Saturdays are Market days.  In the winter, when there is no outdoor farmers market, I still spend my Saturday mornings driving around getting food.  I stop first at a side street to meet Rick, the farmer I get my eggs, some meat, veggies, apples and cider from.  Last winter he did this haphazardly but this winter he’s got official hours every Saturday morning, and you just email him in advance telling him what you want.  It’s wonderful to get fresh, free-range farm eggs all winter long, even though I live in the city!

Next I stop in the indoor market, which is mostly a yuppy grocery store with some local produce.  I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before on this blog, but I’m a strict “locavore” – i.e. I buy all my food from local producers.  I also make sure it is organic when possible, which I manage to do about 80% of the time.  I don’t care about organic certification, I just need to know that there were no sprays and pesticides used, and that animals are free range in the true sense of the word.  I have visited many of the farms I buy from, just to make sure.  Anyway, this indoor market has an organic butcher shop and I get a lot of meat from them, and milk.  It’s all local and very good quality. Not cheap though, but they give me the off-cuts and organ meats for $2 a pound for the dogs.  A good price for certified organic meat.  

Today I bought 8 beef hearts for $20, which works out to less than $1 a pound (I bought all they had, as they don’t have them regularly).  My crew loves heart, except for Ross.  For some reason he won’t eat it.  Then on to another market where I got some hormone and antibiotic free chicken that is kept in a barn but not in cages.  I also got a few things for myself (beats, carrots, home-made noodles from local, stone ground wheat, and so on).  So even in winter I don’t have much trouble finding fresh, local, organic food.

As long as the weather is not dangerous to leave them in the car, I typically bring a dog with me on these Saturday morning runs.  Today I brought Kess.  I’ve only had her out once in the car since I’ve had her and she barfed up her breakfast all over the crate.  Seeing as she’s been acting so much more confident this past few days, I figured it was time to get her more accustomed to the car.  Especially since I’ll be taking her (and the others) on a road trip next weekend.  

Kess did much better today (on an empty stomach, I should add).  She started to whine and carry on when I first started driving.  When a few kind words didn’t work, I sharply told her to knock it off.  She did instantly, and I didn’t hear another peep out of her.  

After the market I went to a pet store to socialize her.  I let her out and she got to meet the store cats and several customers.  I am very pleased to say that she was very sweet with everyone, even a very large man with a big winter coat and a hat who leaned over to cuddle her.  I watched her carefully but she showed no sign of fear aggression or otherwise thinking of biting.  She was very stimulated by all of this and started bouncing and jumping and being a big goof.  I wonder if she’s ever had an experience like this before.  She calmed down nicely when I had her sit and scratched her chest, and at every point – even when she was really getting excited – I could recall her to me, get eye contact and a sit, and feed a treat.  It’s such a treat to work with a dog this mentally clear.

Next we went to the park.  I let her out, off leash, and hiked around this beautiful park full of old trees.  There is a pathway that has been used enough to be packed down hard which allowed me to walk easily while she ran in the deep snow.  We only met two people the entire time we were out there (over an hour), which surprised me considering the park is in the middle of the city and it was a Saturday afternoon.  I guess everyone else whimped out.  Lucky us!

I did some recalls (which are really unnecessary with this dog) and also did a lot of fetching and tugging.  She will fetch but not bring the ball back to me.  I tied a bungy tug (the handle of one of these tug toys) to a holee roller and that way I could grab it as she did a flyby, play tug, get her to out, and then throw it again.  She loved the game.  I think she’s going to make a very nice little sport dog, provided someone puts the energy into building her into one.

That said, I am completely convinced that she is working bred.  And well working bred at that.  Between her mental quickness, wonderful off-switch and watching her move, work my cats, flank and head the other dogs, walk up in a crouch and then drop on a dime, I am sure she comes from working stock. I’ve met enough border collies of known background to recognize a working bred dog off stock.  

The problem with a dog like Kess is that while she could no doubt do competitive agility, and I’m quite sure will work stock, the chances of her finding a home doing either are very slim.  I wrote back in December about competitive dog people’s aversions to second hand dogs.  There are some wonderful sport people who adopt through rescue, and a few stock hands, but not many.  While I think there is an argument for buying a dog for stockwork (it can be difficult to find a stable, talented stock dog in rescue, as I know firsthand), I have worked with enough dogs now to believe firmly that there is no need to buy a dog for sports (agility, flyball etc.).  There are hundreds of thousands of dogs in shelters and rescue who could do the job just fine (try putting your zipcode in Petfinder and spending a few minutes browsing, just to see…).  But if you really must buy from a breeder, buy from a breeder who breeds for the original purpose of the dog – in the case of border collies, that means stockwork.  There is absolutely no reason to ever breed for agility or flyball, and in fact it is quite detrimental in most cases, particularly in border collies.  

The agility competitor I mentioned in that post, who was looking for a border collie to do agility with, ignored everything I told her about the breed and went out and bought a puppy from a sport breeder (i.e. someone who breeds for agility and flyball instead of stockwork).  I don’t think she even looked at the links I sent her about rescue.  

I really get annoyed by people who think that they can go out and buy a champion.  Champions are not bought, they are created through our love and dedication, which forms a bond of partnership no genetic make-up can compete with.  I don’t care if I ever win when I compete – for me the challenge is bringing the potential out of the dog.  I feel as much pride in having helped both Ross and Mira become healthy and stable enough to even attend a trial as I do in the regional championship I won with Hannah.

I will get a chance to meet this new sport puppy next week, and I will be sure to bring Kess along for the visit.  Kess is about as picture prefect a border collie – physically and mentally – as you could ever ask for and it angers and frustrates me that people with the skills to bring out all the potential she has won’t even look at her.  Of course I hope her puppy turns out to be everything she desires, but I want this woman to see what she overlooked in her close mindedness and desperation for perfection.  

(To anyone who is thinking the obvious: i.e. why don’t I keep Kess?  If no appropriate home comes along, the idea is under serious consideration…)

Once home from our errands, I threw the other three dogs in the car and took all four to our usual fields for a hike.  On the weekends the parking lot next to the fields is open to the public so I can just drive there rather than be dragged two blocks on icey sidewalks and nearly run over crossing the very busy road we must cross.  The dogs had a great hike, and are now all passed out around me (except Kess, who is passed out in her crate), snoring away.