Lesson 2 Exclusive: New, Revealing Secrets on the Command to Come.

As an Old English Sheepdog, I don’t stray too far from my pack, that is, James and Ron. They don’t need to put me on a leash when we go out walking or hiking in the woods. Sure, the occasional scent will grab my attention, but if either of them is out of my sight, I backtrack to find them.

Because of this, I had a hard time understanding why they spent hours trying to teach me to come to them. They refer to it as the command “come.” As you may have read two weeks ago, I’m not enamored with dog food. They discovered this rapidly. Once I understood what they meant when they yelled out “come,” I went running to them. What would they reward me with? Dog food. I was quickly trained not to come to them when they commanded me to do so.


(Ollie ignoring the command to come since the reward is dog food.)


Then a day arrived when James and I took a ride to the market. While I obediently stayed in the car, James went inside and bought liverwurst. Once I smelled it after he got back in the car, I was hooked. He could ask me to do anything, and I would do it so long as I was rewarded with a sliver of liverwurst: A bit of heaven on earth.

When James and Ron would call out to me, I’d beat a trail to them. They would stand about three hundred feet apart, and I would run from one to the other for that slice of the sweet life. Of course, they also considered it a good form of exercise for me, but I didn’t care. I would have made a dirt path between them if I could have had liverwurst all day.


(Ollie becoming blurred from running as fast as he can for a slice of liverwurst.)


Wouldn’t you know it? A day arrived when neither of them would use the sweet smell of liver again. I won’t go into detail, but suffice it to say that the divine aroma lingered long after and overcame any other disgusting stink. Yeah, I think you might have gotten it. Enough said.

Maybe they should have tried bacon bits, or chicken, or beef tips. Something that didn’t leave a residual odor you know where. Like I said, dog food doesn’t interest me, even if made with those ingredients, or even with lamb. It simply is not a good training tool for dogs like me. However, canines that relish their food will enjoy it being used as a tool for teaching.

Speaking of sustenance to be relished, James and Ron love Vermont’s maple sugar. They put it on, what seems like to me, everything, especially during the winter. You name it, pancakes, waffles, bacon and eggs, oatmeal, fruit, roasted vegetables, and much more. James even makes cookies with a maple sugar. Because of this, I thought the poem James wrote about this delightful flavor would be appropriate for this week’s post. Without further ado, here is that poem for your reading pleasure.

                                                               MAPLE SUGAR

                         Late winter’s tepid days and freezing evenings spawn the
                            sap’s ascent from maple trees continuing a cycle from
                                     ground to table – from yesteryear to today –
                                           a journey of toil and time and delight.

                                    Eastern Woodland Indians scored trunks and
                                             trapped sap in hollowed logs; early
                                     tintypes exemplify expansion with wooden
                                 buckets and tanks on toboggans; more recently
                          metal pails appeared – rusted ones my dog, Trek, and I
                                                  discover while wandering in a
                                                         grove of wolf maples.

                                Plastic tubing like drunken spider patterns appear
                           today within the sugarbush. Hoses hand humid fluid to
                                     electrified vessels consecutively conveyed to
                                                     evaporators for boiling. The
                                       result: thick, sweet essence, perfect for our
                                  visiting friends’ breakfast of flavored bacon and
                                          syrup smothered pancakes, while Trek’s
                                            company receives maple tasting treats.

                                          Early Colonial commerce produced sugar
                              products. Freed from foreign sweets helped herald our
                              independence. We stand proud that the sweat of slaves
                                                     never stained our maple sugar.

                              Albeit small, sugaring played a part in our freedom, and
                                represents Vermonters’ taste for a host of freedoms.

                                            Such are winter’s maple sugar pleasures.

Although I’m never given any of the real syrup, I have had some treats flavored with the sugar. I like it, but what I like better is when the winter days get warmer and the maple sap begins to flow. That’s when maple sugar icicles will form overnight and begin dripping onto the ground during the warmth of the day. Not only do I like to lick where the drops have fallen, but sometimes I get lucky and the icicle will break and crash to the ground where I’ll devour it. Now those are the pleasures I get from winter’s maple sugar.


(A maple tree sugared icicles during the bleak winter.)


