Lesson 1 Exclusive: New Revealing Secrets on the Command to Sit.

Okay, so you noticed, I put lesson two before lesson one. There’s a method to my madness – no, I’m not mad. That’s an expression I heard a human, who will remain nameless, say.

Lesson one is always the command to sit. Apparently, it’s the easiest one for humans to master. All they have to do is hold a pleasant delight before our noses with said treat in their fingers which point to the sky looking like an unopened lotus flower. At least that’s what James’ hand looks like when he wants me to sit.


Version 2
(Ollie in a perfect sit position waiting for his reward.)


We dogs already know how to sit. We’ve been doing it since we were several weeks old. During those first few weeks, of course, all we do is lie around and crawl as best we can. Once we’re able to stand on our four feet, we find we can also sit, which is almost as pleasant as lying around.

In the obedience class James took me to, he was taught how to correctly hold his hand, where to place the delectable, and to move both his hand and the reward slowly towards my nose so that I backed up slightly and then sat. The other humans in the class were also being taught this. We canines got a good giggle out of how challenging it was for some of them to get it right.

Once they figured we had sitting down pat, they went on to ask us to lie down. They were taught to do this trick by refusing to give us the treat once we sat, move their hands down to the ground, leading our noses such that we were forced to get completely on the ground before being rewarded. Now you’d think “down” was the second command, but in actuality, it goes hand-in-hand with sit, so it’s part of lesson one.


(The perfect lotus hand position when using the sit command.)


Repeating this over and over made me feel like a yo-yo. Up, down, up, down, over and over. Which reminds me. James wrote a poem about hummingbirds that had my BFF Trek’s head going left, right, left – not exactly like a yo-yo, but you get the drift. I asked James to share it with you. Here it is for your reading pleasure.


                                                                                                   is the
                                                            poppies bloom;
                                                   and when a recurring whirl
                                  causes my dog, Trek’s, ears to twitch, and my
                           head to twist towards the trill. Floating fixed, staring
                      sideways, saluting us throughout this temperate term – we
                          smile a warm welcome – our hummers have returned.

                                                by golden
                                                                 emerald temples
                                                                                               and jade
                                               crowns with dark notched tails,
                                          our resident male sports a distinctive
                                        crimson throat tipped by an ebony chin.
                                      Accurate angels of sunbeams polishing his
                                                    neck radiate radiant rubies.

                                   The flora’s scarlet color attracts his attention,
                           yet the minuscule quantity of sugary nectar is what he
                                 requires, hovering at 70 wing whisks a second:
                                                          A tremendous force
                                                              by a tiny frame
                                                          for such trivial fare.

                                  Our solitary hummer vigorously defends the
                        blossoms within his boundary. Trek’s head swings left,
                            right, left, while our hummer hounds intruders. A
                            valiant Knight of the Roundtable, his chase chatter
                                          saturates the air as he jousts with his
                             extended bill, his clashes like the crash of javelins.

                              Akin to our heroic hummers, Vermonters always
                               answer the call to protect our homeland. We are
                             proud of those who respond, and pay tribute to the
                                             ones who never return, unlike the
                                           poppies – and hummers – each May.

                                                       Such are the honorable
                                                             pleasures of our
                                                 hummers’ return to Vermont.

These tiny birds with their wings beating so quickly are amazing. I have to admit that they awe me. Here I was complaining – well, not really complaining, mind you – about going up and down like a yo-yo when these miniature birds outpace me by a mile.

I got off track there. Sorry about that, but I love James’ poems. (Score! A treat.)

You might like to know why I put lesson two first. I thought it might be obvious – because it was about my favorite treat – liverwurst. Something of which I’m now deprived for reasons I will not discuss.

Suffice it to say that James mastered this combined sit/down lesson quite well. I was so proud of him. It appears that he already had practice lesson one with Trek. I’m not his first trip to the rodeo – so to speak.

Come back in two weeks and hear about the different kennels I’ve been lucky enough to visit while James and Ron are away. Of course, James and Ron may not think I’ve been so lucky. You’ll find out why when you read my next post.

Between now and then, feel free to scroll down and leave me a comment. Let me know what you think of my blog and James’ poems. I always like to hear from you, so please 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)


“Hummingbirds” printed with permission, originally published in Pleasures & Season of Vermont, © James Stack 2013
Paw Prints courtesy of www.pawsitivelyloved.com
All photos © James Stack 2018 unless otherwise indicated

Lesson 2 Exclusive: New, Revealing Secrets on the Command to Come.

As an Old English Sheepdog, I don’t stray too far from my pack, that is, James and Ron. They don’t need to put me on a leash when we go out walking or hiking in the woods. Sure, the occasional scent will grab my attention, but if either of them is out of my sight, I backtrack to find them.

