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Fifteen years ago today, somewhere in the world, a wee border collie puppy was born.

He spent his young days on a farm in Ohio, where details of his early childhood is a long ago memory. He still remembers his time, I’m sure, when he answered to “Hot Fudge Sundae”.

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Thank goodness he can’t hear me utter that name anymore….either he is deaf, or he has incredibly selective hearing.

When he was three and a half, this dog’s life changed drastically. He went into “rescue”, and moved to Maryland. Where, a kind person changed his unfortunate name to “Finn”, a much more fitting name.

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Finn had no idea what was going to happen to him next.

Neither did I.

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Finn has now spent more than two-thirds of his life living in Greenwich Village. No, not a village in the countryside named Greenwich, but Greenwich Village, on the island of Manhattan. New York City.

If Finn were able to talk, I wonder what kind of stories he would tell:

  • “I used to live in a kennel outside. Now I ride the elevator into an apartment and while there are multiple places I’m supposed to sleep, I prefer the hardwood that reminds me of the concrete kennel floor.”
  • “When I was more active, I could eat all the Milk Bones in the world…now I get carrots for snacks.”
  • “I ran 10 miles every day, no problem. Whatever the weather. Now when it’s cold I prefer to wear my water resistant, fancy imported European coat.”

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I can imagine all kinds of stories. I do truly hope of of them is:

“When I was four, I met this crazy lady and I knew I was home.”

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Happy birthday to my best buddy. Happy 15th birthday, Finn!

 

One of the best mementos of another fun filled weekend at Shepherd’s Hey Farm is this photo.

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Doesn’t it look like Lucy is belting out a tune and the poodles in the back are doo-wopping in the background? This photo has been making me laugh all day and I’m sure it will make me chuckle every time I see it, imagining how I would caption it.

I was not the one who was trying to make a photograph happen here, so I got to observe one of the funniest photos develop.

We were approaching the house, where we had left all dogs except Finn (who got to push some sheep and was very proud, but his adventures and another installment of Lucy’s Excellent Adventure coming soon to a blog near you).

As the dogs were milling in the garden, my friend Lee tried to take a photo of the dogs behind the beautiful purple salvia.

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Of course, her dogs, Bridey and Fargo heard her. Right away. And knew what to do. (Look at their approaching Human with a camera pointed at them).

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Jack, the other poodle, eventually realized what was going on and joined in.

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Eventually, Lee got the shot. That’s Bridey, with her sons Jack and Fargo. The poodles are looking good!!!

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Note where Lucy is in all these photos. It’s like “Where’s Waldo”. Do you see her? Ruining every frame? I have a feeling some body part of her’s has been cropped away from the above photo.

Looking through the photos (judging from where the poodles are, it happened not long after the above shot) later that day — we found it. THE shot — well, for me, anyway. So funny, and the advantage of having a digital camera (in this case attached to an iPhone) on you all the time.

Poodles and Lucy

The dog trainer in all of you will note how Bridey and Fargo held their positions throughout this photo shoot. And one little very busy border collie, who really finds it difficult to stay still,  jumped in for one second and stole the day.

Funny Lucy!

She has been with me eight years today, the dog that told me that her name was “Lucy”.

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She was supposed to be a “Becky” or a “Sawyer”, to go along with Finn. It became very evident in a very short time that she was not a Sawyer. Try saying that name along with most dog commands. “Lie Down, Sawyer.” “Leave it, Sawyer”. “Good Girl, Sawyer”. Doesn’t work very well for me. So, she was going to be Becky or Becca if I kept her.

Except she really wasn’t a Becky or a Becca. She was most definitely a Lucy. Lucy, as in the character from the Peanuts, the one that pulls the football away from Charlie Brown every time after manipulating him into thinking that this time, she wouldn’t.

So, I named her Lucy. Her fancy name is “Kei’s Piccola Bella Luna”. I’m not sure why she is Italian, although one of my favorite characters in a movie is Cher’s grandfather in “Moonstruck” — the one that always has about 10 dogs trailing behind him, and that there’s a scene in that movie where the grandfather looks up at the moon and says, “aaah Bella Luna”. Maybe this was a sign that I would be rolling my eyes toward the moon with this dog!

