How to Housetrain Your Dog: Ollie and Patience

As my time at Skygate Farm grew longer, for some strange reason James’ patience with me grew shorter. I don’t know how to explain it, but there it is in black and white. It had been fourteen years, James tells me, since he’d had to train a puppy. Now I can honestly say from the perspective of a puppy, training is for the birds (oh, yeah, birds will be another post during this year).

All it takes are treats, well, on second thought, lots of treats, and a little patience. Okay, James says it takes a lot of patience, too. It needs to be understood that when we are puppies, and for the rest of our lives, all we want to do is please our parents. I don’t mean the parents who gave us life, but the ones that give us a long lasting wonderful life in their homes.


Believe it or not, I’ll do anything James says, so long as I understand it and a treat is involved. Let’s take the command “sit” for example. I didn’t honestly understand what that word meant when I first heard it. I mean, I’d heard the word “shit” frequently, and I know what that means, but sit, which sounds a lot like shit, didn’t make sense when I was constantly being told to poop (same thing as shit) outside, and most of the time I was being told to “sit” inside. Please know that it sounded like I was being asked to shit on the floor.

Now this is only one example, of which there are hundreds. One more that I feel I need to provide is similar to the one above. When I went outside to do my business, if James called it “shit” when commanding me to go, or “pee” for number one, then when James uses those same words inside, what did he think I thought he was asking me to do? Remember, as puppies we’ve been receiving treats when we do it – outside – so why not a treat inside? I think I’ve made my point.

Version 2

Well, James became frustrated, to put it mildly, from time to time because of things like this. I kept trying to please him, doing what I thought he wanted. Still, as a puppy I wasn’t perfect. (Oh, gosh, I’m blushing – James says I am perfect, only he didn’t know it when I was a puppy – god love him!)

Because of these irritations he was feeling, James wrote a poem he entitled “Patience.” It is printed here for the first time since winning the Rocky Coast Writing Contest for poetry. I can’t begin to explain how proud I am of James.

Without further ado, here is that poem….


I’m told that I must have patience
     since you are a thirteen-week-old puppy
          I have categorically zero patience left

You bite me repeatedly even after
     I do all the things the training manuals tell me
          There is absolutely no patience remaining

You eat dirt and the treats I try to substitute
     have made you blow up like a balloon
          How in god’s name could there be one iota of patience

You won’t let me dry you after rain or a bath
     chewing the towel and me constantly
          Don’t even speak to me about having patience

You taught me to reward you when you ignore me
     and I have to repeatedly call you to keep up
          Forget about there being any patience

Yet you make me smile and laugh
     with your antics and clowning around
          Perhaps I still have a very little patience left

You are the cutest thing I’ve ever known
     and I love you with all my heart
          Okay so maybe I have some remaining patience

You make me so proud when you listen
     and do as I ask
          There’s always an iota of residual patience

You are a little puppy learning new tricks each day
     and repeating them
          Hell there’s more than a little enduring patience

You are nearly house broken
     always pooping and almost always peeing outside
          I have piles of patience left

Tomorrow is a new day
     and we both have a lot to learn
          I’ll have tons of patience when I wake up

These days the only time James loses patience with me is when we’re out walking (he walks while I run), and I don’t come when he calls me. He should know by now that when we are outside, there are far more interesting things in the woods than always coming at his beck and call. Just sayin’.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this story and poem. In two weeks I’ll tell you about James’ experiences with house training me when I was a puppy, which I’ve alluded to above. Now the poem he wrote about that is how he survived my slow learning curve. Please stay tuned and read it and the others to follow.

Also, let us know what your opinion of these stories and the poems James wrote. I always like to hear from you, so please feel free to leave me a comment 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)

* Patience was first published in The Maine Review, Vol. 2, Issue 2, Fall 2015. It was the Grand Prize Winner in their Rocky Coast Writing Contest for poetry.


Paw Prints courtesy of
All photos © James Stack 2017 unless otherwise indicated

Ollie and Shadows: What Do We Make of Them?

