Mr. and Mrs. Dog
Our Travels, Trials, Adventures, and Epiphanies
Publication Year: 2013
The New York Times–bestselling author Donald McCaig has established an expansive literary career, founded equally on books about working sheepdogs and the Civil War novels Jacob’s Ladder and Rhett Butler’s People, the official sequel to Gone with the Wind.
In his new book, Mr. and Mrs. Dog, McCaig draws on twenty-five years of experience raising sheepdogs to vividly describe his—and his dogs June and Luke’s—unlikely progress toward and participation in the World Sheepdog Trials in Wales.
McCaig engagingly chronicles the often grueling experience—through rain, snow, ice storms, and brain-numbing heat—of preparing and trialing Mrs. Dog, June, "a foxy lady in a slinky black-and-white peignoir," and Mr. Dog, Luke, "a plain worker—no flash to him." Along the way, he relays sage advice from his decades spent talking with America’s most renowned dog experts, from police-dog trainers to positive-training gurus.
As readers of McCaig’s novels will expect, Mr. and Mrs. Dog delivers far more than straightforward dog-training tips. Revealing an abiding love and respect for his dogs, McCaig unveils the life experiences that set him on the long road to the Welsh trial fields. Starting with memories of his first dog, Rascal, and their Montana roadtrip in a ’48 Dodge, McCaig leads us into his thirties, when he abandons his New York advertising career to move to a run-down Appalachian sheep farm in the least populous county in Virginia. This 1960s agrarian adventure ultimately brings McCaig, Luke, and June to the Olympics of sheepdog trials. In his narration of one man’s love for his dogs, McCaig offers a powerful portrayal of the connection between humans and their animal companions.
Published by: University of Virginia Press
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Billy Bobâs West Texas high school hired a new English teacher; a Yankee who liked to talk about âepiphanies.â She used the word in every other sentence. Puzzled, Billy Bob went to the dictionary.Next morning, when the teacher discovered another âepiphany,â Billy Bob raised his hand. âMaâam,â he said, âThere ainât no âepiphÂ...
The Education ofa Dog Man
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The dogc.scatc.scher was the most hated man in my hometown. In the 1nine.oldstylefour.oldstylezero.oldstyles and âfive.oldstylezero.oldstyles Butte, Montana, was a oneÂindustry mining town. If you didnât want to go down the holes, jobs were scarce and town jobs were real plums. But Butteâs dogcatcher was appointed in a closed meeting of the city council and his name wasnât revealed. Despite these precautions, pretty soon everybody knew which sonÂofÂaÂbitch had the dirty job and most dogcatchers only lasted a month or two. It wasnât ...
Overcoming theHome Court Advantage
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To most peopl.sce, âsheepâ is synonymous with âstupid.â Murrowâs âa nation of sheepâ is no compliment. Yet, to my knowledge, no sheep in North America believed Saddam Hussein had weapons These tests aside, sheep are extremely good at being sheep. They bed down on high ground and post sentries for predator alerts. Mamas teach their lambs to shun poisonous plants, and sheep are much better than we at evaluating dogs. The same sheep that will quietly go where directed by an ...
Mr. and Mrs. Dog
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It w.scas one of.sc those fine, clear fall days when grimy old Manhattan is beautiful. Water taxis buzzed past the Hudson River Park, lovers of every persuasion made private spaces for billing and cooing. Children dashed, joggers puffed, and tai chi practitioners emulated herons. The dogs and I had found some shade. The pot dealer did a double take when he spotted Luke and June snoozing at my feet. âThem two, they brother and I bought June when she was thirteen months old. Iâd been seeking a ...
What Your DogIs Trained to Do and Why
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...good by teaching as by leading them to the wood and to fields, [offal treats] when they have done well, and of ranting at and You.scr dog: what do you want from him? Do you want him to heel, on and off leash, at your left side? When you say âCome!â do you want him to race to you, spin, and sit beside you facing forward? Do you expect him to lie down at a distance? To sit still for five minutes with you out of the room? Do you expect instant obedience to a ...
The Trainer’s Trainer
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Most dogs like to be fondled by total strangers about as much as most humans do. But like humans, dogs can be trained to tolerate fondling and some learn to seek it. Every species has its âhappy hookers,â and before her first literary event Iâd hoped June might June had her literary inauguration at eighteen months old when I gave a reading in a southwest Virginia library. While I recited my peerless prose June schmoozed the audience. She was maybe too devoted to her work. ...
