The Astonishing Magic of a Grooming on Ollie’s Perspective.

Brush, brush, brush. That’s all James ever did during my first year. My hair – yes, I have hair and not fur – kept growing for the full twelve months. During the early days, it wasn’t so bad. I mean, I was smaller, so there was less of me, and the hair was shorter, so there was less of it. As I grew, so did my hair. It was a good six inches in length by the time my birthday rolled around.

Brush, brush, brush. Like Joan Crawford in the movie Mildred Pierce when she complained, “Pies! Pies! Pies!” (James and I watch these old movies on rainy days. It’s fun.) Of course, not all of the grooming was that bad. I loved it when James and Ron rubbed the hair on my belly – I mean combed. But to be honest, that was about all I liked.

Don’t get me wrong. I grudgingly participated. After a few minutes, I would lie down so James could only reach part of me. Besides, his yanking, jerking, and untangling my hair while I was standing the entire time wasn’t that much fun. Believe me.

(Ollie before being groomed. “Notice how messy my hair is.”)

Now James thinks I want to put everything in my mouth, including the hairbrush. Well, come to think of it, he has a point. After all, inanimate objects have a way of gaining entry between my lips and feeling the points of my molars.

I was proud of myself when I got James to give me treats while he fluffed me. Of course, I never told him that when he gave me a substantial delight I needed to lie down to enjoy it. That seemed to frustrate him even more. Then he tried making grooming a game with a song, stroking rhythmically along with his singing. To quote Steve Martin as Vinnie Antonelli in the movie My Blue Heaven, “Stop! You’re hurting my ears!” (What, no treat? I thought that was funny. Humph.)

OH! OH! And then there was the hairdryer. What an invention. Most everyone knows we canine like to stick our heads out car windows and let the wind caress our faces. [It is not advisable since an insect traveling at thirty miles an hour could put an eye out.] (That was James – he can be such a bummer. Where was I? Oh, right.) Well, if you can imagine your very own wind machine blowing warm air, melting away all the dampness as it whisks from ear to ear. OMG! I love the person who invented it. I’d like to find whoever it was and lick them all over their face.

Okay, I’m calmer now.

A day arrived, like many before it, when we went for a ride in the car. (I love going for a ride in the car.) Instead of going to some new place, we arrived at one of the kennels where I enjoy playing with the other bowwows. However, we didn’t go into the area where the other pouches were. We went into an adjacent building where James handed me off to a lovely lady who led me into the back room.

Now, this was no ordinary back room. It had metal tables with yokes hanging from metal fixtures. There were two dogs strapped into these harnesses. There was this ungodly buzzing sound coming from the hands of the women who were handling the poor chaps, and their hair and fur were dropping to the floor. Before too long, both were naked as jaybirds. (What, you’ve never seen a naked jaybird? Come to think of it, neither have I.)

I have to take a breather here because the memory is jarring. While I’m gathering my strength, feel free to read James’ poem about my grooming. Here it is:


your introduction to the brush
was less than pleasant
although I had meant it
to be clean fun

you kept trying
to get the comb away from me
by putting it in your mouth
an addition to your
ever expanding collection
of chew toys

it wasn’t so much
that you minded being brushed
as it was you couldn’t mouth it
before or after
the exacerbating exercise
making you handsome

as your Old English Sheepdog hair
grew constantly longer
your grooming took ever more time

slowly you trained me
to let you have treats
while being spruced
so you would then
let me have at it
as you had at
the delicacies

those delicacies came in quite handy
when I would bring out the hairdryer
for it was large
like a miniature vacuum cleaner
which bewilderingly blew out
surprisingly warm air
from a larger opening
you wanted nothing
to do with
yet the treats smoothed
your acceptance
of this new application

by the time you were
in your ninth month
your coat had grown
to at least six inches
and was phenomenally fetching
when cured
yet was beginning
to be too much
to keep in any sort of order
before it would start to bunch
form mats
like a Rastafarian’s dreadlocks

to the professional groomers
for a shampoo
blow dry
ear-hair removal
nail clipping
bum shaving
from which you returned
ravishingly stunningly stylish

they said you were a good boy
although you tried to nip at the brush
so I told them our secret
about delights
and the next month
when you were attended to
there were no complaints

the day arrived when
I was to be away
for over three weeks
leaving you with Jillian who
I knew would never brush you
so again to the stylists
who were told
to shear you like a sheep

when I returned
I didn’t recognize my Ollie
until you came running into my arms
licking my face with the force of a tank
wanting to get the hell away
from these sheepshearers

there you were
a black and white
when you went in
and out you came a
merle-blue and white
Old English Sheepdog
with so much love in your heart
I am afraid it might burst

so as your hair
begins to grow back
I’ll slowly bring out the brush
and run it through your luscious locks
all the time we enjoy
being with one another
for you are excellent company
and a loving companion

with a simple treat
given with a loving hand
it is unlimited what and where
we can go together

Well, if you’ve ever had someone pluck the hair from inside your ears, you’ll know what I mean when I say it not only hurts, but it’s invasive and, to my way of thinking, mean. James claims he does it so I won’t get ear infections. Since I’ve never had an ear infection, I’m not so sure – just sayin’.

