So long, and thanks for all the fish.

Kaylee is gone now, and with her, I’m ending a chapter of my life. My next service dog will not be a collie. I’m not sure I’ll have another one at all, and if I do, it’ll be years in the future. This blog will no longer be updated- I may or may not delete it, I haven’t decided. But I felt like it was wrong just to abandon it with no notice at all.
It’s been fun, y’all. The good has mostly outweighed the bad, and despite how I feel right now, I’m not sorry. Not sorry I brought Kaylee into my life, and not sorry for all the wonderful people I’ve met through the breed- not any of it.


Quiet fall…

Plans are being made for a winter litter, and other than that, we’re just keepin’ on, keepin’ on, as my mom used to say. 🙂

Pebbles picked up her first UKC points at the NETXAEDA show on Halloween weekend, and will be back out in December, hopefully. 🙂

Kaylee is a guest on another blog!

Kaylee was featured in a photo post over at Dreameyce with her favorite houseguest ever, my friend Emily’s daughter Dea!!

Things are pretty busy around here- we’re getting ready for the Aussie Nationals, where I’ll be vending, and not much is going on…. more updates soon.

Adventures in Kaylee-land

Today Kaylee got to track a suspicious looking character who was walking through alleys and checking gates while on her morning walk with my brother (they followed him for a few blocks and then called the police when they got home.) But her afternoon was even better.

About 5:30, I heard Kaylee’s “ZOMGWHEE” bark from the backyard. We’re in the middle of a cool front, and it’s really lovely and brisk outside and she’s been reluctant to come in all day, so I’ve let her hang out on the porch. I went outside to check on her, and she’d cornered a squirrel in the three pieces of firewood leaning up against the wall of the house on the patio, waiting to be brought in once it cools off enough for fires. I’m not quite sure how it ended up on the ground- it may have fallen out of the tree, Kaylee may have pulled it down, or it may have just been stupid and on the ground in the yard for no good reason and gotten cornered.

I dragged the colliemonster inside (she was NOT leaving her squirrel.) and by the time I got back, it’d scampered back up the tree. What a day….

Obedience practice with Kaylee

While I’ve been recovering from surgery, I’ve been staying with my parents. So Mom (primarily- Dad is out of town at our family ranch) and Stuart (my younger brother who just finished his MBA at DU and is job hunting (if anyone needs a new MBA minion, he’s willing to relocate.) Given that they don’t MAKE her do anything, feed her lots of cookies, and provide lots of petting (and my mom was very well trained by Indy to require very little of dogs but to provide them with every thing they could ever want at one adorable head tilt- she’s particularly susceptible to tan-pointed dogs as a result), it doesn’t really surprise me that Kaylee has started to prefer them over me, a little. She’s been off work with an ear infection for several weeks and well, I’ve been letting things slide and not making practice fun as much as I should.

We didn’t work for long- we just did a little bit of heeling, focusing on a slightly forged position and a lot of enthusiasm, and then some work on sit stays while I worked with Lizzie- it was really nice to see her having FUN working for a change. She’s not a dog who lives to work like Wings was- she works for her food and because I make it fun. (It’s one of the things I find interesting about her and Pebbles- Pebbles comes up and tries to intiate training sessions- Kaylee waits for me to initiate them, and she’s happy enough to participate for a reasonable amount of reinforcement, but Pebbles finds just the attention alone reinforcing enough to want to do more- more on this in another musing post, which will probably end up on the training blog instead of this one.)

Not a big post. 🙂 Just a ‘this is what we did today.’

A new adventure – carting!

(Picture from an archive of historical dog photos, sorry, I don’t remember which!)
I’ve dabbled in carting and dog scootering before, but I decided that now that I have a new victim, I mean volunteer, who is small enough to actually RIDE in a collie-drawn cart, I really should get on with training it in a systematic way and work on some draft dog titles. (The American Working Collie association offers a Carting Dog and Carting Dog Excellent title progression, although I have to find out the requirements after I get my membership.). I’ve really enjoyed reading Liz Palika’s posts about the carting classes she offers at Kindred Spirits and carting with her Aussie Bashir on Pet Connection, so I decided to get off my butt and get started.

