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
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
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
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
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