Oh, and the rotary thing they use on my claws. At first, the sound and vibration were startling. But after awhile, it was like having my paws massaged. I liked it. Still, without long, sharp claws, how am I to protect myself when we go for long walks in the woods? I suppose I’ll have to rely on James and my teeth.

The worst part of being groomed is having my butt hairs trimmed. That’s right. You read that correctly. My butt gets smooth-shaven. Can you imagine? Okay, enough said about that particular grooming trick.

(Ollie fluffed up after being professionally groomed.)

And then the day finally arrived when the groomers sheared me like a sheep. I knew the day would come because I’d watched others being taken down to the skin. Still, I have to admit that I didn’t mind. Think about it. The days were getting hotter, the sun was getting higher, and the black hair on more than half of my body was heavy and muggy. It was nice getting that weight off my back.

(Ollie sheared like a sheep.)

The actual color of my hair began to be exposed once I was cropped clean. I’m known as a blue-merle Old English Sheepdog. Should I be lucky enough to meet you, you’ll see up close and in person how that looks. The blue can be misleading, but, suffice it to say, I’m unique to gaze upon – even if I do say so myself.

Well, this brings us to when I was twelve months old. If you come back in two weeks, you’ll hear about that year. Oh, and a new poem James tells me he is going to write for that post. It should be interesting.

Speaking of writing, you can scroll down and scribble a comment, letting me know what you think of my blog and James’ poems. I always like to hear from you, so please feel free to leave me a note about this or anything else that’s on your mind.

Until next time,
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)


Paw Prints courtesy of
All photos © James Stack 2018 unless otherwise indicated

Ollie Loved His Crate During His First Year.

Because I was so little when I arrived at Skygate Farm as a nine-week-old puppy, the crate I was in was rather small. Still, there was room enough for me to move around. Being in it for more hours than I could hold my water, well, I was forced to relieve myself within its confines. No matter how I whined, the breeder delivering me ignored my pleas. I was forced to be a bed wetter.

Now I’m not telling you this because I’m proud of it. I’m letting you know about this because that crate left with the breeder, and a new crate was provided in the mudroom. That’s right, not even in the bedroom. Being in a strange place was absolutely no fun. I was frightened. That first night, well, yeah, I wet my bed/crate again.

(Ollie playing in the last remnants of snow near the end of his first year.)

Don’t think for a minute that I’m going to blame James and Ron. Still, it should be known that being shy of three months I couldn’t hold my water longer than three hours. Just sayin’. It was nice that James put a towel in the bottom of the crate to absorb my effluvium. [Yes, Ollie’s vocabulary has expanded over the years.] Unfortunately, it took a few days for him to notice how wet and sour the cloth had become.

Okay, enough about that. Suffice it to say that once that was taken care of, I came to actually enjoy the crate. James would put my food in there and I’d eat in bed. That was so nice of him. (Score! A tasty treat.)

There were also several toys allowed inside to keep me company. Of course my BFF Trek wanted to hang out in the crate and play with the toys. That was after I graduated to a larger, all metal crate.

(Ollie sharing his toys with Trek who is getting them out of Ollie’s larger, metal crate.)

That new crate made me feel as if I was exposed within a jail cell. At least when I got this new crate, it was moved into the hallway so I could look either into the kitchen or down the long hall into the bedroom. I didn’t feel so alone in this crate.

Once I was older, and what is known as “house broken” (what being broken has to do with not going inside the house is something I can’t explain), the crate was moved into the bedroom with James and Ron. Now I was finally happy and content in my crate. Oh, and once a quilt was flung over it, I came to have my very own burrow. Don’t ask me why James couldn’t put the crate in his bedroom from the beginning. I mean, I was small enough that he could carry me down the hall so there wouldn’t be any accidents, if you get my drift.

