Monday, December 5, 2011

Lora Withnell & her dogs

Who is in the photo at right?

Hi, my name is Lora Withnell…that is me in the photo there on the right. I own a little slice of heaven, known as Rocking Dog Ranch and am part owner of a production company called Little Horse Mountain Productions. In the picture with me, are the dogs I generally travel with (starting on the bale and going left) Killiebrae Sally/6, L&M Bella/3; Grace/2; Nell/4; Gyp/2 and my red girl, Snook/9 (who is trying very hard to not get her photo taken).

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Since my dogs always come to work with me, I always have my first cup of coffee with them! This coffee was brought to me by my good friend, Adele. She regularly brings me coffee to drink during her lesson as she knows that will put me in a better frame of mind. This particular brew is from Dutch Brothers, black Americano. That cup that I am drinking out of is pretty special. It features my girl Nell, taken at a sheepdog trial by Vicki Close, working dog photographer extraordinaire!

Please tell us about Rocking Dog Ranch.

Rocking Dog Ranch started as a dream 7 years ago, when I took my rescue dog, Snook, out to a sheep ranch to be instinct tested. From there, I bought 10 acres, numerous sheep, and a guard llama, have taken more lessons and attended more clinics then I dare to confess. I teach lessons, train my own dogs to work sheep, and sheepdog trial as much as my schedule will allow. You can read about my adventures with my dogs. As the dream continues to unfolded, I joined into a partnership with my good friend and fellow dog trailer, Geri Byrne. Together we formed Little Horse Mountain Productions; a company that films, edits and brings stock dog training to DVD and on-line. Through both endeavors, I have met the most amazing people, most of which seem to drink coffee with their dogs!

How were you and your dogs united?

My first sheepdog, Snook, came from PNW Border Collie rescue. I owe her more than words can say. From there, all the other border collies that I work and trial were purchased for the task. Well, all except for Miss Gyp, who was my pick from a litter I bred out of my Nell.

How did your dogs get their names? Any nicknames?

All my dogs have middle names…..Sally Jane, Nellie Bellie, Bella Rosa, Gypsy Rose….Grace has yet to find her middle name…and any of them know they are in serious trouble if the last name gets used!

Squirrel, postman, cat...?

All my dogs would love to obsess about any cat….I don’t let them. Snook has a huge crush on my eldest son’s girlfriend. While Grace gets all goo goo eyed about my husband and my sons when they come home.

What is each dog's best quality?

I think each of my dog’s best quality is that they want to work sheep with me. Each is so very different, Nell is very talented but thinks she is smarter than me, Bella is very biddable and wants to please, Gyp is just beginning to blossom so every day is like the unwrapping of a gift and not knowing what I will find till I get there.

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

The one thing my dogs have changed in me: I used to be a yeller. Snook has left me to my own yelling on numerous occasions and for that I am thankful. She, along with each of my other dogs, is a mirror into my soul. Very often, if things are not going as planned, all I have to do is look at myself…..I have had to learn to control my emotions and be very fair without holding a grudge. I think that “changing me” has been the hardest part of this journey of working dogs…but oh so worthwhile!

What is each dog's proudest moment?

I think what I am most proud of is that magical moment, whether it is on the trial field, home doing the sheep work I need to do, or helping other sheep ranchers in the area, when each of my dogs understands exactly what I am asking, and I trust them enough to get the job done. For me, that is the most amazing feeling of partnership and is what I strive for with each and every one of my girls.

Visit the Rocking Dog Ranch blog and learn more about at the Sheepdog Training Courses at Little Horse Mountain Productions.

--Marshal Zeringue


  1. Anyone who has Dog beds with bolsters a new puppy is well aware that puppies love to curl up in a comfortable spot. That could be your couch or even your bed, but a better choice right from the start would be a dog bed of his own.