Hi. I’m Skip. Tall Two-Leg Female asked me to introduce myself. My name is Skip, and I was born in Ireland. I’ll be three years old soon. I am handsome. I very am strong and powerful, so please ignore all those strange sounds that Two-Legs make about “congenital heart malformations” and the fact that I get long tongue and side heaves sooner than other dogs.
I am learning to live in the biggest barn ever, with things called couches and dog beds and rugs and cooked chicken in a tall, miraculous box. I learned that we don’t scent mark in places like this, although it’s hard for us intact males to stop ourselves from lifting our legs. But I am a very good dog, so I don’t do that anymore.
There is a beautiful bitch who lives here too, called Maggie. I love her very much. She loves me too, although she’s been teaching me to play a little differently than I’m used to. It’s not my fault that I am so strong and powerful and quick and able to do the fastest hip slam you’ve ever seen, even while running a million miles an hour. And yes, I have one ear up, and one ear down, just like Maggie. Tall Two-Leg calls us Bookends.
I am a sheepdog. A very good sheepdog. And there are sheep here, that I get to work with Tall Two-Legged Female. We don’t always speak the same language yet, but we are both trying our best and getting better every day. And the belly rubs. I love belly rubs.
Did I mention the chicken?
MEANWHILE, back on the farm: Yup, this is our new dog. We are over the moon happy to have him. I will tell you now that it’s been a journey, ever since June when we first started talking about another Border Collie, several months after Willie died. I have missed Willie terribly, and although I knew that no dog could take his place, I have been yearning for another Border Collie to work sheep, play with Maggie, and add joy to our lives. Since June, we have considered a few other dogs. But they weren’t the right dogs for us, and I was committed to finding the one that was.
And then we met Skip, who had us at hello. I’ve worked with thousands of dogs, tens of thousands possibly, and Skip is exceptional. He is the dog that most everyone wants, but doesn’t deserve. He loves praise almost as much as food. (Chicken being the exception.) He wants to be with you above all else. He came when I called him away from sheep after meeting me two minutes before. Maggie adored Skip the second she met him, after he was driven out here by our good friend John W while we prepared for our trip to Africa. (Thank you John!!!) Skip doesn’t seem to have an aggressive bone in his body–Tootsie can walk over his head while he’s chewing on a bully stick and he couldn’t care less. He has no fear of loud noises. He is a talented sheepdog, and is as sweet, loving and responsive as a dog could be.
And, of course, he’s not perfect. He has become obsessed with the cats, seeing them (as did Willie), as small, strange livestock that must be controlled (but not killed, thank heavens). I have my work cut out there, but I’m optimistic because Skip is so responsive. I’m guessing, however, that it will be a long time before Nellie can be in the house again when Skip is loose. Right now we let her inside when Skip is crated.
He loves playing with Maggie, but he got so rough for a while that I was worried he’d hurt her. He can be a bit of a jerk when he plays–hip slamming and throwing his weight around. We’ve monitored it carefully, and between Maggie’s magical abilities teaching dogs to play politely, and the addition of a Kong Safestix (with the ends cut off, I worry about the round ends choking a dog), they are playing beautifully together now. I’ll write a post focused on their play sometime soon; it’s been fascinating to watch them work out how to play together. They play hard twice every day; I don’t worry now that he’ll hurt her any more than would happen in any other play session. We take long walks together morning and evening up the steep hill behind the house, and the two of them run and run and run together while their faces radiate joy. So does mine.
And of course, there’s that heart problem. It turns out that Skip has a leaky mitral valve, which results in a Grade 4 heart murmur and less stamina than a normal dog would have. The cardiologist at UW-Madison Teaching Hospital said that exertion wouldn’t hurt him, as a long as I paid careful attention to how winded he was, and avoided super hot and humid weather. He’ll need echocardiograms once a year to be sure the leak is not progressing. If my primary goal was to win sheepdog competitions I should not have kept him because it can get hot and humid here at times. I do want another dog to compete with, and I think winning would be super fun. But I’ll compete maybe 7 or 8 weekends a year; most of the year Skip will be a family dog and working farm dog. Having a dog that Maggie loves as much as we do is essential, as is having a dog as sweet and responsive as Skip. We thought about it long and hard, and decided that we wanted to be the home that gave Skip the life he deserves as a beloved family dog, a competition sheepdog when he can be, as well as a dog who gets the best health care available. We are definitely getting the best end of the deal.
It’s a happy place at the farm now. Skip is learning to fit in beautifully. There’s so much for him to learn, from Stay to Leave it to Please Lie Down and Stay When Nellie Comes in the House. Here he is learning from Maggie that he can’t always mug her with as much enthusiasm as he would like.