Speaking of drifts, here is the poem James wrote about my crate and me.


 it was nice you arrived in a crate
as it meant you could travel well
even if wet when you disembarked late

 your first night in a new place
was less than pleasant for you
seeing as you were behind a strange gate

 over time you grew familiar
as within it you came to trust
and to appreciate your shelter

 during the evenings you would wander in
and out almost as quickly
unsure whether you wanted to make it your den

 each night after sup
an encouraging song was sung
“kennel up, kennel up, kennel up”

 we pranced and danced down the hall
as I sang out delightedly with cheer
wiggling your nob you entered with nary a stall

 I’d sing you into the heaven you’d found
with your own special blanket
laid comfortingly on the ground

 you came to understand with age
when over flung with a multi-colored quilt
your bedroom as such was much like a cave

 for you went in one night without prodding
urprisingly yet pleasantly understanding
it’s where you sleep without any longing

 and after nearly a year together
you know where it’s safe
come fair or foul weather

 I really did come to love that crate. It was my harbor in a storm, my security blanket when alone, and my peace of mind after a high-spirited day. Not that I miss it. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a firm believer in providing a crate for puppies and while at the kennel.

 Something interesting about the metal crate was that it was adjustable. When I first got it, I was only allowed to live in about half of it. Supposedly, if it’s too large, there is the fear I might use a section where I would do my business. Hardly. I mean, why poop where you eat, right?

 As I grew, so did the size of the area within the crate I was allowed to occupy. When I was around six or seven months, the entire area was opened up to me. It was so nice to finally be able to stretch out to my full length. Imagine trying to sleep in a too small bed every night. Yeah, that’s the story of my life until the crate was finally opened up completely.

 Okay, James and I had a sidebar. He says I sound like he was abusing me. That is not at all the case. How was he to know what was truly going on with me when we were sending mixed signals? He thought I wanted out of the crate, when all I wanted was more room. At least today we no longer have that problem – either the mixed signals or limited room – for, you guessed it, I no longer sleep in a crate but in the bed with James and Ron. Sing Hallelujah!

 Well, not so fast. In two weeks I’ll fill you in on the grooming an Old English Sheepdog like me has to go through. I still don’t understand why, but James says I have to be groomed every so often.

 Well, there you have it. If you will, let us know what you think about my first year so far and the poems James wrote in the comment section below. I always like to hear from you, so please feel free to leave me a note about this or anything else that’s on your mind.

 Until next time,
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)


Paw Prints courtesy of
All photos © James Stack 2018 unless otherwise indicated

Is the Taste of Slate What Attracts Ollie?

Now this is an odd topic. Don’t get me started on what subjects James chooses to write poems about. This isn’t even the strangest. After all, I did draw a line in the snow about his poem that covers yellow snow – if you get my drift. I mean, who would ever think about putting words on paper about a dog and his chewing slate? (No, I was not going to go on about bodily waste.) My loving companion, James, that’s who.

In case you were not aware, Skygate Farm’s roof is made of slate. Quite a number of roofs in Vermont are made of that material since snow slides off it easily. Something else you might not know is that slate is rather brittle. When several feet of snow land on it, pieces of it chip off and drift down with the snow when it descends from the roof. Now these shards land in the yard and on the terraces (Skygate Farm has two).

(Snow full of slate chips having fallen from the slate roof of Skygate Farm.)

My enjoyment of these slivers began back when I was cutting my teeth. (You can read about that here). I would chew on most anything, including slate. Still, there is something else you might not know. Slate has a yummy taste. At least to me it does.

(One happy Ollie romping in the spring mud during his eleventh month.)

These chips apparently were invisible to James and Ron. Why they never saw them until they were in my mouth I’ll never know. Yet once I began to chew one of them I would be commanded to drop it. Now what fun is that? I mean, if they were going to leave them lying around, then I believe it’s acceptable for me to chew them. (If you agree, let me know in a comment below.)

Okay, I will grant that the ones that fall into the yard are easily overlooked since they mingle with the dirt, stones, and grass. When we’re in the yard, there are far too many other odors and items to distract me from such a simple pleasure as chewing slate. However, when we’re trapped (yes, one terrace has a wall around it) on the front terrace, flakes of slate take on a value beyond gold.

(Slate chips from the terrace found by James;
gold bullion from a free internet site.)

Besides, where would I be able to spend gold? It’s not like I could prance into a bank and cash it. First off, I don’t have any gold, and if I did, where would I carry the gold when I ran the eight miles to the bank? Much less, how would I get inside the bank since I have paws and not hands? After all, James is the one typing this for me since my paws are too big for the keyboard.

Sorry, I got off track. Where was I? Oh, yeah, trapped on the terrace. I am tall enough to look over the top of the wall, but after staring into space for a while, I long for something closer to home on which to spend my attention. That’s when I go checking for slate. Of course, I always, or at least almost always, find a piece. After getting it in my mouth by using my tongue, I settle down on the warm terrace stones to enjoy a chew. Right when I’m starting to get to the delicious flavor, Ron or James takes notice and, yes, that’s right, they want to take it from me.