After being at Skygate Farm a couple of weeks, I had begun noticing things moving on the ground, yet there was nothing of substance there. I know, it sounds weird. Skygate Farm has multiple wide-open fields beyond the yard surrounding the house. It was mostly in the yard and fields where these things that weren’t really things would appear.

Version 2
(James’ shadow watching on the side of a field at Skygate Farm.)

Before coming to live with James and Ron I’d never noticed these things that weren’t there, so at first they surprised me. Once James noticed that I was interested in them, he told me that they were shadows. They still didn’t make any sense to me. Then James explained that light sources, like the sun, full moon and indoor lights, caused shadows of objects to appear.

There were only a few things I liked better than trying to catch these shadows. They were beyond elusive. It made no sense to me that I could never, ever get one in my paws or mouth. Still, it was fun trying. It would wear me out, and I would sleep peacefully for hours. Well, nowhere near all night yet, but still for a good hour or more. James loved seeing me chasing all the different shadows I began to notice.

Version 3
(Ollie’s shadow following him on the driveway at Skygate Farm.)

Once I understood that the objects were real, but the shadows were nothing more than reflections or negatives, so to speak, of the objects, I decided to leave them alone. Still, that took some time for me to understand. Now, don’t go thinking that I’m not smart. Remember, I was only a puppy. There is that expression about throwing off puppy behaviors when becoming a dog.

Because of my interest in shadows, James wrote a short poem about it. We thought you might enjoy reading it. When James reads it to me now, it seems as if I was a silly little puppy. After I told James that, he told me that it took a very special puppy to even notice shadows. James is so good to me, don’t you think?

Well, without further ado, here is the poem….


            arrangements of wispy vased buds
dancing across the white of the wall
            catch your eye

            traveling sights of human forms
parading around the slate on the floor
            intrigue you

            shimmers from seasonal tree leaves
vibrating on the concrete pavement

            fluttering arms and head
rotating on the bark of a tree
            cause bewilderment

            hovering creations of you and me
floating at night on the meadow’s incline
            give surprise

            shadows are a puzzling fascination
captivating you at twelve weeks

finding them as a new type of toy
            yet can neither be touched nor chewed

There are still times when James and I are out and a shadow will cause me to bark. It can take me a minute or two to figure out that what is there is not truly there. I know, that sounds funny, but it’s true.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this story and poem. In two weeks I’ll tell you about James’ experiences with patience when I was a puppy. Now the poem he wrote is all about him. Please stay tuned and read it and the others to follow.

Also, let us know your opinion of these stories and the poems James wrote. I always like to hear from you, so please feel free to leave me a comment 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)


Paw Prints courtesy of
All photos © James Stack 2017 unless otherwise indicated

Ollie’s Drinking Water: How Much Is Good for Your Dog?

When I first got to Skygate Farm I was rather hesitant about everything. After the first week or so I was much more relaxed with my surroundings, James and Ron, and with my new BFF Trek. His food and water bowls were up on a platform while mine were on the floor. At first I couldn’t reach his, but he sure could get to mine.

It didn’t take me long to learn that I needed to eat and drink everything James put before me or else Trek would have a go at it. His primary aim was my food, but he also would drink my water. As such, I not only ate everything right away, but I drank all the water that James put before me as soon as it appeared for fear that it would be consumed by Trek and I would die of dehydration.

Version 2
(Ollie passed out after drinking all the water in his bowl.)

Okay, I exaggerate. That is about Trek and his habits. Sure, he would eat my food, but he rarely drank my water. Still, I was afraid he would, so I took matters in mouth. I have to admit that I drank tons of water. The more the merrier, I’d say. I found that not only would I need to be excused every ten to fifteen minutes, but it meant James would take me outside so I could play. It was like getting a treat, only this type of treat wasn’t the kind you eat.

Oh, and when James took me out to relieve myself, it was without a leash. He stopped using that restraint since it required him to treat me simply for walking beside him, when what he wanted me to do was pee. I’d hold it as long as I could so I could get double and triple treats. I was on a roll! You should know that when you treat someone for peeing, they’ll try and pee as often as they can – just sayin’.