Carting as a sport is mostly associated with the larger European breeds that included carting as part of their historical duties- Bernese Mountain Dogs, Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs, Saint Bernards, and Bouviers. Newfoundlands, Lagatto Romanos, and Rotties also historically did some cart pulling as part of their historical work. But any dog can do it (although small dogs are pretty limited in what they can pull), and there’s a lot of historical dog artwork and photos showing dogs of all breed pulling small carts and wagons. A lot of these feature collies- not terribly surprising, given the popularity of collies as a family pet in the late 19th and early 20th century, when a lot of these illustrations and photos were made! (It’s a little bit like how the ‘generic family pet’ in today’s advertisements is pretty likely to be a lab or a golden.)

Figures for what a dog can pull safely in a cart vary. Unlike weight pull, where the dog is only hauling a load a very short distance (30′, if I recall correctly.) and can safely pull 25 times their weight or greater (Toby the Strong, a Chinese Crested, routinely pulls 133x his body weight of 14 pounds!), carting dogs are pulling the weight over greater distances, stopping and starting, turning, and for a greater period of time. The figures I have read assume between 40% of their own body weight (which seems very low to me) and 2-3x their body weight, depending on conditioning and conformation. Kaylee is 50-odd pounds in lean condition. I’d really like to put more muscle tone on her, and as part of my recovery from surgery and plan for getting more fit myself, I’m hoping to improve her conditioning as well as my own. So a lightweight cart with a bag of dog food, or garden supplies- or groceries- isn’t at all out of the question. And I’d really like to advertise Dogstar Academy’s versatile dog philosophy (and add carting classes in the future once I’m more experienced myself) by walking in one of the christmas parades with a dog-drawn cart/float.

In my previous experience, we didn’t use a cart with traces- I used an x-back harness and a gangline, more like a dog sled or bikejoring is set up. I’m not sure if I want to change this- there are some real advantages to a cart with traces, but from a training stand point, the gangline is an awful lot easier to teach and condition. I’ve had Kaylee assist with pulling my dolly at dog shows in a makeshift setup this way, and it worked pretty well other than some steering issues.

Time to experiment and go train!

12 Things To Love About Collies

  1. Sweetness
    If there’s one word for the breed, it’s sweetness. They’re just lovey dogs without being saccharine.
  2. A coat for everyone (who doesn’t mind shedding)!
    Whether you like a no-maintenance short coat or the glorious fluffy rough, you can have it. 😛
  3. Pointy noses.
    Pointy noses for kissing!
  4. Energy level
    I love that collies are generally up for any adventure you are- even if it’s watching it on the television cuz you feel like crap.
  5. Variety!
    Collies come in a color for everyone- from the classic mahogany sables to silvery blue merles to tricolors.
  6. Ability to get along with other pets
    Dog aggression exists in collies, but it’s really rare. And while Lassie’s a myth, they really ARE good with most other pets and animals.
  7. Enthusiasm
    While a bouncing off the wall with drive collie is not exactly common, most of them are up for anything YOU are willing to put the energy into.
  8. Versatility
    Collies are really great generalists- good for people like me who like to dabble in a lot of sports. Most collies like the variety.
  9. Perfect size
    Big enough to really HUG, small enough to pick up in an emergency.
  10. Pointy noses!
    I realize I already said this, but they ARE very important. They are good for poking into things- Kaylee’s alerts are nose-pokes.
  11. Good with kids
    No, I don’t have kids (or any plans to have any, ever), and it isn’t anything magical- you still have to socialize them. But most collies seem to genuinely like children, which kind of mystifies me- but it’s nice to be able to use attention even the screamiest toddler as a reward for your collie holding a down and having it be the BEST JACKPOT EVER instead of a huge distraction.
  12. Colliefluff
    Colliefluff is a really nice fiber to work with. I felt most of what I get, but I’m told it works well for spinning too. (Kaylee’s coat texture is not wonderful.) It comes in wonderful colors.

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