If I didn’t know better, I’d think they wanted it for themselves to enjoy. They don’t, though, because they toss it into the yard where they’ve learned I wont go after it since, as I said before, there are a myriad of other smells, flavors, and sightings of more interest to me.

So, without further ado, here’s the poem James wrote. We hope you enjoy it.


the oddest thing you find
to put in your mouth
are pieces of the slate
that chip off our roof

they somehow descend
at all times of the year
but during spring
these bits drop in abundance
as if dandelion parachutes

you somehow find
fragments we miss
on the front and rear terraces
in the yard and flower garden

you relish grinding these slivers
between your teeth
having replaced the pebbles
you thought of as kibble
but what are these supposed to be
other than shards of slate

your mouth is the orifice
with which you communicate
and use to taste
while those sharp edges
can slash your gums lips and tongue

so how is it something that
could render you tasteless
be such a prize

besides these flakes are a dull gray
and not what I’d call appetizing

but in the last quarter of your first year
you don’t seem to care
or else you don’t gnaw with abandon
yet savor some mysterious flavor

oh why is it that you like to chew
on the slate from our roof
known as residue

this is but one of the things
I will never understand about you
since you can’t speak to me
except in your manner

but that method doesn’t clue me in
unlike my approach
which should communicate
how I feel about you and
everything you do
(in no specific order)

  1. choosing
  2. accepting
  3. sheltering
  4. providing
  5. inoculating
  6. training
  7. rewarding
  8. socializing
  9. respecting
  10. loving – the last but not the least

and it is the reason why
when you find a piece of slate
or other foreign object I object to
that I ask you to drop it
before taking it away
then returning myself
to give you the affection
and companionship
you so unquestioningly
return to me

Did you notice that in the poem James references that I can’t speak to him? Well, back then the only way I could communicate was with my mouth, eyes, ears, and knob of a tail. Sure, I said mouth, but not like humans do. Like we canines do, by nibbling, licking, or barking/growling (neither of which I do very often). It wasn’t until after the end of my first year that we grew to understand one another, and what the other was thinking.

My favorite part of this poem, as well as several of James’ other poems, is how he speaks of the companionship we give one another. When I think about it, I do find myself following James around the house, no matter what time of day or where he might be going. Sometimes he calls me his shadow. I have to admit that I like being his shadow. (Finally, a treat. What I have to do these days to get one. But that’s a whole other topic.)

Which reminds me. Come back in two weeks and find out what James wrote about the crate I used to spend the bulk of my days and nights inside. In the meantime, let me know in the comment section below what you think of the poems James wrote about my first year. I always like to hear from you, so please feel free to leave me a note about this or anything else that’s on your mind.

Until next time,
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)


Paw Prints courtesy of
All photos © James Stack 2018 unless otherwise indicated

Ants Are Unusual and of Interest to Ollie When Bored.

What is it about these tiny black balls joined by slim, wiry membranes? I discovered them crawling on the terrace outside our kitchen. They scurry hither and yond. (Okay, that was something James added for I would never say “hither and yond,” if you get my drift.) These little buggers appear everywhere once the crocus and daffodils, not to mention the tulips, start to sprout and show their vibrant colors.

It doesn’t make much sense, but why aren’t the birds (if you didn’t see my post about birds, you’ll be able to find it here) all over our terrace devouring these crusty critters? Is that what the birds are eating in the sparse areas of the yard that have dirt on display now that it is spring?

(Ollie lounging on the garden terrace, waiting for ants.)

I find them interesting in that I’m able to smack them with my paw and they go flying, but not on wings. Some times they wiggle away out of reach, and other times they flip around like the terrace is on fire. These are the ones I eat. What? Have you never heard of chocolate covered ants? Well, James tells me it’s a French confection that’s a delectable. [Please note that dogs should never be given chocolate. It is harmful to them.]

(Container of chocolate covered – giant – ants: photo by Connie J. Jasperson)

However, the most fun are the ants that get inside the house. Of course, that could be because I spend most of my time inside. These pests can pass through the smallest opening – one that isn’t even there, if you know what I mean. Before the first flowers have perished, there’s already a trail of them. The first spring I spent at Skygate Farm there were quite a few of these trails – just sayin’.

Now I can’t imagine that ants could eat our food. Still, James told me that they are capable of carrying something like a hundred times their own weight. Well, I’m here to tell you that they don’t even weigh an iota, so they can’t carry much.

