My younger border collie, Maggie, is still struggling with pain issues after days when she has a lot of exercise. Adequan and Duralactin are helping, but not solving the problem. I tried giving her buffered aspirin on working days, that also helped, but still not entirely. The vet has given me some NSAIDs to use on the days where she exercises really hard, which is usually about once a week for sheep chores. I’m just starting to try those now, and am finding that giving her one in the morning before she works seems to make the evening much better for her. But the next morning she is still very stiff and sore.

The other thing I’m trying out is having Gene, my older border collie, help out with sheep chores, so that Maggie doesn’t have to work so hard. There are some pro’s and con’s to  using two dogs at once. 


It’s been a while since I had old dogs in the house, but I’m heading there again. My two border collies, Maggie and Gene, are eight and nine years old. Gene is still in tip-top shape at nine, but Maggie has been starting to show signs of pain in the last year or two.

Maggie is one of those extreme border collies that does everything at 150% effort. She is not able to pace herself or rest when needed. Her mental commitment to working sheep is so intense that even when she’s not doing something very physically demanding- like holding sheep in a corner- she still overheats easily and gets exhausted. In fact, even talking about sheep will make all of her muscles tense up and shiver, and she can become tired-out just by this kind of teasing conversation!

I started noticing that after a “job” during the day, that night, she’d have difficulty jumping up on the couch or bed. I took her to a veterinary chiropractor, thinking perhaps her back was out. But the vet felt that it was her joints- she said they felt “crunchy.”


Mid-December, we went razor clamming again at Grayland Beach. Such an aptly named town, since this time of year, the whole place is in shades of blue-gray. It was challenging clamming- very windy, and the wind blew a little skim of surf up over the sand, making it nearly impossible to see clam “shows.” We finally resorted to just digging in random spots, the suction created from pulling up one core of sand would dry out a radius, often revealing where nearby clams were hiding. We got our limit both days, with patience and persistence; but heard from the espresso stand lady on the way out of town that many people were disappointed with their haul.

The collies got some daily beach running.


MaggieWhen I went to my first border collie herding trial many years ago, I was appalled at how much yelling all of the handlers did. I swore to myself that if and when I ever trained stock dogs, I’d do it without all that yelling! Well, famous last words. I yell at my dogs a lot when they are working sheep. Sometimes I really get after them, even grabbing them by the scruff and getting in their faces. Afterwards, I always wonder, did a bicyclist or driver on the road just see that, and think I’m a terrible person? Smile

But the truth is, stock dogs can be very pushy. My idea of nice, calm stock work is their idea of bo-ring. They know what I consider appropriate, and they sometimes push the line when they are far away from me and think they can get away with it. And this can be dangerous for me, the dog, or the sheep- or all three! A friend of mine had her leg broken when her dog ran stock over her through a gate opening. Dog-run sheep can crash into fences and break their necks. And dogs can get hurt too, being kicked, butted or crushed by livestock if they are not using their heads. So I do take naughtiness seriously, and correct to the level needed to get the dog’s attention. Which sometimes needs to be quite a wake-up call for a keen border collie. AnnoyedOften I have to act like I’m literally ready to kill them, or they will just brush me off and keep doing what they’re doing.


It made international news, I think, our gargantuan snowstorm. For us it wasn’t too big of a deal. Inconvenient, yes. Life-threatening, no. I stopped measuring snow at 11 inches in our pasture; and the cumulative snowfall was a lot more than that, because it was melting some each day. That’s the funny thing about around here: most of the time when it snows, it’s not even freezing, at least during the day. Over a foot of snow is a lot for this area; I think we set a record for something like on-the-day-of-January-18th.

But it’s not very impressive to people who live with snow all winter. A week of difficult roads, limited travel, some power outages, and harder work on the farm, and then it’s over, probably for the season. Here are some images from our big week of snow.


Each year, the new lamb crop has to learn some things. Not to dive through the Electronet. How to flip up the lid of the mineral feeder. Where all the gates lie, the routine of opening up the hotwire to a new graze, and how we move from place to place in orderly fashion. That people are generally good, and that hoof trimming only lasts a minute and is not a big deal. That the guardian dogs pose no threat and should be ignored. And that the border collies should be respected and obeyed.

This last one, I swear, each individual lamb has to test out for him- or herself just once.


MaggieSometimes when I need to do a simple chore with one sheep, I’ll just take my crook down with me when I feed, and try to snag the single sheep with the crook while she’s eating. At those times, I prefer not to bring Maggie with me, as her presence anywhere on the property will make the sheep bunch up in anticipation of being moved. So if I want them to otherwise relax and eat, or spread out so I can look at them, she is not helpful to have around.

But often once I get down there and try to catch the wanted sheep, I can’t. You have one shot with a crook to get them, and once they know you’re after them, they are on guard and you don’t get a second chance. So that’s when I call up to the house on my cell phone, and ask Kirk to send Maggie down.

The first couple of times I did this, she was a little confused about the scenario. Usually we all go for walks together: the two humans and the two dogs. Kirk sending her out solo made her spin in front of the porch with a questioning look, until she heard me call her, then she’d shoot down to the field to assist. She can get from the house to the field in about 2.2 seconds if she knows there is sheep duty! She blasts down there, full throttle, squeezing under gates and sprinting in a frenzy to go right to work.

It didn’t take her long to figure out the pattern. From the window, she can see me in the field with the sheep. And I think she can see me struggle with the crook and not catch a sheep. She knows I need her help. And she is ready for the phone call.

So nowadays, Kirk says, when his phone rings in this instance, she perks up and goes to the door and looks back at him with expectation. She says, it’s for me, open the door. Open-mouthed smileClever border collie!