Fayston, Vermont. Wagmore is one! To celebrate this first anniversary, here’s a look back at some of the many wonderful dogs and their people who participated. Thank you for your continued support and sharing – and here’s to even more fun in year two!
dogs at work
Waitsfield, Vermont. With Catherine Elliott: Hutch is a true artist’s dog. He is an English Labrador. Goes with me everywhere to painting events. His father is an international award winning show dog, but we just love his sweet temperament and good nature.
To see his mom’s artwork visit: www.catherinemelliott.com.
Author’s notes: Last weekend, I was on assignment at the Vermont Festival of the Art’s “Plein Air” Paint-Out where I met Hutch and his person, Connecticut artist Catherine Elliott. Hutch immediately became a much-adored paint-out mascot! He didn’t seem to mind sharing the role with Mabel and Jenny, the McTigue sisters’ cats who live at Bridge Street’s All Things Bright & Beautiful.
What’s a “plein air” paint-out, you ask? It’s an event where artists gather to paint outside, in the open air, then show and sell their fresh work. If you missed the paint-out, check the Facebook page of the Valley Arts Foundation for my photo album.
Paint-Out spectators came in all sizes. I didn’t photograph every dog, but here’s a gallery of my three favorites:
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Waitsfield, Vermont. At the offices of The Valley Reporter last week, the regular “office assistants” LeRoy Brown, Pearl Bailey, and Roxi were joined by two distinguished guests, Zoe, a black lab, and Marleaux, a yellow lab. Human staffers served as pet sitters while Zoe’s and Marleaux’s families were away. From all accounts, the guests were perfect, but the news of the day was a little hairy…
My apologies if I am not spelling “Marleaux” correctly – my source was uncertain the exact spelling, only to tell me that it wasn’t “Marley” and that it is spelled with an “x” in it somewhere. Upon research, “Marleaux” is a French family name, and also the name of a handcrafted bass guitar company in Germany. Perhaps there’s a musician in Marleaux’s family? He sure is a sweet dog!
Zoe is part of the Utter family, and I have been told that her singular thought is food.
I got a border collie, then someone gave me a book. I read the book and I said “Oh my God! The dog needs a job!” My first border collie I got at the pound, and she was not interested in sheep, but we did a little bit of agility. She died at a very young age from a heart condition that was undetected. Then I got another dog that was 5 years old, and I started out in a very, very difficult sport. I ended up with a rescue border collie, and he was really keen to work. I trained him, but he was not a team player. I ended up getting two more younger dogs with breeding I knew; they came from working lines. They both ended up with the same issue… Even though they were very different dogs, they weren’t well trained.
I decided if I was going to continue in the sport I might be better off with a ‘starter dog’ – a dog that is partially trained. That was Susie and she came to me 9 years ago from one of the top women handlers in North America. I was very lucky to get her; she’s a very good dog. Because she’s very nice to sheep, which gave me time to think. So she helped me learn how to handle a dog.
Then I got Dot a couple years later, but because she’s pushy, I had to change my handling technique. She’s taught me a lot.
Now I have Dahli, and I’m learning a lot. It hasn’t been fun, but I’m learning about how to train her because typical techniques don’t work with her. I have to remain calm, and not yell at her. I don’t use food because we work from a distance.
Tell me about your current dogs. Dot, Susie and Dahli. Dot is 8. Susie is 11. She’s retired from competing and will do farm chores. Dahli is 3 years old.
When Dot is good and listening, she’s very good in the field trials. And when she’s naughty, she’s naughty.
Dahli is learning.
How long does it take to train a dog? Typically four years to train them. One year for every paw, as they say. So some dogs can start at nine months, others aren’t ready until they’re a year and a half.
How often do they get worked? Rule of thumb: Light exercise; 3 to maintain; 5 to make progress. Dot gets tune-ups; Dahli gets more training. I only work her about 10 minutes as she gets tired. I also find that it’s the first thing you do, because it’s the first thing you do that counts. It’s not the third time. So I only train for 10 or 15 minutes at a clip and that’s it. I find I’m less frustrated and I also then can make the commitment easier.
