Jig’s Journey ~ 2015 ASCA Nationals Wrap-up

I made it home Friday afternoon and I’m still trying to get back into the swing of my usual routine. That’s always hard after an extended vacation. Triply hard this time. And with the rest of the month being just as busy, I don’t foresee a chance to catch my breath until November.

The trip to TN was great fun, all things considered. As usual, I got to visit with folks I only see once a year. I watched a lot of runs, laughed, ate, drank, cried… you know, the usual. One thing I didn’t do was accomplish my goals for this Nationals. That’s okay, though. Jig is a tough dog with a lot of drive and it’s going to take a while to get a handle on her.

She had, as usual, moments of brilliance. Moments where we stood balanced on that edge. More often than not we toppled off the far side, sometimes due to my handling, but for that brief space of time it was golden. She knows her stuff, now it’s just a matter of getting her to acknowledge I may just know a little something as well. That, and you don’t need to be pushing All. The. Freaking. Time.

I’m already looking forward to 2016, and have a list of things to work on. We won’t be going to Nationals, but we will be hitting a few more trials to get some more time and miles on the girl. I also need to get her off the farm for some training sessions. She’s a freaking rocket scientist at home. On the road, however, she doesn’t think she needs to be quite so good.

Back to golden moments… when I went through the pile of mail waiting on my return, I found the pictures I had ordered from the RRV trial in September were there. I’m sharing those below because they depict some of the instances when Jig and I were not only in the same book, but on the same damn page. **All photos copyright Dick Bruner**







Jig’s Journey ~ 2015 ASCA Nationals Part 2

First, a huge thank you to everyone for the well-wishes, kind thoughts, and memories about Quinn. Today was better than yesterday, but going home is going to be the hard part, I think.

In any event, today was another day off for us. Our Open runs will all be tomorrow, and if we get done at a decent time, we’ll be loading up and hitting the road to get at least half the trip home under our belts. We spent the day split between watching the Advanced cattle runs and standing in line to give Jig a chance to try dock diving. Since the girl is so crazy about retrieving, even when it involves braving the cold and crashing waves of Lake Michigan, I thought I’d see what she thinks about diving off a dock to retrieve her dummy. And no, I’m not the dummy.

The dogs who haven’t jumped off a dock are started by going down a ramp into the pool. If they don’t show any hesitation and will actually jump into the water as opposed to wading in, they get to go off the dock. Jig passed both those tests, and once the gal instructed me on how to toss the dummy so Jig would leap up and out, we moved up onto the dock. Gail held Jig and I tossed.

Her first jump was with only about a five foot run. She never batted an eye, just launched herself out into space and splashed in. They had us back her up for the next jump but I threw the dummy way too far! She swam part way to it, saw a ball floating, and brought that back instead. No problem. Threw that for the last toss. I think she hit between 10-15 feet, which I think is pretty darn good for a pair of rookies.


Farewell to a Piece of My Heart and Jig’s Journey ~ 2015 ASCA Nationals Part 1

For all the working dogs who have left us . . .This is a tough Nationals for me and I nearly didn’t make the trip. On the Tuesday before we were to leave, Quinn got sick. I honestly said my goodbyes to him right then and there. As I took him into the emergency vet I was pretty positive I wouldn’t be walking out with him. I did, but a trip to my vet later in the morning didn’t give me much good news. Still, over the next couple of days he seemed to be improving to a point where I felt I could safely leave him and he’d still be there when I got home. It’s a decision I won’t ever second-guess. I guess Quinn wanted me to remember him as I last saw him and not as his health declined. So he put on a good face and I felt a bit better about packing up and heading to TN. I spent Thursday morning with him, gave him a hug, told him how much I loved him. Sunday I got the call I dreaded. My golden boy, my soul dog, was gone.

Here he is, just a newborn pup. I knew as soon as I held him after he was born, that he was mine. There was no going back on that one.

Here he is, just a newborn pup. I knew as soon as I held him after he was born, that he was mine. There was no going back on that one.