That reminds me. I heard tell of how Ron also loves to eat liver, but James doesn’t. Whenever he hears about how Ron would like to go out to dinner where they serve liver, James says, “Yuck!” Well, Ron and I have more in common than one might think – not only do we both love liver, we both love James. (Score! Finally, a treat after how many weeks?)

Come back in two weeks and hear about lesson number one – the command to sit. I’ll let you in on a secret – it was an easy command to follow. Another secret is that James had experience with this one.

Between now and then, feel free to scroll down and leave me a comment. Let me know what you think of my blog and James’ poems. I always like to hear from you, so please 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)


“Maple Sugar” printed with permission, originally published in Pleasures & Season of Vermont, © James Stack 2013
Paw Prints courtesy of www.pawsitivelyloved.com
All photos © James Stack 2018 unless otherwise indicated

Treats or Dog Food? That Is the Revealing Question.

If you’ve been following my blog, you have some sense of how much treats mean to me. You also know that not any old pleasurable chew, but specially flavored ones. My second favorite is bacon, but chicken and fish will do in a pinch. It might surprise you that duck is one of which I’m particularly fond. However, my very favorite, bar none, is liver. Yes, liverwurst sends me into spirals from which it is difficult for me to return.

Now that you know about my overwhelming desire for delicacies, here is something that might surprise you. I’m not a foodie. No “Food, glorious food” for me, even though my name is Oliver. I’m not one of those dogs that go begging when hungry, run when I hear the kibbles being measured, jump up and down when the sustenance is poised above my bowl, or gobble it down like a racehorse, chocking myself in the attempt to devour it before I can even taste it. No, that’s not me.

(Ollie’s dog food being ignored.)

Then again, human food is something of which I’ve had very little. James used to give me baby carrots, slices of apples, mix pumpkin and yogurt in my food, but no longer. Why you might ask? Because they don’t interest me. There was a time when I’d play with a carrot or apple, but I put away childish things as I got older. Okay, so these are not childish things, and, yes, I’m still very much like a puppy even though I’m four human years old – a little over thirty-two in dog years.

(© 2015 WebMD, LLC)


Speaking of human food, I’d absolutely love to get my jaws around some real liver and bacon. It would be like expiring and going over the rainbow to dog heaven where Trek waits for me. I’ve awoken from many a dream where I’m eating one or the other. No matter what I try to do, James will NOT let me have any of the real stuff. [That’s not true – we trained you to “come” with liverwurst.] That was James commenting on my blog. I stand – actually I’m lying down – corrected.

Since James didn’t write a poem about me and food, I let him choose one that had something to do with cuisine. He and Ron went to India many years ago, before I was born. Part of their trip was savoring spicy meals. It may be only a small part of this poem, but after James read it to me, I agreed that he could use it. We hope you enjoy it.


traversing the subcontinent of India
first to Delhi both old and new with a red fort
built from ruddy stone
market stalls splashed with vibrant hues
sweepers and pickers like ants scurrying
          cleansing the city
riches juxtaposed with depredation
guarded compounds besides bric-a-brac slums
          shards of tossed away lives

the fortresses of Rajasthan from Udaipur to Jaipur
visited by day while traveling by train at night
a palace on wheels if you will
one of many highlights meeting the Raj at the Lake Palace
surveying bird sanctuaries and of course the Taj Mahal
          a luxurious burial site

the financial capital of Bombay (Mumbai)
hustling and bustling with the sounds of coins
          the gateway to paradise

once a sleepy town Bangalore hums 24/7
with a technological and commercial explosion
          the new generation leaping into the future

taking a break in Goa on the tranquil Arabian Sea
once Portuguese and then a hippie enclave
          now an opulent seaside resort

flavors one never knew existed beyond curry
with lavish spices added to savor the mouthwatering heat
          finally tasting true Indian food

painting exquisite lines on silk with a fine quill
brilliant colors depicting court life animals and gods
          in miniatures or manuscripts

a wedding in Calcutta with a white horse
floral garlands exchanged and henna applied
          a dot of vermillion powder
populated with colonial structures of a bygone age
tree limbs and vines embracing glassless doors windows
          once having been in England’s shadow

by car journeying into the heartland passing decorated lorries
detecting colorful dots – women in saris – in the fields
          populated by buttery flowers of the mustard plant

meandering freely for each Indian citizen a body of water
known as the Ganges River gives and receives many lives
          as it flows into the Bay of Bengal

a return to Delhi for a respite before departing
cherishing the experience and cheerfulness shared
          one of many places of enlightening delight

