Ants Are Unusual and of Interest to Ollie When Bored.

What is it about these tiny black balls joined by slim, wiry membranes? I discovered them crawling on the terrace outside our kitchen. They scurry hither and yond. (Okay, that was something James added for I would never say “hither and yond,” if you get my drift.) These little buggers appear everywhere once the crocus and daffodils, not to mention the tulips, start to sprout and show their vibrant colors.

It doesn’t make much sense, but why aren’t the birds (if you didn’t see my post about birds, you’ll be able to find it here) all over our terrace devouring these crusty critters? Is that what the birds are eating in the sparse areas of the yard that have dirt on display now that it is spring?

(Ollie lounging on the garden terrace, waiting for ants.)

I find them interesting in that I’m able to smack them with my paw and they go flying, but not on wings. Some times they wiggle away out of reach, and other times they flip around like the terrace is on fire. These are the ones I eat. What? Have you never heard of chocolate covered ants? Well, James tells me it’s a French confection that’s a delectable. [Please note that dogs should never be given chocolate. It is harmful to them.]

(Container of chocolate covered – giant – ants: photo by Connie J. Jasperson)

However, the most fun are the ants that get inside the house. Of course, that could be because I spend most of my time inside. These pests can pass through the smallest opening – one that isn’t even there, if you know what I mean. Before the first flowers have perished, there’s already a trail of them. The first spring I spent at Skygate Farm there were quite a few of these trails – just sayin’.

Now I can’t imagine that ants could eat our food. Still, James told me that they are capable of carrying something like a hundred times their own weight. Well, I’m here to tell you that they don’t even weigh an iota, so they can’t carry much.

Once James discovers them inside, he puts traps out for them. No, these are not like mice traps, but a box with a hole in the side where the ants can enter but not exit. When those traps don’t do the trick like James would like, he puts other traps out, and for a few weeks I’m forbidden to go in the kitchen area. I’m told that if I eat one of these ants I might get sick since they are carrying illness back to their home nests in the ground. Not a very pleasant thought, but there you have it. [Please note that I – James – do not harm the ones who keep their distance and stay outside.]

And here is the poem James wrote about ants. We hope you enjoy it.


spring is in full force
with you quite feisty at eleven months
reminding me of those
damn pesky ants
scurrying all over the place
and into everything
even the things that surprise us

they resemble teeny barbells with legs
hypnotizing you as they scurry about
causing you to wonder what they are

you sniff at one
then another
putting the first in your mouth
it wiggles free but injured
as you observe it
going in circles on the flagstone
then back into your mouth
it crawls between your jowls
and tingling your lips
shaking your head
it falls to ground
where you quickly devour it

a larger jet-black
attracts your attention
watching for a few seconds before
preventing it from moving away
your paw discretely taps it
wounding this one as the one before
with more circles being made
by the poor creature
which you paw yet again
and scoop into your mouth

what does an ant taste like
I wonder but will never know
as the ones I’ve eaten
have been covered in chocolate
so they tasted like chocolate
with a decidedly crunchy texture

still you wonder
what must these itsy bitsy
black moving objects be and why

like all things that exist
they simply are
helping comprise life’s cycle
living free and happy

I know I am made happy
that is by you
and I have a cheerful feeling
that you
are made happy
by me

How funny it is to recall there was a time when I didn’t know what ants were. I’d forgotten about that. I suppose I’ve forgotten more things than that. However, after rereading the poem I do remember the feeling of that one ant crawling around between my lips and gum. At first it surprised me, and then it tickled making me smile so it could escape. While ants aren’t very large and can’t have much of a brain, they do seem to be clever.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve begun noticing a theme to some of these later poems James wrote. Many of them end with his stating how I make him happy or give him joy. If you could see me, you’d see that my face is red. All I can say is that because of James and Ron I’m the luckiest canine alive. (Yes, I got a treat, but I want you to know I was not trying for one.)

Speaking of the color red, come back in two weeks and hear about my obsession with slate. (Okay, so slate is gray and not red.) “Slate?” you might ask. Sure, why not? After all, it falls from the sky around Skygate Farm.