It was after a phone call James made to the American Kennel Club’s Help Line that my water supply dried up. Well, not completely. James would give me a measured amount of water. Still, I’d drink it right away so Trek wouldn’t get it and so I could go outside. But then I’d have to wait for a refill. Sometimes I waited what seemed like hours. James said I had no way of knowing the intervals between watering since all I did was either play, poop, pee, or sleep. Is nothing sacred? I have to say, not when James is around.

It wasn’t long before I could reach Trek’s bowl of water. Once James caught me, he separated our feeding and watering places. Neither Trek nor I appreciated being estranged. Well, maybe Trek was okay with it. I, on the other paw, appreciated it when Trek was around to play with. He was a super, duper BFF.

Version 2
(Ollie’s BFF Trek.)

On the topic of water, James wrote a poem we thought you might enjoy reading. I’m of the opinion that he has stretched the truth somewhat, what some might call “alternative facts,” yet he claims not. After reading it you can make up your own mind. Without further ado….


gallon after gallon after gallon after gallon
is hastily slurped
as if you were a hamster on a wheel
instead of an Old English Sheepdog

it’s back-and-forth to the sink for me
as if I’m on a relay race as the only contestant
with nary time to catch my breath
before you stand over a void wanting more

your namesake was told
“There’s more at the door”
yet we keep going out of doors
to gratefully purge your bladder

what is it about that liquid
that gratifies without quenching
a treat on the floor
delight in a dish

would you drink our pond dry
leaving nothing for the aquatic inhabitants
perhaps you’re an amphibian
a new breed to be discovered

and once supposedly satiated
you crane your neck like a giraffe
reaching up and down into your buddy
Trek’s container positioned on a platform

the liquid sloshes through
your eleven-week-old body
nearly as fast as the vessels can be replenished
as every fifteen minutes it’s out the door or else

and there’s Trek
quenching his thirst
from your saucer
that years before was his

except nowadays
it’s for you
which both of you
will straightaway consume

what have we unleashed
which is worse
          Trek indulging his craving till he throws up
          or your attempting to extinguish an intolerable thirst

I would ordinarily ask
where one puts such a quantity but
I know on our rugs the dog beds and the
foyer mudroom hall kitchen dining room floors

oh sure
you put plenty outside
but not nearly enough
soon I hope

I reach out for help
and am informed
your drinking excessively
is my fault

I’m giving you too much
you should be receiving
one ounce per pound
instead of at will

at twenty point eight pounds
three glasses
twenty-four ounces
should satiate

yet I won’t be stingy
for you’ll get four ounces more
yet still
not nearly a gallon

your gluttony required multiple
yet still
you are healthy
happy with only a portion

the gods are smiling tonight
          as are you
          as is Trek
          as am I

Another bit of information James received was from his vet – well, actually it’s my vet. He told James that around the fourth month of a puppy’s life we begin figuring out that the water we intake has a correlation to how often our bladder gets full. Today James leaves a huge bowl of water out for me. I take what I want when I want. That way we are both happy. I’ve learned not to go in the house, and I’m only taken outside four times during the day. I have to be careful.

Besides, I know if I go outside right away, we will most likely go back inside right away. I adore the outside, so I hold it for a long time. I don’t get any treats other than a “good boy” these days when I finally void my bladder. Even in the rain, I hold it. I tried to teach James to give me a treat if I voided quickly during the rain, but he didn’t take the bait. Truth be told, you can’t always teach an old dog new tricks – if you know what I mean.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this story and poem. In two weeks I’ll tell you about my experiences with shadows when I as a puppy. Please stay tuned and read it and the others to follow.

Also, let us know what your opinion of these stories and the poems James wrote. I always like to hear from you, so please feel free to leave me a comment 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)
Paw Prints courtesy of
All photos © James Stack 2017 unless otherwise indicated

Leash Training Ollie: How One Becomes a Puppeteer

Coming to Skygate Farm to live with James and Ron was the best thing to ever happen to me. That is until I found my neck being circled by what James called a collar. Here I’d lived my entire life, granted, it was only nine weeks, free of restraints. Now I had to wear a noose around my neck. Okay, so it’s not a noose, but it sure felt like I was going to be strangled when it first went around my neck.

