Sarah Jane Humke

The life of a traveling, reading, writing, spining and knitting shepherdess.

So, some relationships just don’t work out.  Both parties can be trying to be what the other needs in a relationship but if it isn’t there, it just isn’t there.  That was what happened with Mikey and I.  Mikey needed a stronger personality and will than I have (those who know me just went “whoa!” because apparently I am *ahem* rather strong-willed).  I needed a partner and he needed a boss.  We worked on it, we really did.  But I couldn’t trust him off lead with either the sheep nor the chickens.  He was great on lead, but I needed help beyond what he could do reliably for me.  This is not really his fault nor mine.  It just wasn’t a good fit for the situation that I am in.  So, this weekend the breeder suggested that I try a different dog.

Meet Rita.


Rita is also a smooth coated collie.  She’s a few months older than Mike and has had a litter of puppies.  She’s also had a bit more training than he has.  But most importantly, she gets it.  She usually gets what I want her to do and is obviously trying to get it when she doesn’t.  We still have a lot of work to do, but it’s progressing really, really quickly already.  I’ve only had her at the farm since Thursday, but she’s already become part of the farm routine in a way that Mikey never was.  Since coming to the farm, she hasn’t been on a leash once.  She helps with morning and evening chores, even if it’s just keeping an eye on me.  Rita will mosey off to see what’s new, but literally checks-in with me every few minutes to see if I need her.


Quite possibly the biggest difference between Rita and Mikey, other than levels of calmness and obedience, is that Rita is way more gentle with the sheep than Mikey was.  She had to correct Alanis the other night and Alanis was more offended by not getting to be next to me than by anything else.  I have seen Rita trying to move lambs by carefully attempting to pick them up by the scruff of their necks (I stopped this as soon as I realized exactly what she was doing, but I have to admit that it was kinda adorable).


Rita is also okay with kids.  My oldest niece came out to the farm over the weekend and Rita was perfectly polite to her.  She came to her when Maeve said her name, gave Maeve a quick boop with the nose when she realized that she wasn’t needed, and then right back to sniffing the farmyard smells.  There were no growls and no standoffish behavior at all.

Now to answer a few questions before they are asked.  First, nothing bad is going to happen to Mikey.  He has gone back to the breeder (where he has gone back and forth all summer) and he will be worked with more until someone comes along who is right for him.  This is all about finding the right dog for the right person, not saying that Mikey is a “bad dog”.  The reason that I didn’t start with Rita in the first place is that she had just had puppies when I first went out to Wayne’s, so she was obviously off the market.  But now her little miscreants are all weaned and half-grown and really don’t need her anymore.  Wayne saw that I was becoming increasingly frustrated with Mikey and he had had a chance to work with Rita again and found that she might be more my speed.  Thus, the switch.    It’s also unlikely that Mikey is going to suffer any ill effects of having been switched out.  These dogs often get worked with at different places by different people over time.  Mikey and I never really bonded (don’t get me wrong, we liked each other, but we never bonded) so it’s not like he’s heartbroken about this.

I’m very optimistic about Rita as she has been fitting into the family really quite well and we’re already able to do things together that Mikey and I never were able to.  Just last night we moved the entire flock from where they were grazing back into their pen with no magic bucket of feed!  Yay!  It wasn’t perfect but it sure beat the hell out of running ahead of the flock trying not to get trampled to death by a horde of tiny hooves.

5 thoughts on “The Switch

  1. says:

    Love the pix and your usual sensitive clarification of your story….I repeat myself, but you are a gifted writer.

    Sent from my iPad


  2. Auntysocial says:

    Awwww man I can sense how you feel like you have to justify your reasons for feeling Mikey wasn’t for you and honestly you shouldn’t 😦

    Totally understand where you’re coming from and agree entirely Mikey could have just ended in disaster for everyone. Not his fault at all but you don’t want or need to have a young bolshy young dog giving it “C’mon.. c’mon then.. fight me” – not because you couldn’t manage him though.

    You have kids, sheep, lambs, chickens – stuff to do and better shit to be doing than dragging a real life “Scrappy-Do” back every half an hour to stop him kicking off with everything. To be honest even if you did keep him out of guilt or whatever, chances are he’d be miserable anyway cos you aren’t the right person he needs either.

    Rita looks a gentle soul little bit like she has a quite timid nervous disposition thing going on but she’s got your back, your little girl’s.. the lambs. I like the sound of Rita and imagine she won’t be much of a big presence but doesn’t need to be. She’ll be around and right there when you need her for something or hanging around just keeping an eye on the children and making sure everything is OK. Absolutely she’s your girl.

    Mikey will be fine though I bet he ends up the lead dog on a huge bull farm keeping 200 bulls in check with “Oi… hey c’mon fatty fight me” 😀

  3. Auntysocial says:

    Laughing now cos I remember a young male collie that would get all up on his back legs at the gates snarling and barking and giving it the full nonsense. I quietly unlatched the gate walked in closed it and carried on like I hadn’t even noticed – never saw a more deflated dog in my life cos he really did rely on that routine making him look the hard lad bless him! 😀

  4. Fred and Marily Flesher says:

    She is a beautiful dog with a intelligent look in her eyes.Wishing you the bsst and try not to work yourself so hard that you are exhausted.

    Love you Aunt Marilyn and Uncle Fred

  5. Lisa says:

    Love this! Rita is a beauty!!

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