What is amazing with the name “Lucy”, is that I found out later that it was her name before she went into rescue!

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Lucy is most definitely a conundrum. The one thing I absolutely wanted in my second dog was that she was trustful of humans. And Lucy thinks humans exist to give her pets, so I did get that in her. If you call her over, she will come to you, put her head in your lap…look at you with her big brown eyes, suck you in….and then you go down the rabbit hole of giving her scritches on all parts of her that she presents to you.

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She is very strange about food. Not only is she not food motivated, when presented with a new item to eat, she will trot off into a quiet corner with it, and examines it (if she had a scalpel she would dissect it) before she decides if she wants to eat it. Most times, she will leave it in her corner, guard that corner, lying in wait for some other dog (Finn in most cases, her Poodle Friend Fargo has been snared in this trap as well) to come check out her food — just so she can tell them off. It’s as if she is running a test….”let’s see if some other dog wants it. If he does, then I want it.” When I am in a situation when I absolutely need her to eat, the magic words are, “Can I give it to Finn?” (She will clean the bowl.) I often give non-kibble bits — yogurt, green tripe, vegetables — in my dogs’ food. Lucy will eat it in the order she likes them, no matter how much I think I’ve distributed the bits throughout. And yes, she licks the yogurt off the kibble before she eats the kibble.

The best command I taught Lucy was the command to go to the bathroom. It’s very handy, particularly if we are traveling. And she has a secret signal for me. She spins clockwise before she pees, and she spins counter-clockwise before she poops. It’s like she’s telling me….get that bag ready because here I go!

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The other not-so-secret handshake Lucy has with me is that she wears her emotions on her sleeve. Ears at 10 and 2? She’s relaxed. Ears pasted back?  Scared/unsure. Hackles — are they up? And her tail — it speaks volumes.

When I first met Lucy, her tail was a scrawny puppy tail. Over the years though, it has filled out. It’s quite magnificent, actually, and she is very proud of it. She fans it out on display. She will hold it high on alert and interest. It can be found up by her chin if she is scared. And she has about 1,000 different wags. If you ever meet her, and you get the helicopter, you know that you’ve been invited into her club. That’s her special wag.

There are so many stories I can tell about Lucy. And I hope to be able to tell more, year after year.

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Happy adopt-a-versary, Loony Lulu Lucy!

I think that Lucy’s greatest joy is to run. She is built like a runner, and when she is seriously running, she puts down her ears close to her head to make herself aerodynamic and just takes off. This, along with her very healthy prey drive, has kept her on leash in most circumstances.

We have been going down regularly to Maryland to Shepherd’s Hey Farm now, and slowly Lucy has been gaining more freedom.

I decided, this trip, that I would try to see if Lucy can be allowed off lead in the unfenced areas of the farm, when there was enough distance between Lucy and obvious distractions (like sheep).

IMG_0336Finn has been off lead on this property for some time now, mostly because he will always check in to see where I am, and while he is deaf, he is 99% trustworthy. He did take off and tree a cat recently, but he is good, even around sheep (if there is a barrier between him and the sheep).

Lucy had a wonderful couple of days while there was snow cover. It was really easy to spot her, there were not too many critters to distract her, and all was well.

All is well always, of course, until it isn’t.

The other day, I was walking toward the barn in the morning, with Lucy and Finn in tow. I unclipped them, without giving it too much thought, since our every day walks to the barn off leash had gone well. There is one area where we usually see many deer in the evenings. As we rounded the hill, I saw a herd of deer — about 10 heads — at the same time Lucy saw them.

“LUCY, COME!”

I saw her make a decision to blow me off, and off she went. I had to make a decision quickly about what to do — I chose to make sure I put Finn on lead before I started off in the direction where Lucy had taken off. I thought that if Finn took off after the deer, it would be harder to get him back as he cannot hear. Calling Lucy’s name all the while, just hoping that her radar ears will hear my voice in the background so that as she raced top speed through the hundreds of acres of fields and woods, that she would not get too lost.