Of course, James has never let me try any Indian food. He even made some the other night – Dhaba Chicken Curry and Masala Dhal – while I stood (actually, like I said before, I was lying down) there salivating over the aroma of the spices he added to make the curry. That’s right, he didn’t use a store-bought curry but made one himself. I will say it smelled divine. (After all the nice things I’ve said, you’d think I merited a treat.)

I must admit that it seems interesting to me that James finds delight in traveling, while I find ecstasy in delights. Speaking of treats, I have a few bones and other chewables that are flavored with all of my favorite tastes – all except liver. I never have understood what that is.

Oh, I wasn’t going to tell you, but James said if I didn’t he would in a bracket – that’s how you know it’s him speaking. Okay, so here goes. The night James cooked Indian food, he also served garlic Naan. After heating it in the oven, he lightly buttered it. After putting his plate on the table, He went to get something, and, well, it was too tempting – I snuck a few nibbles of his Naan. Now knowing what I’ve been missing, I’m going to – . [No you aren’t going to steal any more human food off plates – that is not allowed.]

Like I said, James speaks in brackets. Just saying.

Earlier, James mentioned his and Ron’s training me to “come.” If you return in two weeks, I’ll fill you in on how I responded to that particular piece of training. You might find it helpful in teaching your dog to return to you with one simple word.

Between now and then, feel free to 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 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 www.pawsitivelyloved.com
All photos © James Stack 2018 unless otherwise indicated

What Helps Ollie to Get in-and-out of the Car?

Like the last two posts I’ve put out there for your reading pleasure, this blog continues discussing one of the things I didn’t get to tell you about my first year. Similar to the last iteration, this one deals with a topic that gives much credit to James. (Score: A treat at the beginning! Keep those delicious delights coming.) It wasn’t included before because he didn’t write a poem about it. (No, I will not give back that treat.)

I’m talking (and James is typing because my paws are too large for the keyboard) about what is called a telescoping pet ramp. That’s right. It’s like a slide but isn’t slippery because the part I walk on is kind of sandpaper. It can get longer or shorter depending upon the height I have to go up and down, ergo, the use of a variation of the word telescope. It’s how I get in the rear of the car ever since I was around six months old. At that point, I was too big to sit in the front seat beside James.

It was initially used for my getting both in and out of the car. I would wait for James or Ron to put it in place so I could walk up or down it. These days I don’t use it to get out of the car – I jump out.

Occasionally I’ll not want to get out of the car, so James will put it in place and plead for me to get out. Still, I don’t leave since I love being in the car.

Now you might be wondering how it came about that I use this ramp. You could have even tried it with your dog, or maybe not. Either way, knowing might be something that will help you in the future with your canine.

Within the first week of my arrival at Skygate Farm, James put the ramp flat on the garage floor. He led me over to it while I was on a leash. Now, if you’ve read about my first year, you know that I was suspicious of new and strange things. Well, when I’d been in the garage before, this rectangular item had not been on the floor. I had no idea if it was going to jump up and nab me, or what.

It was interesting that all James did was have me walk beside it – well, I put him between me and it. The next day, the ramp was back. This time I was curious, so I tentatively went over and sniffed it. It smelled of metal and dirt. Now, I liked dirt at that time, so it was a welcoming odor. The next day, or maybe a few days later, James got me to put a paw on it. Since it didn’t attack me, I put two paws on it before backing away. Slowly, but surely, I began walking on it and jumping off every time James would raise it a little bit higher on one side. As such, by the time I was six months old and made to ride in the rear of the car, I would climb up and down it when asked.

Oh, yeah, something I left out in my explanation. Delicious treats were involved in getting me to even sniff the ramp, much less get on it and begin to jump off. Speaking of treats, here’s one of James’ poems for your reading pleasure:

                                        GREEN MOUNTAINS

                        The stature and steepness of Vermont’s
                  hills and heaps are succulently savored by my
               dogs, Trek and Pip, and me. Having once heaved
             to heights of over a mile, these mature mounts have
           weathered into desirable destinations to play and stay.