And you can scroll down and make a comment, letting me know what you think of my blog and James’ poems. I always like to hear from you, so please feel free to leave me a note about this or anything else that’s on your mind.

Until next time,
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)


Paw Prints courtesy of
All photos © James Stack 2018 unless otherwise indicated

Can a Sheepdog Desire the Fun of Fetching?

It has never ceased to amaze me how James wants a canine whose heritage is herding to run after a ball he’s tossed and bring it back to him like an obedient Labrador. Now don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against Labs – some are my best friends. In fact, one is the mother of my puppies. (You guessed it – that romance happened during my eleventh month – well within my first year for which this blog is dedicated.)

(Ollie during his first spring after running around with the ball.)

Where was I? Oh, yes – the game of fetch. I have to give it to James. He is a smart man. (Thank you – a nice treat.) It was during my first couple of months of life that James began trying to train me to fetch a ball. Now this ball was one made out of rubber webbing so my teeth could grab it. He started this series of exercises while I was still locked – okay, more like caged, within the mudroom.

First he introduced me to the ball. To me it was yet another toy like the many I had been given. (You can read about all my toys here.) It was a delightful red in color – easy for me to spot. It was, I must mention, only smaller than the size of my head. However, it was light in weight.

While these drills were taking place, my teeth were still coming in. (You can read about my teeth here.) The rubber webbing was soft and felt wonderful against my gums. Yet this ball was not something kept out, but put away after each instruction. That made me want to have it all to myself even more.

Once I was proficient in retrieving the ball, bringing it back, and dropping it at James’ feet, we moved outside. Oh, did I neglect to mention that treats were involved? Well, lots of treats came my way during these repetitive commands. I must say, for a herding dog, I was excellent at fetch.

(Ollie’s famous red ball with its green companion.)

During the winter months, this – may I be excused for calling it a game? – took a backseat to other things we did. Still, James was determined once the spring arrived to get me to bring that gosh darn ball back come Hades or high water. Little did James know that Ron had found the red ball and was playing get the ball away from me. Now that game a shepherding dog can understand.

So, when the songbirds arrived, and I wanted to chase them (see that blog here), James took me and the red ball outside. I could tell he was excited to have a chance to get me to run after the ball, bring it back, and drop it at his feet for a treat. He was bubbling over with anticipation.

Now I knew he had the ball even though he was hiding it from me. Please know that I’m cleverer than I’m sometimes given credit – just sayin’. I was antsy to get that ball between my teeth and run around with it, keeping it from James like I had from Ron. Well, after the first toss and James’ command to fetch, I ran like lightening after that ball. I skidded past it on the grass I was running so hard. Gathering myself back up, I grasped the ball in my mouth and began galloping and bucking around the yard. James didn’t know what had hit him. He kept ordering me to “bring it” when that was the last thing I was going to do. I was having the time of my life. In fact, I’m all but snorting from laughter right now, trying to communicate with James about this so he can type it for me (remember, my paws are too big for the keyboard).

Oh, my sides are aching from all the fun I’m having. Stop, please. I have to catch my breath. While I do that, here’s the poem James wrote about his attempting to teach me fetch. I hope you enjoy it.


the lesson began by our siting side-by-side
watching a five-minute training video
“how to teach your dog to fetch”

when the film completely cycled
we agreed it was a tedious course
as educational exercises usually are

          if you remember
          it began with a reward
          for showing interest in a toy

          if you recall
          said toy was thrown a few feet
          and I said “fetch”

          if you recollect
          once you started to go towards it
          you were rewarded

          if your memory serves you well
          after you went to it
          you were rewarded

          if you recollect
          when you picked it up
          you were rewarded

          if you recall
          I was to say “bring it”
          which is what you were to do

          if you remember
          when you made cues in that direction
          you were rewarded

          if you recall
          when you brought it
          you received a huge reward

          if you recollect
          I was to say “drop it”
          which is what you were to do

if your memory serves you well
when you dropped it
you were royally rewarded

I suggested we take it outside
where you excelled
after a few days’ effort

I found you would quit
after three throws
when you were but sixteen weeks

by the time you were eighteen weeks
I discovered you would stop
after four throws