Only that wasn’t the worst of it. Shortly after having my neck bound, James snuggled with me to try and make me feel better, and then he attached a long cord, what he calls a leash, to the neck strangler. Oh, I didn’t like that one bit. No, siree bob. I kept pulling away from the cord, but James simply allowed me to pull. Yet when I would bite the cord, James would gently take it out of my mouth.

And then something wonderful happened. Every time I would move a few feet with James holding the leash, I got a treat. Bingo! All I had to do was walk a little and stop and I got a treat. Then, when I’d start to bit the leash, James would offer me another treat so I had to take my mouth off of the lead. I quickly learned that I could get a treat by biting the tether. Not only did I like biting it since it helped my teeth feel better, but I got a treat for it.

(Ollie’s introduction to the leash.)

After a week of James walking me on the leash, I had a good hang of when I could get a treat and when I needed to simply keep walking. But I quickly forgot all about that when James began taking me out for walks with Trek. Who’s Trek I hear you asking? That’s my friend who already lived with Ron and James. When James walked Trek, all he ever did was pull – constantly. I kid you not. And when James walked us together, Trek pulled and I ran around trying to get Trek to play with me.

Version 2
(Trek, the Dalmatian Dog, behaving himself as usual.)

Now Trek was a well-behaved Dalmatian who was up there in years. Yet he still had plenty of spunk in him. James said the only thing Trek did that he didn’t like was how he constantly pulled while on leash. Otherwise he was the perfect pet. I think James told me this so I would aspire to be as flawless as Trek. Well, like I said, all I wanted to do was to play while we were outside walking.

Because Trek constantly pulled, and I would weave around with me running between Trek’s legs and around the front of him, James said he felt like a puppeteer trying to keep us untangled. I never have understood why he simply didn’t take turns walking us, but that’s his business. I have to say that it was one of the highlights of the first month being with James and Ron – having Trek there.

Version 2
(Ollie refusing to budge – waiting for a treat.)

It was after one of these walks that James got the bright idea to write a poem about walking the two of us. I hope you enjoy reading it.


Outings initially were a frenzied sight
with you being hesitant – defiant actually –
and Trek pulling onward
with me being drawn – thankfully not quartered –
by leads in opposite directions

zigzagging and turning with sleight of hand
leashes between my legs and around my back
over and under the one and the other

twisting brings a quick flip an underhand lob
a toss a slide and – voi la
free and unraveled

wanting only to play with Trek
while he mostly ignores your 11-week old puppy self
who jumbles the halters by jumping over
running around and squeezing under
the unfazed old guy who
knows how to get untied – most of the time

being driven nearly crazy
I find myself a puppeteer
gliding along without any glitches
you Ollie the Old English Sheepdog
     a wily whippersnapper
and Trek the dogged old Dalmatian

becoming the master of ones destiny
     managing the strings of life ever so fragile and dear
whether man or animal
requires sleight-of-hand skills
     like a ballerina or a tightrope walker
     demands delicate hand and foot choreography

maneuvering through to survival
is uppermost in our thoughts
as we smile through the days and nights
encountering entanglements we must undo
much as the tether we shed as we age

Today I’m rarely walked on leash. Only when we go away from home will I have to have a lead. James says it because I’m too friendly with people and other dogs. How can anyone be too friendly, I ask you?

Around home James simply takes me out and we both walk around the farm. Well, truth be told, James walks and I do a lot of running. I’m rarely out of his sight, or should I say he is rarely out of my sight. There is no way I’m going to leave him when we go out. Well, at least no way has presented itself so far.

We hope you’ve liked this story and poem. In two weeks I’ll tell you about my inability to stop drinking water as a puppy. We hope you’ll stay tuned and read it and the others to follow.

Also, please let us know what you think of these stories and the poems James wrote. I always like to hear from you, so please feel free to leave me a comment 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)

* Puppeteer was first published in The Maine Review, Vol. 2, Issue 2, Fall 2015.