           When autumn cleans to its conclusion our world runs
                 russet and gray. Once the climate curls cold we
                       are twirled with creamy, white, feathery
                         powder. The first buds pop, reflecting
                       muted, autumnal colors. As quickly they
                    explode into exciting shades of emerald and
                jade. Completing the cycle the warm tints of fall
             evolve on these knolls. Like my chin, the mountains
          enfold us within their earnest embrace.

                     As the years have receded, like the height I once
             reached, the implements of recreation have worn
                    away, or been put aside for more leisurely
                      strolls. The trails we tramp are like aged
                        wrinkles, providing each prominence
                           with its own, precious personality.

                     While we miss our friends and family far
                 afield, we have grown to honor these historic
              hillocks we call home. There is a comfort known
            only to those, like Trek, Pip and myself, who can sit
           silently for hours in one another’s company, knowing
         without the exchange of words or whimpers that we are
            content, life is good, we’re happy to share what little
                 time we have with each other – and with these
                                           venerable peaks.

            Such are the pleasures of Vermont’s Green Mountains.

You might ask why they use a ramp for me. Well, I’ll tell you. The back of his car is a good three feet off the ground, and I’m a big boy at over eighty pounds. As such, lifting me is not such a good idea since it could possibly hurt their back. Besides, their previous Old English Sheepdog, Pip, hurt his knee ligament when he jumped into the back of James’ car. A few days later, while running, the tendon snapped, and Pip had to have surgery. I hear such an operation and the recovery period are less than pleasant, unlike the Green Mountains of Vermont like in James’ poem.

We certainly don’t want anything like that to happen to me. I’m willing to bet you don’t want anything like that happening to your best friend. So take my advice, follow James’ lead – like I do (most of the time) – and get a ramp for your buddy, expose it to him/her at the get-go, and have a fun time tooling down the highway together.

Speaking of fun times, the pleasures of the Green Mountains has caused me to build up an appetite. Food, glorious food: Come back in two weeks and hear all about my food habits, including, drum roll please, TREATS. I hope to hear from you.

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

Until next time,
Short Stories - Author Webpage Help Needed
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)


“Green Mountains” printed with permission, originally published in Pleasures & Season of Vermont, © James Stack 2013
Paw Prints courtesy of www.pawsitivelyloved.com
All photos © James Stack 2018 unless otherwise indicated

How Excursions to the Vet Turned Out to Be Fun for Ollie.

I have only a vague recollection of the first time I went to the Veterinarian’s office. It happened when I only a couple of weeks old. My nine brothers and sisters and I were put in a box and shuffled off in a car. Suffocating is all I remember.

Once I was at Skygate Farm with James and Ron, we started going for rides in James’ car, something I enjoyed immensely since I was the only one in the front passenger seat with plenty of air to breath. Not having to be nearly smothered in a box was liberating. I had no idea where we were, but James pulled off the road and parked. Unbeknownst to me, this was my second trip to a Vet.

Taking me in his arms, which I loved more than anything when I was barely two months old, we went inside a building. James put the leash on me, which I had yet to understand. Still, there were people and, this is what made me excited, other dogs inside! The people ooh’d and aah’d over me, and the other canines and I sniffed one another while wagging out tales – well, I wagged my nob.

(Ollie and James after a visit to the Vet – all smiles.)

Suddenly there was a treat being offered to me. It smelled, what I came to learn, like bacon. Oh, boy! All the people were so nice, and most of the dogs were pleasant, some even eager to play.

The very next week James took me back. There were no other dogs visible in the room where we went, but their smell was present. So was the smell of the treat made from bacon. Not only was it present, but I got two more of them simply for having shown up. Then, after the man in the white smock looked we over from head to nob – like I said, I don’t have a tail – I got two more bacon-flavored delights.

Stack, Oliver
(Ollie sitting on the reception desk at the Vet.)

