Spring is Sprung – with Sheep

If you’ve seen my recent blog post on the God-awful weather we’re suffering through here in mid Western Ontario, you’ll understand why this photo made me smile when it arrived in my inbox –

Springtime Sheep in Devon

Look closely – those shapes are sheeps.

Yup, a hillside full of sheep, all put into place thanks to farmer (and author) David Kennard, of Devon England. He managed with a little help from three of his sheep dogs. Little, of course, being an understatement.

The full story comes to us from the Daily Mail

Sheepdogs are trained to obey their master’s every word. So when farmer David Kennard decided one of those words would be “Spring”, his dogs did not hesitate.

They rounded up the flock on the hills of Mr Kennard’s north Devon farm and, with a little help from their master, created a picture that reminds us that, whatever the weather, this is officially the first weekend of Spring.

The scene did call for a careful scattering of feed to make the sheep form themselves in the shapes of the six letters.

Now, I don’t know a lot (read: anything) about sheep herding, but I know a small amount about livestock, and I know that all of the feed in the world can’t make sheep ( which are some of God’s stupidest creatures, in my limited experience with them) do anything as complex as stay in one place, let alone a place as proscribed as this.

I sort of think the emphasis on the feed takes away from the simply awe inspiring task that these dogs accomplished.

However, it was down to the team of Collies – who everyone knows border on the brilliant – to have the last word. They circled the 200-strong flock and kept them from wandering off-message.

Border on brilliant’? What’s with the modifier? Are we still operating on that fear of anthropomorphism that’s tinged so much of modern reporting? If a sheepdog can’t be safely classified as ‘brilliant’, I’d like to know what can be.

I spent 20 minutes yesterday mentally high five-ing myself because Delilah finally figured out what ‘stay’ means. Then I tripped over a chair. I think I can be safely classified as ‘bordering on sentient’.

Three of David’s five working dogs – Mist, Fern and Jake – were employed to help create the perfect lettering, which took three hours to achieve.

Said David yesterday: “I’m proud of my dogs. They couldn’t have done it without my spreading the feed across the hillside, of course – but I couldn’t have done it without them, either.”

But then David’s Border Collies are very much of the performing breed. They have appeared on DVDs and on TV in films made by the 41-year-old farmer.

He originally started making videos of his hard-working hands ten years ago to supplement earnings at his 400-acre farm near Woolacombe. He then wrote a top-ten best-selling book, A Shepherd’s Watch.

Woolacombe. Heh.

And also, oh look! A book about sheepherding, by someone who is… an actual sheepherder! Someone send a note to Jon Katz about this.

“It all started when I noticed people leaning over the walls of my fields to watch my sheepdogs at work,” David said. “I realised my dogs were my greatest asset and that if One Man and His Dog was so popular, I ought to give it a go.”

David placed his first video on local farmers’ market stalls – but it ended up selling 80,000 copies worldwide. His TV series, Mist: Sheepdog Tales, returns with a new series on Five next month (April 12), along with a newly-released DVD (April 14) of the entire first series.

As well as going above the call of duty to earn their keep, David’s dogs are very much part of the family, sharing kitchen space with his wife Debbie and their three children.

But when it came to getting sheep to put a spring in their step, they proved they could conjure up a bright spell, whatever the Easter weather.

Read the rest here, and browse some of David Kennard’s books and videos over on Amazon.

Thursday Thirteen – 13 Books, more or less

I’m a voracious and somewhat undisciplined reader. First off, I tend to have two or three books on the go at any one time. I’ll read bits and pieces of one, skim through another that I’ve read before, start another and decide it’s not my cup of tea. I’m a firm believer in the ‘one chapter and you’re out’ rule of reading – if the author doesn’t catch my interest within the first chapter, I move on to something else. I don’t see the point of forcing myself to read a book I’m bored by, and since I’m no longer reading for course credits, I just don’t do it.

I’m also a genre crosser – I don’t read exclusively of any one sort of literature. Science fiction, fantasy, current fiction, alternative press, old dog stories – it’s all grist for the mill. So, if you’re expecting any sort of coherence from this list, you’re going to leave disappointed.

