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Jig’s Journey ~ Unmet Expectations

They’re double-edged swords, personal expectations. They can lead to disappointment when they go unmet, which can, in turn, create frustration and the desire to just throw in the towel and give up. Self-doubt raises it’s ugly head and whispers, “You’re not good enough. Not talented enough. You don’t have what it takes.”

Long rides give me far too much time to reflect and, on occasion, wallow. I despise wallowing, yet, I fully admit, I succumbed and did a bit of it on the drive home from the That’ll Do ASC trial Monday. Although we had some ‘blue ribbon moments’ over the weekend, Jig and I did not perform even close to the level I wanted us to. In fact, I came out of more than one run feeling about as inept a handler as I ever have.

I’m not looking for sympathy here, or a pep talk, just laying it out there, because the other edge of that sword is this…expectations

It’s where I kick myself in the ass, put on my big girl panties, and quell the self-doubt. It’s where I remember a trial is nothing more than a test of where we currently are. Failing the test doesn’t mean we can’t do it, it just means we need to work harder so next time, we pass. Next time, we come closer to meeting those personal expectations. Failing the test shows me where my training has been lax, or rushed, or where I’ve accepted half-measures, where I have to put in more time, what isn’t working, what has finally started to show results.

It’s so very, very easy to dwell on what went wrong after a disappointing weekend, and forget what went right. There were a few things I need to remember:

  • We earned a leg on Advanced Ducks, my weakest class of stock. Ducks and I don’t get along, and it doesn’t help that Jig is fast and pushy. I become Madam Motor Mouth, whipping out commands like an auctioneer trying to get a higher bid, nit-picking and micro-managing, which only gets Jig more wired. Her ears head toward Crack Dog status, she speeds up even more and then… kerplooie! Breathe, idiot! Shut your mouth, and let your dog work.
  • We finished our Open Cattle title with a respectable score and a 2nd place in open, and came very close to finishing our Open Sheep title.
  • Sunday and Monday were Course A, meaning a take pen, something that has been an issue for us since the beginning. We’ve worked hard at fixing it, and did some fine tuning under Steve Shope’s guidance last weekend. The result? Our take pens were probably the best she’s ever done in a trial situation. Overall, they were quiet and controlled, with only a couple bobbles.
  • On cattle, she walked straight into some noses and actually held pressure until they turned off, without exploding into a crazed head-hunter.
  • She took her flanks and her backs, controlled her stock, and saved my bacon once or twice. Possibly more that I didn’t see.
  • And, as always, I got to hang out with folks I only see at trials. We shared a lot of laughs, support, and commiseration.

Dillon made the trip with us as he continues to learn about being a good travelling dog. He not only got to play with his pal Hemi, but found a new friend in Dan Sanderson’s Riddick. There’s nothing like watching young dogs play to put a smile on your face, and they had quite the wrestling matches. He’s got his own journey to take me on but, for now, he gets to watch and learn.

Jig and I have a lot to work on as we up our game and move forward. Most days, I believe we can succeed, that we can meet my personal expectations. Those times I flounder, I think of this quote from Peter Pan…fly
Never doubt.

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Jig’s Journey ~ Sticking With It

One of Jig’s regular jobs around the farm is to move the sheep to their temporary grazing area.

This time of year, that happens on a near daily basis. It’s a challenging job because it’s very rare that the ‘gate’ remains in the same location more than two days in a row. The electrified netting gets repositioned into often very creative shapes around the open field, wherever the grass is in need of trimming. Not only does that change, but the route we take to get there varies. With the adults being grass-whores, and the lambs being… well, lambs, the job can frequently test Jig and I to the extremes of our patience. Me, more so than her.

Over the past month I’ve been getting very frustrated with some of Jig’s antics once we’re in the open. For instance: her reluctance to take the flank I want her to take, her refusal to lie down, her obsession with the ewes that want to fight her (because, who doesn’t like a good fight, right?), the complete disappearance of our ‘There’, her apparent inability to SLOW THE HELL DOWN, and the resurgence of her crack dog ears.

I will admit, when a job that should have taken only 5 minutes or so takes over twenty, the f-bomb gets dropped with increasing levels of volume.

I also freely admit, even though it sets me off, once I cool down, I assume 80% of the responsibility for her behavior. Maybe 81.5%. Something I’m doing, or have done, is perpetuating this. But, as I reminded myself in my training journal…

0514161100~2~2Yes, ‘thang’. You need to read it in a southern accent.

