This is Winston, senior dog of the farm. Born in 2007, he came from my sister Gloria. His mother Lucy was a collie, his father Sam was a border collie. What he lacks in border collie intensity, he makes up with loyalty. He likes to play fetch but won’t give the ball back. He greets visitors by putting his head on your lap when you open your car door. Yesterday he jumped in the UPS truck. Seizing the moment, I told the driver “nice dog! I wish I had one like that”. He gave him to me.
Rosie, a 2 year old border collie, is truly the “Queen” of the farm. She came from a large family of 11 pups on a dairy farm near Elrosa Minnesota. She greets me at the door every morning and stays just ahead of me when I do chores. When I open the barn door she rushes in to make sure the coast is clear. The sheep snap to attention and the wild chickens fly up to the rafters.
She gets upset when something is out of place. Last summer a rouge skunk entered the chicken coop, reeking havoc on the flock. Rosie’s distinct bark roused me out of a deep sleep. Armed with a flashlight with a weak battery and my trusty 22, I went skunk hunting in the dark. The skunk must have smelled me and exited the chicken shack.. Just about the time I was ready to retreat to hunt another day, Rosie stalked off in the direction of the machine shed. Following the sound of her sharp bark, I stealth-fully proceeded with extreme caution. Straining down the weak beam of light, I caught the reflection of a pair of beady eyes peering out from under the riding lawn mower. Dispatching black and white marauders with the aid of a black and white canine is not without risk. I felt Rosie brush against my leg. I glanced down. Our eyes met. “Shoot-em”, she seemed to be saying. “And, don’t hit the tire”. I squeezed the trigger. The dark shape moved. “shoot-em again”. I did. A horrific smell permeated the air. I gagged. Rosie looked up at me, smiled and messaged me “Sure glad I don’t have to cut grass, ha ha”
At nine months old, Rosie, with a little help from Winston, gave us eight puppies, three girls and five boys. A bit confused at first, the first puppy was born on the porch. About an hour later it disappeared. The next one was born in the middle of the yard. We were trimming horse’s feet and Rosie was standing guard, making sure the horses behaved themselves. Suddenly, out popped a puppy. I watched as she licked off its head. Then, with amazing gentleness, she picked the tiny, squirming baby in her mouth and carried it off. Keeping a safe distance, I followed her to see where she was going. Ducking behind the workshop, she disappeared. As I got close, I could hear mewing sounds coming from under the storage shed. Rosie had hollowed out a space under the safety of the building, just big enough for her and the pups. A curious Winston approached the small entry only to be greeted by the snarls of a protective mother who meant business.
The puppies grew amazingly fast on their mother’s milk. Rosie slimmed down, even while devouring cans and cans of dog food. She grew increasingly neurotic, trying to attend to the puppies and fulfill her farm management duties. Once the puppy’s eyes opened, their demands grew. Soon they began venturing out, short distances at first, a little further each day. I felt sorry for Winston, who was still kept at a distance. At first Rosie made sure she was between me and her babies. Gradually she let me pick them up and hold them. Their favorite game was sibling irritation. More than once, Mom had to step in and break up a dog pile. Before long she was joining in. Gradually the pups turned their attention to Dad, a big furry target. He was surprising tolerant to their chewing and tugging. If he uttered an irritated growl, Rosie stepped in to remind him to mind his manners.
While the puppies were great fun, It soon became obvious that 9 border collies and a loyal mutt, we’re too much for any farm. They were starting to drive Mr. Ed and the animals a little crazy. Instead of one serious “queen of the barnyard” bursting into the barn every morning, the animals were now greeted by a pack of rowdy puppies competing to see who could make the sheep run the fastest and who could make the chickens fly the highest. Chaos ensued on a regular basis. This forced me to take the next step. Put out the word: Puppies for Sale. Within days, the three females and a male left for new homes and loving owners. With each departure Rosie would walk up to the car and look at the puppy in the window as if to say “Be good and remember to take charge”.
Time passed. Plan B: Craigslist. After a couple of weeks, only one pup remained. I decided he could stay. Then a family came to visit. They had just lost their old dog and the children were heart broken. I think Dad was too. The last of Rosie’s and Winston’s puppies became George of the Zim Bog. After months of puppyitement, calmness once again fell upon the land.
Then the phone rang. To back up a second, before I sold a dog, I would visit with the prospective owners. Had they ever had a border collie? Did they know they are a dog that needs to work, to have a place to roam? That they can become a little stir crazy if they are confined? Before they left, I told each person, if it doesn’t work out, bring the pup back, no questions asked. The phone call was from one of the optimistic owners. It turned out the puppy needed much more attention than they thought. I welcomed him back. Upon return, I learned he had learned to sit and stay on command. He was much friendlier too, so overall, it was good for him to experience the big world before returning to the farm of his youth. It didn’t take but a few minutes and a couple of low growls to reestablish old acquaintances.
I haven’t settled on a name yet. He came back as Atlas. I tried Butch, Stubby and Chumbly. Nothing seems to fit. I asked him what he thought and he said “Ruff Ruff”. I didn’t know dogs had last names too but I suppose that’s possible. He seems to have a sense of humor because when I asked him his middle name he said “Ruff”!