Because of this, I had a hard time understanding why they spent hours trying to teach me to come to them. They refer to it as the command “come.” As you may have read two weeks ago, I’m not enamored with dog food. They discovered this rapidly. Once I understood what they meant when they yelled out “come,” I went running to them. What would they reward me with? Dog food. I was quickly trained not to come to them when they commanded me to do so.


(Ollie ignoring the command to come since the reward is dog food.)


Then a day arrived when James and I took a ride to the market. While I obediently stayed in the car, James went inside and bought liverwurst. Once I smelled it after he got back in the car, I was hooked. He could ask me to do anything, and I would do it so long as I was rewarded with a sliver of liverwurst: A bit of heaven on earth.

When James and Ron would call out to me, I’d beat a trail to them. They would stand about three hundred feet apart, and I would run from one to the other for that slice of the sweet life. Of course, they also considered it a good form of exercise for me, but I didn’t care. I would have made a dirt path between them if I could have had liverwurst all day.


(Ollie becoming blurred from running as fast as he can for a slice of liverwurst.)


Wouldn’t you know it? A day arrived when neither of them would use the sweet smell of liver again. I won’t go into detail, but suffice it to say that the divine aroma lingered long after and overcame any other disgusting stink. Yeah, I think you might have gotten it. Enough said.

Maybe they should have tried bacon bits, or chicken, or beef tips. Something that didn’t leave a residual odor you know where. Like I said, dog food doesn’t interest me, even if made with those ingredients, or even with lamb. It simply is not a good training tool for dogs like me. However, canines that relish their food will enjoy it being used as a tool for teaching.

Speaking of sustenance to be relished, James and Ron love Vermont’s maple sugar. They put it on, what seems like to me, everything, especially during the winter. You name it, pancakes, waffles, bacon and eggs, oatmeal, fruit, roasted vegetables, and much more. James even makes cookies with a maple sugar. Because of this, I thought the poem James wrote about this delightful flavor would be appropriate for this week’s post. Without further ado, here is that poem for your reading pleasure.

                                                               MAPLE SUGAR

                         Late winter’s tepid days and freezing evenings spawn the
                            sap’s ascent from maple trees continuing a cycle from
                                     ground to table – from yesteryear to today –
                                           a journey of toil and time and delight.

                                    Eastern Woodland Indians scored trunks and
                                             trapped sap in hollowed logs; early
                                     tintypes exemplify expansion with wooden
                                 buckets and tanks on toboggans; more recently
                          metal pails appeared – rusted ones my dog, Trek, and I
                                                  discover while wandering in a
                                                         grove of wolf maples.

                                Plastic tubing like drunken spider patterns appear
                           today within the sugarbush. Hoses hand humid fluid to
                                     electrified vessels consecutively conveyed to
                                                     evaporators for boiling. The
                                       result: thick, sweet essence, perfect for our
                                  visiting friends’ breakfast of flavored bacon and
                                          syrup smothered pancakes, while Trek’s
                                            company receives maple tasting treats.

                                          Early Colonial commerce produced sugar
                              products. Freed from foreign sweets helped herald our
                              independence. We stand proud that the sweat of slaves
                                                     never stained our maple sugar.

                              Albeit small, sugaring played a part in our freedom, and
                                represents Vermonters’ taste for a host of freedoms.

                                            Such are winter’s maple sugar pleasures.

Although I’m never given any of the real syrup, I have had some treats flavored with the sugar. I like it, but what I like better is when the winter days get warmer and the maple sap begins to flow. That’s when maple sugar icicles will form overnight and begin dripping onto the ground during the warmth of the day. Not only do I like to lick where the drops have fallen, but sometimes I get lucky and the icicle will break and crash to the ground where I’ll devour it. Now those are the pleasures I get from winter’s maple sugar.


(A maple tree sugared icicles during the bleak winter.)


That reminds me. I heard tell of how Ron also loves to eat liver, but James doesn’t. Whenever he hears about how Ron would like to go out to dinner where they serve liver, James says, “Yuck!” Well, Ron and I have more in common than one might think – not only do we both love liver, we both love James. (Score! Finally, a treat after how many weeks?)

Come back in two weeks and hear about lesson number one – the command to sit. I’ll let you in on a secret – it was an easy command to follow. Another secret is that James had experience with this one.

Between now and then, feel free to scroll down and leave me a comment. Let me know what you think of my blog and James’ poems. I always like to hear from you, so please 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)


“Maple Sugar” printed with permission, originally published in Pleasures & Season of Vermont, © James Stack 2013
Paw Prints courtesy of www.pawsitivelyloved.com
All photos © James Stack 2018 unless otherwise indicated