Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Finally. It's Happening.

Five years ago, while flipping through the classifieds in the back of a Small Farmer's Journal that someone gave us, I saw a little ad about an organization called the English Shepherd Club. There was a sketched image of a collie dog next to the quaint looking letters, and beneath the title and picture were the words that claimed this dog was for herding, hunting, guarding, and companionship. Intrigued, I researched more about this breed that seemed to be able to do whatever you threw at it. And I fell in love with these rare dogs... It wasn't until two years after that day that I made up my mind that I would someday own an English Shepherd of my own. I didn't know when it would happen, but I knew that somehow it would become a reality.

For the next three years I fantasized about my ideal English Shepherd. If you've been around here for awhile then you may already be aware that the "ideal" dog was a sable colored female whom I would name Dulcie; which is Latin for the word "sweet".

At the end of March I went to a farm two hours north of me and looked at a Great Pyrenees puppy named Tank. Oh he was beautiful... And lovely, and gentle, and adorable, and, and, and... I liked that pup. And at first it seemed pretty well laid out: I would be getting Tank since I needed a dog to help with predator control. End of story. Right?

The next week and a half, after meeting Tank, were surprisingly difficult. I don't know what got into my animals, but they seemed to figure out that there were more of them than me, and wanted to remind me that!! The goats kept rushing the gate, the pigs escaped twice, the cow was giving me grief. And my mind wandered during those times to thoughts of, "Too bad Tank couldn't help me keep the stock in line... I so badly need a stock dog!"

I've been saying "I need a stock dog!!" for something like two years now. Farming is hard. Farming by yourself is even harder. I have been bit, kicked, shoved, slammed against walls, bowled over, bruised, bloodied, and sore more times than I care to count. I don't have aggressive animals, and I'm not exactly what you would call a klutz (I have my moments though; believe me), but accidents happen. A sick cow pins me against a metal wall with with 900 lbs. of force; a 1,200 lb. cow kicks me in the stomach and sends me flying four feet; a pig bites my hand thinking it's food; a goat slams the back of her head into my face as I reach behind her to pick up a hoof. And I'm coming to realize that as this farm continues to grow bigger and bigger each year, it's not feasible for me to single-handedly try to run things. I can't do it. I need help.
 I need a working partner.

I know of lots of breeders who have English Shepherd pups for sale right now. Breeders here in Oregon, and breeders all the way in South Carolina. But despite all these available options, I never saw what I wanted. I really wanted a female pup, but I wasn't against having a male. No matter the gender, I wanted it to be a sable/white in color, be flat coated, have a long tail, and come from good working lines. Oh yes, and affordability was also a factor. None of the available litters had what I was looking for. Either the dogs were so rough coated that they looked like walking furballs, or they didn't come from working lines, or they were bob-tailed, or they were *expensive*!! My dream dog seemed to be mostly a figment of my imagination. Something I wanted, but wasn't sure would ever become.

On April 2nd, I went scrolling through my favorite livestock forum, known as Keeping A Family Cow. In the section with animals for sale, a new thread had been posted... A family down in Texas had a litter of English Shepherd puppies that were almost ready to be sold. Out of curiosity, I clicked the link given and checked out the dogs and puppies on the breeder's website. Their dogs were long tailed, flat coated, sable colored, working animals. They were beautiful. I scrolled through the high quality images of the eight available pups and quietly gasped at the sight of two youngsters in particular: One was a sable/white female who was the exact image of my dream dog. The other was a sable/white male; half of his face was white, and half of it was brown. Both were adorable. Absolutely adorable. I couldn't stop myself as I asked the breeder what the price for each pup was. I barely knew what I was doing. Wasn't I supposed to be getting a Great Pyrenees? Why am I even asking about a pup that's halfway across the nation from me??

Turns out that the price for the pups was exactly in my budget. I had a price limit on what I could spend on a dog, whether it was a Great Pyr, or otherwise, and for the first time, I had found a English Shepherd pup that was not only affordable, but had all the other qualifications I was looking for. 

I knew there and then that it was time.

I could only get one dog, so I had to choose between a LGD and a herding dog. I went with the herding dog. I need a trusty farmhand that can help me move animals where I need them moved, and help keep the ornery critters in line. I need a dog that can be an extra set of eyes, ears, and hands for me.