We made a trip to the Vet’s office every week for the next two months. It seemed that all I had to do was show up and they would give me a treat. James said he didn’t want me to be afraid of the going to see the Veterinarian. As such, he made it a joyful experience. To me, it will always be a thrilling practice even though some less-than-exciting things have happened to me there, if you know what I mean.

Speaking of meanings, James never wrote a poem about our trips to the Vet. I wonder why? [I didn’t think it was important until now, when you asked me to type this particular blog for you.] (That was James answering my gratuitous question.) [That was Ollie rolling his eyes.] Anyway, here’s a poem James did write about something entirely different – Maple tree seeds.


my primary genus is Acer
it’s the Latin for my plant classification
which is typically used for edification
maple is the name that’s commoner

there are over a hundred of our kind
sugar is the one most cheer up
during mid to late winter is the time
to collect sap and make syrup

come autumn the hillsides we beautify
with colors red orange and yellow
picture taking tourists in cars drive by
the longer nights are to what we owe

fall is also the time of year
fliers flappers floaters appear
we are the helicopter seeds
being shed by the maple trees

try and catch us if you can
as we find our way round

spinning we land aground
for we have a secret plan

for chipmunks squirrels birds and mice
we serve as forage and feed
if we survive winters’ snow and ice
our coating will shed our seed

the kernels stir from slumber awaken
germination provides a single root
the beginning of life is breathtaking
tunneling in the soil so resolute

above the ground appears a trunk
upon which two nodules the seed is known to split
throwing off its veneer like junk
exposes the cotyledon the seed-leaf bit

all of our leaves are known as palmate
and have five points with smooth margins
filled with chlorophyll to activate
photosynthesis to feed the tree’s organs

we all first learn to crawl
and then to stand up tall
and begin our education
for our maturation

upon graduation we become trustworthy
to carry on our legacy
by emitting two-wings two-seeds we deliver
like a U-shaped helicopter

which brings me full circle to Acer
and the syrup from sugar maple stands
like life’s cycle there’s nothing greater
mine takes place within the woodlands

I have to laugh. While reading this poem – well, while James read it aloud to me – I could see how these seeds might be mistaken for delicious delights. They never have interested me in that way since they don’t have an appetizing odor about them, unlike the animals mentioned in the poem.

With that said, because James took me to the Vet every week when I was little, and I got a treat for going, I now find the thought, the trip, and the visit to be an exceptionally wonderful experience. I know. I know. Sometimes I get pricked with a needle. That’s okay considering the delightful things – not maple seeds – I get to eat when I’m there.

(A sugar maple “helicopter” seed and alphabet treats.)

James told me that when he was little the doctor he would visit would give him a candy sucker at the end of the visit. It made going to the medical man reasonable. That is except when they did something that hurt, usually when he was groggy, and there was no candy at the end of the visit. (I wouldn’t like that either.)

Something you will like is my blog post in two weeks. Come back and find how I found my way into the “way back” of the car. I think you’ll find it interesting.

 Between now and then, feel free to 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 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 www.pawsitivelyloved.com
All photos © James Stack 2018 unless otherwise indicated

Amazing Delights from Year One – Harvests & Thanksgiving.

So, we’ve reached the second year of my life. Where to begin? I suppose I should start at the beginning like I did with my first year. However, there were numerous things I didn’t get to tell you about that first year. So, I think I’ll get some of those off my hairy chest. (Yeah, I have hair on my chest.)

Here goes with the initial one. I want to report that we went to Hilton Head Island for Thanksgiving that first year. We drove from Vermont to South Carolina in James’ car. He bought a special crate that fit in the back. They stuck me in that crate the entire drive. Of course, I didn’t mind – not really. So long as I didn’t have to do any of the driving, I was chill.

The condo James and Ron rented advertised a fenced-in yard where they wanted to put me so I could do my business. Well, when we arrived, the area of this sorry excuse for a yard was only slightly larger than my crate. As such, James and Ron took me for walks.

During the first four days, these walks were in the rain. That’s right. It rained Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Now, this wasn’t just any rain. It poured. I looked like a wet dishrag every time we came back. James and Ron were protected by an umbrella.

Oh, yeah, I was six months old at the time. Little did James know I could definitely make it through the night. But noooooo. James woke me up every morning after only six hours of sleep so we could, yet again, go out into the rain.