A Desperate Gamble
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Lik.sce W.scil.scl.sciam B.scl.scak.sceâs Songs of Innocence, the appeal of sheepdog trialing is simplicity: nothing exists outside your run. Debts, sins, bad health, marital difficulties, all those insults life so willingly provides: disappeared. Donaldâs ego dies into the intricate, fluid man/dog/sheep task. Trialing is serial immortalities; each run, eternity in an hour.The National Finals Sheepdog Trials is the North American sheepÂdog Super Bowl. The trial rotates between the East Coast, Midwest, and ...
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In the sec.scond grade, I was introduced to addition, subtraction, and basic multiplication. The teacher taught with flashcards. Sheâd hold up a card:and ask some unfortunate student to supply the answer. I stuttered my best Whereupon the teacher would flip the card to reveal the answer Iâd failed to compute. âYes, Donald. Five plus six equals eleven. You really The harder I tried, the fewer correct answers I got. My wild guesses proÂ...
Mrs. Dog Buys Our Ticket
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The N.scational.sc F.scinal.scs Sheepdog Trials began at noon on TuesÂday, September 1eight.oldstyle, in a fortyÂacre field outside Gettysburg, PennÂsylvania. One hundred fifty dogs would be winnowed to forty, whoâd then compete in the semifinals Saturday. The best seventeen of those would run on Sunday for the championship. If Luke or June reached that magical top seventeen, weâd be on the United States Team to compete in the World Trials. If either Mister or Missus got into the semifinals, we ...
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Traditional.sc dog training is anecdotal. Bill Koehler believed dog behavior was profoundly ethical, and Vicki Hearne elaborated on Koehlerâs theory, but most traditional trainers are simple pragÂmatists, and success with a difficult dog trumps epistemology every time. To date, eÂcollar trainers are pretheoretical: no thinker has explained how The traditional pet training curriculum wasnât formalized until the eve of World War II, and expanded in postwar suburbs where veterans wanted ...
Positive Trainer Pat Miller
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...to train him â or feed him treats? Seems obvious, doesnât it? A c.scertif.scic.scate f.scrom the Association of Pet Dog Trainers states that Pat Miller is a certified pet dog trainer, and another from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior says she is a certified dog behavioral consultant. Beside the certificates in Millerâs training room is a photograph taken when Miller was a uniformed animal control officer for the Marin County, California, SP.scCA. The young woman ...
The Last Dog Still Standing
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Iâd ru.scn in f.scive National Finals but reached the semifinals only once and never gotten through to the finals â the top 1seven.oldstyle dogs. At the 1nine.oldstylenine.oldstylefour.oldstyle Finals in Lexington, Kentucky, Iâd been out by only 2 points.More handlers are winnowed in the qualifying round â 11zero.oldstyle of 1five.oldstylezero.oldstyle â than during the semifinals: 23 out, 1seven.oldstyle in. Though the better handlers and dogs get most of the luck thereâs a little left for me and June, and I had almost a five.oldstylezero.oldstyle/five.oldstylezero.oldstyle chance of getting into the Finals, which would certainly ...
Listening to Dr. Dodman
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Are you Maxâs?â The vet tech smiled at me.
I shook my head no. I didnât think I belonged to any dog, but i if I did, Iâd probably be Lukeâs, presently in the car, or Juneâs. She was beside me in the reception room of Tufts Universityâs Foster Hospital for Small Animals...
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Sinc.sce rou.scnding u.scp goats in West Texas last winter, Mr. and Mrs. Dog and I had put thirty thousand miles on the station wagon, from the Dakotas to New Hampshire to my calling June in on the wrong sheep at Gettysburg. That particular mistake knocked us out of the top seventeen, and walking off with a minute remaining (retired: score zero) might have bumped us off the United States Team. Sure, retiring spared June and the sheep â sixty secondsâ worth. June and I had had a pretty ...
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Joe M.scaz.sceros was the finest practical ethologist Iâve ever known. He escaped from Hungary during the 1nine.oldstylefive.oldstylesix.oldstyle revolution and claimed he descended from a long line of successful poachers. How could he know they were successful? âIn Hungary, the penalty for poaching was Last fall weâd planted alfalfa in our riverside field, but it hadnât estabÂlished a stand. Our farm routinely feeds deer, but come April the deer inÂfestation was serious, and when a deer eats the crown of a young alfalfa ...
