We love to hear about dogs that we've bred or trained, and it's been a busy news week
Particularly as some news came with photos, I thought it would be good to share (and yes, an opportunity to show off just how lucky we are with the people who choose our dogs).
Kay and Max's little boy, Dougal
Ruari and Dougal with their trophy shortly after winning the New Handler class at Tom Longton's Quernmore trial
Come back Max! All is DEFINITELY forgiven!
When Ruari first enquired about a sheepdog puppy, in early 2012, he wasn't sure he'd have time to do it justice while he was still at agricultural college. His news this week proves that not only did he make the right decision, but he's obviously a talented trainer and handler too.
Dougal's only 18 months old, but has won both of the sheepdog trials he's entered!
We made no secret of the fact that Kay and Max's litter was unplanned, and Max was sold very shortly afterwards to work sheep and cattle. He's a strong dog, but very handsome and I was particularly fond of him (though not so much immediately after his mating with Kay! I admit, I went off Kay a little bit, too).
Max has left quite a legacy. His daughters, Cotton and Maggot, were trained here. Super keen and strong with the sheep, but gentle, calm characters away from them, both seemed to have inherited the best aspects of both parents and became excellent working dogs.
Dougal's brother, Ned, is training for search and rescue, supervised by Search Dog Ollie (find him on Facebook) and I believe Mick sometimes has a say in things, too. Ned's proved to be highly trainable and very focused (and, when not actually at work, sounds as if he has the life of Riley - whoever he was).
Mel and Eli's daughter, Lady
We've heard this week from her handler, Aneta, a skilled and successful agility competitor, that at the age of just two and a half, Lady has reached the highest possible level in agility in Switzerland, and has her sights firmly set on the Swiss Championships later this month (and the World Championships beyond that).
Aneta told us that she's so proud of Lady, "Even if the name isn't really the correct one for her!"
(We heard some hair-raising stories about Lady and her less-than-ladylike antics when she was young.)
Apparently Lady just loves to work, and shows little patience with Aneta if her handling doesn't match up to Lady's exacting standards.
Agility champion, Tia, bows out
Denise sent us a video of a special run this week, Tia's last competition before she retired.
It's hard to think of Tia retiring; it feels like only a year or two since she left here! Tia's actually ten years old - but was looking remarkably fit and well a few weeks ago, when she came to help Denise choose her new recruit.
Tia's retirement run - not bad for an old 'un
Tia's another dog whose behaviour as a puppy could sometimes have been construed as disappointing, as Denise's "warts and all" description made clear, quote: "I've never in my life had such a naughty, determined little puppy".
She gives Chai so much to live up to, in so many ways! I'm sure Tinker Tia will be a regular at the ringside for years to come, ever ready with constructive criticism for the newcomer Chai.
Incidentally, Tia came second in her last competition - not bad for an old 'un.
Pearl bounces back
Pearl's a lovely dog and, of course, Tia's mum! We have many happy memories of life with Pearl as our Pack Leader.
After producing and rearing several excellent litters for us, as well as starring in her own chapter in our first DVD, "Off Duty", she retired to leafy Buckinghamshire to live the pampered life she deserves, with Sharon and Dino. (There have been reports of "quality time" spent lying on her mom's bed, as well as special lamb shanks on a Saturday night.)
Just over a week ago, we were told that Pearl was about to undergo surgery to remove tumours from her tummy. There would be the usual tests, and the results would be known in about five days. We knew Pearl was otherwise in good health, but we couldn't help fearing the worst.
We held our breath, but have just heard that Pearl's been given the "all clear", and just days after her surgery is back to her usual self - fit, well and wondering what everyone was looking so worried about.
It's wonderful news, and we're delighted to know that Pearl will continue to get the most out of life for some time to come.
Ness lands on her paws
As anyone who looks at our website regularly will already know, we won't sell a dog or puppy through a third party (we want to meet anyone who buys a dog from us) and we're very reluctant to export.
We apply these restrictions to any dog, but for a nervous or sensitive dog it's especially important to us that they go to a home where their needs will be properly understood, and where they stand the best possible chance of settling in and living happy, useful working lives.
Ness is quite a nervous dog (with people anyway) and when we made the hard decision to sell her we knew it wouldn't be easy to find her the sort of home she needed. We were thinking perhaps of a smallholder, but felt that Ness's work is of such a standard (and she loves it so much) it would be a waste of her enthusiasm to only have a handful of sheep to work.
So what did we do when Gary, from Inverness, got in touch? Poor man, I think we made him work hard! It was impractical for Gary to drive from the north of Scotland to see Ness, so we sent him a video of her work.
Andy explained at great length about Ness's problem, and nothing seemed to be too much trouble for Gary. He had tremendous faith that Ness could do the job he needed her for. He was willing to give her the time she'd need to settle in, and had asked our favourite cross-border courier, Paul Gilzean (The Flying Scotsman) to take care of Ness's transport. With our hearts in our mouths, we agreed.
Dogs will always surprise you, won't they? Ness travelled all the way from Worcester to Inverness on the Saturday, and started work with Gary the next day! Although undeniably nervous, it sounds as if Ness has settled into life with Gary, Roy (his original sheepdog) and Gary's family much more quickly than she settled here, and her work's going from strength to strength.
We're so pleased, things couldn't have worked out better for Ness and just look at this photo - what a backdrop!
Our news - new sheep
Not quite so exciting, but our most recent, and most athletic, sheep have been very challenging, so it was with only slightly mixed emotions that we were "off with the old, and on with the new (sheep)" this week.
It's always sad to part with old friends, and I do grow fond of the sheep (or the girls, as I refer to them) but quite honestly, they didn't make themselves easy workmates. (One could ask, of course, why should they?)
Now we have a dozen tiny Welsh Mountain hoggs, and we're hoping they'll work with us (or at least stay in the same field as the rest of us) for their first training day next Monday.
Carew's been explaining some of the ground rules to them, but they're so impressed with their new, comparatively lush, grazing that they haven't yet thought about exploring beyond the orchard fence.
Long may it continue!