Paw Prints courtesy of
All photos © James Stack 2017 unless otherwise indicated

Ollie’s Fears Overcome: How to Handle Fear, the Great Inhibitor

The trauma of being afraid is not something any of us wants to experience. It is even more devastating when someone we love is confronting it. Almost from the very first moment I was held by James in his arms, he sensed that I was suffering from fear. It takes someone who loves you to recognize it and to want to tackle it immediately.


Version 2
(Photo by Judy Mir)


After rinsing me off due to the accident I had in the crate, James put me on the ground and I stood frozen in place. Everything around me was new. Well, not the grass and dirt and such, but the buildings and large stones, the asphalt driveway and the four people all standing around me expecting me to perform. James said I had stage fright, but it was more than that.

The Doberman who shared the fenced in area I was allowed to play in had put the fear of life in me. I was worried that at any moment he would come charging out from behind the stones or people and attack me. Another thing I was concerned about was whether or not the stones and people themselves would assault me. If it wasn’t the Doberman, it was the breeder’s daughters who were popping me on the nose and top of my head. I simply wanted someone to love me.

James realized I was nervous, so he picked me up and nuzzled me. It took me a little while, but soon I was smothering his face with kisses. Here was someone I might be able to trust. After all, when he put me back down, he had some food for me to eat. I was starving, but wasn’t sure I should eat, so, again, I simply stood there.

It was then that James reclined on the ground next to me. Instead of popping me on the top of my head he rubbed it gently, speaking so sweet and nicely to me. I so wanted to trust him, but wasn’t sure I should. Slowly I began to move, tentative at first. Everyone was calling for me to come to them, but I didn’t know to whom I should go. As such, I went back to James who kissed me some more. I was starting to believe I could, after all, trust him. There were so many new things, and with James by my side I felt confident that he would protect me should any of them come after me.


Version 2
(Photo by Judy Mir)


Once the breeder had left, I felt better. I knew then that I was not going back to the fenced in yard with the mean Doberman. However, there were many things in my new home environment that caused me to hesitate. James wrote a poem about some of them, and how he was determined to help me overcome my fears. We wanted to share it with you. It’s a little embarrassing that I was once afraid of a white rock, but I’d never seen one that color, and it was nearly the same size a me – well, at the time. I’m much larger now.

I hope you enjoy the poem.


in our travels you will encounter frightening objects
some surprisingly others understandably

a round white stone the size of your head
          gives you pause while shying away
the black cover over a buried propane tank
          causes you to cower around it
a yellow pipe protruding from the ground
          slows your gait

it’s my responsibility to calm your fears
as you huddle at my feet or scurry to be close

a lawnmower’s noise
          makes you bark at its approach
the squawks of geese flying overhead
          startle and you duck
a tractor approaching
          creates distress as your ears move back

don’t permit apprehensions to stand in your way
like an unseen force field obstructing progress

a loud engine of a low flying plane
          has you crouching
the haying equipment idling in the field
          prompts you to slink away
a clap of thunder after a trigger of lightening
          strikes fear in your heart

for alarms can bring their own type of reward
like discovering the one approaching is a friend

a stone and covering and pipe
          may briefly produce hesitations
the lawnmower and geese and tractor
          may for a while continue to startle
a loud engine and haying equipment and clap of thunder
          may be wise to avoid

it’s logical being leery of the unknown at ten weeks
but I will help smooth the way for there is much to absorb
as I will always be by your side my adorable Ollie

Today I’m rarely afraid of anything. Nothing seems to bother me when I’m playing with my friends, as they seem to distract me. Nonetheless, I am still hesitant at times when James and I go to a new place. Being on my guard isn’t a bad thing. James told me that. He’s a good Daddy – and love him so much. (Scored a treat! Hum, only one this post. I’ll have to work harder in the next update.)

We hope you’ve liked this story and poem. In two weeks I’ll tell you how I handled the leash as a puppy. We hope you’ll stay tuned and read it and the others to follow.