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Now.sc that w.sce actually were on the United States Team, I needed to face the alarming forms that would allow me and the Mister and Missus into Britain. I had to involve my vet and figure travel When Wendy Volhard and her dogs crossed the bridge into the meadow she wasnât happy to meet Luke and June. âI certainly hope those dogs are trained to offÂleash standard,â she said. Her small Labrador (mix?) was on lead, but two small terriers werenât and rushed Luke and June. âHi! Hi! Hi! ...
A Thousand Yards
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Itâs easier (and cheaper) to squeeze a camel through the eye of a needle than to fly two fortyÂfive pound dogs to Britain. DEF.scR.scAÂ approved air carriers accepted dogs as cargo, US to the UK.sc, at dollar.oldstyleeight.oldstylesix.oldstylezero.oldstyle one way. Per dog. Plus kennel costs in the UK.sc and the ownerâs ticket and expenses over there. It looked like dollar.oldstylefour.oldstyle,zero.oldstylezero.oldstylezero.oldstyleâdollar.oldstylefive.oldstyle,zero.oldstylezero.oldstylezero.oldstyle.Or I could fly to Paris (my ticket plus dollar.oldstylesix.oldstylezero.oldstylezero.oldstyle round trip for both dogs as excess baggage) and enter the UK.sc on the DEF.scR.scAÂapproved Calais/Dover ...
One More River to Cross
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If they donât want us to come, why donât they just say so? Iâd f.scorgotten one teensyÂweensy detail. The last thing one does before flying dogs to the UK.sc is get a tick treatment (Advantix preÂferred) and a tapeworm pill (must contain praziquantel), which your vet must administer twentyÂfour hours but not fortyÂeight hours before the dog is accepted at the port of entry. My vet did so at exactly 1six.oldstylezero.oldstyleeight.oldstyle EDT.sc, What with calculating EDT.sc (eastern daylight), CEST.sc (central European ...
“That’s a Good Boy”
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Unl.scik.sce dog show.scs and obedience matches, no autocracy deÂtermines who can judge a sheepdog trial. The trial host hires who he wants. Since the judge may be judging his neighbor, the fellow he sold an expensive dog to last week, or even his own spouse, the judgeâs reputation in the sheepdog community is the only check on all too human As it happens the concern for reputation among oneâs peers ensures fairÂness at least as well as formal rules. Complaints about dogÂshow judging are ...
“It Can’t Have BeenEasy to Arrange”
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The nex.sct day David Rees and I drove to David Streeterâs steadÂing. Streeter is a landscaper and, David Rees told me, âa demon for work.â Although Streeter rarely took a day off, today was his The Streetersâ steading was protected by two perfectly hung iron gates. It had rained more during the night; the fields were soggy and Streeterâs quarterÂacre pond was toffee colored. The bungalow was bigger than most singleÂfamily Welsh homes. Streeter had built it himself, one room at a ...
Welsh Roads(A Rant)
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For a thou.scsand years men battled over Welsh soil. Fertilized by menâs blood, every inch of it is precious, and very, very little is devoted to roads. Driving home one evening outside Nantgaredig, my headlights picked up a woman rolling a stroller on the shoulder, which was all of two feet wide. Her husband preceded her and the familyâs Border Collie preceded him. I swung wide around this suicidal procession.Welsh village sidewalks are so narrow, lovers walk in single file. On ...
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Lik.sce other foreign handlers whoâd compete at the World Trials, I was desperate to trial on Welsh Mountain Sheep. If practice was necessary, trials were more so. At a sheepdog trial oneâs every unexamined presumption, lazy understanding, or egoÂgratifying misreadÂSome local trials were within driving distance and thereâd be special trials for foreign World Trials competitors before the official World Trials My Gilcrug hosts drove me into town where I picked up a replacement ...
Fifteen Minutes of Fame
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On b.scad days I think I trial sheepdogs to shorten my time in purgatory. I was thinking such thoughts at five.oldstyle:3zero.oldstyle a.m. while crossÂing Welsh mountains in the fog. The roads hadnât improved but at least I couldnât see them. David Rees had advised, âWhen you get to More fog. More mountains. I missed Anne. I missed my farm. I missed American handlers envy the Brits for their numerous local trials. Ours are hours, sometimes days apart. I intended to run at two trials today. After ...