This list is of books I’ve either just finished, am in the middle of, or am planning to read. If you have a book suggestion for me, please let me know in the comments section.



1. Dumb-Bell of Brookfield and Other Great Dog Stories, John Taintor Foote

I first encountered a dusty, mildewed copy of this book in my uncle’s extensive library, and I’ve loved it ever since. While some of the human characters might seem like caricatures to modern day readers (The Harvard sport, the African American handyman, the Claudette Colbert-esque leading lady), the dogs all ring true. I first fell in love with ‘Bulldogs’ because of Allegheny, a story of a ‘Bull Terrier pup’ out of two fighting parents. I re read this one every few years, in this case to take the after taste of “The Dogs of Bedlam Farm” out of my mouth.



2. The Dogs of Bedlam Farm, Jon Katz

I finished this book, the first by Jon Katz I’d ever read, before Luisa’s wonderful summation of his stupidity appeared on her blog. Even for a non herding person such as myself, this book disturbed me. Mr Katz is one of those inept ‘do as I say, not as I do’ trainers who seems to take pride in detailing his own ineptitude, and at times seems to expect praise for the myriad ways he let down the dogs in his care. In particular, I was baffled by his insistence that he had to clear out half his flock because ‘real farmers’ wouldn’t like him keeping more stock than he ‘needed’ (real farmers, in my experience, have more important things to worry about than what the wanna be farmer up the road is doing with his play flock – things like trying to stave off bankruptcy).



3. Coldheart Canyon, Clive Barker

Well, this was a disappointment. I love Clive Barker, and rate a few of his books (Abarat, Imajica, Weaveworld) among some of the best horror -slash- fantasy writing I’ve ever read. This book, however, felt like a mishmash of plot stories, with orgiastic ghosts, demonic tile mosaics (don’t ask) and vengeful Theda Bara esque ageless vamps. Oh, and angels, too. Maybe. Just too much going on, in too many different ways. Not his best work, by a long shot, but I’ll send this book to anyone who wants to take a crack at it, and who will post their own review in their blog. Fuzzy? You game?



4. The French Bulldog, Muriel Lee

The French Bulldog, Muriel LeeI got my copy of this book months ago, but didn’t sit down to read it until just recently – and I am so pleased that I did! Muriel has drawn on a pool of amazing talent to write (dare I say it?) the best over all guide to the breed I’ve ever read.

Her collaborators include James Grebe, Michael Rosser, Penny Rankin-Parsons, and numerous other breed specialists, all of who have helped to make this work a thorough and exhausting source of knowledge for both novice and experienced French Bulldog enthusiasts. After years of recommending Steve Eltinge’s “The French Bulldog”, it’s a relief to have an alternative to his (now out of print and ridiculously over priced on the secondary market) book. Well done, Muriel and company!



5. The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2007, edited by David Eggers

One of the literary highlights for me every year is picking up a copy of David Eggers wonderful Anthology, Best American Nonrequired Reading. This year’s copy just arrived last week, and I’m already through it. I’ll let this review sum up BANR –

“The premise is simple – San Francisco high school students scour through literary magazines, independent publications, and on-line journals for articles, stories, vignettes, and memoirs that they consider the best. They share their findings with each other and with their editor, Dave Eggers, until they’ve parsed it down to a few pieces to publish in this NonRequired Reading volume.”

A gem, as always.



6. Pushcart Prize XXXII: Best of the Small Presses, 2008 Edition

Another anthology, this one of short stories published by small presses (as opposed to the O’Henry prizes, which tend to draw from the same pool of periodicals). There is always a moment of amazement hidden within this great anthology – the feeling of discovering a new writer, on the brink of becoming great. There are also stories by established writers, waiting to give us fresh insights into what keeps them topical. My personal favorite was ‘Unassigned Territory’, by Stephanie Powell Watts. I still have half of this book to go, and am reading it in small chunks, the better and longer to savour it.



