I think it’s time to start writing again. So much has happened that I don’t even know where to start. Has it really been nearly four years since my last post?
There is too much to catch up on in a single post, and perhaps much of it is unimportant anyway. That which is will come to the fore as I write, provided that I keep writing, which remains to be seen. But hopefully I will as I miss being here and sharing my adventure with the dogs. For the moment, a short summary of the time gap: I was in a major car accident about a month after my last post and between that, more than full-time work hours, commuting 2 hours a day, managing the dogs and trying to finish my schooling, keeping a blog going was beyond my capability. And so I stopped writing.
After a bitterly cold winter, I moved from my wonderful but poorly heated house back into the city. I lived in town for a year and worked even more. The dogs suffered, my relationships suffered, my health suffered. By spring of 2012 I was a disaster. My doctor ordered me to stay home from work for a full week because I was exhibiting such intense signs of physical and emotional stress. In that week I found peace, calm, and a return of my sanity. My energy levels rebounded and I suddenly remembered that life could be enjoyable. What a thing to forget.
I decided not to renew my contract at work, which ended in April. I decided not to renew the lease on my apartment, which ended in May. I decided not to renew my relationship, which had fallen to pieces. I sold nearly everything I owned, packed what still mattered to me (my books, my clothes, my kitchen, my dogs) and moved “home” to Eastern Ontario, the region to which I’d been wanting to return for nearly 20 years.
My first stop was with a friend who had a spare room in her house and a soft spot for my dogs. We spent the summer there, mostly sleeping, taking long walks and doing some herding and agility training. I competed with Hannah in agility and she qualified for the AAC nationals. Hannah and I also moved to Open in herding and entered a few big trials which were scary but fun and I was proud of how we did. Perhaps I’ll write more about the experience in a future post.
In October 2013 we moved to our own place. I found an apartment on a farm which allowed me to have some sheep. My dream come true at long last, even if it wasn’t quite as I had envisioned.
I started with two sheep, a couple of Shetlands. They were soon joined by a pair of wonderful dairy goats and 6 more sheep. I figured while I was at it, I should add a few chickens. And so my farm was born.
Two months after moving my landlord gave me notice. It turns out that my apartment was illegal and a neighbour they had a conflict with had tipped off the authorities. I had to live with blacked out windows for the next 5 months, pretending I really didn’t live there, until I found a new home. And so, chickens, goats, sheep and dogs in tow, I moved again.
The next place lasted a month. The new landlord was supposed to be living up north while I managed his farm, but his plans fell through and he evicted me 24 hours after I moved in. I stayed for a few weeks until I found a temporary solution just down the road, a farm with people much kinder and a far better set-up for my animals. A local farmer with a pick-up shuttled my sheep and goats the 6 kilometers down the gravel road and once again we set up camp. This time I knew it to be temporary so I didn’t even bother unpacking. My room was not winterized and the barn just a machine shop. We were to be there only for a month or two while I found a long-term solution.
We stayed for nearly a year.
Finally we found a new farm as of June 2014. This place feels like home and I hope we are going to be here for some time. I am still renting, and we live on a fast road, so another move is inevitable. But hopefully not for some time. In the meantime my sheep, goat and chicken population has grown, and I’ve added ducks to the menagerie.
As for the dogs, there have been substantial changes here too. Mira died suddenly in an accident the spring of 2012. She broke her neck while doing an outrun at a sheepdog trial. If a meteor had fallen out of the sky and killed her it wouldn’t have been any more shocking. One minute we were competing, the next she was dead. Likely I’ll write more about that at some point as well.
The kind couple who were hosting the trial helped me bury her on their farm and insisted I stay for the night. Enter Holly. They brought out some puppies to cheer me up, including a pair of 9 month old Australian Kelpies they had recently rescued. Long story short, 6 weeks later Holly came home with me for some “rehab” in hopes that some training would help her find a permanent home. It worked. Holly immediately filled the gaping hole Mira’s death left in our home and little family, and we now share our life with a Kelpie.
In January 2013 I decided to breed Hannah. She has been such a fantastic dog for me that I really wanted a puppy from her. While I didn’t want, or need, another dog, Hannah had just turned seven and I didn’t want to wait any longer. She was running in Open in herding and in Masters in agility. A fantastic dog to live with and one I could take anywhere and introduce to anyone, I felt it would be a shame not to carry on her line. And so I bred her and together we raised a litter of puppies.
What joy that was! And how I loved those puppies. I loved them so much that I ended up keeping two. And so now I have six dogs: Ross, Hannah & Kess are the old guard, Holly, Clayton and Desiree are the new.
The dogs are all doing well and continue to bring joy into my life. Having moved 6 times in the last three years, we’re not quite where I had hoped to be with respect to training but everyone is in good health and condition. Hannah and Kess are both working daily on the farm, and I’m putting the final touches on getting Kess ready for Open. Hannah and I are such a team that she’s become an extension of my arm getting work done around here. Kess is rapidly becoming the same. We do need to polish up our trial skills, which differ from farm work.
Last summer and fall I put a lot of work into getting Holly up and running, with limited success. I’m only just now back to training after the winter that would never end, lambing and this most recent move, so we’ll see where we get to this year. She may end up remaining a pet but I at least need her to recall reliably off stock and occasionally be helpful if I need an extra dog.
The puppies, now 15 months old, are just getting going. Both are working on their foundation in agility. In herding, Desiree was a breeze to start but Clayton is proving more challenging. I’m waiting for help to get him up and going in a few weeks as his inner wolf is strong, and I don’t have any fencing. The last thing I want or need is sheep all over the county with a powerful young border collie in hot pursuit.
Last but most certainly not least, I added one more canine to our team: Sophie. Sophie is our guardian dog, a wonderful Maremma who lives out with the sheep and goats and keeps an eye on the ducks and chickens in her spare time. Such a wonderful, gentle and devoted dog she couldn’t be more different from the border collies (and Kelpie) if she was another species. I have learned to deeply respect and admire her natural instincts and innate knowledge of how to keep everyone safe. What a wonderful team of canines I have to help me run this farm, and accompany me in this new adventure I have undertaken…