Friday, February 1, 2013

Marianne & Nick, Gil, and Wally

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Marianne.  Our family runs a small dairy farm in upstate NY. I help with just about everything, as well as writing a farm column for our local paper and a blog, Northview Diary. First among our dogs is Nick, a retired working border collie. Nick is 13, but when he was younger he herded cows and sheep for us with great enthusiasm.

Gil, a year-old English shepherd, and Wally, a 12-year-old blue heeler round out the pack. Gil's passion in life is barking and playing with his toys. Wally guards the cow barn. He tried herding once, but the whole chasing the cows away from the barn at milking time thing got him retired from that job in just one night.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Having coffee in the kitchen with Gil sitting on my foot. No special occasion.

Routine is big on a dairy farm... we do pretty much the same thing each day. The boys like to lie beside my chair while I write or work on the books, and I write daily and do books way too often. [photo left -- Gil, the puppy]

What's brewing?

Plain old Taster's Choice, brewed in the microwave. Always in a hurry, no time for much else.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

Nick loves his bread, he gets a slice every day. Gil will do almost anything for a biscuit including trade the things he steals. In fact I think "trade" is his favorite word.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Nick's name is short, as befits a working BC, who needs to hear and understand commands over a long distance. Originally, when he was one of a litter of eight born to our late dog, Gael, he was called" Hour Glass" for a white marking on the back of his neck. However, when training began he needed a short work name. Nick doesn't sound like any working commands, such as come bye, away to me, lie down etc.....which is important when you are asking a dog to do one of those things far across a field.

Gil is named after a character in a book, The Ranger's Apprentice, by John Flanagan. Wally is just Wally.

How were you and your dogs united?

I bred Nick myself. His mother was one of my working dogs and his father was the sire of my best ever working dog, the late, great Mike, who even rounded up bulls. I wanted another dog as like Mike as possible and an illness rendered him sterile. Thus I bought a female with the same mother as he and mated her to his father. Nick never did quite the things as his big, 3/4 brother, but he is a real nice guy in his own right.

Gil belongs to our daughter [photo right -- Gil & Rebecca], and lives here on the farm, as does Wally who was born in Vermont.

Are there any non-domestic critters around the farm that get the dogs especially worked up?

Gil hates the coyotes and lets us know when they are in the backyard after cats or calves.

Squeaky toy, ball, stick...?

Tennis balls for both Nick and Gil and Milking machine liners too, the perfect, indestructible ...or almost...rubber dog toy. We have lots of those!

[photo left -- the original Northview Dairy border collies, including Nick]

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Nick loves his cat friend, Chainsaw, a big, black barn cat. Gil is friends with another barn cat, Miss Catty Fach.

If your dogs could change one thing about you, what would it be?

I think they would like me to stop closing the refrigerator door so faithfully.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which your dogs could speak, which actors should do their voices?

Sam Elliot would do Nick. Gil -- Tim Curry. Wally, Larry the Cable Guy.

If your dogs could answer only one question in English, what would you ask them?Wow, when did you learn ton talk?

Visit the Northview Dairy blog.

--Marshal Zeringue


  1. very cool...thanks for sending me over.

    er...your dogs can't talk?

  2. This is in no way meant to brag; but there is no greater dog lover out there than me.
    My first dog was a border collie puppie. I rode my bike in a snow storm along the foothills in Colorado to a ranch where my friend lived. I picked out "Scout", put him in a gunny sack tied to my bike and we rode home through the snow.

    Scout lived with me. When I laid on the floor to watch a western on TV, Scout was on my back asleep. We were inseparable. He was my best friend...

    p.s. Love the concept of your new blog

  3. I directed Keith over here and we're both racing to see who can comment first. I honestly didn't know dogs could have cat friends that they weren't friends with from birth. Jan's funny. Yeah. We all know dogs can talk. You just have to watch and listen, carefully.

  4. Rrally enjoyed reading about your life with your dogs on your dairy farm. We've just submitted our own little story to Marshal and thought I'd drop you a note to watch for "Coffee with Andrew Hadra and Charlie". Thought I'd bring this to your attention because "Nick" might enjoy the documentary that Drew just released called Away to Me (features border collies). Drew talks about it in the blog post that is coming, so you'll see more then. Anyway, thanks for taking us on this little trip to your farm with you! Fun to read!

  5. Marianne,
    More dog pictures and dog stories!
    (as if your life wasn't already filled to the brim)
    For all you animal and especially horse lovers, please check out this super bowl ad