He’s a complete gentleman, and is learning to play more politely. Maggie could be much more assertive than she is; he’d put up with about anything from her, but she is gradually learning to be a bit pushier, and I think it’s really good for her. The addition of a Safestix has helped tremendously; they play running tug games for long periods of time.
Skip is quite proud when he finally gets possession of it, but is happy to give it back for another round of tug games.
So. There we are. Our new family. Color us Happy.
Congrats! He sounds like a fine dog and looks so handsome!
Oh oh oh oh oh, so happy for all of you. I’m already ‘in like’ with Skip after just those few pictures and paragraphs, and I look forward to many more updates. Congratulations!
Wonderful! I’m very happy for you–and Maggie, of course.
Welcome, Skip! All this and chicken too…
Chris from Boise says
Welcome Skip! Happy for all of you! Yippee!
Really looking forward to hearing more about dogs with different play styles. And heart murmurs.
I love his ears! Congratulations on the new addition, and welcome to Skip. He sounds like a perfect fit!
What a beauty he is! I’m so pleased to see that you, Jim, Maggie, and Tootsie have a new family member. I’m sure the cats are irritated but will adjust to resignation (if not appreciation) as Skip learns the cat-rules. What a lovely, lovely situation for all involved.
Congratulations to all of you! It sounds like Skip is the perfect addition to your family. I wish you all many joyful years together!
Anita Schuneman says
Hey, if Skip had you at hello, he had you at hello! Other things like leaky mitral valves fade into the background. Congratulations!
Carla Braden says
Looking forward to seeing more of his photos and stories!
He had me at the ears!
Skip, welcome to Team McConnell. You are one lucky dog. Your two-legged coach is loving, patient and highly skilled in all areas of canine human relationships. She will train you well. Her captain, Maggie, will assist with your exercise regimen of fun and frolic on a daily basis. Plenty of chicken, kind words of encouragement and belly rubs will be provided as needed. And there’s even sheep! Congratulations! Jump around?
Andy Loomis says
Congratulations! This is wonderful news!
Deidre Blankenship says
Oh, what a happy post. Now I’ve got something in my eye!
Welcome, Skip! I’m so excited to hear more about you.
He is incredibly handsome! I’m so happy he found a wonderful home where he will be celebrated and loved!
He was born in Ireland! I’m in Ireland!
This is completely non-relevant, but it made me super-happy.
He’s absolutely gorgeous, and sounds just lovely.
Well that makes me happy too!
Marcia Secor says
Congratulations on the new cutie ❤️ I have one at home too!
Jessica T says
I love it! He sounds like an excellent fit in your family. I love the “Tootsie can walk over his head while he is chewing a bully stick” observation because it’s both hilarious and perfectly illustrates a saintly tolerance.
Heart problems are always a worry but out of everyone who could be his human I have confidence you will be able to avoid pushing him beyond what’s reasonable without having to not work him. As a disabled human, it’s also kinda nice to see a physical imperfection that is just being accommodated instead of disqualified. Hoping for lots of boring EKGs.
Will he stay intact as long as you have him? I wouldn’t think he would be a breeding candidate with the heart defect, so I assume it’s a health decision. Is Maggie spayed? How did you do their introduction?
Absolutely right he should not be bred! And, he’s cryptorchid besides. I plan to have him neutered, but want to wait for awhile to let him get settled in. We had a lot of long vet visits regarding his heart. He was wonderful at the vet’s, just wonderful, but I don’t want to push it! Maggie and Skip met in a fenced pasture at someone else’s farm, where Maggie has met lots of other dogs at sheepdog clinics and trials. Skip was instantly in love, Maggie a bit more cautious, but clearly interested. We kept them apart in the house at first, and took them up to the top of the hill by separate routes the first few days. They loved playing outside with lots of room, but Maggie was clearly uncomfortable about him in the same room in the house. We used crates, and gates for several days; took them on parallel leash walks and let them run like crazy in our 2 acre pasture up the hill. Maggie was so comfortable with him she was actually fine with him in the same room by day 3 or 4, which is lightening speed for her. Now they are like old pals.
Cat Warren says
I am crying because I’m so happy for you! He’s gorgeous, and you will have such fun with him. And stupid heart valves! Nonetheless, I am counting he will have a long and glorious life with you and Jim on the farm. And those photos.
Oh, I know how well you understand Cat! Thanks so much, I hope you can meet him someday!
Congratulations! What a lucky dog to have found your family!
Lorie Coenen says
Congrats! I’m all teary eyed happy for you. Love the pictures. Looking forward to all the new adventures you will share with Skip.
