Oak is the newest addition to our English Shepherd pack. He came to us from Good Shepherd Farm in northwest Illinois. We really liked his traditional "black and tan" color pattern, common in early English Shepherds. Like Icelandic sheep, English Shepherds come in many colors and patterns, including but not limited to: black and tan, sable and white, shaded sable and white (like Rose), tri-colored (like Bonnie), and black and white. Oak's mother is from the same breeder as Rose -- Tish Toren of Blacksheep Homestead in upstate New York. Rose's father, Cimarron Red Rooster (now deceased), was Oak's grandfather, so she is technically his aunt. Oak's father was bred by Rebecca Wingler of White Oak English Shepherds. Both parents are from working lines and have excellent PennHip scores. What appealed to us about Oak was that he not only carried many of the traits we like in Rose from his mother, but he also carried some nice balancing characteristics from the older, rarer lines of his father. He is very much like his father already, being happy, confident, affectionate, intelligent, and biddable. The biggest male in the litter, he has grown to be on the larger end of the size range of the typical English Shepherd. At a little over a year old, he is still proving to require lots of training and work, but he is already showing excellent working dog traits, especially as a livestock guardian. Perenially happy and confident, Oak is quite a character.
Rose is 4 years old and finally starting to show some maturity as an effective flock guardian and general purpose farm dog. Unlike Bonnie, she was raised from the beginning with the sheep and considers them her own, licking the babies, keeping the ewes in line, and most important, protecting them from predators. The coyotes are especially common visitors around our farm, and she will chase them off with a fierce bark at any hour of the day or night. Though a tireless and dedicated little worker, she is a loving, gentle companion as well. She is quite striking to look at with one brown eye and one blue eye. We call the blue eye her "cuckoo" eye.
"Bonnie" In Memorium
Recently, we lost our very first English Shepherd, Bonnie. She was 15 years old, deaf, very stiff, and a little senile at the end, but Bonnie led a long, healthy, and happy life. From the time she was a puppy, she played the role of "traffic cop" or "enforcer." She was always serious about her job, whatever she chose that to be, whether it was chasing off straying neighborhood dogs, yelling at the sheep, protecting our home from the UPS man, or tattling on Loki for doing something naughty. Since she was not raised around livestock as a young dog, she was not involved much with the sheep, regarding them more as intruders than members of the pack. In her younger days, she used to clear 6 foot fences with no problem, climb trees after squirrels, and prove her mettle in both obedience and agility. She was the most intelligent dog we have ever owned.
"Loki" In Memoriam
We lost the second of our beloved Siberian huskies, Loki, a few months ago and are still recovering from the big hole he left behind. Our beloved "Juno" passed away last year. Loki was a big, mellow guy with a penchant for mischief and playfulness. Most of the time he would prefer to chill -- especially as he got older --usually on a soft dogbed or Loki-dedicated couch. When he was up and about he liked to steal dog toys from the other dogs and bury them where they couldn't find them. Huskies are notoriously ineffective as watchdogs, and Loki certainly lived up to that trait, but his mere presence was a good deterrent to coyotes. We will miss the unique traits of our Siberian huskies who have passed on, especially their gentle, sweet spirits and playfulness.
More about English Shepherds:
English shepherds are bred to be the all-round farm dog: herding and managing all types of livestock in the "loose-eyed" style with an occasional nip at the heels to the stubborn ones; guarding the homestead and chasing off predators; tracking and hunting game; eradicating varmints; watching over young animals and children; riding shotgun on the tractor or truck; and regular farm manager enforcing the rules. They were developed in this country by the pioneers from British shepherds' dogs, and have similarities to the Border Collie, Rough Collie, and Australian Shepherd (also developed in this country). They were known as simply "farm collies" or "Old Shep," and were the premier farm dog in this country long before the introduction of specific herding breeds more popular today. This is a landrace breed that does not adhere to a strict standard largely based on conformation, like the AKC defines. As a result, you'll find a lot of variability in the breed in terms of size, bone structure, color, and temperament. This genetic diversity also contributes to the general hardiness of the English Shepherd.
Because they are not obsessive about herding and have a strong guardian nature, they can be trusted not to bother livestock when "off duty." They are highly biddable, although their natural instincts are to carry out their work with a minimum of direction. Provided they accompany the farmer in all of his chores from the time they are a puppy, they are intense observers and pick up the rules and routine very quickly. Devoted to their charges, English Shepherds have been known to adjust towels to make sure the bottle lambs in the kitchen are getting warm and then snuggling in with them for a while. You would never guess that Wendy is biased about this incredible breed!