Behind the Scenes, Ollie is a Happy Loving Daddy.

Once I knew Bonita—I call her Nita—was expecting, it made my unfortunate predicament more painful. This would be my last litter, so to speak. Of course, you might be asking why I’m only thinking of myself. Well, that’s because James and Ron were busy worrying themselves sick over what might happen to Nita when her time came to deliver. I figured she’d be fine, but given her age, the human contingent was not so sure.

(Bonita, during a moment of solitude, while expecting.)

As I healed, Nita grew larger. X-rays showed there were at least seven puppies to be expected. No one, and I mean not a single solitary soul, shared any of this with me. There was nowhere James went I didn’t go during these weeks, but never did he provide an update. I will admit James did disappear from time-to-time, during which—or so I have found out—he kept in contact with Nita’s human family.


Somewhere between eight and ten weeks after Nita and I became intimately acquainted, the painful delivery of puppies began. James had been anxiously waiting for the call which finally came. He offered to help, but someone else was already pitching in as a midwife. Too many people at the deliveries would not be healthy for Nita. Still, James received a call after every successful puppy was gingerly brought into this world.

James has asked me not to go into details about what happened, but to give a view from thirty thousand feet. I’ve never been that high, but I’ll try. Nita delivered four healthy babies. She was rushed to the animal hospital in Rutland where she was operated on to remove three little ones that didn’t make it. James, Ron, and I cried; they for Nita and her human family, me for my sweetheart and lost offspring.

After many tense hours, we were relieved to hear that Nita was fine, as were the four puppies who survived. I got a new chew toy that looked like a cigar, and James and Ron had a drink. It was a proud feeling, knowing I had four babies. I couldn’t wait to see them.

(Bonita, the exceptional Mom, and two of her babies.)

However, they wouldn’t let me see them for weeks. I don’t know why that is, but while James, Ron, and friends were allowed to cuddle with the babies, they required me to stay home, alone. Such is the fate for an unexpected Sire.



(James cuddling one of the puppies.)


They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I can’t think of anything more truthful. As I pined away to see my offspring, my heart enlarged to the point of bursting. So much love flowed through the ventricles, pumping a grander amount each beat. Although I had yet to lay eyes on my little ones, I was madly in love with them.

Speaking of love, James wrote a poem about butterflies being in love. It has a message we might all find appealing. I hope you enjoy reading it.


My dog, Trek, sleeps soundly and I work
away diligently in my study
while outside a vibrantly sunny,
blue-bird day lengthens along.

As a couple I know breeze into my mind it
causes me to reflect on their
recent erratic behavior.

Distracting me as I look out my window
are two Monarch butterflies in love,
mounting as one upon an updraft
—fluttering, rotating, spinning, gyrating—
like an uncontrollable miniature
hot air balloon, then
they are out of sight.

While trying to remember where I
misplaced my reflection, these same two butterflies
suddenly reappear, one chasing the other
as they descend in circles back to the ground,
only to again disappear from view
into the grasses for, I would suspect, a restful repast.

Yes, these butterflies, like the couple who diverted
my thoughts, have their ups and downs
all the while dazzlingly inspiring one another.

Oh, many are the pleasures of Vermont.

That poem is special—at least to me it is. How James can think about love and the ups and downs of relationships—and I’ve had my share, believe me—while watching butterflies flit around out his window is amazing. He’s so creative. (Score! A treat.)

Back to my little ones, I waited patiently until I could welcome them into the world. Okay, so there were days I forgot about them as the weeks became months. Besides, I didn’t get to meet all of them at once.

Come back in two weeks and find out which one I met first. Or, I might talk about the one I met second, or third. I’ll decide between now and then.

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

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


“Butterflies in Love” printed with permission, originally published in Pleasures & Season of Vermont, © James Stack 2013
Paw Prints courtesy of
All photos © James Stack 2018 unless otherwise indicated

Ollie’s Love Confessions – Luck Behind the Scenes.