Also, please let us know what you think of these stories and the poems James wrote. I always like to hear from you, so please feel free to leave me a comment 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)

Paw Prints courtesy of
All photos © James Stack 2017 unless otherwise indicated

Ollie’s Impressions: Love Imprinted on a Heart

Where does one start when writing about the impressions we leave on one another’s lives? From the very first moment I saw James and Ron, I had no idea that I was leaving my paw prints on both their hearts. Granted, they were rather small paws at the time, but they have grown ever since.

The first impression I made was when my breeder sent a picture of me at only a few days old. James thought he still had that email with the attachments, but he can’t find it. If someone knows how to help James find emails that are over two years old and, hopefully, in the cloud, he would be eternally grateful.

The next impression I made was when James and Ron came to Youngstown to see me up close and in person. I’ve been told that this visit sealed the deal, so to speak. There was no way they were going to drive away from the breeder’s house and not see me again. They were smitten. Truth be told, so was I. (A treat scored for telling the truth – I love James – another treat – I’m on a roll.)

(James & Ron holding Ollie in Youngstown, Ohio)

It was a long four weeks before I saw them again. When I did, I was so shy, but James and Ron didn’t care. They knew they would bring me out of my shell, and they have. Every moment of each hour during all the days I’ve been with them, our love has expanded without our even knowing it. The small things, the seemingly inconsequential actions, totally have an impact.

(Ollie relaxing at Skygate Farm.)

Once I felt more confidant being with them, I would bound out of my crate (yes, crate training is actually good, but that’s for another blog much later this year or early next year) and run into James’ waiting arms, where he would scoop me up and take me immediately outside while I was smothering him with kisses. It was during one of those outings that James decided to write the poem I’m sharing with you this time.

The ground in Vermont, during the spring, summer and fall mornings, is often covered with dew. I had no idea what dew was, so James told me that when the ground cools, radiating its heat, moisture forms at a rate faster than it can evaporate, causing water droplets to gather on the cooling ground. Now as an Old English Sheepdog, I have long hair. This hair on my paws makes them look larger than are, especially when I was only nine weeks old. The result is that I left impressions of where I had been.

These imprints left a trail of where both of us had been. This, in turn, caused James to think about writing this poem. It reminded him of how much he loves me and I love him (Score – more treats!), so he wrote the following:


the sunrise has yet to materialize over the distant hills
yet the morning luminescence displays a thin airborne mist
acting as a scrim on the dawn

behold this fog in the valley
like a milky lake dotted by islands
providing soft creamy carpeting
on which the sun will exhibit its quintessence

this dew weighs on the wheat field
as you bound into the meadow
wrapping yourself with moisture
leaving behind a weaving trail of paw prints
as we go about our first stroll of the day

being pulled onto the wet grass by a short training leash
imparting a straight line heading confidently forward
I continue to trail a row of imprints when returning to the pavement

at nine weeks of age your life is beginning
and will have numerous launches & pauses
and backtracks & repeats
and hesitations & plunging forward

at my age I’m mostly slowing down
and while deferred for the moment
will be stopping
having already made multiple curves and rotations in course

there will be many opportunities
when you crisscross your own impressions
learning from prior actions
seeking to correct earlier errors

although my prospects are now limited
I rejoice in knowing we have this time together
and you have paw prints yet to effect

This has all been about the impressions I have left on James and Ron’s hearts. However, I want it to be known that they have also left impressions on my heart by enveloping it and keeping it beating. In this manner we have let each other know how much we love one another. (Treats galore – I score!) Well, at least as long as I’m with them.

What? James says the impression will be there forever. How I do love him. Yes, and he loves me. We have tons of love to go around. (And James has an abundance of treats he gives me because he loves me so very much.)

We hope you’ve liked this story and poem. In two weeks I’ll tell you about how fearful I was as a puppy. We hope you’ll stay tuned and read it and the others to follow.

Also, please let us know what you think of these stories and the poems James wrote. I always like to hear from you, so please feel free to leave me a comment 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)

Paw Prints courtesy of
All photos © James Stack 2017 unless otherwise indicated

Ollie’s Arrival: Love Found at Skygate Farm.

