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Archive for the ‘working dogs’ Category

With word that a late winter snow was forecast, we went to our local co-op feed store to stock up on critter supplies, and much to our delight the manager Jeffrey had his #1 helper at work–his fabulous Golden Retriever, Scooter. That dog takes his job seriously, meeting & greeting with boundless goodwill and a dazzling smile.

Scooter didn’t even object when we asked if he’d pose on a bale of hay (we’ll take a ton, Mr. Salesman Scoot, you’ve sold us!)… even tho that domain in usually reserved for the barn cat.

Scooter joined Jeff over 4 years ago, when he was just a wee pup, and co-op customers have watched as the lanky Golden Boy has grown up and up and up (“He’s a tall glass of water!” Cooper says). When Jeff’s at his computer, Scooter takes a well-deserved break in the their office.

Our friend Scooter epitomizes all that is good & great about Golden Retrievers… their loyalty to family, the enthusiasm they shower on their friends (BTW which is everyone!), and their kind & generous natures. Swirl wasn’t with us at the co-op, but if she had been, we could imagine a conversation between our pert Miss and that dashing Scooter, much like the one between Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant in the classic movie, Charade:

Swirl: “Do you know what’s wrong with you, Scooter?”

Scooter, suavely: “No, what?!”

Swirl, demurely: “Absolutely nothing.”

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We were so amazed by Wayne’s pix of his Rottweiler Merlin herding sheep, that we had to share his you tube video of Merlin in his first experience herding lambs. Wayne tells us that they’re a bit more ‘squirrelly’ than older sheep, but young Merlin handles them like a pro. Note the way he circled back to round-up a straggler!

Cooper says, “Good Boy! Really Good Boy!”

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We learn lots from our fellow dog lovers, and this week we’ve learned that Rottweilers are not just great family dogs–smart, hardy and loyal–but in Germany, where they originated, they were frequently used to herd livestock and even pull carts, laden heavily with goods bound for market.

We’re used to our herding super-star Australian Kelpies and Border Collies, but herding Rottweilers were news to us! But there’s no denying the focus and intent of that handsome Rottweiler above: our young pal, Merlin.

“Merlin looks like he’s smiling,” Super Coop adds.

Our friend Wayne, a tireless volunteer with the Seattle Purebred Dog Rescue and owner of Ivan the Incredible (see this extraordinary pooch here), told us he’s started taking his young Rottweiler, Merlin, to herding lessons. That’s Merlin, herding sheep in the snow! Just see how ‘hooked-on’ to the sheep he is! He looks like a natural! Wayne told us that there are records indicating that Rottweilers have been utilized for herding since Roman times. Amazing!

And this wonderful young dog couldn’t look more at home, than in the field watching over his flock. Good Dog, Merlin!

That isn’t all that Merlin has been up to, since we last saw him playing with that incredible Ivan… Last summer, Merlin & Wayne also completed the Seattle 5K Marathon–the first time dogs have been allowed to participate–guess that makes this young Rottweiler a charter member of an elite club!

Here’s Merlin by Seattle Center’s International Fountain, taking in all the sights and sounds. Happy Dog!

“And what an accomplished pup!” says Coop.

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Getty Images

Nearly 100 years ago, the Norwegian Roald Amundsen and Brit Robert Falcon Scott raced to the South Pole, with much of their burden shouldered by brave sledge dogs. Thanks to U.S. Air Force Col. Ronald J. Smith, the former commander of Operation Deep Freeze which supports Antarctic research, names of those heroic dogs–like Helge and Urroa–will mark points on the aeronautical charts used every day by pilots navigating between New Zealand and Antarctica. The Colonel wanted recognition of the important canine role (& in most cases, their ultimate sacrifice) in exploration of the most southern continent.

Cooper says, “Thanks, Colonel Smith! Those great dogs gave their all.”

Check out an entire article on this honor, from the Sept. 28, 2010 New York Times.

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Yesterday, when we mentioned the Catahoula Leopard Dogs that Punk and Rita Carter raise, some of our friends told us that they weren’t familiar with the breed. We are, because of one very special girl…

We first met her when she was barely more than a pup, living at a remote mountain lodge near Leavenworth, Washington. She immediately became a member of our family. Originally called Mud Puddles because her coloration looked like, well, a muddy puddle, the owners of the lodge had renamed her Miss Maud Puddles… “Far more suitable for such a lovely girl!” Cooper says.

