Ollie Loved His Crate During His First Year.

Because I was so little when I arrived at Skygate Farm as a nine-week-old puppy, the crate I was in was rather small. Still, there was room enough for me to move around. Being in it for more hours than I could hold my water, well, I was forced to relieve myself within its confines. No matter how I whined, the breeder delivering me ignored my pleas. I was forced to be a bed wetter.

Now I’m not telling you this because I’m proud of it. I’m letting you know about this because that crate left with the breeder, and a new crate was provided in the mudroom. That’s right, not even in the bedroom. Being in a strange place was absolutely no fun. I was frightened. That first night, well, yeah, I wet my bed/crate again.

(Ollie playing in the last remnants of snow near the end of his first year.)

Don’t think for a minute that I’m going to blame James and Ron. Still, it should be known that being shy of three months I couldn’t hold my water longer than three hours. Just sayin’. It was nice that James put a towel in the bottom of the crate to absorb my effluvium. [Yes, Ollie’s vocabulary has expanded over the years.] Unfortunately, it took a few days for him to notice how wet and sour the cloth had become.

Okay, enough about that. Suffice it to say that once that was taken care of, I came to actually enjoy the crate. James would put my food in there and I’d eat in bed. That was so nice of him. (Score! A tasty treat.)

There were also several toys allowed inside to keep me company. Of course my BFF Trek wanted to hang out in the crate and play with the toys. That was after I graduated to a larger, all metal crate.

(Ollie sharing his toys with Trek who is getting them out of Ollie’s larger, metal crate.)

That new crate made me feel as if I was exposed within a jail cell. At least when I got this new crate, it was moved into the hallway so I could look either into the kitchen or down the long hall into the bedroom. I didn’t feel so alone in this crate.

Once I was older, and what is known as “house broken” (what being broken has to do with not going inside the house is something I can’t explain), the crate was moved into the bedroom with James and Ron. Now I was finally happy and content in my crate. Oh, and once a quilt was flung over it, I came to have my very own burrow. Don’t ask me why James couldn’t put the crate in his bedroom from the beginning. I mean, I was small enough that he could carry me down the hall so there wouldn’t be any accidents, if you get my drift.

Speaking of drifts, here is the poem James wrote about my crate and me.


 it was nice you arrived in a crate
as it meant you could travel well
even if wet when you disembarked late

 your first night in a new place
was less than pleasant for you
seeing as you were behind a strange gate

 over time you grew familiar
as within it you came to trust
and to appreciate your shelter

 during the evenings you would wander in
and out almost as quickly
unsure whether you wanted to make it your den

 each night after sup
an encouraging song was sung
“kennel up, kennel up, kennel up”

 we pranced and danced down the hall
as I sang out delightedly with cheer
wiggling your nob you entered with nary a stall

 I’d sing you into the heaven you’d found
with your own special blanket
laid comfortingly on the ground

 you came to understand with age
when over flung with a multi-colored quilt
your bedroom as such was much like a cave

 for you went in one night without prodding
urprisingly yet pleasantly understanding
it’s where you sleep without any longing

 and after nearly a year together
you know where it’s safe
come fair or foul weather

 I really did come to love that crate. It was my harbor in a storm, my security blanket when alone, and my peace of mind after a high-spirited day. Not that I miss it. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a firm believer in providing a crate for puppies and while at the kennel.

 Something interesting about the metal crate was that it was adjustable. When I first got it, I was only allowed to live in about half of it. Supposedly, if it’s too large, there is the fear I might use a section where I would do my business. Hardly. I mean, why poop where you eat, right?

 As I grew, so did the size of the area within the crate I was allowed to occupy. When I was around six or seven months, the entire area was opened up to me. It was so nice to finally be able to stretch out to my full length. Imagine trying to sleep in a too small bed every night. Yeah, that’s the story of my life until the crate was finally opened up completely.

 Okay, James and I had a sidebar. He says I sound like he was abusing me. That is not at all the case. How was he to know what was truly going on with me when we were sending mixed signals? He thought I wanted out of the crate, when all I wanted was more room. At least today we no longer have that problem – either the mixed signals or limited room – for, you guessed it, I no longer sleep in a crate but in the bed with James and Ron. Sing Hallelujah!

 Well, not so fast. In two weeks I’ll fill you in on the grooming an Old English Sheepdog like me has to go through. I still don’t understand why, but James says I have to be groomed every so often.

 Well, there you have it. If you will, let us know what you think about my first year so far 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.

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


Paw Prints courtesy of www.pawsitivelyloved.com
All photos © James Stack 2018 unless otherwise indicated

Is the Taste of Slate What Attracts Ollie?

Now this is an odd topic. Don’t get me started on what subjects James chooses to write poems about. This isn’t even the strangest. After all, I did draw a line in the snow about his poem that covers yellow snow – if you get my drift. I mean, who would ever think about putting words on paper about a dog and his chewing slate? (No, I was not going to go on about bodily waste.) My loving companion, James, that’s who.