The best part of the trip, other than when it quit drizzling, was that Jackie came down and stayed with us. She was at Skygate Farm the very first day I arrived, and I hadn’t seen her since. It was such a joyous treat. (What could James be thinking? He has yet to give me a treat. I’ll think of something.)

The next best part of the trip was on Thanksgiving Day when we went for a walk on the beach. It was my first time frolicking in the sand and saltwater. Oh, and other canines were hanging out on the beach with whom I got to play.


(L2R: Ron, Ollie, and James posing on the beach at Hilton Head, South Carolina.)


We had our Thanksgiving meal at a friend of Jackie’s whose name is also Jackie. She has a lovely condo much closer to the beach than the one James and Ron rented. Of course, they had to lease one that was “dog-friendly.” The second Jackie was incredibly kind to invite me along for the day.


(L2R: New Jackie, Ollie, and Jackie kneeling in front of the Thanksgiving spread.)


Looking at all that food reminded me of one of James’ poems. He wrote it as a request from Mimi Neff to read at the Old Parish Church in Weston, Vermont. In it he discusses the abundance of food Vermonters harvest at the end of the growing season. I hope you enjoy reading it.


           My dog, Trek, sits patiently watching me as
                                    I scurry about,
                        ensuring that the seedlings
                           are safe from a late frost
                 as the planting time of year unfolds.

                    I plow the vegetable patch with a
   neighbor’s tiller, borrowed after a casual exchange
           where one is mentioned as being needed.

                It’s with the assistance of neighbors
                               and acquaintances
                                    that gardens,
                             both edible and not,
                                   are sustained.

       There are times these same people spot me
             in the plot and stop to chew the fat.
           Soon they are beside me weeding and
                        admiring, like the bees,
    the flowers that each plant displays which will
               provide the desired nourishment.

          All summer we chat about the progress,
              anticipating the precise moment to
pick and pluck; for the Vermont harvest suddenly
        arrives with an overabundance of wealth
                      such that we are all sated,
                              for a little while.

       Beginning with the prepping for planting
                        through to the harvest
                       we are aided by others.
                           These same people
               share in each successive bounty.

                       The getting of help and
                         the giving of produce
        also harvests friendships along the way.
                                Friends who,
                  while not put up or canned,
                       remain fresh and true.

   Such are the pleasures of a Vermont harvest.

James wrote that poem while he was living at Popplewood Farm with Ron and their best friend Trek – my BFF when I first arrived on the scene. I love how James included Trek in the poem. (Finally, a treat, and I wasn’t even trying for one.) This poem is included in James’ book of poems entitled Pleasures & Seasons of Vermont.

Speaking of pleasures, all this harvesting reminded me of something else that I’d like to tell you about that took place during my first year. Come back in two weeks and find out how I grew fond of visiting the vet. You read that correctly. Hopefully, it piqued your interest.

Until then, feel free to 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 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)


“Harvest” printed with permission, originally published in Pleasures & Season of Vermont, © James Stack 2013
Paw Prints courtesy of www.pawsitivelyloved.com
All photos © James Stack 2018 unless otherwise indicated

It Was a Long, Wonderful First Year for Ollie.

We’ve come to the end of my first year. Both James and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about me. I know I’ve enjoyed reporting about this impressionable time. Sure, James and I have had our differences in what to report and say, but because of those differences, we’ve grown closer, if that was even possible.

(Ollie and James – best friends forever.)

It happens that today is also my birthday – May 26th. It’s kind of cool that we finished this blog and sharing James’ poems on the day of the year when I was born. Of course, we didn’t plan it that way.

Come to think of it, making plans are nice, but that’s all they are. Life has a way of getting in-between the things we propose. I’m here to tell you that my life so far has been one super gift. I have two daddies who love me and who I love. What could be better than that? Okay, so food and snacks and toys and friends to play with are rather wonderful, too.