Once James discovers them inside, he puts traps out for them. No, these are not like mice traps, but a box with a hole in the side where the ants can enter but not exit. When those traps don’t do the trick like James would like, he puts other traps out, and for a few weeks I’m forbidden to go in the kitchen area. I’m told that if I eat one of these ants I might get sick since they are carrying illness back to their home nests in the ground. Not a very pleasant thought, but there you have it. [Please note that I – James – do not harm the ones who keep their distance and stay outside.]

And here is the poem James wrote about ants. We hope you enjoy it.


spring is in full force
with you quite feisty at eleven months
reminding me of those
damn pesky ants
scurrying all over the place
and into everything
even the things that surprise us

they resemble teeny barbells with legs
hypnotizing you as they scurry about
causing you to wonder what they are

you sniff at one
then another
putting the first in your mouth
it wiggles free but injured
as you observe it
going in circles on the flagstone
then back into your mouth
it crawls between your jowls
and tingling your lips
shaking your head
it falls to ground
where you quickly devour it

a larger jet-black
attracts your attention
watching for a few seconds before
preventing it from moving away
your paw discretely taps it
wounding this one as the one before
with more circles being made
by the poor creature
which you paw yet again
and scoop into your mouth

what does an ant taste like
I wonder but will never know
as the ones I’ve eaten
have been covered in chocolate
so they tasted like chocolate
with a decidedly crunchy texture

still you wonder
what must these itsy bitsy
black moving objects be and why

like all things that exist
they simply are
helping comprise life’s cycle
living free and happy

I know I am made happy
that is by you
and I have a cheerful feeling
that you
are made happy
by me

How funny it is to recall there was a time when I didn’t know what ants were. I’d forgotten about that. I suppose I’ve forgotten more things than that. However, after rereading the poem I do remember the feeling of that one ant crawling around between my lips and gum. At first it surprised me, and then it tickled making me smile so it could escape. While ants aren’t very large and can’t have much of a brain, they do seem to be clever.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve begun noticing a theme to some of these later poems James wrote. Many of them end with his stating how I make him happy or give him joy. If you could see me, you’d see that my face is red. All I can say is that because of James and Ron I’m the luckiest canine alive. (Yes, I got a treat, but I want you to know I was not trying for one.)

Speaking of the color red, come back in two weeks and hear about my obsession with slate. (Okay, so slate is gray and not red.) “Slate?” you might ask. Sure, why not? After all, it falls from the sky around Skygate Farm.

And you can scroll down and make a comment, letting me know what you think of my blog and James’ poems. I always like to hear from you, so please feel free to leave me a note about this or anything else that’s on your mind.

Until next time,
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)


Paw Prints courtesy of
All photos © James Stack 2018 unless otherwise indicated

Can a Sheepdog Desire the Fun of Fetching?

It has never ceased to amaze me how James wants a canine whose heritage is herding to run after a ball he’s tossed and bring it back to him like an obedient Labrador. Now don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against Labs – some are my best friends. In fact, one is the mother of my puppies. (You guessed it – that romance happened during my eleventh month – well within my first year for which this blog is dedicated.)

(Ollie during his first spring after running around with the ball.)

Where was I? Oh, yes – the game of fetch. I have to give it to James. He is a smart man. (Thank you – a nice treat.) It was during my first couple of months of life that James began trying to train me to fetch a ball. Now this ball was one made out of rubber webbing so my teeth could grab it. He started this series of exercises while I was still locked – okay, more like caged, within the mudroom.

First he introduced me to the ball. To me it was yet another toy like the many I had been given. (You can read about all my toys here.) It was a delightful red in color – easy for me to spot. It was, I must mention, only smaller than the size of my head. However, it was light in weight.

While these drills were taking place, my teeth were still coming in. (You can read about my teeth here.) The rubber webbing was soft and felt wonderful against my gums. Yet this ball was not something kept out, but put away after each instruction. That made me want to have it all to myself even more.

Once I was proficient in retrieving the ball, bringing it back, and dropping it at James’ feet, we moved outside. Oh, did I neglect to mention that treats were involved? Well, lots of treats came my way during these repetitive commands. I must say, for a herding dog, I was excellent at fetch.

(Ollie’s famous red ball with its green companion.)

During the winter months, this – may I be excused for calling it a game? – took a backseat to other things we did. Still, James was determined once the spring arrived to get me to bring that gosh darn ball back come Hades or high water. Little did James know that Ron had found the red ball and was playing get the ball away from me. Now that game a shepherding dog can understand.

So, when the songbirds arrived, and I wanted to chase them (see that blog here), James took me and the red ball outside. I could tell he was excited to have a chance to get me to run after the ball, bring it back, and drop it at his feet for a treat. He was bubbling over with anticipation.

