Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Beginning

If you had told me 5 years ago that I'd be where I am now, I'd have laughed. After all, who plans to have 7 sheep, 3 horses, 3 dogs and a cat? Let me assure you, I was perfectly content with a (as in 1) horse. The saga starts with Tessa. When I got Tessa I had no intentions of owning a dog. I lived in a condo and had a footloose and fancy-free lifestyle. Instead Tessa was destined to be a gift for my boyfriend at the time. However, in between the time I purchased the puppy and the puppy was weaned, an explosive break up occurred. I spitefully kept the yet to be named puppy. Knowing enough about dogs the realization that life as I knew was now over quickly set in. Having never owned a house dog I bought books and read, read, read, desperately trying to slow the learning curve. Tessa is a purebred Border Collie from working lines. This means she is busy. To further complicate matters Tessa is not an easy dog to get along with and train. She has issues and has had issues from day one.

Having grown up on a farm, I was familiar with Border Collies had a good understanding of what she'd need to be happy and healthy. This is how I developed an interest in working stock dogs. A couple of years went by when she started to show some neurotic behaviors. I made the commitment to work her and learn how to be good at it. Everyone who knows me knows I'm type A and a research freak. So I researched, and asked questions before settling on a trainer to take lessons from. Off and on over the course of 4 years I drove 2 hours one direction to take lessons from Ken Mackenzie - stock dog trainer extraordinaire. Tessa, while a challenge, loved it. So did I! I was hooked.

Having a stock dog means one must have stock. Ken would off and on lend me some of his dog broke sheep to work at home. Eventually the time came for me to leave "the nest" and fly solo. I watched at the sheep auctions, read the classified and found some sheep. Not dog broke. What an adventure! I'll share my sheep escapades another time.

Living in a high predator area meant I needed something to protect my sheep. Meet Bella. Bella is a soon to be one year old Maremma. Maremma's are livestock guardian dogs. This means they live with the stock and keep predators away. I'm now at two dogs, and 3 sheep.

Two months prior to Bella's arrival some kind soul dumped a lovely cat on the range road. This generally means a death sentence for the animal. Except I kinda liked this neat little cat. Meet Moxie - mouser. Moxie and Bella are best buds. I'm now at 2 dogs, 3 sheep and 1 cat. Plus the 1 horse I had always had.

July was a banner month for me. I decided Tessa was getting older and I wanted a second dog for when she would no longer be able to work. This is how Reba my 8 month old Border Collie joined my family. 3 dogs, 3 sheep, 1 cat and 1 horse. At the same time my breeding saga for my mare was continuing. Originally, I was breeding through artificial insemination to a cutting bred stallion from the north. The stallion had issues, his owners felt bad for me and offered me a weanling (as they were unable to produce the semen I needed). This is how I acquired Stella. I still needed to get Whiskey bred so I took her to my friend (who happens to have a working cow horse stud). While there I encounter a 2 year old who was a deal I couldn't pass up. The official count at this point became 3 dogs, 5 sheep (bought new ones), 1 cat and 3 horses. Unfortunately, Whiskey didn't catch... (as in she's not bred right now.)

And it all started with a dog...

In the picture is the original Tessa, myself and our first "money won" at a trial.

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