The Real Time Canine II

After spending 2 years writing the Real Time Canine, the adventure continues with The Real Time Canine II. Read along as I look for just the right puppy to continue the experience. After false starts with Tim and Jed, I am currently training young Tam, and Spot, which are both off to a strong start. Please visit the RTC II to read about training sessions as they occur.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

5 Days to Dust

The Notice
This is all that's left. After 7 years of loving each other, countless days and thousands upon thousands of  miles together, all that's left of my big dog, Taddymoor Mirk, is this notice.  They'll try another delivery on Monday between 10 and 2.

The decision to put him down was easy. A brave, stoic dog that rarely showed signs of it, he was in obvious pain from the fist-sized splenic tumor that appeared on x-ray and ultra-sound. Accepting that decision makes me inconsolable at times. I miss my dog. I didn't have time to prepare. There was no warning. He was 11.

3 years old in South Wales
The first time I saw him was on a small patch of wet grass just outside the Millichap's kennel on Hendre Owen Farm in Port Talbot, South Wales. Mirk was 3 at the time with an expression that read; "I love to work all day. Let's go." The 2nd time I saw him was on a bright green hillside fetching a flock of Leah Millichap's registered Texel sheep. Richard warned me to stand back as they barrelled past me to his feet. Mirk was working with older full sister and brother, Jen and Cap the last time I saw him before coming home with his half-brother, Lad. They were gathering 150 lambs off the hill that were sold to a neighbor. Let me put it like this; the dogs were efficient.

6 months later Richard offered to sell Mirk. A full year after that I picked him up at LAX and set about learning to handle a confidently powerful hill dog. I want to be very clear about this; there's nothing quite like it. I never once asked that he didn't give me more. He never failed to bring me sheep anywhere I ever ran him. He could catch a sheep's eye like no other I've owned, and loved to shed and pen. Mirk was fearless. He was graceful. He was gentle.

                                Photo by Gloria Atwater
Sonoma Wine Country Sheepdog Trial, March, 2013
My friend, and one of the classiest veterinarians I've ever known, Dr. Joy Thayer, helped me at the end. It's an hour and a half to her clinic, but I had a bad feeling about this one, and Mirkie deserved the best I could do. I'm not sure which of us I was trying to shield as I stroked his beautiful face leaning close to obscure that final act. I kept telling him he was good as I experienced the last beat of his massive heart. It was 6 months to the day after Price died.

Last September, Mirk competed at Soldier Hollow, Meeker, and the huge, semi-final course of our Oregon national finals. In January, he reveled at his appointed job of exhaust dog at Snowbirds. On big, obstinate ewes that were uncommonly treacherous, he did himself proud 3 months ago at the Wine Country Sheepdog Trial.  This week it took just 5 days to go from my big, handsome boy to heartbreak to dust.


  1. I am so sorry for your loss of Mirk. I lost my big, black and hairy dog Rocky the exact same way two years ago. He was 2 when I rescued him and only 9 when I had to make the awful decision to let him go. The heartbreak eases over time but I think of him every day. I hope you find some peace in knowing that your decision was the best for him - no matter how much it hurt you. You are very brave and I appreciate the strength it took for you to write and publish this post.

  2. So sorry. From everything you have written about him, he truly personified the working Border Collie in brains and heart.

  3. I did not know, and I am very sorry.

  4. Just read this. Very sorry. I know Mirk was special to you.