Congratulations Skip and I’m so happy for everyone! 2 and 4 legged. I do wonder if Willie had a hand in this perfect dog at this time 💕🐾
Diane Klonowski says
Congratulations to you & Maggie, too! He is so lucky to be with you.
Congratulations! He’s so beautiful! I’m glad he found you.❤️
Katie M says
Congratulations!! He’s so handsome! All my love to you and the family 🙂
Welcome, Skip! Congratulations! And let me just say I really admire that as a competitor you put potential ribbons and accolades aside and took in a special needs dog who can give you and your family what’s really most important. Wishing you lots of happy, healthy years together.
Congratulations! How wonderful that his temperament is as good as his looks.
Did Maggie learn to be more play assertive on her own, or is that something you encouraged and how exactly do you do that? As my dog has grown older (he’s around 5 now) he’s a lot less interested in playing, even with dogs he knows; and I’d love to encourage him.
Thanks so much HFR, that means a lot.
Rebecca Ruggiero says
What a STUNNING dog. Congratulations to all!
Marianne B says
Reading the story about your life and relationship with your beloved Will helped me gain the strength to move forward in my life. Thank you!
My family has always been made up of herders. All rescues, first was a Border Collie who lived to 17! Then, 3 Aussies who all herded sheep on my small farm in Oregon. Now my current Aussie lives the good life with me in south central Montana. An Old English Sheepdog puppy joined my little family 2 years ago, thanks to a rescue in Texas who entrusted me with him.
You mentioned that Skip was born in Ireland. My last Aussie Riles & I lived in Ireland and Scotland and attended many sheepdog trials (as spectators only). I look forward to hearing the tales of life on the farm with your newest addition!
oh…so wonderful. I am so happy for you, Jim, Maggie, Tootsie. Your family keeps growing never forgetting those before. Skip ….you are one lucky dog, Welcome to your home.
Welcome Skip!! I’ll tell you the same thing people kept telling D’Artagnan; “You’ve won the doggy lottery!” You’re going to have the best life ever! I’m so thrilled for you all and especially delighted that Maggie will have a playmate again and that you’re learning to play more gently. Maybe someday D’Artagnan will get to have a playmate to live with but in the meantime he has his new bestest buddy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ewEgDgm9h0 There is something deeply wonderful about watching a pair of dogs play with complete joy.
Congratulations! Skip sounds wonderful and you sound very happy!
Jan Z says
Such a happy post from the TTLF (tall two-leg female)! Congratulations on your wonderful new family member <3
Charlotte Kasner says
So delighted for all of you – and envious. I lost my dog 17 months ago. I’m looking for an Aussie. Not that many breeders in the UK and even fewer good breeders. Waited for 14 months and then, after 3 failed matings, the breeders decided only to keep stud dogs. So I’ve had to start all over again with the prospect of a 2-3 year wait.
Losing a dog is always awful but I can only have one animal at a time so it’s extra hard leaving clients’ dogs to come home to a dog-less house.
There are so many health problems in dogs nowadays that it is really hard to make the right decision, especially when options are few and far between.
patrick mommaerts says
wonderful!!Redstart needs Skip and Skip will love Redstart.How perfect……
Any chance you could share the methods you’re using to teach Skip that kitties are NOT strange, small livestock who need to be controlled? Asking for a 7 month old border collie puppy who is currently learning (somewhat) the same lesson… 🙄
Will do but plan is in progress. Right now it’s all prevention, teaching Look (at me) when looking at a cat. Using look only if hi prob it will work, working in it in other contexts as well. Will keep you posted.
So happy for all of you! He sounds just wonderful, and he’s very handsome, too.😀
Margarita Palacio says
The loss of a wonderful dog (Willie) is devastating , I’m happy to see that you had room in your heart for Skip.
When I lost my boy (Sydney) it was crushing, he was only 7.
After grieving 6 months, I too was introduced to a couple of boys.
Coincidentally they look like Maggie and Skip.
They can never replace Sydney but they have helped to heal my broken heart.
Here’s to a long, lovely relationship for us both.
Grainne Levine says
Congratulations. Lovely dog and Irish to boot!
Margaret Eckert says
Congratulations on your new family member! Skip is a very lucky dog! Enjoy your journey together!
Vicki in Michigan says
Congrats! He sounds like an excellent addition to your family. 🙂
Jackie Kobierecki says
Congrats & how lucky you are!
Wow! Congrats! They look so happy together. How lucky Skip is to have you. How lucky you are to have found him. I cannot wait to hear about you training methods with him and the kitties.
Marilyn Russell says
” He came when I called him away from sheep after meeting me two minutes before.”