In winter’s snow and summer’s heat, she showed us the way on mountain trails. Maudi was the best, the bravest, the kindest, the strongest… words fail to adequately describe all that she was, and all that she meant to us.

Maudi was our Catahoula Leopard Dog, supreme.

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During our recent summer hiatus (more on that later!) we had the fab opportunity to do a story on Punk Cater for AQHA Journal magazine… Punk & his wife Rita live in the Lonestar State and are perhaps best known for training great cutting horses—It must be in the family genes, cause Punk, his dad, John, and his brother, Roy are all in the National Cutting Horse Hall of Fame. Even Punk’s daughter, Cassye, is in the youth HOF!

The family also raises great dogs–one of our fav breeds, the Catahoula Leopard Dog, along with Fila Brasileiros and Black Mouth Curs. As you can imagine, Cooper was all ears to hear that! Punk told us the Fila is from Brazil, and very rare here in the States. All 3 breeds are renown for their bravery and smarts, and are used on the ranch to work cattle. The Carters crossbreed the Fila and the Catahoula for their own breed: the Filahoula! A brand new litter had just arrived when we spoke…

The Carters are a terrific couple, with what you might call an ‘open door’ policy at the ranch—they’re always welcoming young people from around the planet–Australia to Slovenia to South Africa–to learn about horsemanship and life on their Texas ranch. What great ambassadors! We sure enjoyed meeting them–to read their story, check out the AQHA Journal‘s August 2010 issue, and click here to visit their website. Cooper says, “A wag of the tail to the Carters!”

Punk & Rita Carter

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Cooper and Swirl’s pound pup-loving friends Ria & Don looked thru his Grandpa’s memory album over the weekend, and found some incredible vintage photos from a visit to Alaska during the 1930s. That lucky Alaskan Malamute (above) even has his own log cabin! Cooper says, “That must’ve been snug when the North Wind blew!”

This charming vintage photo of three beautiful little girls and their best pups captures a moment in time… We wonder what the future held for those young girls. Are they wise, cherished elders today? Do relatives of those little pups still toil by the side of the families of those girls? We hope their futures were bright! Sometimes vintage photos tell a story; sometimes they leave more questions behind than answers.

What we do know for sure, is that Alaskan dogs were indispensable to the lives of Native Alaskans and the adventurers and explorers who found their way to the Great North. Images of their sled dogs are iconic, and stories of the dogs’ strength and courage are legend.

It’s interesting that the best sled dogs weren’t the biggest, but usually mixed-breed, 50-pound athletes, with an instinctive desire to pull, and a natural curiosity to see what was around the next corner. While our backyard pups easily thrive on 1,500 calories-per-day, a working sled dog can down 10,000 calories-per-day, just to maintain his high-energy output.

And here’s a thought: Cooper reveals, “Many sled dogs have sensitive feet, and in a long trek, they wear fleece-lined booties to protect their pads. Each bootie lasts about 100 miles, and a dog team might use 2,000 booties in just one long trek! Wow! We’re glad owners take such great care of their dogs.”

Thanks for sharing your vintage photos, Ria & Don, and honoring those remarkable Alaskan dogs. Here are more great vintage photos of Alaskan dogs from an earlier post on http://CooperAndSwirl.com

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If you’re like us, and Mondays are harried from dawn til dusk, you just might want to hit the pause-button for a 6-minute, Border Collie romp…  after watching their shenanigans, your world might seem calmer by half! Cheers!

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Isn’t this a charming family portrait? “On a scale of 1-to-10, it’s an 11!” Cooper says…

Found in a friend’s old photo album, these two vintage photos are captioned: Alaskan dogs–Mt. McKinley Park, Alaska… 1930.

This proud canine family, perhaps a mix of Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute, are probably descended from an original working sled dog, which recent DNA research confirms is among the oldest of dogs. Pound-for-pound, they are the most powerful pulling animals on earth, able to maintain speeds of 8- to 12-miles-per hour for literally hundreds of miles.