I began talking with the breeder and trying to figure out which pup to go with. My first choice was obviously the little female, but the breeder felt that she might be a little too soft for what I need. I need a dog that has heart and grit; enough to not quail when dealing with cattle and hogs. I was dissapointed that my first dog would not be "Dulcie", but the disappointment soon faded at the exciting job of picking a puppy. I was still eyeing that sable/white male who went by the name of Phantom. But more than wanting a good looking dog, I wanted the RIGHT dog for my situation. And if that meant getting a tri-color pup, then so be it. I had three pups to choose from in the end; a sable/white male named Brutus, a tri-color female named Trinity, and of course the adorable Phantom; all were good candidates to be the ideal farm dog. I stressed about it for days. Which one do I choose!? I weighed the pros and cons of each one and then finally made my decision: I chose Phantom; the little sable/white male with the half white-half brown face. And I feel extremely happy with my decision. :)

So while I've always had a name in mind for a female dog, I had no idea what to rename my new pup. Nothing. Zilch. Nadda. I liked one-syllable names, and I wanted it to be a good "farm dog" name... But still something special that had meaning behind it. It took me almost a whole week to think of something.

When I was little, my favorite story books were those written by James Herriot. My two favorites were 'Bonnie's Big Day', and 'Only One Woof'. Actually, I will sheepishly admit that you could probably give me a children's story book by Herriot today, and I'll still love reading it now as much as I did then. ;) I haven't read those books in years... I was probably nine or ten last time I flipped through those pages. The book 'Only One Woof' is a fun one; the story of two border collie pups named Gyp and Sweep (yes, I still remember that... LOL), and Gyp was a quiet, quiet pup who only barked once in his life. I remember reading through that book and wanting a farm collie like that someday. I'd trace my hands over the illustrations of highland sheep and stone walls, and I'd dream about someday having a farm where there were sheep and a good dog named Gyp.

When I found myself choosing a sable/white male puppy last week, and knew that he needed a new name, my mind wandered over several possible names before drifting back to that old book of my childhood. Gyp. If I can't have a Dulcie, then I will have a Gyp.

Yesterday, the breeder sent me a link to a video with Phantom in it, and I totally melted; he's seven weeks old now, and he looks like a darling. I told the breeder I wanted him, and am now making plans to have him shipped up here to Oregon. Right now it's looking like he'll arrive around the beginning of May. My mind is still wrapping around this. After all these years of waiting, I'm finally getting my English Shepherd!!

Since Gyp is something like 1,700 miles away, I'm afraid I don't have any pictures to share with y'all. But if y'all want to see what my new boy looks like, you can go to THIS website and scroll through the pictures and see Phantom (Soon to be "Gyp") at 2 weeks, 4 weeks, and 5 weeks of age.

I've got my sheep. I've got my farm. I'm getting my collie dog. His name will be Gyp. Thank you James Herriot for starting this all...


maddie said...

That is awesome! It's great they're still used as an all around dog. The Irish Terrier used to be a do anything farm dog, but the only ones I find here are mostly used for show and ratting. They're really intelligent though, so maybe I can teach one to herd too.

Anonymous said...

I'm so excited I'm gona scream!!!!!!!!!! Oh I want one! So this is your bombshell? He's gorgeous.=D Is it hard to train them?
I can't wait to hear how it goes!

Goat Song said...

LOL @ Tasha. Yep, this would be my second bombshell to drop. I'm getting a dog! ^_^

ES's are lovely to train; they're willing animals, fast learners, and are extremely keen to please. I'll teach Gyp all the basics, but we'll go to a professional trainer when he's old enough for herding lessons.

nancy said...

Congrats, better stock up on puppy chow :) I love Herriot too... although I do like Phantom...

nancy said...

And I LOVE your new photos on the header!

Anonymous said...

Yay! I'm so excited for you! I looked at the site, he is adorable!


Prairie Kari said...

Too cute! And from the breeders page it sounds like they are a 2 in 1 dog being both a stock dog and a guard dog with good temperaments! How do they ship puppies - air cargo? Kari

oukay said...

Ah, Mr. Herriott. He is the reason I am a vet today. If you haven't read the books from which the children's books were taken, I urge you to. They were the first books that made me laugh out loud and cry, in turns.

Anonymous said...

Great choice for a farm dog. We have two English Shepherd puppies (almost 1 yr. old) and they are fantastic. They are black and tan and beautiful but they are also great farm dogs. They do just about anything you need. Last summer they were pretty hyper and just caused the animals to run but this spring (with more training) they have been amazing in handling steers, sheep, chickens and turkeys. They are very loyal and loving too. You made a good choice and won't regret it.