In case you were not aware, Skygate Farm’s roof is made of slate. Quite a number of roofs in Vermont are made of that material since snow slides off it easily. Something else you might not know is that slate is rather brittle. When several feet of snow land on it, pieces of it chip off and drift down with the snow when it descends from the roof. Now these shards land in the yard and on the terraces (Skygate Farm has two).

(Snow full of slate chips having fallen from the slate roof of Skygate Farm.)

My enjoyment of these slivers began back when I was cutting my teeth. (You can read about that here). I would chew on most anything, including slate. Still, there is something else you might not know. Slate has a yummy taste. At least to me it does.

(One happy Ollie romping in the spring mud during his eleventh month.)

These chips apparently were invisible to James and Ron. Why they never saw them until they were in my mouth I’ll never know. Yet once I began to chew one of them I would be commanded to drop it. Now what fun is that? I mean, if they were going to leave them lying around, then I believe it’s acceptable for me to chew them. (If you agree, let me know in a comment below.)

Okay, I will grant that the ones that fall into the yard are easily overlooked since they mingle with the dirt, stones, and grass. When we’re in the yard, there are far too many other odors and items to distract me from such a simple pleasure as chewing slate. However, when we’re trapped (yes, one terrace has a wall around it) on the front terrace, flakes of slate take on a value beyond gold.

(Slate chips from the terrace found by James;
gold bullion from a free internet site.)

Besides, where would I be able to spend gold? It’s not like I could prance into a bank and cash it. First off, I don’t have any gold, and if I did, where would I carry the gold when I ran the eight miles to the bank? Much less, how would I get inside the bank since I have paws and not hands? After all, James is the one typing this for me since my paws are too big for the keyboard.

Sorry, I got off track. Where was I? Oh, yeah, trapped on the terrace. I am tall enough to look over the top of the wall, but after staring into space for a while, I long for something closer to home on which to spend my attention. That’s when I go checking for slate. Of course, I always, or at least almost always, find a piece. After getting it in my mouth by using my tongue, I settle down on the warm terrace stones to enjoy a chew. Right when I’m starting to get to the delicious flavor, Ron or James takes notice and, yes, that’s right, they want to take it from me.

If I didn’t know better, I’d think they wanted it for themselves to enjoy. They don’t, though, because they toss it into the yard where they’ve learned I wont go after it since, as I said before, there are a myriad of other smells, flavors, and sightings of more interest to me.

So, without further ado, here’s the poem James wrote. We hope you enjoy it.


the oddest thing you find
to put in your mouth
are pieces of the slate
that chip off our roof

they somehow descend
at all times of the year
but during spring
these bits drop in abundance
as if dandelion parachutes

you somehow find
fragments we miss
on the front and rear terraces
in the yard and flower garden

you relish grinding these slivers
between your teeth
having replaced the pebbles
you thought of as kibble
but what are these supposed to be
other than shards of slate

your mouth is the orifice
with which you communicate
and use to taste
while those sharp edges
can slash your gums lips and tongue

so how is it something that
could render you tasteless
be such a prize

besides these flakes are a dull gray
and not what I’d call appetizing

but in the last quarter of your first year
you don’t seem to care
or else you don’t gnaw with abandon
yet savor some mysterious flavor

oh why is it that you like to chew
on the slate from our roof
known as residue

this is but one of the things
I will never understand about you
since you can’t speak to me
except in your manner

but that method doesn’t clue me in
unlike my approach
which should communicate
how I feel about you and
everything you do
(in no specific order)

  1. choosing
  2. accepting
  3. sheltering
  4. providing
  5. inoculating
  6. training
  7. rewarding
  8. socializing
  9. respecting
  10. loving – the last but not the least

and it is the reason why
when you find a piece of slate
or other foreign object I object to
that I ask you to drop it
before taking it away
then returning myself
to give you the affection
and companionship
you so unquestioningly
return to me

Did you notice that in the poem James references that I can’t speak to him? Well, back then the only way I could communicate was with my mouth, eyes, ears, and knob of a tail. Sure, I said mouth, but not like humans do. Like we canines do, by nibbling, licking, or barking/growling (neither of which I do very often). It wasn’t until after the end of my first year that we grew to understand one another, and what the other was thinking.

My favorite part of this poem, as well as several of James’ other poems, is how he speaks of the companionship we give one another. When I think about it, I do find myself following James around the house, no matter what time of day or where he might be going. Sometimes he calls me his shadow. I have to admit that I like being his shadow. (Finally, a treat. What I have to do these days to get one. But that’s a whole other topic.)

Which reminds me. Come back in two weeks and find out what James wrote about the crate I used to spend the bulk of my days and nights inside. In the meantime, let me know in the comment section below what you think of the poems James wrote about my first year. 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 www.pawsitivelyloved.com
All photos © James Stack 2018 unless otherwise indicated