You may recall that I mentioned how lucky I got at Saddle Mountain Kennel in my previous post. Well, I did mention the lady’s name, Bonita, which, perhaps, I should not have. But the damage is done – in more ways than one.

Bonita and I met when I was less than four-months-old. She wasn’t at all interested in me due to my age. I wanted to play nonstop, but she brushed me off early in our relationship. Nita, as she is known by those who love her, is a lovely yellow lab and lives in the town next to where we live. She’s one of three companions for two generous people who are acquaintances of James and Ron – you could call us friends.

As I grew older, my friendship with Nita flourished. I will admit she is not easy to get to know, but once she lets you in, you are dedicated friends for life – BFFs. You might remember that I loved going to this particular kennel. G, the owner, gave me free range of her house and yard. Only a select few of us possessed that privilege. Nita was one of the chosen along with me.

It was during April 2014, I’m eleven-months-old, and James and Ron are in New York City visiting friends and going to the theatre and museums. Nita is nine years old, and her companions are also out of town. We two canines are at Saddle Mountain together, hanging out with our friends and having the run of the place without much supervision since we are well trained and sociable with one another.

Nita and I are not what is colloquially referred to as “fixed.” Oh, and she is in heat. I’m approximately fifteen and Nita is north of fifty-five in human years. A randy teenager and a cougar are how James describes us. One thing led to another with the two of us having fun beyond our wildest imaginings.

Jump ahead four weeks and James receives a call from Nita’s female companion. She wants to know two things: 1) was I at Saddle Mountain at the same time as Nita during April, and, if so, 2) am I still “in one piece.” After James affirmatively answers both questions, she tells him Nita is pregnant at an elderly age with her first litter, and she believes I am the culprit – so to speak.

Now James becomes concerned for Nita’s health and asks if she will go full term or the alternative. He is told there is no question but that she will definitely go full term. Within days the entire town in which Nita lives knew about our tête-à-tête. Of course, no one has yet to inform me that I’m going to be a father. James and Ron keep it a secret from me for some unknown reason.


(How Nita saw Ollie, looking older than his age.)


And so the anxious awaiting of the delivery of puppies begins. I say anxious because no one knows if Nita will be able to survive their births. Still, I know nothing about birthing babies.

Speaking of babies, James wrote a poem about baby birds I think is appropriate to share with you. We hope you like it.


While Vermont’s various birds build
their sundry nests, my dog,
Trek, and I welcome the spring
with invigorated prepping of
our yard and garden – me with spade
and Trek with paw.

Three blue-as-the-sky robin’s eggs

crack, the babies grow, and
take an early flight, ending up
hip-a-de-hopping around the yard.
Four days these three go from
place-to-place scattering like
dandelion seeds until there are two:
One last seen on the window
ledge feeding as I watch
engrossed in the love shown by the
parents. The other finally reaches
the top of the picnic table
which is its last spot.
Fly away little robins.

The ducklings count to five as they

swim around the pond, with
some displaying greater independence; ever so
tiny but making waves like speed boats, they
rush to their mother as we approach. From
a distance they are quite brave, gradually
moving further and further afar
with their parents never far afield.
Then one day there are none.

Two baby barn swallows perch on a

spruce limb while their parents circle and
circle, grabbing food, and delivering it to
their waiting mouths. Soon they separate,
yet still close to one another with
each taking a turn. I look away, and when I have
an opportunity to glance back
they are gone.

How sustaining the world we live in. While
Trek and I care for the land, the birds
care and nurture their young until
they fly the coop, and we all renew the cycle.

Such are the pleasures delivered
by Vermont’s baby birds.

While James loves the cycle of life, I no longer enjoy that benefit. Why, you might ask. Because shortly after James received the call from Nita’s female companion, he called the vet and made an appointment for me to be neutered. That is the technical term for having my … masculinity removed.

