'into' food. Occasionally she goes on food strikes. Although, lately, she seems to have gotten over some of her reluctance to eat and is munching down pretty well. But, she's the type of dog that sniffs what you are giving her, gingerly places it between her lips, drops it on the floor, sniffs around it for awhile, and, then might actually eat it. By now, however, usually one of the other dogs has grabbed it. She's a lot of fun to live with and herd with. Jess likes to drive, is kind of a driving fool actually. At the moment, her outrun needs to be lengthened and she needs to learn how to pick up sheep off a hold-out person and dog. Once we get through this part of her training, she should be good to go. I'm bringing her along slowly and not asking her for more than her maturity level. Although, she's more than ready to step up her training. Now to get the weather to cooperate and friends to hold out for us. Jess is a fun and loving addition to our pack. We are so lucky to have her.

I'm going to try to figure out how to upload photos of our six pack and some of our sheep. That will be fun to do.