A few dark, damp days have given us the opportunity/excuse to catch up on some indoor chores.
Andy's been digging out old photographic equipment to sell on eBay, and photographing it, so I took advantage of having a photographic set and asked for a portrait of Chester. He's never liked having his photograph taken, his butterfly ears droop like moth's wings, but he does look darned cute, nonetheless.
Chester is one of the "friends" in the new DVD "Border Collie Sheepdogs & Friends - Still Off Duty". He came very close to being one of the sheepdogs when he was small. Chester showed a natural inclination to go out and around the sheep to bring them back to us. It used to work too! That is, until our wily Welsh sheep realised that Chester's legs were far too short to head them off if they started to run.
Sadly Chester lost heart and wouldn't "work" anymore, although he does still help me out from time to time. Sometimes a dog with attitude, and in the right place, is all you really need.
I'll never complain about dry weather again (at least, not until the next time). The porch at the back of the house contains ten puppies, and they seem to have been damp for at least a week. Not that they object, of course. They can't possibly mind it because every time they start to dry out they all pile out into the orchard again, and make sure they each get thoroughly soaked one way or another.
The litter of seven puppies born here has been augmented by three puppies from a friend of ours. I don't know if it's because Jill's such a great mom or because she can't count, but she happily took the three newbies under her hairy wing and has been feeding them along with her own. These three were easy to name (if you can call Truman, Tiffany and Audrey easy) but we're finding our own puppies very reluctant to tell us what they're called. So far we have Ronnie, the bold blue-eyed boy, and Flight - a small but perfectly formed and feisty little girl. I really want to call one of them Vic, but no-one's claimed it yet.
I'm not sure that any of the named pups are actually responding to their names yet, or if it's just because they know the tone we use when we call them, but as doting parents we like to think that they're especially advanced and gifted little dogs. They've certainly learned to "Wait there" when told to, which is a great help now that they follow like pilot fish when we move between the house, garden, field and yard. At feeding time we use a high-pitched voice to call "Puppies puppies puppies!" that brings everyone running, but it upsets the young dogs like Carew, Oscar and Imogen, who were brought up here. They're living in kennels now, but are desperate to come running too, just like they used to. If they're loose when we call we get swept along by a tidal wave of wet collies.
Once the puppies move nearer the house they have far more freedom, and can go out exploring at all hours of the day and night. They generally don't, because they've already got into a waking time/sleeping time routine, but at least it means that they can come out and play at first light. Our dawn chorus has puppy backing vocals. They have toys, chews, bones and squeaky things to play with, but they love discarded packaging, and a cardboard box that can be stood on and fought over before being finally demolished and spread across the lawn in bite-sized pieces, is particularly popular.
All the puppies are keen to come out and join in with the Big Dogs now, and most of the dogs are happy to help out with training and socialising. They also get to meet anyone who visits for training, but we lack small children for them to experience. I wonder if we could hire any? Chester and Alfie don't see that collie puppy care comes anywhere in their job description. They don't ignore the puppies, but I don't really think such young and sensitively raised puppies should be exposed to that sort of language.
Now that the "Still Off Duty" DVD is finished and, happily, selling particularly well through Amazon, we can turn our attention back to the next training DVD. And to re-vamping the website. And training the dogs. And trimming the sheep's feet. And playing with the puppies. And mending the electric fence. Oh dear...but I suppose we'd complain if we had nothing to do!