Please allow me to introduce myself. I’m a dog of – well, I wish – wealth and fame. Okay. Okay. Life is short and sweet – well, shorter for us dogs – so, I want to tell you about my first wonderful year. Sure, it had its trying moments. But all-in-all it was a dream come true.

Shall we start at the beginning? Why not?

Did I say it was a dream? Well, not exactly at the beginning. I was born in Youngstown, Ohio – the rustiest part of the rust belt. I’m told it was a stormy night, but since neither my eyes nor ears were yet open, I have no way to verify this. It does make for an interesting beginning. Let’s hope there are no alternative facts.

My breeder is a woman who has three daughters (maybe four – or is it only two). Anyway, her job is breeding my mom and selling us. That’s how she makes her living in a town that has seen better days.

My Dam – yes, that’s what the AKC calls breeding female dogs – is short and squatty. She’s bred every six months when she goes in heat – or some call it season – your choice. Her name is Princess Baby Girl. My Sire – yes that’s what the AKC calls an intact male for breeding – is a tall, handsome goofy guy. His name is Sir Shaggy Goofball.

Mom was kept inside while dad was kept in a fenced-in yard behind the house. He shared it with the breeder’s boyfriend’s Doberman Pinscher (DP). The DP was used as a guard dog. He barked incessantly, scaring me to the point that I never wanted to be anywhere near him. However, as I got older, around six weeks, I ended up in the fenced-in yard with him daily.

(Ollie at five weeks of age in Youngstown, Ohio.)

When I was five weeks old, James and Ron came to visit me for the first time. I wasn’t sure what to make of them. I mean, they seemed nice and all, picking me up and smothering me with kisses; but I didn’t want to leave my mom or dad or sisters and brothers. I then overheard James and the breeder speaking about how she wanted him to take me and he wanted me to stay with my family until I was at least nine weeks old.

The breeder said she had already “gotten rid” – her words – of one five-week-old puppy. I looked around and noticed that a sister was missing. When you’re one of nine running around and struggling for a tit and then kibble, you don’t always notice if one of your siblings is absent. Anyway, James told the breeder that it was healthier for me to stay with my family and learn from Mom how to care for myself and from my siblings how to interact with other dogs – something about a hierarchy.

Well, I have to say that even though I didn’t want to leave, within a few days I was beginning to wish James and Ron had taken me. It seemed like a day didn’t go by that one of my siblings vanished. I was also kept from Mom all the time. And then, as I mentioned earlier, I was relegated to the fenced-in area with Dad and the DP. I was even fed outside and ended up losing my meal to the mean DP – to be completely transparent, sometimes to Dad as well. I’m not proud of this, but I began eating dirt and my poop. I had to eat something. You find yourself in Siberia as the weakest link and tell me you don’t do some strange things. This lasted for four weeks, nearly half of my then lifetime.

When the day came that I was the only puppy left, I began to think no one wanted me. I silently watched through tears as people would ask about me, but none of them took me. I was devastated. I prayed each night for James and Ron to come back. Each morning, for no reason, I’d get popped on the head by one of the breeder’s daughters. To protect myself I would cower in a corner of the fence.

Out of nowhere, the Breeder grabbed me and put me in prison. She had a cage with bars on the front and smaller bars on the top of the sides. I freaked out. The cage, with me in it, was then thrown into the back of her car. I’d been in the car a couple of times, when we went to the vet, but never in a cage with bars. I sat in the cage for what seemed like an eternity before she and her mother got in the front seat. I gleamed from their conversation that they were driving to Vermont where James and Ron live. My spirits lifted, hoping I hadn’t misunderstood what they had said.

Of course I had worms and diarrhea from having eaten dirt and poop. I was given drops through a syringe for the worms and one pill a day for diarrhea. The good news: I was no longer cramping or pooping every five minutes. The bad news: they went for long stretches before stopping the car to let me go pee when I whined.

The last time I whined they refused to stop the car. I had held my pee for at least five, maybe six, hours on the morning of the second day of our trip. The breeder yelled at me to stop whining. I had no choice. I relaxed and let it flow. Wouldn’t you know, something like ten or fifteen minutes later we arrived at Skygate Farm where James and Ron – and now I – live.