The next week was a holy hell. James and Ron believed I didn’t know what they had done, but, oh, no. I knew damn well what happened to me. It hurt like hell and damaged my pride. [Okay, this is James. Enough about this. Let’s move away from this topic, shall we?] Well, you get the picture though it’s not a pretty one.

Suffice it to say the anxious waiting continued while I suffered. During the second week after my manhood disappeared, the vet removed the stitches. While we were in the vet’s office, I overheard talk about Nita expecting babies. I knew instantly it was my Nita they were discussing, and the babies were, drum roll please, MINE!

While we are on the topic of babies, come back in two weeks and read about “Puppy Love.” This is truly how I got lucky, thanks to Nita. Believe it or not, James and Ron, in turn, received luck.

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)


“Baby Birds” printed with permission, originally published inPleasures & Season of Vermont, © James Stack 2013
Paw Prints courtesy of
All photos © James Stack 2018 unless otherwise indicated

The Good, Bad, and Ugly Truth About Dog Kennels.

Should you not have taken notice of my interest in both humans and other canines, let me make it perfectly clear that I love both, especially the female of either species. It should be further noted that I’ll ignore people when other dogs are around. Why – you might ask? Because other dogs will play with me while folks who visit only want to say, “Hi,” and then for me to leave them alone. What fun is that?


Version 2
(Ollie dearly loves playing with other dogs.)


As such, James and Ron leave me in a kennel when they go on holiday or travel for business. I’ve begged them to do this. Otherwise, I’ll be deprived of the joy I receive from playing with other pooches. James particularly resents leaving me there, but he’s a good Daddy and does as I request. In truth, it is the only thing for which I plead. As you might remember, I never solicit food.

I’ve spent time at several kennels in the past four and a quarter years. The first one was my favorite, the second one was where I got sick each time I stayed there, the third was where I experienced an unpleasant occurrence, and the fourth is where I’ve gone for the last two years, although it’s not perfect.

Saddle Mountain was my preferred home away from home. The owner is an elderly woman—I’ll call her G—who knows all there is to know about dogs. She required that James and I be interviewed before she would let me stay there. G was kind to me. So much so that she let me stay in her house—and not in a crate—while I was there. I spent a whole month with her while James and Ron were in France. At the time I was one and a quarter years. Unfortunately, that lengthy stay was to be my last time there.

During my final visit to Saddle Mountain, there was an electrical fire. We don’t know if any of my canine friends or myself had any lung damage, as G’s son refused to let the veterinarian examine those of us who were boarding at the time. Long story short, it was G’s son who caused a split between James and that kennel, meaning I’m no longer allowed to go there. I miss G and my friends who still go there.

The second kennel James took me to is called Wunderland. I enjoyed going there because there were so many new friends to play with. Some old friends from the previous kennel showed up there as well. However, the first time I went there I came home with kennel cough even though I get a Bordetella shot every six months. At least that’s what the owner of the kennel told James, although he never heard me cough. Still, to be safe we paid a visit to the vet for some medication.

The second time, after extensive begging to be taken back there, I came home with conjunctivitis. Anyone can catch contagious diseases in such close quarters as kennels. After another visit to the vet, it was a drop in both eyes twice a day for seven days. Nonetheless, when I came home with pneumonia, well, that was the third strike. I haven’t been back since. The good news is that my number of friends has grown exponentially now that I’ve been multiple times to two separate kennels.

The number of my friends expanded even further when James took me to Wagmore. I got to go there twice a week for what they call daycare. I arrived at 8:00 am, and James picked me up at 5:00 pm. This was a terrific place. I got to jump on overstuffed furniture and play most of the day. Oh, and I initially thought the best part was when we were left alone during the day—no one watched us when the owner went into the office. We loved being able to play unsupervised.

Well, that is until Bruno (That’s not his real name, but suffice it to say it is apropos.) attacked me. That’s right. The day after the assault, James took me to be groomed. There was matted blood under my neck where I’d bled extensively, and four teeth wounds on either side of my jugular—boy, was I lucky. James showed these puncture marks to the owner who denied it happened on his watch. Well, he wasn’t watching. Suffice it to say, I no longer go back there. Oh, and I now have this weird thing about dogs that look like Bruno.