What’s the first thing you teach? I believe in training off the field. So basic obedience: Can they sit? Can they lie down? Can they walk with you? So that starts to get them listening. I think that’s really important. When you first take them to sheep, some are very frightened, some show no interest, and some go YAHOO! Dot was a yahoo! kind of girl and Susie was always well-mannered. She’s a real lady.
When you first put them on sheep, they’re going to forget to lie down, walk and stay – they’ll lose their head. But at least they have that in their vocabulary and so when you get everything quiet and in balance then you can get the dog to come off you. “That will do” is a recall. That’s the other thing I also teach them.
When you take them into a ring to start training you do only balance work. Basically, you want the dog to balance to you. The sheep are in the middle. You’re on one side, at 6 o’clock, with the dog on 12 o’clock. If I move to 3, the dog goes to 9. If I’m at 12, the dog’s at 6. You do that, then a little walk up, and hopefully then, once they settle down, you are able to call them off.
Everything is done from a distance, so you use a lot of body language and a lot of verbal corrections. Once you feel like you have a little control in the ring, you’ll take them to a slightly larger area and continue to do balance work, little out runs, little go out behind the sheep and bring them to me.
That will do. Nancy Phillips and her husband Stephen Doherty own Windy Meadow Farm in Fayston, Vermont. Nancy trains the dogs; Stephen tends the sheep. More images, including sheep shearing, and their story of how Stephen became a shepherd, in next week’s post.
I didn’t like the dog I had when I was growing up. She was not a love-match. We got Nina when my brother’s dog had an unassigned hook-up with Louie. My brother had seven of these illegitimate black lab puppies. All of them got passed off to members of GMVS.
Nina just makes me happy. When we went snowshoeing behind the Bundy, she’s always ahead. She’ll be gone, then she comes back.
How does Nina help you at work? She doesn’t. She helps me play.
June Anderson is the Publisher of Resort Guides. June brings Nina to work with her to her office in the Festival Gallery, in Waitsfield, Vermont. Nina is happy to see anyone who walks through the door, and is excellent at sniffing out dog treats.
Five year old Pearl Bailey and her younger cousin Leroy Brown are German Shorthair Pointers (GSP) who accompany Lisa Loomis to work at The Valley Reporter in Waitsfield.
Leroy is a big soft flump. His primary goal in life is to be where Pearl is. They are very high energy, they love to come to work – they love Roxi. They love to bark at men with hats & beards. They love to run. I take them for a walk every day: I walk two miles, and they run five to seven miles. They are always busy.
Although we sent them to boarding school to learn how to hunt, we do not hunt with them. They do hunt, they have snagged their own birds out of the air, and they are very excited about that. This winter they killed a squirrel, and it was the highlight of their winter. It was the one they had been watching out the window for months.
When we researched names, we were going through Arabic names and came across “Pearl.” We thought “Pearl” was pretty. My sister, who was getting a GSP at the same time we got Pearl, named her dog “Jenny,” which so happens to be our grandmother’s name. Weird coincidence: Our grandmother’s sister was named “Pearl.”
What’s the naughtiest thing they’ve done? Recently, I flailed up my steep and muddy road, got stuck once, to let the dogs out. They greet me at the door, all happy. I turned the corner toward the kitchen and saw an entire bag of kitty litter strewn on a carpet. They had tracked it throughout the rest of the house. Thank god it was clean kitty litter. And, it was cedar chip kitty litter so my house smells fresh and clean now.
What do they do when they come to work? Mostly they lie on their bed under my desk and fart.
“Arctos is Latin for ‘grizzly bear.’ My boyfriend and I tried to adopt a puppy, but after like the fifth time the adoption fell through, so we went through a breeder.
He’s learning. He’s going to be a big dog. He’s learning the best of ways at GMVS!”
Arctos is a silver Labrador Retriever. Marissa Marleau teaches French I and Learning Services at the Green Mountain Valley School in Waitsfield.
Jerry is the greeter at Elevation Physical Therapy, in Waitsfield, Vermont. Steve Skalecke and his wife Hannah bring Jerry to work in their practice every day. “He makes people forget about their pain a little bit,” Steve says. “A healthcare environment can be so sterile, but he transitions clients nicely by easing their pain. He’s happy to see our clients.” Steve adds: “He’s great with kids – when parents come in with little kids – he’s digging that.”