Now I knew he had the ball even though he was hiding it from me. Please know that I’m cleverer than I’m sometimes given credit – just sayin’. I was antsy to get that ball between my teeth and run around with it, keeping it from James like I had from Ron. Well, after the first toss and James’ command to fetch, I ran like lightening after that ball. I skidded past it on the grass I was running so hard. Gathering myself back up, I grasped the ball in my mouth and began galloping and bucking around the yard. James didn’t know what had hit him. He kept ordering me to “bring it” when that was the last thing I was going to do. I was having the time of my life. In fact, I’m all but snorting from laughter right now, trying to communicate with James about this so he can type it for me (remember, my paws are too big for the keyboard).

Oh, my sides are aching from all the fun I’m having. Stop, please. I have to catch my breath. While I do that, here’s the poem James wrote about his attempting to teach me fetch. I hope you enjoy it.


the lesson began by our siting side-by-side
watching a five-minute training video
“how to teach your dog to fetch”

when the film completely cycled
we agreed it was a tedious course
as educational exercises usually are

          if you remember
          it began with a reward
          for showing interest in a toy

          if you recall
          said toy was thrown a few feet
          and I said “fetch”

          if you recollect
          once you started to go towards it
          you were rewarded

          if your memory serves you well
          after you went to it
          you were rewarded

          if you recollect
          when you picked it up
          you were rewarded

          if you recall
          I was to say “bring it”
          which is what you were to do

          if you remember
          when you made cues in that direction
          you were rewarded

          if you recall
          when you brought it
          you received a huge reward

          if you recollect
          I was to say “drop it”
          which is what you were to do

if your memory serves you well
when you dropped it
you were royally rewarded

I suggested we take it outside
where you excelled
after a few days’ effort

I found you would quit
after three throws
when you were but sixteen weeks

by the time you were eighteen weeks
I discovered you would stop
after four throws

I recorded that you would rest
after five throws
when you were twenty-two weeks

by the time you were a six-month
Old English Sheepdog I realized I
wanted a break after six throws

when the winter came
the toys you fetched
were used for indoor play

making fetch
with those or any toys
a thing of the distant past

for when spring came
and we frolicked outside
you lost interest in the game

you ran around wanting me
to chase and fight for the toy
instead of you coming and dropping

eventually you returned and
acted as if you’d never release
no matter how hard I pleaded

even treats were of little use
so now we play a variation
I call “fetch and fun”

nowadays after I throw
a new red rubber ball
you run around awhile

ultimately coming to me
dropping to the ground and
releasing the ball to receive a treat

we’ve trained one another
to give in to each other and
enjoy the company we have to offer

I promise to try and remember
this simple life’s lesson
how satisfying compromise can be

I’ve never heard of a game called “fetch and fun,” and I bet neither have you. Regardless, the point I think James wanted to make with this poem was the art of compromise. It was not an easy lesson for me to teach, but James is, sometimes, a fast learner. It only took him that first spring outing to catch on.

The one thing I do wish is that he would have brought the ball inside. I mean, he wouldn’t even let Ron bring it indoors. I suppose that was because I was nearly my full size, and I would be like an elephant gallivanting around with a red ball in my mouth. He knows I will do anything to keep it away from Ron and him.

On the occasions we still play with the ball outside. When we do I have a blast. James no longer yells at me to bring it to him. He does, from time-to-time, ask me to drop it. What does he think I am – stupid? (Oh, that got me laughing again.) Actually, I allow James to get the ball every now and then because he always throws it. I have to admit, it is fun running after it. Maybe I should bring it back to him and drop it so I can run after it again. Nah. Not going to happen.

If you will, let us know what you think about my first year and the poems James wrote in the comment section below. I always like to hear from you, so please feel free to leave me a note about this or anything else that’s on your mind.

I hope you’ll come back in two weeks and hear about my discovery of ants. While I was growing nearly to my full size, these tiny specs never grew a fraction. Think about that.

Until next time,
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)

PS: Please note that James never tried to get me to fetch a tennis ball. For that, I thank him. (Score, a delicious treat!)


Paw Prints courtesy of
All photos © James Stack 2018 unless otherwise indicated

What is it About Lovely Songbirds That Attracts Ollie?

Spring arrives on the twentieth of March. Soon thereafter the lovely songbirds that fly south for the winter make a delightful appearance. When they arrive in Vermont they are in full color to entice a mate. I know I’m not the mate they are looking to attract, but they are like those refrigerator magnets people put on their frig doors – only they don’t stay in one place. I can’t stop myself from running after them as they try to feed on the sections of the ground where the snow’s melted.