This brings us to the fourth place: Willow Farm. This place is huge. There are so many dogs there—twice as many as the other places I’ve stayed. Since I’ve been going there, I’ve come home with one hot spot on my right front paw from swimming in their pool (Yes, they have a wading pool.) because they never dry my hair when I get wet. (As an Old English Sheepdog, I have hair.) I also come home, as James likes to say, filthy dirty. But I don’t mind getting grimy since it means I get to take a shower with James.

Still, there is the fact that I get bored while I’m there since I spend most of the time in a crate. And when I get bored, well, I lick myself, especially above my knee on my right foot. When I come home with a self-inflicted sore, I have to wear “the cone of shame.” That’s an Elizabethan collar. Now, when I go to Willow, I wear the collar the entire time I’m left in the crate, but they do take it off when I go out to play. While this is not ideal, it is how I currently spend my time when James and Ron go away.

There are two alternative kennels James is considering. One is a new place in Chester called Gussie’s Place. It recently opened, so James is waiting to see what people have to say before jumping into the deep end head first. The second option is for me to either stay with his friends or they come to stay here at Skygate Farm. I’ve let James know I much prefer the first option since it would mean I’d get to play with other dogs. The second choice might, if the friends have a canine, allow me to play with at least one other companion.

Playing with friends is one of my favorite in the whole wide world. However, playing with wild animals, well, not so much fun as my old BFF found out. James wrote about it in this poem. We thought you might enjoy reading it.


While an expansive feast
for our expectant guests
succulently steeps
the twilight ascends promptly
like a bedspread relaxing
into a feathered mattress. An oversized
buttery orb scales the distant hills
from underneath the
mantle, with an accompanying
evening breeze
wafting through our windows
as if a tonic.

Out the window, I entertain
my agitated dog,
using first one paw,
then the other,
to claw at his face which is,
pierced with porcupine quills.
While Native Americans
used these quills to make ornaments,
Trek is not bejeweled
but frightened with whiskers on end.

Solitary rodents,
porcupines feed on vegetation
and tree bark,
so Trek was not
the porcupine’s intended dinner;
but Trek must have thought the porcupine looked
like a tasty morsel of licorice sticks.

These were porcupette quills,
some no more than an
in length, designed to release when they
come in
contact with another animal.
They have barbs which
force the quill to work its way inside,
becoming lethal
when piercing
a major organ.

Trek encroached
on the porcupine’s territory,
and certainly heard
the porcupette’s shrill screeches,
whines, groans, and unfriendly chatter.
Now we
were to infringe on our
vet’s evening with 40 more quills
needing removal
after the 15
we extracted
from his cheeks and lips.
Trek would not
let us intrude inside his mouth.

Upon our belated homecoming
we delightfully discover
that our vacationing acquaintances
have pleasantly established
themselves after savoring their
salacious supper.
These valued friends are not
but are graciously welcome.

It’s most agreeable
to acknowledge
that we possess such
familiar visitors aware that they
may disembark and depart at their leisure,
as well as at ours.
If only
Trek’s visitations in the woods
were as welcome.

We find
such unexpected pleasures
in Vermont
prodded on by porcupines.


(Visual from


Speaking of animals with quills, Ron and I saw one of these critters the other night. Yes, indeed, we did. Wouldn’t you know, Ron saw it first and started leading me back home, but movement out of the corner of my eye caused me to look, and the creature was nearly half my size. That’s right—half my size with its quills raised in defense. I have Ron to thank for my not being quilled like Trek because I most certainly would have gone after it. Little did I know it was the rear of the beast that was turned our way.

Well, so much for porcupines and so much for kennels. Oh, yeah. That reminds me. Come back in two weeks and find out how truly lucky I got at that first kennel. I know you’ll like this story.

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

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



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