I join teary eyed responders but for a different reason. Except change sheep to goats, the above statement perfectly described my Ceit – Kate, red and white BC. Sadly, two weeks ago I had to put her down, age 4 1/2.
What a joy to discover in a new dog all that they can do and watch with wonder as they evolve as a beloved family member! Live long and happy dear Skip!
Maegan Boyle says
Absolutely wonderful. I’m delighted for you all. Look forward to reading more about Maggie and Skip together, and all the adventures you’ll share xox
Anne Johnson says
Always love to see a new companion added to the family. I have a one-ear-up pup as well. I added the safestix to my toy collection. It was a real hit with my ball-playing Aussie/Queensland.
Cathy Balliu says
I’d love to hear more about the cat management as well. I bought Spot in October from someone who imported him from Wales. He was an outdoor dog there (you know how most border collies are housed in Wales). I’m trying to get him to learn to settle loose in the house. He had not spent anytime loose in a house before I got him. He’s good in his crate but when he comes out, he is a whirling dervish. He likes to stare at one of the cats and lunge at them. And he is a ferocious toy killer. He also wants to kill one of my other dogs. So I’ve had my work cut out for me. We’re working on “watch me” and “leave it” and I know it will be a long process. He’s worth it – he’s an awesome sheepdog! Help is appreciated!
KC wilson says
I’m happy for you and your family.
Nathan Woodward says
I love this!
Karsan Elliott says
Skip, you iz a fine looking guy.
Karen from Oregon says
Trisha- so glad that you have another dog to love and that Maggie has a playmate again. No dog could ever take Willie’s place but he can surely help you further heal from your loss. How is Tootsie adjusting to her new brother?
Welcome Skip! I’m sure we’ll be hearing lots about you in years to come!
Tails Around the Ranch says
Congratulations to you and welcome to handsome Skip.
STACEY A GEHRMAN says
You have a beautiful jewel there. He reminds me of one of mine in appearance. It’s great that you are together.
Congratulations on the new addition! Welcome Skip ❤️. I’m looking forward to hearing about pups with enthusiastic play styles! I have a 2 year old Akbash/Border Collie mix who I rescued. He LOVES to play with other dogs but has a hard time stopping when it gets to much for the other dog..
Anyway!! Congratulations to the new family 💖💗
Mary Beth Stevens says
I see nothing but joy and happiness! So delighted for one and all!
Janet Battaglia says
I was feeling quite sad looking at the charred remains of what was once my beautiful garden, now completely destroyed by the Australian bushfires. Your story has so lifted my spirits. Thank you.
How fabulous for you all and especially Skip! I love how excited we all to hear news of the new addition.
I look forward to tales of Skip and Maggie and Skip’s adventures with sheep.
Robin Ashman-Terrell says
Congratulations, It sounds like a perfect match!!
Karen C. says
I’d say Skip got a great deal too!
There aren’t many people who could give him such a wonderful life along with the training and care he needs.
Lesley Osborn says
Huge congratulations to the entire family!!!
I have always felt that despite our searches, our dogs have a way of finding us.
Over the course of 4 decades, every dog who has come into our home has always had the same reaction…
“Yep – I am finally home!”
The feeling has always been mutual!!!
WELCOME HOME SKIP 💞
what a wonderful tale about the new tail in your family. Congratulations!!!
Congratulations on your new addition and please don’t let the heart murmur worry you too much In 2002 I adopted a sweet adorable Brittany who was retired from field trials at 14 months because of a heart murmur for the next 16 years he was the best friend anyone could ask for and could out run and play anyone in the dogpark until he started to slow down at 14 and he still lived till he was 17 and then it was liver cancer not his heart that killed him
Victoria Stewart-Moore says
Congratulations ! he’s a beaut. Kandy and I look forward to seeing you this summer at John’s. Vicky
This a beautiful, happy story that makes me think the world might be more ok than I feel it is, and I trust he will be a wonderful addition to your family.
I too am interested to hear if there is anything you can do to influence their play, other than the Safestick. Here we have a ‘barger’ and an older girl he has already hurt. She doesn’t have Maggie’s authority, unfortunately. I can’t see what I can do except shut down the play, which makes me feel like Scrooge.
Anne Ramey says
What a great dog for you! He’s a looker – cute and gorgeous all at once, and the “bookends” effect with Maggie is just perfect.
It’s great to hear how you’ve introduced the two of them and also worked to settle him in the house peaceably with Maggie and the poor kitty; I’d also love to know how you found him and more about his backstory, ie. who brought him to the US and what his life has been like up to now.