For some reason they always seem to arrive before they should. At least that’s what James says. I don’t get it since there are birds around here all year. Whatever!

(Ollie at ten months giving James the “Whatever” look.)

It makes me laugh when I think some people actually assume I’m trying to herd these flighty birds. Of course I don’t want to drive them around, keeping them in order. The purpose behind all my running and chasing is to catch them. Otherwise I wouldn’t spend any time with them. Oh, okay, James and I do sit in the fields and listen to them during the spring and summer. I do this for his benefit. (I thought that might get me a treat – hummm.)

I’ve actually caught two birds in my short life, but I’m getting ahead of the story James wants me to tell. (Okay, he’s going to let me tell you that I caught two baby birds – one was a bunting and the other a turkey poult. I don’t care if they were babies and couldn’t fly yet. It still counts.) [While this is part of the natural course of nature, it still upset me.] (That was James adding his two cents – just sayin’.)

(Bunting babies by; turkey poult by

Of course, turkeys aren’t songbirds. Still, Benjamin Franklin wanted it to be the United States’ national bird. Or so James told me. Seems kind of silly to me.

Talking about our national bird – the eagle – now that would be something to catch. I’m told its wingspan is longer than my body, and that eagles have talons that could rip a hole into my side. Still, a dog can dream. I have to admit that the ravens offer a poor substitute. Nonetheless, whenever they make their harsh, grating sound or their shrill alarm, it gets my attention and I’m off on the chase.

I’m not sure how bright they are since they often get my attention with their yapping before I even see them. It’s after they’ve taken flight that my fun begins. They start off low to the ground where I at least have a canine’s chance. It’s as if they’re weighted down, waiting for me to gain on them before they begin climbing out of reach. Still, it’s the pursuit that counts. I’m convinced I’ll catch one yet.

Their grating sound pales in comparison to the one the geese make. Now that noise (yes, to my ears it is a dreadful sound) makes my skin crawl. It is the one bird racket that makes me go crazy barking – and I don’t often bark. If I’m in the house, I’ll run from one end to the other and back again. Their squawk is so annoying. If I’m outside, I run around like crazy because I can never find them. James keeps pointing in the wrong direction from where their infuriating hullabaloo is coming. (I know he means well, but sometimes I simply don’t know what he’s up to.)

As for me, I don’t settle down until their clamor fades away. This is the one time James is happy to hear me bark. For you see, we have a pond these geese like to pollute. Working as a team, James and I keep them away from not only the pond, but from the yard as well. There are few things worse than having geese droppings squeeze between the pads on your paws – yuck!

I should change the subject. Here’s the poem James wrote about yours truly and birds. We hope you enjoy it.


spring brings the songbirds
whose beautiful singings
serve as a willing wakeup melody

it’s been some time since
you’ve seen these intriguing specks
as they fly through the sky

if you were a birddog
your interest would be understood
but you’re an Old English Sheepdog

do you think you can herd the birds
as they hop around
feeding on the ground

your gallivanting
in their direction
mostly resembles stalking

is it the speed or thrill of the pursuit
you enjoy
as you gallop head down steely eyed

what would you do
if you were to catch one
a big black crow or magnificent raptor

at the end of your tenth month
I would have thought you’d know better
might think twice before jumping in

yet you are ever ready to
charge forward after slinking towards
your birds of prey

even when leashed you still
focus intently on the dark spots
made by the birds or an overgrown blade

holding you back is a lesson in itself
for if you charged you’d
likely take me with you

I thrill to the sight of you
lunging ever faster when off leash
cheering your running as the birds fly away

when only the other day a turkey outside our door
took flight as you took chase
at the end it was Tom who won that race

upon your return it didn’t seem to matter
to show for your effort
there isn’t even a feather

for you know all too well
life isn’t measured by notches on a belt
or feathers in a cap

but by the joy you’ve delivered

Now that’s so sweet of James to say I bring him joy. Here I’ve always thought the pleasure was mine. Perhaps a treat is in order, no? (YES! I scored. Not that I was begging mind you.)

So you know, the turkey in the poem is not the one I caught. At ten months I wasn’t that much bigger than the Tom when he’s all puffed up while courting. Still, they do offer a thrill when it comes to the sport of trying to catch them.

Nowadays I’m not often on leash. As such, I have free rein to run after any bird or other critter that crosses my path. I especially like going after the chipmunks and squirrels. Those little rodents seem never to be too far from an escape plan, whether it be up a tree, in a hole in the ground, or between the stones in a wall. Still, I like going after them. One of these days I’ll get lucky. Mark my words.