I’m a very private person. Those who know me best understand that. I don’t openly share my grief. I prefer not to have public displays, and need to handle it on my own. I appreciate everyone’s caring and wishes, I do. But I deal with things like this better on my own. So if you’d like, if you knew Quinn, feel free to raise a glass in his memory. Personally, he enjoyed Guinness. If you knew him and have a favorite memory, feel free to share it in the comments. He was one of a kind, as they all are. The hole he has left will never be filled.

One of Quinn’s favorite things to do. If you feel inclined, have a squiggle in his memory.

In any case, Monday’s pre-trial was not my best outing. Jig was wired, had her high ears crazy eyes going, and I was undoubtedly not handling her as well as I could have. Our sheep run was called, I called our duck run, the highlight was taking 3rd place in Open Cattle out of a field of fourteen or so, as I recall. It was rough and rowdy, and we were running just before dusk. I was exhausted and she was still having far too much fun at my expense. I did manage to get her to settle in a couple of times, and she still managed to get herself rolled a good one.

Tomorrow I’m going to see about trying dock diving with her. I also may get my camera out and shoot some pictures to share. We don’t run in the National’s trial until Thursday (I think) so hopefully by then I’ll be more on my game.


Jig’s Journey ~ Lamb Antics and Keeping Ones Mouth Shut

I began my previous post with this: I’ve come to the conclusion that trialing Jig is a lot like handling some highly explosive chemical. It’s certainly exciting, as long as you don’t jostle it too much…

I may have been a tad bit sour when I wrote that. After some time to reflect, I’ve come to realize not only is it true, but I wouldn’t have her any other way. I love the excitement that comes from walking that edge. The energy waiting just beneath the surface. Do I love when it explodes in my face? Not so much. But you’ll have that from time to time. All that quivering, eagerness surrounds an intensity and instinct that’s easier to appreciate from the outside because when you’re in the center of it, all you can do is hang on and hope for the best.

The past weekend we had Deb Conroy at the farm for three days of working dogs with a great group of handlers from advanced to beginning. Everyone seemed to learn a lot and went home with plenty to work on.

Some of my personal highlights included:

  • Working the lambs. I normally don’t. But who knew they could provide such a great opportunity for a few of the more advanced dogs (Jig included) to accomplish an actual lift. I have to say, these are some of the nicest, most sensible lambs I’ve had. The three dogs that worked them all handled them very well. They actually worked a bit like the sheep at the RRV trial, so Jig and I got to work on her push as well. And it was a blast! They definitely made the dogs think, and that’s always fun to watch.
  • Working ducks. Okay, it’s a well-known fact among those who know me that I do not like ducks. Not working them. Not owning them. Not one thing about them. Deb was nice enough to haul some ducks down with her and I was forced into working them. Jig was pushy so we worked on that. Then we worked on our take pen. I expected problems. I hoped for problems because then we could work on fixing them. Jig did the pen picture perfect. Three times in a row, mind. Cain’t fix what ain’t broke.
  • However, because of that /\ Deb gained insight into what may be the root of my take pen problems. I’ve tried just about everything to fix it and nothing seems to work. Deb noticed that when I did the duck take pen I never said a word to Jig, just opened the gate and stood back. When I do the sheep take pen I talk. I give a flank, a correction, a back, a down, a navy knot, a granny knot, a wing-ding-a-what-knot. In other words, I never shut up. So I tried it with my mouth firmly closed and saw improvement. Now I’ll need to practice that some more before Nationals.
  • Trying to purposely cause a bit of a train wreck so that I could fix it, and having Jig rise to the occasion and handle things like a champ. She also saved my bacon more than once when working on the free-standing pen.
  • Having more than one person tell me how far Jig and I have come since last year. I’m not one that needs ego stroking or pats on the back, but sometimes we’re so close it’s hard to see progress is being made. It’s nice to know the hard work is making a difference.