I recorded that you would rest
after five throws
when you were twenty-two weeks

by the time you were a six-month
Old English Sheepdog I realized I
wanted a break after six throws

when the winter came
the toys you fetched
were used for indoor play

making fetch
with those or any toys
a thing of the distant past

for when spring came
and we frolicked outside
you lost interest in the game

you ran around wanting me
to chase and fight for the toy
instead of you coming and dropping

eventually you returned and
acted as if you’d never release
no matter how hard I pleaded

even treats were of little use
so now we play a variation
I call “fetch and fun”

nowadays after I throw
a new red rubber ball
you run around awhile

ultimately coming to me
dropping to the ground and
releasing the ball to receive a treat

we’ve trained one another
to give in to each other and
enjoy the company we have to offer

I promise to try and remember
this simple life’s lesson
how satisfying compromise can be

I’ve never heard of a game called “fetch and fun,” and I bet neither have you. Regardless, the point I think James wanted to make with this poem was the art of compromise. It was not an easy lesson for me to teach, but James is, sometimes, a fast learner. It only took him that first spring outing to catch on.

The one thing I do wish is that he would have brought the ball inside. I mean, he wouldn’t even let Ron bring it indoors. I suppose that was because I was nearly my full size, and I would be like an elephant gallivanting around with a red ball in my mouth. He knows I will do anything to keep it away from Ron and him.

On the occasions we still play with the ball outside. When we do I have a blast. James no longer yells at me to bring it to him. He does, from time-to-time, ask me to drop it. What does he think I am – stupid? (Oh, that got me laughing again.) Actually, I allow James to get the ball every now and then because he always throws it. I have to admit, it is fun running after it. Maybe I should bring it back to him and drop it so I can run after it again. Nah. Not going to happen.

If you will, let us know what you think about my first year and the poems James wrote in the comment section below. I always like to hear from you, so please feel free to leave me a note about this or anything else that’s on your mind.

I hope you’ll come back in two weeks and hear about my discovery of ants. While I was growing nearly to my full size, these tiny specs never grew a fraction. Think about that.

Until next time,
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)

PS: Please note that James never tried to get me to fetch a tennis ball. For that, I thank him. (Score, a delicious treat!)


Paw Prints courtesy of
All photos © James Stack 2018 unless otherwise indicated

What is it About Lovely Songbirds That Attracts Ollie?

Spring arrives on the twentieth of March. Soon thereafter the lovely songbirds that fly south for the winter make a delightful appearance. When they arrive in Vermont they are in full color to entice a mate. I know I’m not the mate they are looking to attract, but they are like those refrigerator magnets people put on their frig doors – only they don’t stay in one place. I can’t stop myself from running after them as they try to feed on the sections of the ground where the snow’s melted.

For some reason they always seem to arrive before they should. At least that’s what James says. I don’t get it since there are birds around here all year. Whatever!

(Ollie at ten months giving James the “Whatever” look.)

It makes me laugh when I think some people actually assume I’m trying to herd these flighty birds. Of course I don’t want to drive them around, keeping them in order. The purpose behind all my running and chasing is to catch them. Otherwise I wouldn’t spend any time with them. Oh, okay, James and I do sit in the fields and listen to them during the spring and summer. I do this for his benefit. (I thought that might get me a treat – hummm.)

I’ve actually caught two birds in my short life, but I’m getting ahead of the story James wants me to tell. (Okay, he’s going to let me tell you that I caught two baby birds – one was a bunting and the other a turkey poult. I don’t care if they were babies and couldn’t fly yet. It still counts.) [While this is part of the natural course of nature, it still upset me.] (That was James adding his two cents – just sayin’.)

(Bunting babies by; turkey poult by

Of course, turkeys aren’t songbirds. Still, Benjamin Franklin wanted it to be the United States’ national bird. Or so James told me. Seems kind of silly to me.