Oh, yeah. There’s something else almost as nice – James’ poems. Here’s one he wrote. It sums up our time together during my first year:


this is a happy tale that’s
not a tail that wags
since Ollie has a knob
that twitches and bobs

this is a first-year tale
beginning in the rust belt
carried onto the AKC website
where at a week he was found

asleep on a red blanket
China-blue eyes unopened
a black and white bundle of love
unlocked the gates into our hearts

an excursion to Ohio
when Ollie was five weeks
bashful and fearful
sealed his love within our souls

four weeks later he arrived and
over the next ten months
tentacles of love
intertwined within our chis

in the beginning
     – impressions of minute emotions and memories embossed upon our
psyche for a
     – fearful responses to innocuous items lead us to consider special treatment
     – leash walking with our dearly beloved Dalmatian Trek we morphed into

     – Ollie’s water bowl would empty as soon as it was replenished
     – his noticing shadows was when we discovered his extraordinary curiosity
     – high stakes investment in-house training necessitated diligent attention
to his moods

     – we discovered an unfortunate place known as puppy purgatory which to
Dante was
     – all the while we were learning patience is a virtue

as time progressed
     – sweet sleep evaded us for we remained diligent in our training and love
     – the crowning of Ollie’s teeth necessitated an abundance of chew toys
     – nighttime became the sweet time when he greeted us with kisses as we
       took care so he could take care
     – the despicable morning dew forced a drying off of his feet regardless of
rain or shine

     – shoelaces were a fascination
     – butterflies flitting around the yard created a game of chase
     – dandelions caught his eye with their brilliant yellow flowers and star-burst

     – the rain like the dew caused aggravation by dampening Ollie’s beautiful
Old English
 Sheepdog puppy coat

when autumns colors reigned supreme
     – he desired pebbles and dirt for which we were unsure since dirt is dirt and
 should never be swallowed
     – the rustling of leaves and brush by the invisible wind nibbled at Ollie’s

     – he chewed pieces of wood graduating in size from twigs to sticks to limbs
     – the time approached for a full mouth of teeth

suddenly it wasn’t summer
     – the proof was in the profusion of snowfall and abundance of joy from
frolicking in
 the white powder
     – while inside soft stiff colored crinkly paper enticed Ollie’s mouthing

     – the heat within the bathroom called to him to luxuriate within its radiance
     – the leaves no longer offered chase except an occasional skeletal version
 across the icy snow
     – strategically placed tin cans kept him from food trash and curtains
     – airplanes provided noise and full moons offered light in the night sky for
him to

appreciating the passing of time for a year was upon us
     – while luxuriating within our newly found tolerance we painfully observed
 catching a flying animal
     – his having learned to fetch as a youngster was no longer an attribute an
Old English
 Sheepdog cared to retain
     – Ollie’s alarming attention to ants proved to be harmless and distracting
     – his interest in gnawing on slate was not something we cared for him to

     – we were pleased that his love of the crate developed into his feeling safe
and secure

     – it was a pleasure to know that he took to grooming like a red-spotted newt
to a
 vernal pool

and that my friends
is what it’s all about

the love between best friends
be they

love is love
it makes the world go round
may the earth keep spinning on its axis

it will with Ollie in our lives
and so

this is a happy tale that’s
not a tail that wags
since Ollie has a knob
that twitches and bobs

it began in a rust belt town
and ends on a hill in Vermont
at the home of Ollie James and Ron
known as Skygate Farm

Wow! What a year it was. It sure wasn’t easy in the beginning, but some of the best things in life aren’t necessarily stress-free when originally encountered.


(Ollie and James in the ATV enjoying a ride together – forever.)

I must admit that the bond between James and me, as well as between Ron and me, is super strong. One of the nicest things is that since the end of my first year neither of them puts a leash on me when they walk me around Skygate Farm. With multiple acres on which to romp, you’d think I’d run off and explore. Well, I do, somewhat. Still, I never have either of them out of my sight. Okay, there are times they keep walking in one direction and I go in another, but sooner or later I catch up to them.

Speaking of walking, it’s now time to decide what to report in my next post. I haven’t the foggiest (Yes, I am an English sheepdog.) idea. I’ll give it some thought over the next two weeks. Come back at that time and find out.

Between now and then, feel free to 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 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 www.pawsitivelyloved.com
All photos © James Stack 2018 unless otherwise indicated

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 www.pawsitivelyloved.com
All photos © James Stack 2018 unless otherwise indicated