Now I’ve got less than a week to brush up on some things before we pack up and head to Tennessee for the ASCA Nationals. As usual, I’m equal parts excited and terrified. Jig’ll do that to me. She is definitely Longellow’s little girl, minus the curl…

There was a little girl,
            Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.
            When she was good,
            She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid.



Jig’s Journey ~ RRVASC Trial

I’ve come to the conclusion that trialing Jig is a lot like handling some highly explosive chemical. It’s certainly exciting, as long as you don’t jostle it too much because that’s when it blows up in your face.

I entered the RRV trial this past weekend to see where we’re at before heading to Nationals. I have a couple weeks to firm up our weakest areas and want to make sure I’m focusing on the right ones. She does so brilliantly at home, there’s no way of gauging our progress without putting it to the test.

There were some good parts, some terrible parts, and not much in between. The good parts earned us a few class placements, an Open Duck title, one leg toward her Open Sheep title, and High Combined Non-WTCH for the a.m. trial. The terrible resulted in a JCT. That came in our last sheep run. Apparently, five runs of me thumbing on her and resorting to some hellacious micro-managing was five runs too many. I knew as soon as she left on the gather for our last run of the day that I was in trouble. She had her crack-dog look going. Her ear set, the look in her eyes, the lines of her body, all told me that explosive chemical I had been playing with was about to explode in a most glorious fashion. I should have stopped the run right there, but I sincerely thought I could get into her head. After all, I’d been there all day.

Flashback to our sheep run at Nationals last year. Only worse.
Not a good way to end the day though I’m trying to remain focused on the positive. Trying not to compare our performance to some others. Remembering how young Jig is yet. Keeping in mind how many folks watch her and tell me what a cool dog she is because they can see things I can’t when I’m wrapped up in the middle of it all.

Jig has talent, drive, and heart. I am impatient, demanding, and oft times likely unreasonable. I certainly don’t deserve her. Some day when I pull my head out of my backside, perhaps I will.


Jig’s Journey ~ Cow Camp

When the opportunity to attend a Larry Painter Cow Camp presented itself, I jumped at it. Jig loves cows but rarely sees them. That makes it a bit unfair when we go to a trial and I’m expecting her to handle them like a pro. I’d heard nothing but good things about Larry Painter and so was thrilled when I got a spot. So, on the 22nd I loaded up the truck and headed out to Ohio where the clinic was being hosted. Needless to say, I had a blast and, despite the heat, we managed to learn a lot and come home with plenty to work on.

Before our first session I watched the other dogs work and listened to Larry’s comments and instruction. One thing he was working on was getting the dog to hold the pressure and not pop out of the pocket. Translate that to mean, when a dog approaches cattle she should always give them the opportunity to move off. Jig has a tendency to hit a nose and then start a fight. That was one of the things I wanted to work on. Being a header isn’t a bad thing, but you can’t move cattle efficiently if you’re always in their face. The trick is to have the dog lie down and hold the pressure. If the cow moves off, the dog can get up quietly and keep them going. If the cow steps toward the dog and ‘offers’ their nose… well, a little persuasion goes a long way. That’s the part Jig has problems with. Not so much the persuading, mostly knowing when enough is enough. So we spent some time on that, as well as getting her more comfortable with moving cattle from the rear, and also hugging the fence to pull them off. Our first several sessions were in the small pen, where we both had to work through some issues. We worked once in the arena, and finished up in the round pen with some great results.

One highlight came when Jig showed that (with more experience and confidence) she will hit heels as well as heads. I’ve seen her do it a time or two on my sheep, but this is the first time we brought it out on cattle.

All in all, the clinic was awesome and I’m looking forward to working with Larry again. I’ll have more of a breakdown on some of the things we worked on, but for now, some photos. And a huge Thank You to Kathy Males for manning my camera.


Coming in to the corner calmly and relaxed and asking the calves very nicely to turn and go.

Moving in a little closer and focusing on the farthest one.

Moving in a little closer and focusing on the farthest one.

When a girl says, "Go!" she means, "Go!"

When a girl says, “Go!” she means, “Go!”

This series of photos is my favorite. You can see her sizing things up...

