Shetland Sheep: Rich in History, Rich in Textiles

Shetland Sheep: Rich in History, Rich in Textiles! Our farm mission is to enjoy and promote the wonderful diversity of the Shetland breed by fully utilizing to the best of our ability all they have to offer historically. We believe the best preservation and management of this breed includes it's full spectrum of history. We encourage old and new shepherds alike to join in the fun by engaging in fiber arts, especially spinning and knitting, as this breed is so intimately linked with those aspects of the arts.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Swifty, Swifter, Swift-O...Finally!

Look what's come home to Wheely Wooly Farm! (read....huge grin!)

Wheely Wooly Swifty

Yep! After the sad loss of my last Border Collie in 2000, I decided to wait before getting another Border Collie, for my heart was really broken. That dog, a female I called Shimmer, or Shim or Shim-dog or Shimmy, or Shim-Shim was half Border Collie/half Queensland Heeler. She was a high-powered dog that made me look like I knew what I was doing. She trained herself to follow along, sit, lay down, stay, be good around horses and all those things. She was constantly by my side. She accompanied me on countless trips on horseback into the back country of the Colorado Rockies, sometimes high above treeline, all summer for several summers, where I worked. She NEVER ran away or chased anything (in fact was often the only dog allowed in camp), and could follow a sharp command almost faster than her physical self was capable of. Her ears were always on. I loved that dog...had her a long time through thick and thin. It took a long time to get used to life without her.

After her loss, we acquired a Smooth Coated Collie. He decided his name was Rollie the Collie...and so it was. We loved Rollie more than I thought I could. He was a gorgeous dog that was easy to train, easy to keep up, and we took him everywhere. He was the resident goofball...even taught himself to fetch, bringing the Flippy Flop back dangling on his canine tooth. Everybody loved him. Then we acquired Simon, our Shetland Sheep Dog, whom everyone mistook for a Collie. He was fabulous and SMART!!! He too, accompanied us everywhere. The two together, Rollie and Simon drew people like magnets. Everywhere we went, people pleaded to pet and see them...thinking they were mother and puppy! Both were very hard losses. I thought that losing Shimmer was hard!!!! and that it would get easier after the first one!!!!!!!! Wrong!

I knew that I'd wait to get a Border Collie again, if at all. You have to be set up well in your life to keep a Border Collie around. I don't mean money. I mean circumstances. There is no dog on the planet that can do what the Border Collies can do (I know some would debate that!..giggle, giggle). I love every split second of their radar ears, their watchful eyes, deep crouches and quick reactions. They can REALLY tune in! I so love that!! But if you don't have time to tune into them, they can turn into serious challenges and be very destructive. They HAVE to work. There are no negotiations about that!
Little Swifty, day two in his new home

So here we are now. I'm set up well in the circumstances in my life to bring a Border Collie home. The waiting was good. The time was right. And now, I am only bustingly delighted to be on the path with this dog! He's possibly slightly less than purebred...I'm not totally sure because pedigrees don't mean as much to me as working ability in a dog. I know what to look for in a dog, and I know what I want to see. He's four months old now, and has been here since July. His first year is going to be all about learning how to be a good dog in a variety of settings with a variety of people. He loves rides in the vehicles, chases his tail in the water (and gets it!), and stares down a ball like you wouldn't believe!!!!!! And he has APTITUDE!!!!

When I picked him out, he was with his litter yet. I would never buy a dog that was picked out for me. I spent a long time watching the puppies interact with each other, their surroundings, and with people before I picked the one I wanted. I know what I want to see. Swifty naturally showed amazing talent without fear, but was receptive to handling and voices, yet he is still such a little one! I absolutely thrive on the challenge of shaping an animal; whether it's a sheep, a horse, or a dog or even my favorite chickens.

So here we go! Full swing into that shaping! And he has been no disappointment! He taught himself to fetch a ball in two nights. He is trustworthy outside, even if a chicken lopes past! (We are EXCEPTIONALLY careful with our chasing allowed....EVER) He is a natural at housebreaking, and his ears are ON! (well...except for DH sometimes!)

And he's fast! There is nooo way your gonna get that ball under him! I call it dexter ball...a great game to build up his lateral strength slowly so that when he grows up, he'll be ready. The plan (and you know how plans go!) is to start him on sheep next spring. We will ONLY use him for daily needs in rotating our Shetlands around, for my farm flock is receptive to that. Not all Shetlands are. I hope to shape him into being my helper if someone splits left or right. Shimmer never worked a sheep in her life, yet she could help me with the horses just fine, by just daily living and daily circumstances.
And thus, our journey begins!
(Yes, that's a swiss bell. All my dogs wear bells...couldn't live without that.)
(P.S. Annabelle loves him!)

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