Skip to main content


3-11-07012.jpg picture by flyingmulefarm

Our friend Ellen emailed us last night that she'd had to euthanize Paige, her oldest border collie.  Just over three years ago, Ellen let us use Paige, who was then 11 years old.  Paige had been an incredible trial dog.  While she had slowed down a bit, she was still an incredible farm dog.  I learned an incredible amount about working dogs from her.

Paige was a character.  I picked her up from Ellen at a sheep dog trial in Zamora in mid February.  On the drive home, she proceeded to eat the crackers Sami had packed for my lunch.  That night, she pulled a tray of cookies off the kitchen counter, too.  During her first month with us, she also destroyed a tri-tip we had thawing on the counter.  We've since decided that Ellen's dogs are genetically coded to counter-surf.

Ellen warned us about Paige's intolerance for children, especially small children.  Our youngest daughter, Emma, was 3 years old at the time.  She and Paige became fast friends.  One of my favorite photos from this time is of Emma reading "The Very Hungary Caterpillar" to Paige on our kitchen floor.  In November that year, our oldest daughter, Lara, trialed Paige in Auburn and in Plymouth.  Their teamwork and determination brought tears to my eyes.

For nearly a year, Paige was my everyday companion in my work with our sheep.  While I purchased another dog through Ellen, Paige was my most reliable helper.  In all honesty, I probably got in Paige's way more than I helped her - she knew things about working sheep that I'll probably never understand completely.  She was the perfect introduction to the culture of working sheep dogs for all of us.  She wasn't a very big dog physically, but she had an enormous heart and a huge personality.
august0112.jpg picture by flyingmulefarm
The last time I worked Paige, I realized that she truly needed to retire.  We had sheep out near a county road after dark.  Paige gathered them and put them back into their pasture, but she could neither hear nor see me when I tried to call her off.  I spent a frantic 45 minutes in the dark looking for her.  I knew that she needed to retire for her own safety.

Ellen picked Paige up from us on the day that we received Mo, a puppy from Ellen's Emer.  We saw her periodically over the next 2 years - usually in Tulelake but at least once in Auburn.  Every time we saw her, Paige seemed to recognize us.  As her health deteriorated, she still wanted to work - she couldn't hear or see very well, but she still knew her job.

Dogs are like teachers in my experience - we are only blessed with truly exceptional teachers (and dogs) a few times during our lifetimes.  Paige was one of those dogs.  We are so grateful to Ellen for sharing her with us.  We'll miss her.


Popular posts from this blog

Trade Offs

As we were building fence for the soon-to-be-lambing ewes this morning, someone drove by and asked my partner Roger how long it took to set up the electro-net fencing we use for the sheep. Roger replied, "It's not too bad," to which the driver said, "Seems like a lot of work." Roger's answer - which both of us use with some frequency, was, "Yeah - but this way we don't have to feed any hay!" The driver, who obviously wasn't a rancher, didn't understand - and I suspect even some of my rancher friends don't understand the trade off we're making. Building electric fence is a lot of work - wouldn't it be easier just to feed hay?

The paddock that Roger and I built this morning encloses about 5.75 acres of high quality forage. Since the ewes are on the verge of lambing, their forage demand is peaking. They're eating nearly twice as much grass now as they need in the late summer - after all, many of them eating for three (and p…

No Easy Answers Part 2

In mid October, some friends who graze their cattle in the mountains of western Lassen County (less than 200 miles from our home), became the first ranchers to have cattle “officially” killed by wolves in California in nearly a century. Wildlife officials confirmed that the Lassen pack killed a 600-pound heifer; four more heifers died (and were partially eaten by wolves), but the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) couldn’t confirm the cause of death. While I learned about the depredations shortly after they happened through the rancher grapevine, news of my friends’ losses weren’t made public until the California Cattlemen’s Association and California Farm Bureau Federation issued a joint press release this week. The October 28 edition of the Sacramento Bee ran the story.
If you’ve read my previous blogs about wolves, you’ll probably know that I’ve frequently been frustrated with the Bee’s coverage. The paper has run guest opinions disguised as news articles, and appar…

Humbled and Excited

More than 20 years ago, I went to work for the California Cattlemen's Association (CCA). After two internships, I'd been hired by my friend and mentor John Braly as the membership director in 1992. By 1996, I'd been promoted to assistant vice president - pretty heady stuff for a young guy who hadn't grown up in the industry. I started looking for new challenges. Dr. Jim Oltjen, who was (and is) the beef extension specialist at UC Davis (my undergraduate alma mater) suggested that I think about going to graduate school to prepare for a career in extension. I considered it, but the timing wasn't right.

Fast forward to 2013 (or so) - I'd been working as a part-time community education specialist in our local University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) office for several years. The farm advisors in the office - Roger Ingram and Cindy Fake - suggested that I consider getting a master's degree and applying for a future farm advisor job. This time the id…