The Dogs of Wolston Farm
"I think we are drawn to dogs because they are the uninhibited creatures we might be if we weren't certain we knew better."
GEORGE BIRD EVANS
It is almost unheard of for a farm in the UK not to have a dog or two around to help with moving the livestock from place to place. While there are plenty of farms in the US where humans on horseback or on four wheels do the stock moving we believe there is no more economical nor more fulfilling way to move livestock than with a good dog. We use Border Collies on our farm because they are both the best suited to the kind of work that we have for the dogs and the most capable of competing in large open field stock dog trials.
Yes our dogs have a job to do, they are our farm hands, and very good ones at that. They are also our family and our friends. We believe that to get the most out of a dog you cannot simply treat them as a piece of machinery, even a well cared for piece of machinery. We believe that you need a bond with them, a trust, a friendship, a partnership. While we do occasionally have puppies for sale and will in the right circumstances sell a started or trained dog we are not in the business of selling dogs or puppies to make a living and try to be as careful as we can in when and where we place dogs in new homes. When we do breed we breed for our own needs and to produce dogs of exceptional working ability. If you are looking for a dog we can sometimes help you find one through our contacts if, as is likely, we don't have anything available ourselves.
We also have livestock guardian dogs that live out in the fields with the sheep. We prefer guardian dogs to Llamas or other guard animals because they distinguish between herding dogs and predators, becuase they work together and because they actively protect their charges as opposed to simply chasing predators.
Currently Working Dogs
Goose -- A Son of Bear and Kate, Goose has the post presence of any pups in the litter. He is a very natural worker, reading sheep and holding lines as well as any dog I have seen. A bit slower to develop than his sister he is now the top dog around the farm and is having his share of trialing sucess as well.
Maxie -- A daughter of Bear and Kate, Maxie qualfied for the Nursery finals twice and won the Nothwest Championhship before she was three. A very stylish worker she is generally kind to her sheep. She and her brother Goose now work very nicely as a brace team.
Barkley -- Also a son of Moss and Hope Barkley is Ravens dog. He is trained purely as a farm dog, he does not have many commands but he knows all the regular chores and does them pretty much unassisted. Barkley has a bit of his dads temper when sheep don't behave but he always gets the job done. He also has his mothers kindness to strangers and is now the dog that most students learn the basics with.
Kate -- Kate came to us from Border Collie Rescue of Northern Nevada. She had only one interest in life, herding. It took a while to get her settled down but now she is turning into a good dog. Kate qualified for the USBCHA national finals and won a trial while working for me, she is now owned by student Norm Wycoff.
Up and Coming
The Asp -- A son of Goose the Asp is being trained to replace Barkley as Ravens chore dog and as a student trainer.
Joe Kidd -- Bred by Chris Smart, Joe took his time to mature but has turned into a very nice dog. He is a very good trial dog who likes to keep things moving along. While Joe loves trialing he is also a good farm dog and knows every nook and cranny that the sheep like to hide in. Joe prefers to work with a lot of feedback from his handler.
Bear -- A son of Moss and Hope Bear replaced his dad as the main workhorse around the farm. Patient and kind to his sheep like his mother he none the less has his dads power to make things move. Since he was 8 weeks old he has been completely focused on sheep. Exceptional at farm work, sheep setting and helping out holding sheep for dogs at clinics he has also been a successful trial dog. He has a very intuitive feel for his stock.
Chip -- Chip came to us from Border Collie Rescue in Wisconsin. Not really interested in working she is full of life and mischief and is frequently seen riding with Raven when she runs errands. She is always on the lookout for free food and will eat almost anything. She is the boss of the house, telling anyone off that makes a mess, always insisting of first choice of sleeping spots etc.
Waiting Over the Rainbow Bridge
We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own, live within a fragile circle; easily and often breached. Unable to accept its awful gaps, we would still live no other way. -- Irving Townsend
Osa -- Osa was a daugher of Goose, absolutely georgeous and full of fire and toughness but she was taken from us at only 6 month with some form of brain disease.
Hope -- Hope was a very precise worker, she was a naturally wide out-runner with sharp and square flanks. Like her full sister Meg, she was very biddable and very patient with her stock. She had a lot of eye and was very stylish. Hope liked for me to talk or whistle to her constantly but she would never let me hurry her, sheep were meant to be moved at a walk and that's the way she was going to move them. After Hope retired from trialing she spent several years teaching new students. She was incredibly patient with them as she waited for them to figure out how to move and interact.
Moss -- Moss had tremendous power, i think more than i have ever seen before or since. It took me a long time to figure out how to work a dog with that much power but when we did put it together there was nothing he couldn't do. He was a fast worker with little patience for troublesome stock, but he was an exceptional farm dog, the best i have ever encountered and has saved many a life, including Ravens. A series of injuries forced his premature retirement from trialing but he worked on the farm until he was twelve years old. There were things he could do that I have never seen done since and from time to time i wish i still had him by my side when were having a tough day in the fields. Moss had a love of life that shone through right to his last day.
Ben -- Ben was my second dog, and he is probably responsible for herding become so central to my life. Ben had plenty of power but was very gentle with his stock with a naturally steady pace. He was an excellent dog at lambing time where he showed patience with the lambs but stood his ground with the ewes. If Tess taught me about handling Ben taught me what a truly talented dog could do. Ben was stylish when he choose to be, but would sometimes get bored with only a few sheep or with dog broke sheep. Ben is still the most intelligent worker I have ever encountered. Ben also holds the honor of bringing Raven and I together. As Raven usually puts it, she fell in love with Ben and then learned it was a package deal. His happy face will always be with us as his portrait hangs in a place of honor in the office.
Tess -- Tess was my first dog. While not the greatest herder she was a great first dog and I learned a great deal working with her. There was nothing she would not try to do for me. While she never had puppies of her own she was very maternal, always taking baby creatures of all kinds under her wing from children to puppies to orphan lambs. I don't think I have ever met a dog with a kinder, gentler spirit that Tess. All of our other dogs treated her with respect and love and their sadness was as palpable as ours when she crossed the bridge. We are very glad we could move here to our farm and watch her play and enjoy the place before she left us, it probably added a year to her life.
Meg -- I only had Meg for seven months (from 7 months of age to 14) before she was unfortunately struck down by a combination of valley fever and tick fever. Meg was supremely confident in just about everything she did, especially if it involved stock. She had enormous natural talent, was an amazingly fast learner and extremely biddable. She was one of the best young dogs I had ever seen, at the age of 14 months she was already at the point of being ready to start trialing in Pro-novice. While for some people this is not unusual I prefer to bring young dogs along slower so it was very unusual for me . While she never made it here to the farm her memory still drives much of what I do today.