It’s inspiring to see what a perfect fit can be found for an existing household, with patience and the exercise of clear seeing and discriminating wisdom – what a great example of combining logic and intuition! You are a great role model for that!
OMG is he stunning!!! I love his big male frame. He has that same sweet expression when he looks into the lens. I assumed that meant my guy would be too sweet to work sheep. Hmmm too bad we live in suburban Wisconsin.
Oh I wish Maggie had more authority! But she is smart, and strategic. But I have ‘shut down’ play a few times; I’ll write more in a few weeks about what I’ve done and how it’s going.
Thanks so much!
So sorry about the liver cancer, but what a wonderful long life!
Love this! I really does feel like he was the right dog the second I met him.
OMG, Janet, I am so sorry. I’m glad that my little story has lifted your heart.
Tootsie ignores him like she does all dogs once she’s said hello. If you’re not edible, Tootsie is not interested.
Yes I iz!
Barb Stanek says
Sooooooo happy for you all!
I have a 10 month old female who is all I could ever hope for. It’s like I designed her for myself. She and my 9 year old male are delighted with each other. But he has had to learn to be more assertive and firm. He’s been up for the challenge! I suspect that like me, he so values this girl that changing up a bit from his previous routine is no big deal. Super congratulations to all of you!
Alice R. says
Congratulation! He sounds wonderful!
Wonderful news from the farm Trisha! He is gobsmackingly handsome and can’t wait to hear all about his adventures with you all!
Oh my gosh I can’t believe willie has passed I just started reading all your books I’m currently ready the education of will 😭😭😭 I’m sad now that he is no longer with you! Anyways congrats on getting skip he seems like a great addition!! Also I wanted to ask who takes care of the farm/ dogs when u go away on trips?
When I brought my 3 year old dog home, I thought I saw what I see in Skip’s eyes, which is a little apprehension, worry. I, in my inexperience, didn’t know if my dog was going to be a problem or not. It turned out his eyes just displayed what anyone’s eyes would in a new situation. There’s bound to be some fear. I’m sure my eyes registered the same thing! I wish I had more experience as you and others had…I really worried about nothing for my dog because he is wonderful. I was just curious if you see the same thing in Skip’s eyes in the first days of him being in a new home.
How lovely and wonderful! So happy for you all!
Congratulations! I hope Skip brings you all joy for many years!
Jane Appleton says
I am so happy for you all but especially that Maggie has such a good new friend. Just melts me when I watch two well match dogs playing happily together. Absolutely wonderful that Maggie accepted Skip so very quickly!
I’ve always admired your commitment to your dog’s Tricia but your decision to take Skip inspite of the grade 4 heart murmur, and the restrictions this will place on competing, is just another example of what an awesome pet parent you are! Because, of course, there is so much more than competing and rosette lovely as they are. What a lucky boy and how blessed will you all be to share your lives with the almost saintly 😉 Skipperdee do da Skipperdee ay my oh my what a wonderful day 🙂
Mary Beth says
Awesome news! So happy for you all and looking forward to hearing more from Maggie and Skip.
Thanks for making my heart sing this morning!
Janice in GA says
Oh good! I wondered if you’d get another dog. I’m glad Skip found you. May you have many years of joy together!
Over the moon for both you and Skip!
I lost my Gracie, American King Shepherd, in August of ’18, to hemangiosarcoma. She was, without a doubt the best dog I have ever known, and when she left, so did my heart.
So for the last year and a half, I haven’t had the werewithal to check on your blog. I am so glad that I did! Reading about Skip becoming part of your family, lightened my spirit, and gave me some hope, that there may be another dog for me. Much love to Skip, Maggie, Tootsie, Nellie, et al., and especially to you Tricia, for this safe educational and beautiful community you created, bringing us all together, For the Love of a Dog.
What a beautiful dog. Best of everything to you. I’m sure even though you got the prize with him, it works the other way as well. I hope you post many more pictures of the two of them plus sheep!
Chris from Boise says
Three days, three weeks, three months! (For Rowan, it was more like three days, three weeks, and a long six months, but we knew the mantra and hung in there. Glad we did!).
Diane Mattson says
Just so happy for all of you. Can’t wait to hear more stories about Skip, and all the other animals on your farm. My heart is singing!
Lucky dog! Lucky you! Congrats! After the heartbreak, new love.
Jackie d says
That’s wonderful. 🙂
The right time is the right time, and so is the right dog. We lost our beloved, difficult springerxBC in mid January. A few days later we were offered a Sprocker who needed a new home – it was too early then but after a month we agreed to take him on trial to see if he got on with our Springer bitch. He did, and he is a delight. (A delight with SA, but we were warned about that. As you say, nobody’s perfect.)