Speaking of words, we’d love to know if you’re enjoying reading about my first year and the different poems James wrote. If so, let us know in the comment section below. I always like to hear from you, so please feel free to leave me a note about this or anything else that’s on your mind.

Oh, and come back in two weeks to hear about my learning the game of fetch. Of course I’m not a Labrador or spaniel, but James was determined to teach me how to retrieve a ball. Come see how well, or not, I learned this trick.

Until next time,
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)


Paw Prints courtesy of
All photos © James Stack 2018 unless otherwise indicated

To Ollie, What are the Terrible Giants in the Sky?

There are giants in the sky. There are big tall terrible giants in the sky. Or so Stephen Sondheim has informed us in his wonderful musical “Into the Woods” (one of James’ favorites). And so I would have James believe from the way I carry on from noises and bright lights up in the sky.

The continuous drumming sound that grows louder before becoming quieter sends me into a tailspin. Every time I hear the noise I begin to bark in response. It reverberates as if it is surrounding me, coming at me from every direction. Yet there is nothing visible. When I snuggle up to James for assurance, he’s always looking at the sky. I’ve figured out that it is way up high where these giants are making their noise.


Okay, so I was around ten months of age when James decided he needed to memorialize my reaction (he calls it my fear [see earlier post on Ollie’s fear]) to the noise way up high in the sky. James claims the sound is from airplanes. What’s an airplane? It’s interesting, but he keeps pointing at a speck in the sky, but the noise isn’t coming from where the speck is – the noise hasn’t gotten there yet. Now, it’s not that I don’t believe him, it’s just, well, sort of strange, if you get my drift.

Truth be told, I rarely bark. I mean, when I go to the kennel to play, some of the other canines are yapping their gobs off. I don’t get it. They keep yowling for no apparent reason. At least when I bark it’s for a reason. Take that white light that appears nearly every month in the night sky. James calls it the moon. It gets my pup up when it’s what he refers to as full.


That’s right – a full moon is one of the spookiest things in the world. As the daylight begins to fade, and the twilight shows its face, what comes up over the distant mountains but this big terrible giant keeping the dark of night at bay. How something that isn’t the sun can be so bright, I’ll never know. It’s like an overgrown baby sun.

Watching it poke its head over the horizon and begin to climb ever higher in the sky send me into a tizzy. We have these huge windows in what James calls the living room. This enormous globe looks like it’s not going to climb up into the sky, but come crashing into our home. I bark to warn James and Ron to take cover – the glowing goliath is on its way. Luckily, because of my howling, it keeps its distance. Of course, neither James nor Ron thanks me. Just sayin’.

See. Still no treat. What gives? Oh, James wants everyone to cut me some slack for being fearful when I was still a puppy. Now that’s sweet of him, don’t you think? Well, it was sweeter still for him to write a poem about airplanes, full moons, and me. We hope you enjoy reading it.


there’s a noise way up high in the sky
you cock your head towards the sound
there’s nothing to be seen

you know there’s something there
a small metal bird with propeller wings
flying lower easy to spot

yet sound travels slower
than the slight metal bird
so where you look
is not where it hovers
way up high in the sky

the distant light
on a clear night
appears even closer
it is so round and bright

you bark at the noise
from a speck in the sky
you howl at the light
from an orb in the night

do you imagine they hear your call
even though neither has ears

do the droning vibrations
irritate your senses or
are you trying to warn me from
the one-eyed monster in the lessening light

or is it simply something

driving this head movement
this unusual response
begun as fear at ten-weeks

yet now in your tenth month
I would assume
you would grow accustomed
to things like airplanes and full moons

Okay, so this was back when I was but a young whippersnapper. It only goes to show that I’m a normal canine – whatever normal means. Am I still afraid, one might ask? Well, of the unknown, sure. I’ll bark at strange noises and such. Wouldn’t you? My advice: until it is known what is lurking in the dark, or even the light of day, let it know you aren’t afraid of it by yapping your best yap.

I do have to laugh from time to time when out of the blue I let one rip and James screams. It cracks me up that he, too, is easily scared. (I can’t believe he’s admitting this – gosh, he’s so good – YIPPEE!!! Scored a treat – and not just any treat – one flavored with bacon.)

Well, that’s enough about my limited howling. What? Oh, James wanted me to mention that I also yowl at other noises. Come back in two weeks and find out how I feel about birds.

As always, I hope you’re enjoying reading about my first year and the different poems James wrote. If so, let us know in the comment section below. I always like to hear from you, so please feel free to leave me a note about this or anything else that’s on your mind.

Until next time,
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)


Paw Prints courtesy of
All photos © James Stack 2018 unless otherwise indicated