I was petrified. I tried to keep my voice really upbeat, all the while thinking, “I AM GOING TO KILL YOU BUT PLEASE COME BACK SO I CAN KILL YOU.”

Finn and I jogged down the muddy path in the general direction that Lucy had taken off. I wanted to find a high point so that Lucy could hear me.

We bush-whacked through a patch of woods, and then I saw her. about 300 yards away in an open field, wearing back and forth at top speed trying to keep 3 does together. 2 does peeled off into the woods, and Lucy put on the after burners after the one that she had picked to be her chosen deer.

I was screaming her name at the top of my lungs. (Of course she didn’t even glance at me.)

Over the hill she went. Finn and I went up the slip slippery muddy hill, and stood on top of the hill.

I don’t know how many times I called her name, but I was just hoping that she heard.

Then I saw a small black and white dot, no deer around it, in the field on the far side of the fenced in field we usually go to. It was too far away for me to see which way the head was turned, but it was not moving.

I tried again, “LUCY COME!”

And then the dot started coming toward me. It disappeared into the woods, but I was sure it was coming nearer.

“LUCY COME, GOOD GIRL LUCY!”

I’m sure it only took about a minute, but I must have repeated that about 30 times. And then I saw her coming out of the woods.

Still at top speed, muddy, with her tongue down to her knees, with a bloody leg.

No deer parts in her mouth.

I praised her. She was all wags, as if to say, “I just wanted to stretch my legs a little.” I was so glad she heard me and she came. But, the leash went on, and we headed to the barn. I’m not sure who was covered in more mud…. Lucy, or me and Finn!

Disaster averted, thank goodness.

PS FInn had a bit of an adventure as well, as he got to help move sheep for shearing. He was so proud of himself.

It’s a day after my birthday, so it’s that time. The story that will be repeated for the ninth time.

288031441605_0_ALBTen years ago today, I bought a car and a crate, and drove down to Maryland to pick up my first dog ever. His name is Finn.

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I cannot believe that it has been ten years.

Ten years ago, I was running a business, was glued to the computer, and got a dog because I needed an excuse to go hiking.

Ten years ago, I lived in a different apartment. The one with many many steps.

Ten years ago, I was….ten years younger. And I had never had a dog.

What a difference 10 years makes. I no longer have a business, I go hiking and go do weird things (like hang with sheep) all the time, there is only one set of steps in my apartment that I can fall down (long story), and I have two dogs.

And my life is completely different.

Ten years ago, I would not have dreamed that I would be mucking it around sheep…or be in the vicinity of any sort of farm animal. Born in Tokyo, schooled in Boston, live in NYC after all. My very first lock-in inside a pen with sheep was because of Finn. I thought it would be a good idea to work sheep. That was a weird decision for someone who didn’t like to touch dirty things. The closest I ever wanted to come near sheep was….winding yarn. Now I have a sheep friend named Cambridge. And I voluntarily step into stalls. (Hint about the photo below — photo credit to Lee Langstaff — if you look beyond to the far stall, you will see a pair of prick ears. Finn’s ears.)

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Speaking of dirty, ten years ago, I had JUST gotten over the concept of having to pick up dog poop on the street. This simple act (well, simple NOW) held me back from getting a dog at least 3 years. Now, I’m like a Ninja with that dog poop bag. And eco-friendly too because I can stretch a single poop bag into encasing two dogs worth of poop.

Ten years ago, when I had a free weekend, I would hop a plane and go somewhere. Now, I load up my way-too-big-for-me-SUV (but it fits 2 big crates in the back!!) with dog beds, dog food, dog meds, dog treats, oh and some clothes for me and drive somewhere where the dogs can commune with nature. I no longer rock climb (dogs don’t belay), I don’t do crazy hikes (Finn is too old — and that’s my reason and I’m sticking with it), and more often than not, I’m driving down to Maryland to go see some sheep, Poodles and administer pain meds and anti-inflammatories when a certain 14 year old deaf dog takes off after a cat and tries to climb a tree….and ends up a little sore.

How things have changed.

