Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Sparkle meets the lonely shepherd

Sparkle visits a sheep-shearing festival and makes a ton of new friends.

Sparkle meets the lonely shepherd


Sparkle went on her first big outing on Saturday, a jaunt up to North Jersey for a sheep-shearing party at the farm of a longtime friend. We packed her take-along bag with her dinner and bowl, as well as some bottled water and bags for poop cleanup.  First stop was a rest area on the N.J. Turnpike, where Sparkle promptly did her business on the grassy area in the back and returned to her blanket-lined spot on the floor of the backseat.

Arriving at the party, we greeted the sheepdog, a majestic Great Pyrenees named Gulliver, who guards the flock and other small livestock from marauding animals. Before my friend started adopting these dogs, he was losing animals regularly. After Gulliver (and his late predecessors, King and Queen) came onto the scene, nothing gets filched. Sparkle showed perfect puppy etiquette when meeting Gulliver, sinking to her belly and wagging submissively, while Gulliver gave her the sniff-over from head to tail. After that formal introduction, they were immediate friends, and I think the lonely shepherd dog was having the time of his life with all the day's attention, both human and canine.  Plus, he had the afternoon off from watching over the sheep, which were indeed being sheared one by one while a country/western band played and the refreshments flowed.

Sparkle herself was a magnet for attention, and I cheerfully fielded the usual curious questions about raising Seeing Eye dogs, including the one I hear every time: "But how could you ever give them up?" It's always bittersweet, of course, when the pup goes back for training, but we realize what a wonderful mission these dogs have in life, which is to give independence to a blind or visually impaired person.

Sparkle enjoyed visiting with the farm animals as well as the party-goers, although she found the pot-bellied pig and the sheep to be rather boring company once she'd checked them out.  Before heading home, we fed her dinner (which she scarfed in about 10 seconds) and made sure she had plenty of water. Luckily, it was a coolish kind of day for June.

She slept soundly on the 2-hour ride home, and I let her out into the fenced backyard when we got home. She momentarily appeared at the back door soaking wet.  She'd obviously taken a quick dip in our new kiddie pool, but I have no idea how she got in or out without tearing the thin plastic lining. This pup is going places!

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About this blog
George Carter, The Inquirer's weekend national/foreign editor, has always counted dogs among his closest companions. According to family lore, he learned to walk by clinging to the side of a saintly patient mutt named Spanker. In turn, one of his earliest hazy memories is of tossing treats to the family dogs gathered expectantly on the porch of their Maryland farmhouse. It was only natural then, that when George saw a newspaper ad looking for families to raise puppies for the Seeing Eye of Morristown, N.J., he bit at the chance. From the start, it has been a family project, with teenage daughter Betsy as the official puppy-raiser. First there was Porter, a big-hearted yellow Lab born on Memorial Day 2004. A few years later, the Carters raised Velma, a gorgeous Lab/golden cross. Just a couple weeks ago, Velma's 7-week-old daughter Sparkle arrived as the latest family charge. George, Betsy and mom Cathy are thrilled that Sparkle is from Velma's very first litter. You can reach George Carter at 215-854-2411 or by clicking here. Reach George at gcarter@phillynews.com.

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