Fatherhood, second time around, for Ezra

Ezra confounds us – yet again!

October’s a busy month for us; DVD sales start to pick up for Christmas, there’s a clutch of family birthdays and, often, a litter of puppies.

We like our puppies to get out and about as young as possible, so even October is a bit late in the year for comfort, but somehow October seems to be Puppy Month.

Black and white femail collie with a half-white face and a blue eye
Pearl, one of the early sheepdogs who taught us so much (mostly that we weren’t as clever as we thought)

We’ve had some memorable October puppies, too. It was an October 31st when Pearl produced her first litter.

Andy and my daughter, Olivia, had taken a dog (Smudge) to catch the ship that was to take it to Ascension Island (it’s between Aruba and Australia, according to my franking machine anyway). My son, Greg and I arrived home to find that Pearl’s puppies had arrived early, and one had died.

Greg went to find something special for Pearl’s tea, while I tidied up the maternity unit. As I picked up the presumed-dead puppy I can only say it “creaked”, so I employed Greg as puppy reviver and kept my fingers crossed.

Big, rough coated black border collie
Typical Ezra expression, “What’s the problem?”

Luckily, an icy cold, apparently lifeless puppy soaked in amniotic fluid is JUST the type of thing a 12-year old wants to tuck underneath his school uniform. The puppy survived and was named, inevitably given the date, Pumpkin. Pumpkin later became Cap, and went on to become a valuable flock dog in the north of England.

Greg’s revived other puppies since then of course, but you never forget your first time, do you?

October 31st was also the birth date of another memorable litter, Kay’s with Ezra. It was Ezra’s first attempt at fatherhood, and for some time it was his only attempt.

Biologically it’s the sire’s input (shall we call it?) that dictates the sex of the puppy, and I know it won’t have been deliberate, but Ezra’s litter of 8 produced 8 dogs.

Two black and white border collie litter mates.
No-one, but NO-ONE, plays quite like your litter brother! Reef and Josh getting to grips on the lawn.

Every single one of them, resolutely male. I don’t know what are the odds of that, and perhaps I should have appreciated it for its rarity, but I assured Ezra I’d never forgive him: I had several excellent working homes waiting for a female from the litter. Ezra’s stud dog career was put on hold for the foreseeable future.

We kept three of the Kay/Ezra Hallowe’en puppies. Individually Remus, Reggie and Ronnie were lovely dogs (still are, we still have Remus here) but together they formed a formidable gang that was always on the lookout for trouble.

However, they became very good sheepdogs: focused, strong and determined, but companionable and keen to please.

Black and white border collie lying down and waiting to play
Meg’s a lovely character; easy to work and our ace retriever

Several of the litter, Mac, Josh, Reef and Piper, went to skilled and experienced agility homes, and we’ve heard nothing but good news of their progress as they rise quickly through the agility ranks (which are a bit of a mystery to us).

All of these handlers had specifically asked for males, so Ezra’s Gang of Eight wasn’t such a disaster after all.

I began to forgive Ezra, especially as he’s such a wonderful quirky, but affectionate, character.

When it was time to decide whether we’d breed from Meg, enough water had passed under the bridge for me to have completely softened towards Ezra and his paternity possibilities. Plus, we were getting a steady flow of enquiries from agility handlers who’d seen his first litter in action and were interested in one for themselves.

Young sheepdog
The lovely Dash, a puppy from Meg’s first litter and a promising little sheepdog

As everyone except us seemed to want a male this was ideal if, Heaven forfend, Ezra really didn’t produce females, and that didn’t seem likely.
Meg and Ezra’s litter was due on October 29th.

They actually arrived on Sunday, the 26th (my birthday, and I was happy enough to have the event over-shadowed) but they received only a quick look over on Sunday and were otherwise left in peace.

On Monday I weighed everyone, looked for dew claws (none, thank goodness – I hate that scrunchy snipping feeling) and made a note of the males and females. I gave the count to Andy.

Big black sheepdog on a winter's day
Ezra, looking pensive. As well he might…

He quizzed me over whether I was wearing my glasses and, if so, which ones? I admitted it sounded unlikely, so was happy to let him do the inspecting on Tuesday, when I went to weigh the puppies again.

Even by peering extra hard, and wearing his glasses (the right ones) Andy couldn’t get the result to differ from mine.

So… Ezra produced 8 bitch puppies in a litter of 8. Andy’s delighted of course, but Ezra, I swear, I’ll NEVER forgive you.

New litter of black and white border collie sheep dog puppies
If they were magpies, the poem says “Eight’s a wish”. I’ll be careful what I wish for in future.

Still, it means we have lots to choose from for our new project. We’re aiming to follow at least one, probably two, of Meg’s puppies from Day One through to its first sheepdog trial, filming its progress and training.

The plan is that the puppies will feature largely in the blog, and eventually become a DVD of their own.

We’ve been so busy with tutorials this year that we haven’t spent as much time as usual filming the dogs when they’re not working, so we’ll be getting plenty of puppy and pack footage along the way too.

Let’s hope we have some dry and mild days while these October puppies are growing up.


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