The Wichenford week

After my frenzy of dog acquisition last week, this week seems quite dull in comparison

That said, even a dull week here is pretty good when compared with having a "proper" job!

A lovely group of young Border collies; red and white, black and white, and tricolour.
From left to right: Audrey, Rita, Scylla, Gloria and Dennis are waiting to see what's in store for this week - us too!

When weather and light permit, we're getting on with filming for the next DVD and there's always plenty of dog and grounds maintenance to do. Suddenly all the bitches are moulting and looking a bit moth-eaten, but the boys (Eli, Ezra and Dennis) are still in full, lush plumage. I don't know if the moulting is a response to the change in the weather; I usually associate moulting with the end of a bitch's season but that doesn't seem to be the case this time. Still, it's good to get it all over and done with at once (I guess). Roy's the exception, as his coat's falling out now and revealing all manner of shades underneath the red topcoat. I do hope his underwear's red too (if you see what I mean).

Border collie bitch puppy, showing how much she's grown between week 2 and week 3.
If I'm not being fed, I'm being washed; and if I'm not being washed, I'm being photographed!

Mel and Pru have been moved up to the porch by the kitchen for the next few weeks. As Pru's all on her own, when she's not being force-fed or washed, we want to make sure she gets as much contact with people and other dogs as possible, but where we can keep an eye on things. It's lovely to be able to nip outside for a quick puppy-fix, and she responds as soon as we open the door now, peering around to see who's coming.

Pru's started to crawl about, sometimes at speed, but because she's so big I find myself worrying that she's making slow progress and have to remind myself that she's only three weeks old.

Today (Friday 15th) is Prudence’s 3-week birthday, so after singing “Happy Birthday to You” it was time for the progress photograph (see above). I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to contain her in two hands! Last week she was wormed for the first time. This is done over three days, and the dosage is according to weight (taken on the first day). It’s never seemed necessary to weigh a puppy on the second and third days, but for Pru I could almost hear her growing while I was measuring out the wormer. As it is, our puppies are usually around .75kg at 2 weeks, but Pru weighed in at a tiny bit below 1.5kg. Mel’s so proud; I think growing Pru is a bit of a challenge for her, like growing a prize pumpkin for the local flower and produce show.

After being here for a week, Tess is beginning to understand the rules and tries to do what the rest of the “pack” are doing. She’s very good about coming in from a run and heads straight for her kennel, waiting patiently until one of us opens the door for her. It’s the only time she IS patient though, so that’s something we have to work on! Having been a house/farm dog until last week, we weren’t sure how Tess would react to such a complete change in lifestyle but, typical of a Border collie, she’s just getting on with it. She’s been to work around the sheep for a few minutes, where she proved to be very keen and quite bold, and is completely ignoring the toys she brought with her from her old home. Although apparently devoted to her squeaky bottle when she came here, she has no interest in it at all now, and is oblivious to the other dogs’ playing and taunting each other with it.

Badger and Tess
Black and white bitch Tess (at the back) has other things on her mind, and has no interest in the toy that Badger (at the front) is so proud of

As you can see from the photo, Badger’s “prize” is of no interest to Tess. That’s also typical of a Border collie. No dog who’s moved in here with toys has ever paid them any attention again, even if they play with other things. They just seem not to see them anymore, and I wonder if they don’t recognise them out of context? And if that’s the case, does it apply to comfort blankets? I know some breeders and trainers will offer a piece of blanket to take home with a new puppy, but on those few occasions when we’ve done it, the puppy always seems far more interested in its new surroundings, and exploring the new regime, than in snuggling into its old blanket.

Three black and white Border collie puppies are keen to escape the garden and get to the sheep
We were so pleased with ourselves - but it was only a matter of time...

The final move of the week has been that of Cabbage, Norman and Cotton out of the porch and into the yard. We told them it's because they're such grown-up dogs now, and while that may be the case, the truth is they're like little eels and seem able to slither or extrude themselves out of the garden and into the orchard through gaps that don't exist. Putting wire mesh across the hurdle fence only worked for as long as it took us to photograph the puppies looking through it, then Cabbage led the way over the top and the excitement (for them - and the sheep!) started all over again. Cabbage and Norman are both showing an inclination to gather, rather than chase, the sheep and have a natural cast out. Cotton tends to run for the front (no mean achievement when your legs are so short) to head the sheep, so the three together make quite a team - given the chance. So now they're safely out of harm's way until they're old enough to start Big School, though we'll give them the occasional run around the sheep just to keep them interested. It's a fine line between controlling and suppressing the instinct - we've learned THAT the hard way.


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