Talking about our national bird – the eagle – now that would be something to catch. I’m told its wingspan is longer than my body, and that eagles have talons that could rip a hole into my side. Still, a dog can dream. I have to admit that the ravens offer a poor substitute. Nonetheless, whenever they make their harsh, grating sound or their shrill alarm, it gets my attention and I’m off on the chase.

I’m not sure how bright they are since they often get my attention with their yapping before I even see them. It’s after they’ve taken flight that my fun begins. They start off low to the ground where I at least have a canine’s chance. It’s as if they’re weighted down, waiting for me to gain on them before they begin climbing out of reach. Still, it’s the pursuit that counts. I’m convinced I’ll catch one yet.

Their grating sound pales in comparison to the one the geese make. Now that noise (yes, to my ears it is a dreadful sound) makes my skin crawl. It is the one bird racket that makes me go crazy barking – and I don’t often bark. If I’m in the house, I’ll run from one end to the other and back again. Their squawk is so annoying. If I’m outside, I run around like crazy because I can never find them. James keeps pointing in the wrong direction from where their infuriating hullabaloo is coming. (I know he means well, but sometimes I simply don’t know what he’s up to.)

As for me, I don’t settle down until their clamor fades away. This is the one time James is happy to hear me bark. For you see, we have a pond these geese like to pollute. Working as a team, James and I keep them away from not only the pond, but from the yard as well. There are few things worse than having geese droppings squeeze between the pads on your paws – yuck!

I should change the subject. Here’s the poem James wrote about yours truly and birds. We hope you enjoy it.


spring brings the songbirds
whose beautiful singings
serve as a willing wakeup melody

it’s been some time since
you’ve seen these intriguing specks
as they fly through the sky

if you were a birddog
your interest would be understood
but you’re an Old English Sheepdog

do you think you can herd the birds
as they hop around
feeding on the ground

your gallivanting
in their direction
mostly resembles stalking

is it the speed or thrill of the pursuit
you enjoy
as you gallop head down steely eyed

what would you do
if you were to catch one
a big black crow or magnificent raptor

at the end of your tenth month
I would have thought you’d know better
might think twice before jumping in

yet you are ever ready to
charge forward after slinking towards
your birds of prey

even when leashed you still
focus intently on the dark spots
made by the birds or an overgrown blade

holding you back is a lesson in itself
for if you charged you’d
likely take me with you

I thrill to the sight of you
lunging ever faster when off leash
cheering your running as the birds fly away

when only the other day a turkey outside our door
took flight as you took chase
at the end it was Tom who won that race

upon your return it didn’t seem to matter
to show for your effort
there isn’t even a feather

for you know all too well
life isn’t measured by notches on a belt
or feathers in a cap

but by the joy you’ve delivered

Now that’s so sweet of James to say I bring him joy. Here I’ve always thought the pleasure was mine. Perhaps a treat is in order, no? (YES! I scored. Not that I was begging mind you.)

So you know, the turkey in the poem is not the one I caught. At ten months I wasn’t that much bigger than the Tom when he’s all puffed up while courting. Still, they do offer a thrill when it comes to the sport of trying to catch them.

Nowadays I’m not often on leash. As such, I have free rein to run after any bird or other critter that crosses my path. I especially like going after the chipmunks and squirrels. Those little rodents seem never to be too far from an escape plan, whether it be up a tree, in a hole in the ground, or between the stones in a wall. Still, I like going after them. One of these days I’ll get lucky. Mark my words.

Speaking of words, we’d love to know if you’re enjoying reading about my first year and the different poems James wrote. If so, let us know in the comment section below. I always like to hear from you, so please feel free to leave me a note about this or anything else that’s on your mind.

Oh, and come back in two weeks to hear about my learning the game of fetch. Of course I’m not a Labrador or spaniel, but James was determined to teach me how to retrieve a ball. Come see how well, or not, I learned this trick.

Until next time,
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)


Paw Prints courtesy of
All photos © James Stack 2018 unless otherwise indicated