7. A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini

Like everyone else who reads, I thoroughly enjoyed Khaled Hosseini’s wonderful book ‘The Kite Runner’. I’m only a few pages into his new book, but already I’m as enraptured as I was by Kite Runner. He captures his characters and their environments with incredible deftness and a sparsity of prose that’s simply beautiful.



8. The Principles of Uncertainty, By Maira Kalman

This is an odd but lovely little book, composed of paintings that don’t illustrate the text, but in fact are the text. It’s a beautiful take on the traditional mange style of graphic novels. I’ve gotten through half of it, some of which left me simply baffled, but all of which I found lovely.



9. The House of Meetings, by Martin Amis

The premise of this book – gruff, amoral Red Army veteran looks back on the time he spent in a Russian gulag and the damage it did to his life and that of his gentler, more delicate brother Lev – is simple enough, but the prose is dense and chewy, and my brain has been too jammed full of stuff to do this book justice. I started it last fall, enjoyed it, then tossed it aside when I got caught up in other things. I’m starting it again now, and liking it even more than I did then.



10. The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, Michael Chabon

Oh, how do I love this book. I loved it the first time I read it, and I’ve just picked it up for a second go. I often do this, because I’m a greedy first reader – I gulp down the words, rushing through to the conclusion. A second reading lets me savour the words, as I am with this book. The premise – a temporary Jewish settlement is established on the Alaska panhandle for two million displaced Jews of World War 2. Fantasy? Yes, but only if you ignore the fact that Franklin Roosevelt proposed just such a solution. From there, the book segues into a Yiddish come Alaskan murder mystery. It might indeed be flawed in places, but over all this is just a great book.



11. The World Without Us, Alan Weisman

I haven’t started this one yet, but it’s on my to read list, and the premise is intriguing – if we all of us disappeared from the planet tomorrow, how long would it take for all traces of humanity to disappear? According to Weisman, the answer is ‘not long at all’. National Geographic took this concept and has turned it into a TV series, ‘Population Zero ‘. I can’t get it yet in Canada, but it looks interesting.



12. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, Ishmael Beah

Another book waiting its turn on the bedside table, this story of a child soldier stolen from his Sierra Leone village at age twelve is on just about every top ten list of 2007. I have been waiting for a stretch of time when I have no other books on the go, so that I can do it justice.



13. The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman

I’m looking forward to this book the way that some people look forward to Christmas. Based on Gaiman’s short story, the release of this book is an event for any fan of his fiction, and I’ve already pre ordered my copy (plus a few to give as gifts!). Too bad it won’t be here until some time in September… in the meantime, rabid fans can read about the books progress, and see galleys of the cover art by Dave Mckean, over on Neil Gaiman’s blog.





Mosley the Bloodhound – Betrayed by Police

I don’t know if there’s a way to verify this —


If there is, this is one of the most heinous examples of abuse by police officers of an animal that I have ever seen.

Meet Mosley

Mosley - Abused Bloodhound

In Fenruary 2007, MidWest Bloodhound Rescue placed Mosley with the Washington County Sherrif’s Department in Potosi, Missouri. This seemed like a great placement for Mosley, who showed potential for Search and Rescue work.

Mosley had a localized outbreak of demodectic mange as a pup, but according to MBR it was all cleared up when Mosley was placed.

Here’s Mosley when he was placed with the Washington County Sherriff’s Department –

Mosley at the time of his placement with the Washington County Sherriffs Department

In January of this year, MBR was contacted by Capt. Charles LaLumondiere, the Washington County Sherrifs Department officer with responsibility for Mosley’s care and training.

According to the MBR website, Captain LaLumondiere demanded a refund of the adoption fee they had paid for Mosley, or another dog as a replacement. According to him, Mosley was no longer “pretty” enough to be a Sherrifs Department SAR dog.

As the MBR website details, on February 13, 2008 MBR was –

forced to reclaim Mosley from the department’s “training facility”, which turned out to be trailer in the middle of nowhere, with Mosley in a 4’x4′ dirt-floored pen. He had no food or water and there was no straw or bedding in the dog house. His condition was such that we rushed him to an emergency vet that night (2/13/08).