This series of photos is my favorite. You can see her sizing things up…

…then she comes in to hit. Okay, she’s high on the hock BUT she’s on the correct leg AND it shows she’s got some idea she can move them from the back now and not just the head.

And then she has enough brains to get out of the way. I’m hoping she’ll learn to hit lower once she gets more exposure. She was making the motion more than once, so I know it’s in there.


Hmmm… the thoughts that go through a girl’s head.

Out in the arena and a nice wide turn as she covers.

Out in the arena and a nice wide turn as she covers.

Back in the round pen and she’s starting to make her hole to go through on the fence…

...and peel the calves off nice as you please.

…and peel the calves off nice as you please.


Jig’s Journey ~ Summer Already?!!?

I’ve been a bit of a slacker on keeping up with posts. Problem is, I’ve been super busy. If you’ve ever checked out my writing blog, you’ll see I’ve been almost as absent over there. If you haven’t, Wednesday’s post will give you some idea what’s been gobbling up all my time.

And yes, training is part of that.

Among other things, the end of June was the Steve Shope clinic here at the farm. This year, Steve threw down the gauntlet and laid out some expectations for the dogs who will be returning next year. Some of us have been a bit… um… lax in regards to foundation work, and it’s come back to haunt us. Or at least me. I won’t speak for anyone else. I fall into this nasty habit of moving on too quickly. If I do an exercise, proof it a few times, get the results I want, I take a giant step forward. Baby steps and going back to refresh things is the better way to go.

So I’m picking up the challenge and am going to slow down a bit. Jig is young yet and talented or not there’s no need to push her and expect perfection so quickly. Or ever. Because there is no such thing as a perfect dog.

July 4th I made the drive to Iowa for That’ll Do’s trial to see where we stand and what we have to work on. Jig is running in open now and we’ll have precious few chances to trial before Nationals. All things considered, I was pleased with what she showed me. She earned an Open Cattle leg and went High in Trial Cattle, and also earned an Open Duck leg.

wpid-2015070495205019-1.jpgThere were plenty of learning moments for us both, and I called a few of her runs to keep her from thinking she could get away with some of the crap she was pulling. Trialing is a good way to see where you stand, but it wreaks havoc on training.

My last post included a ‘wish list’ of sorts. Things we needed to work on. After the clinic and the trial, this is where it stands:

  • The ongoing take pen issue This reared its ugly head at the trial. So I got to talking about it with some friends, one of whom had a very similar problem with her kelpie. I often prop the take pen gate open and work on figure 8s in and out of the take pen as though it doesn’t exist. For most of my dogs this tended to loosen them up and get them comfortable with going in the pen and bringing stock out. For Jig, however, this may have made matters worse. She locks on the stock as soon as the gate is open. When one starts to leave, she pops out to put it right back in because, after all, isn’t that what we’ve done? Take them out, put them right back in? Isn’t that the job? Um… no. So I’m going to have to work on getting her to see the job as taking the stock out. Putting them in is a totally different job. Running things together is never a good idea in training, and that’s what I may have done here.
  • Dealing with her propensity to suddenly act as though she’s on crack, or has at least had five pots of coffee and all the sugar in three counties She got her crack eyes on once or twice, but she didn’t blow me off like she has in the past. There was none of the mad circling at a high rate of speed while totally ignoring the fact that I exist in the universe. She believes I exist now. She also believes I might have something to say in the matter. That’s a step in the right direction.
  • Firming up her drive Ongoing. She doesn’t rate well. Push, push, push. Especially on ducks. I’m more out of breath after those runs than I am on the larger stock!
  • More cattle experience Going to the Larry Painter clinic in a couple weeks. This will be an awesome learning experience for us both.
  • Getting her more comfortable holding pressure and coming into pressure. It doesn’t appear she has too much pressure coming into pressure. Holding it is getting better.
  • Getting her to hit heels.


One of my favorite photos from the weekend, taken by Tracey McPherson.

One of my favorite photos from the weekend, taken by Tracey McPherson.




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