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Ju.scdges c.scal.scl.sc of.scf.sc (DQ ) handlers for grips, abusing the sheep, dog off course, failure to progress, and inept work. When a trial is overÂbooked, after the first dozen runs the judge will call handlers off after theyâve lost an arbitrary number of points. If that âstandardâ doesnât relieve overbooking, the judge will raise it and call a handler off if he misses one panel. As a last resort, after the judge has seen six good runs, he will call you off the instant you lose so many points you cannot beat or tie the ...
The Dogs’ Sabbath
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The nex.sct day dawned dry and fine. Wales shook itself like a wet dog and became a green and pleasant land. Enough was enough. Mr. and Mrs. Dog had endured too many Yeah, I know: theyâre only dogs. Yep, life is stress. Would you have done as well as they did? Theyâd been bodyÂrolled (helpless!) by dogÂignorant TSA strangers, before being bundled into the black, noisy hold of an airÂliner. Twelve hours later, theyâd been loaded into an unstable luggage heap ...
The Parade ofFlags and Dogs
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Dinef.scw.scr Cou.scntry Park is an eightÂhundredÂacre estate with a grand manor house and the ruins of Dinefwr Castle looming over what would be Juneâs qualifying field. I never visited either I buzzed right past hundreds of Welsh historic sites. Wales is famous for trout streams, craggy hills, and sublime vistas. I cursed the narrow bridges over the streams and wished I could work the sheep I spotted on the hills.Sheepdog trialing fills up the brain. Thereâs only enough room left for ...
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A Sc.scot mu.scttered, âIâve been coming to Wales for sixty years and Iâve never seen so much rain.â Every Welsh man and woman Iâd met at the smaller trials was working the World Trials today. There were food kiosks (my favorite: âMoÂbile Indian Cuisineâ), a Renault exhibit, crook makers, a cider and perry maker, and an outdoors clothing tent Carhart might have envied. One could buy Australian boots or Border Collie figurines, and the big crowds ...
Eternity in an Hour
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Lu.sck.sce w.scas ou.sct of.sc the running. June would decide if we got through to the semifinals. How many miles had it been? How many trials on how many fields? How many training sessions? The Latin root I canât watch Antiques Roadshow or the Super Bowl without marveling at our ability to care about zipÂshit. Two million dollars for a pasteboard baseÂball card? A dollar.oldstyle2seven.oldstyle million annual paycheck for a person uncommonly skilled at hurling a fourteenÂounce football? Our visions are more important than ...
Only a Dog
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You.sc didnât k.scnow.sc how much you cared. Hell, she was only a dog. Nothing special. A Heinzy â five.oldstyleseven.oldstyle varieties. Just a mutt. But she . . .Six months after your dog died you still canât talk about her. You turn On a particularly bleak morning Anne told me, âI wake up and Zippyâs âOnly a dogâ: that stupid heartless diminutive came straight from the Why did the ancient Semites seek to disrupt that profound ancient conÂ...
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I w.scish I c.scou.scl.scd meet your dog. I hope these stories remind you of him. I hope reading about Luke and June helps you see your dog a little better.Ralph Pulfer was a sheepdog genius: his life was dogs. In fifty years, he won hundreds of trials. I once saw Ralph handle a young dog through a trial though the dog had never been taught commands. Ralph got him around the course using the dogâs name, intoning âTweedâ so variously, ...
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The morning af.scter June and I didnât qualify for the semiÂ finals of the World Sheepdog Trials was cool and foggy. I didnât attend the semifinals. The dogs and I hiked across sand dunes toward the distant beach. Other dogÂwalkers appeared and disapÂpeared in the fog but none came near. It was a morning for mistakes, for getting turned around and walking miles and miles and miles through If visions are not created equal, I suppose mine had been one of the ...
The Double Lift
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Su.scnday w.scas c.scl.scear; no fog and the light was incandescent. The dogs and I drove to Llandielo for the finals of the World Sheepdog Trials. At important trials, the ultimate competition is the âdouble lift,â and the World Trials would be no exception. The double lift is the most difficult test of a sheepdog. We ask the dogs to do more than they can Dinefwr Park had dried out. Luke, June, and I were parked by pleasant volunteers wearing vests with âStewardâ on the front and âSorry for the ...
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Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2013