Essential partners for life in the far North, these darling little pups would grow up to pull sleds with laden with people, goods and mail. In 1925, a devastating diphtheria epidemic hit Alaska, and sled dog teams and their mushers delivered life-saving medicine to Nome, Alaska, from Nenana–almost 700 miles distant. Despite 80-mph-winds and temperatures of 40-below, an heroic lead dog named Balto brought the precious cargo in, and saved many lives.

“He was a national hero!” says Cooper, and he’s right. Today, in New York City’s Central Park there is a statue in Balto’s honor, and a plaque that states:

Dedicated to the indomitable spirit of the sled dogs that relayed antitoxin six hundred miles over rough ice, across treacherous waters, through Arctic blizzards from Nenana to the relief of stricken Nome in the winter of 1925.  Endurance · Fidelity · Intelligence


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For Cooper’s latest interview feature, Speak!  he chats up Uno Mas Cerveza a sassy, young Sheltie that takes care of Phil and Ann of Myers Horse Farm, and their famous Quarter Horse stallion, Zips Chocolate Chip, aka Chip. Since Chip’s birthday falls on May 5th–fiesta day, Cinco de Mayo–there’s a lot of celebrating at the farm in May. And for a lively pup with a name like Cerveza (his older sisters’s name is Tequila!) every day is a fiesta…. Ole!

Cooper: How’d you get that radically cool name, Cerveza?
Cerveza: I’m proudly upholding Myers’ family tradition. Once-upon-a-time, Ann had a Sheltie named Budweiser. His color was like a golden beer, and he had a big white collar that looked like the foamy head on a beer. I look a lot like him, so, they named me Uno Mas Cerveza (One More Beer!), as a wag of the tail to him and to honor Chip’s Cinco de Mayo birthday, too.
Cooper: What’s with that gorgeous sombrero?
Cerveza: You know Ann–she loves her props. I’m just lucky she didn’t dress me up in a chocolate chip cookie costume!
Cooper: Must admit, a sombrero is quite the dashing accessory!
Cerveza: Everyone–Chip, Tequila, even the cat–was trying to show me how to wear it… Personally, I think blue is Tequila’s color.
Cooper: Speaking of Chip, what’s that famous Zips Chocolate Chip really like?
Cerveza: Awesome! We play dress-up a lot, and he really looks swashbuckling in a sombrero, don’t you think, Cooper? Ole!
Cooper: Who’s dat cat, little Cerveza?
Cerveza: Gunner, he’s 20-years-old and quite the party animal. (Tho please note, Cooper, that Gunner has obvious sombrero issues, too!)
Cooper: Tell us a little bout your job at Myers Horse Farm…
Cerveza: My job is to herd yearling colts. OK, OK, most of the time they just stand and look at me through the dog fence, but I work really hard, that is, unless I’m napping… zzzzzz….
Cooper: Hey, wake up, pint-sized pup! Just two more questions, baby face!
Cooper: What do Ann & Phil love most about you?
Cerveza: I think what attracted them at first, was my cute factor–it’s off the charts! But now it’s my devotion that really tugs at their heartstrings. (sigh)
Cooper: Are you old enough to have a motto, o-youthful-one? Please share!
Cerveza: Life is a Fiesta! Ole!
Ridiculously cute photos courtesy Zips Chocolate Chip. Thanks, Chip!

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While she tolerated Cooper from an aloof distance, Banner was never certain that they were of the same species. He was, to her, a puff of fluff. She approached life with a white hot intensity and endless energy. Banner was a warrior working dog.

Once, she was invited to visit a noted trainer of herding dogs, a towering old gentleman who squinted his eyes as he looked her over, hand on his chin. Wordlessly, he sent her off across his fields, where she passed pens of increasingly larger animals to herd: ducks, small goats, larger (& beautiful) Nubian goats, sheep…

The Australian Kelpie went quickly, silently, stealthily, as if drawn by an invisible string between her and a huge, stately ram with curling horns. Then she dropped to the ground to ‘hold’ him. The old man shook his head, “Strong!” was all he said.

Banner’s life was herding her horses, rain or shine, and she  did it very very well. When horses worked in the round pen, it was always under her watchful eye.

Banner loved her job, her horses, her people & on occasion, even Cooper. Life was a sun dazzled field of sweet grass filled with horses. Her natural instincts amazed us. Her energy and stamina humbled us. She taught us the meaning of ‘work ethic.’ She shared her joy. For Ban, every day was a great day to be alive!

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