(Ollie on the day of his arrival at nine weeks of age.)

I was so embarrassed because I had wet myself. The breeder told James she thought that I might have since I had been whining. She said that they were so close she didn’t see the need to pull over until after I had stopped whining. James reached in to pull me out of the prison, and I tried to prevent him from getting hold of me and finding me all wet. Wouldn’t you know it, James didn’t care. He pulled me out and held me in his arms, getting my pee all over his shirt front and sleeve.

James kissed and kissed and kissed me, rubbing his nose against my face. He took me straight away to a sink they have in their garage and washed my backside and underside. He used warm water and spoke lovingly to me the entire time. After drying me, he put me on the ground so I could explore my new surroundings.

(Photo by Judy Mir.)

Within a second someone else had picked me up and was kissing me – it was Ron. I felt so much love from my two, new daddies that I was in tears of joy. The breeder thought it was because she was leaving me, but I have to admit that as she drove away I never looked in her direction. I couldn’t believe my good fortune to be placed with James and Ron, on a three hundred twenty-four-acre farm in Vermont. If only all my siblings could have come here with me. I had never been happier in my short, nine-week-old life.

Here is the poem James wrote about that day. He and I both (and Ron too) hope you enjoy it.


on an exquisitely sunny afternoon
anticipation reined
with us anxiously awaiting your entrance
in the month of July

we both agreed that we were
about to wet our pants
with your coupé approaching
on the circular drive

something we were told you might have done
as you were antsy
since ten minutes earlier you’d been
whining with all your might

reaching for you at the opening
you timidly advanced
yet soon you were dispensing moist licks
and a few prickly bites

woefully dank from elimination
we washed it away
in a warm water sink where at twelve pounds
you were very light

you looked longingly at us through
your delicate china-blue eyes
once your dignity was back intact
with your silky hair fluffed black-and-white

settling into our soothing rhythm
and heartfelt embraces
you grazed on kibble in-between frolics
of amazing delight

medicine for an upset eight-week-old tummy
from beef jerky
before leaving the prior handlers did ascribe
they would provide

and a preventative for worms
dispensed via plastic capped syringe
luckily there were no squiggly
slimy cylindrical parasites

being cuddled with affection
from two who found you a joy
as deliverers drove away
you forgot to say goodbye

everywhere you turned
you discovered new sounds and sights
even a blond stone
gave you somewhat of a fresh fright

both old and new parents
with a special collar and leading leash
discovered unneeded
all you wanted was to be by our sides

looking to us for guidance
we encouraged you to investigate
and not to be afraid but
in life’s adventures to participate

a squeaky new grey squirrel plush toy
that was nearly your size
once grasped in your mouth if removed
you were hard to placate

wiggling up to and licking around
his flews and his muzzle
it was your new elderly brother Trek
to whom you could relate

once inside we introduced you
to the mudroom
where we provided a plaid bed
and your new crate

what joy and happiness
you brought to our family that day
one of us was with you
in case you needed to defecate

like the wildlife in the woods
settling down after sunset
those of us indoors relaxed
from the excitement of the date

your having traveled from Ohio
in a small enclosure
we thought it would be more of a breeze
the first night in a crate

you moaned and cried with
broken hearts all around
as we were concerned
and worried and awake

no one slept that initial evening
after your arrival
we could only hope you were happy
behind the mudroom gate

at least as happy as we
that you were here
as our too copious tears
would demonstrate

Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm
your AKC registered name
Ollie is the nickname we’ll use
with love you are our life-long mate

We hope you’ve liked this story and poem about the beginning of my life and arrival at Skygate Farm. In two weeks, and every two weeks for possibly the rest of 2017, there’ll be another story about my life and the things I encounter. We hope you’ll stay tuned and read each one.

Also, please let us know what you think of these stories and the poems James wrote. I always like to hear from you, so please feel free to leave me a comment 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)

Paw Prints courtesy of
All photos © James Stack 2017 unless otherwise indicated