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.