Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Retirement Lessons (Or an Old Dog can Teach a Human New Tricks)

I hadn't planned to work Mickey on sheep today. The ground was frozen, and the nearly 12-year-old Border collie with the arthritic feet gets sore working on frozen, hard and uneven ground. Plus, she's had this nagging cough that isn't responding to antibiotics.

I'd only planned to work the young dog today.

But when I pulled on my hat and grabbed my whistle, Mickey whined.

"Okay," I said, as I watched her bounce, puppylike, outside.

I retired Mickey from herding competition last month. She is slowing down, her hearing is diminishing, and some of the sheep are discovering that they can outrun her. But on our farm, the sheep like Mickey and don't question her authority. They don't care about her speed. So a light farm workout couldn't hurt, could it?

Without a command or whistle from me, the old Border collie gathered the sheep and headed to the practice field. I asked for a short outrun and then asked her to drive them away from me. And she went to work.

On the hillside, she stopped, perked her ear and looked at me. I whistled. She looked at me, waiting for a command. I stepped sideways. Reading my cue, she began moving the sheep again. We worked a few more minutes, then I called, "That'll do."

She came running back to me, bouncing, spinning, grinning, pleased with herself.

Kneeling down, I rubbed her ears and told her what a good dog she was. And, as we walked back to the barn, I realized that she still has some things to teach me.


  1. What a sweet little story. Older animals always tug at my heart strings.

  2. Sure love this blog. My girls are 17 and almost 16. They can hardly hear and Lily is nearly blind. Lily is thin, even though I fix her special dishes to entice her to eat. Hard times ahead.

  3. But what I love about old dogs is that they don't focus on being old. Mickey still thinks she is amazing (and she is)... and our old boy Jack always would roll in the grass on sunny days.

  4. Endearing post--your empathy & respect for your sweet Mickey shines through your writing. Frozen ground here, too, in the Thumb of Michigan--below zero this AM. Mickey might have an extra treat today?

  5. New to your blog, found it through Camryn, the Drafty Hafty.

    I have an old Lab, arthritis, hip and elbow displaysia, canine lupus, and is beginning to have troubles with his liver due to the meds....Never the less, he is the first one at the gate, out the gate and to the pasture when it is walk time. I love that about him. Inspite of his ailments, he is as happy a dog as I have ever seen and never ever lets those aches and pains keep him from the things he loves.

    Great post BTW...I am going to add you to my daily reading list!

  6. Welcome Cindy! I agree, old dogs can teach us a lot.