Here’s what Mosley looked like when MBR reclaimed him –

Mosley, February 2008

According to MBR, the formerly robust Mosley came back with a list of ailments that included –

  • malnutrition
  • dehydration
  • severe generalized demodectic mange (75% of his hair was gone)
  • seborrhea of the skin
  • cellulitis
  • frostbite
  • anemia
  • ear infections
  • eye infections

In the meantime, Mosley needs your help to recover. From the MBR website

All of us at MBR are absolutely sick about this situation and are commited to helping this poor boy recover. His initial vet fee was almost $700 and we have a long way to go. We can hopefully cure his health problems but his emotional stability at this point is unknown. MBR will do all that it can do to help return this lovely boy to the playful, wonderful dog that he was before being mistreated by the Washington County Sheriff’s Department. If you are able to donate any amount of money towards Mosley’s ongoing medical bills, MBR would be deeply grateful.

For more information, please visit our website: www.midwestbloodhoundrescue.com

If you have something to say to the Washington County Sherriff’s Office in Potosi, here’s their website – http://www.wcsomo.org/

And here’s their contact information –

Business Phone








Email Address


Easter Snowstorms, Old Photo Uploads and Fat Fat Journey

I cannot believe how crappy our weather has been. Yesterday tossed a total white out blizzard at us. It dumped a good foot and change of snow on us – and this just after a thaw had finally started to clear out some of the snow we’d accumulated over the winter.

From snow to mud and back to snowdrifts, in just over 48 hours. Here are some photos –

Pond view, from back deck
The view to our pond, from our back deck

Side pasture
The side pasture

Pool, dog run area and deck
Left to right – the deck, the small fenced dog run area, and the pool, with the pond and woods in the background

Old Photos Upload

I’ve been uploading some old(er) photos that I found on my PC. These are mostly from 2006, and are photos of Tessa and a whole series of photos of Penelope and her siblings – Sushi, Norman and Peter.

There are some great photographs in that set, a few of which are among my all time favorites. Penelope was a photogenic baby!

Some samples below, or see Tessa’s set here, and Penelope’s set here.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve pretty much stopped uploading to our Mega Gallery, and am using Flickr instead. I plan on migrating the site to a new host within the next six months, and the Mega Gallery is the most daunting part of that. The less photos I have to move, the better.

Tessa at the T Dot French Bulldog meet up
Tessa, at the T Dot Toronto French Bulldog Meet Up

Nell, Norman, Peter, Sushi
French Bulldog puppy pile

Cutest French Bulldog Puppy EVER
Penelope was the cutest French Bulldog puppy EVER

 Fat Fat Journey

Well, the good news is we’re pretty sure Journey is pregnant. The bad news is, not so much Paris. Next week we’ll do xrays to find out for sure, but in the meantime here’s a few photos of Miss Fatty Fat Journey.

Super fat, or with child? You be the judge.

Pregnant Journey, or just a dog who needs a diet…

Journey with Tummy

Thank You, doG! French Bulldog Info is Back!

Like most breeders, I broke down and cried like a baby when I read that K9Info was shutting down.

K9Info, the on line repository of all things pedigree and record related, for almost all AKC registered breeds of dog, was invaluable to pedigree research. You could search for offspring of record, by partial kennel name, by sire or dam, or numerous other search strings. Barely a day went by that I didn’t end up checking it for one thing or another.

I’d noticed the comment on their site that they were closing down operations, but held out hope that they’d change their minds, or be bought out. Alas, this statement showed up in June in place of their index page –

June 30, 2007

Dear K9INFO.COM Customers:

We have officially concluded our service to the purebred dog community.

We wish to thank all of our supporters for their business, assistance, and suggestions that helped to make K9INFO.COM such a popular resource.

Our data assets are available for sale with pricing starting at $295. Please contact data@k9info.com should you have any interest in making a purchase. Serious inquiries only.



I emailed them repeatedly about purchasing their database, but got no reply. I heard through the grapevine that someone else had beaten me to it, but no sign of the information appeared on line, until this

For all your French Bulldog Pedigree Needs

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

It’s back, and I plan to put it to good use in the near future, just as I did in the past.