Monday, March 23, 2009

Callie's Wood Pile

Border collies are very active dogs and they like to have a job to do. They were bred to herd sheep, so they are quite fast, extremely agile, and can be very focused. Since we have no sheep at our house, we've had to find another occupation for Callie.

Callie's wood pile, seen from the bedroom window.

Some border collies are trained to compete in agility courses, running, jumping, negotiating slaloms, tunnels, and hoops. Others are trained to compete in a game called "fly-ball." Neither Ken nor I have the energy or discipline to match Callie's, so these two options were not for us.

Callie gets two long walks a day out in the vineyards and woods around our house. There is ample opportunity to toss sticks for fetching, and we used to do that during our walks. But Callie doesn't really like to fetch. That is, she'll chase a ball or a stick, but she'd rather be chased with it than bring it back for another go. Often she'll just sit down and chew on her prize.

One day, however, she decided to bring her stick back home from the vineyard. I think we thought it was funny and praised her for it. Then, on her next walk, she brought another stick home. More praise.

This is only part of the wood that Callie's brought home this winter.

That's all it took. Now, nearly every walk ends with Callie picking up a stick and bringing it home to the yard. She never picks one up on the way out, only on the way back. And since we walk in vineyards, most of the sticks she finds are dead grape vines that have been dug up and piled at the end of the rows.

Some of them are absolutely huge. But that doesn't deter a border collie on a mission. She'll pick up just about any sized trunk and carry it home, weaving in and out of the rows of vines and ducking under wires, keeping a firm grasp on her bounty.

This has become her job, and we actually benefit from it. We gather up all the sticks and trunks she brings into the yard and use them in the wood stove or for the barbecue. Grape trunks make great barbecue fires and can add flavor to whatever you cook. They're a prized commodity around here.

One year, while an autoroute was being built, some older vineyards were sacrificed. Our neighbor took his trailer out to the site and brought home three loads of trunks for burning. Last year, Ken talked to the grower whose vines are behind our house. He told us that we could take whatever was out there during the winter when the workers did their pruning. They take most of them, but we got a good stash.

And for the past year we've been getting nearly two a day, thanks to Callie's hard work. Good dog!


  1. This is, quite frankly, the cutest thing ever. I LOVE how it is HER woodpile. I will have to show the Muffin Man and tell him the story when we get home from work tonight - he's going to love it.

  2. I love the Callie woodpile, too :)) What a sweety!


  3. that's really great that her dog "job" actually benefits y'all too....and helps to keep her warm when it's cold (maybe that's her ulterior motive)
    there's a border collie in my neighborhood who carries around 10 ft branches

  4. That is so clever of her! I am sure she does feel she is working. You may be surprised to know that specialty shops around here sell a very small bundle of grapevine twigs for $9-$15. They are usually a bundle of about 20 twigs the size of pencils! This link leads to a piece for sale on Amazon.

  5. That is so cute. I am sure Callie knows she is helping the family by doing her job. Border Collies are so smart and love praise. By the way the Forsythia is now blooming in my town. Yeah Spring is here.

  6. dear me
    can't you get a few sheep to make this dog even more happy?

  7. katia, let me know his reaction...

    judy, I'll tell her you said so :)

    melinda, we lucked out!

    juli, that is amazing. It's hard to believe that people would pay that much for something like that!

    linda, yay for spring!

    urspo, if I had enough land I'd consider it. One of our friends had some, but she has a huge field for grazing.


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