Ten years ago, I never dreamt that a dog could teach me so much. I still stand by my belief that “A Dog Loves You Unconditionally” is a false statement. Because the real statement is, “A Dog Loves You Unconditionally…IFF You Earn It” (and yes, that is an “if and only if”). And Finn made me prove myself. I trained hard, I tried hard, I was firm with him when all I wanted to do was spoil him. But look what I got in return. I have a 14 year old sweetheart of a dog who will happily do anything for me. He is my best buddy. And I love him to bits and pieces.

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Happy happy adopt-a-versary, Finn. I’m so very glad you came into my life.

Fourteen was my favorite number until today. Fifteen will be for the next 12 months.

Today is Finn’s birthday. The dog-who-no-longer-shall-be-named-HotFudgeSundae (I know I know. I laugh every single time I type it) has turned 14 years old.

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The last year has been an eventful one for the guy — amplification of the gradual changes that began about 24 months ago. I am 99% sure that he cannot hear anything in the human voice range (there is still 1% of me that think it’s still selective hearing). His vision isn’t great in the dark. His peripheral vision is definitely impaired. He sleeps a very deep old dog sleep, and I often pat him awake for the last walk of the day. This is a dog whose ears prickled every time I uttered a word that started with the letter “W”, and made me think that border collies slept with their eyes open.

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With these signs of age has come an incredible change. Finn has relaxed. He thinks humans are….pretty awesome. And I think he is truly in a happy place.

My routine has evolved with the new version of Finn. Summer hikes are earlier to make sure we avoid heat, and I pick trails for water features and shade….instead of thinking about my caloric output to complete the hike. We take many rests, and we take in the surroundings. We are now meandering, smelling the flowers with Lucy, taking more photos, looking at rock formations. There are some places on our favorite hikes where I need to give him a bit of a boost, just a little to get to the top of the boulder. At the end of the hike, he is always beside me, still smiling — but as soon as I pick him up and put him in his crate — because he can no longer jump up into the back of my SUV — he takes a long drink of water and then he is out cold. And he snores like an old man, while Lucy looks on.

The cold is tough on him. I have amended my saying to “Real Dogs don’t wear clothes” to “Real Dogs don’t wear clothes….unless they are old and cold”. I am grateful for the fancypants coat that I had gotten for him a while ago (and he used to hate) because it keeps him a bit warmer and his limbs a little less achier as we roam the NYC streets in the winter.

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He is still a beautiful dog. Hair is shiny and silky…but his body underneath is lumpy and bumpy that get checked on a regular basis. He hasn’t greyed very much yet….but the white and the tan areas on his tri-colored body are…getting bigger somehow 🙂

Too many of his training contemporaries have passed on…the dogs that connected me to their humans. I can fill half a page with their names. I know too well that I should be cherishing every moment I have with Finn.

Finn is my best buddy. As I write this, he is laying across my feet, his favorite place when he senses that I may not be feeling too well. I reach down and pat him once in a while, and he glances up at me and I swear he is giving me a wink.

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Good, dog, Finn. And happy, happy birthday.

I think it is totally appropriate to break my (unintended) blogging silence with a post to wish my little girlie a Happy Birthday.

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She is, believe it or not, eight years old today-ish (her exact birthday is unknown, but this is her approximate birthday judging from radiographs taken right before she became mine).

EIGHT!

Eight years old means fully grown, mature, almost old. Right?

She still FRAPs when excited or bored — she tears through my apartment, jumping from rug to rug, leaping over furniture. She thinks every human being (almost) exists to give her pets. If you sit on the ground, that is definitely a sign that you are there to play with her. She still thinks, if you are not paying attention and there is a bus or truck on the road, that she may have to put it in its place.

There is nothing in the world she loves more than flying. Can you find The Lucy in the photo below?

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Her command to finish her food is, “Can I give it to Finn?”

I remember the very first time she fell asleep outside of her crate. She was a little over one and it took a 12 mile hike. One sign of her age is Lucy knows how to lounge around…She can often be found in a pool of sunlight….

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…or of course, on furniture where she is technically not supposed to be.

IMG_2060She is my happy little girl with the big ears.

IMG_9332Finn likes her too.

IMG_2348Happy birthday, Lucy Goose. May there be many many more!

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