 

And so I set about brainstorming ways to fix the ‘thang’, even though I didn’t know exactly what was causing it. The first thing I intended to do was not lose my cool. I needed to remain calm, fair, and consistent. If I resorted to cussing her out, I needed to do so in a pleasant tone of voice with a smile on my face. No problem. What the second thing was, I couldn’t rightly say, but I hoped through careful, calm observation (see how I keep throwing that word in here?), I would be able to discern it.

A day or so later, when I was in a hurry to move the sheep, I forgot my stick. No biggie. I occasionally work without it, and Jig knows her verbals. Had I known the result would be a totally different dog, I would have left it behind a lot sooner. Not to say everything was miraculously 100% better, but there was a very visible difference. The crack ears all but disappeared, she was more responsive, and though a couple things were still a bit rough, overall, I was greatly pleased.

And greatly bemused.

Since then I have consistently worked Jig without a stick, during training and chores, though I have been carrying a shaker bottle in the event she needs a reminder. Which she has. Once or twice.

I was obviously misusing my stick, or overusing it, or flailing it about like a drunken conductor, but at least now I’m aware and can, hopefully, correct the issue and work past it, which makes both of us just a bit happier.

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One Thing Leads to Another

It’s one of those grey, blustery days that can’t make up it’s mind whether it wants to rain, snow, sleet, or just continue to be cold and windy. No problem, I’ve got a very long indoor To Do list that needs some attention. Before I can start on that, however, I really need to get the sheep onto some grass. So, I tug on my chore boots, grab my trusty dog, and head out to swing some gates.

Once the sheep are where they need to be, I decide Jig and I will take a walk out to see how the pasture is coming in. It got off to a really slow start this year with all the cold weather we’ve been having.

Out in the pasture, I’m pleased to see it’s doing well. I also see there are some thistles doing a bit too well. No problem, I have just the thing. Since it doesn’t really feel too bad now that I’ve been out a while, maybe I’ll go mix up some spray and take care of them.

On the way back to the barn, however, I notice the alleyway is getting a bit shaggy. No reason not to move the rams out there for the day and let them mow it. After all, I have my number one chore dog with me. Should make the task easy-peasy-uncle-cheesy. And it is.

Then I notice their water trough is a bit low. And a bit skanky. Time for a good cleaning. And the one in the barn, too. I mean, I’m on a roll, right?

That job done, I realize I never solved my holding pen issue and, since I’m having a refresher clinic tomorrow, something needs to be done. That takes a bit of pondering, a solution is decided upon, materials and tools gathered, and work commences.

At some point, I look down and see this…pantsNo. Not my legs. What they’re encased in. That being my comfy, loungy, yoga pants which were never meant to be work pants, hence the comfy, loungy description. I hadn’t bothered to change into my jeans on because all I meant to do was open a few gates before returning inside to tackle the aforementioned To Do list. *sigh*

Well, now that they’re sufficiently grubby, nothing for it, but to finish the job I started.

By the time I was done, this happened…

jigsnow

No, I didn’t shower Jig with confetti for a job well done, and that’s not dandruff. That’s a nice sprinkling of icy white stuff courtesy of Mother Nature who has, I’m afraid, not checked her calendar recently.

Time to head in, change, and see if I can actually get anything on my To Do list done, or if this bout of ADD is going to stick around for the rest of the day.

stockdogsrule

Jig’s Journey ~ Who’da Thunk It

Cow Camp finished up last Friday. Then there was the drive home, the catching up on All The Things once I got home, sprinkled with a healthy dose of Life In General and a large dash of the DayJob. So, yeah, I’m a bit behind in my update.

Anyhow, Cow Camp was amazing and I can’t wait to do it again, which, unfortunately, won’t happen until next year. The highlight of the week came on Friday when Larry pushed me and Jig to the point of my head imploding. As one of the other attendees pointed out, however, he wouldn’t suggest we try something if he didn’t think we were capable. Personally, I think, after a week of putting up with us, he was having a bit of sadistic fun.😉

We had spent a lot of time over the course of the week on Jig’s flanks and getting her to roll that shoulder and square up. Go Bye seems to be an issue for her, but her Aways are like butter. In any case, on Friday, Larry had me really push on her. The result was an outrun that looked more like a Border Collie or Kelpie. I honestly never thought any of my dogs would ever — could ever — be that wide. It wasn’t easy, but we did it, and, yes, I thought it was pretty damn cool. I don’t normally have a need for that kind of outrun, I take that back. As I wrote it I realized that it would come in immensely handy when Jig is gathering out of the field. In any case, I’m continuing to practice it because, if she gets into the habit, it can only make her wider on a shorter outrun/gather.

One of the other highlights of the week came when I used one of my sessions to put Jig on sheep. She’s a habit of getting somewhere different (usually a trial) and becoming what I refer to as Crack Dog. Her ears go up, her eyes get all googly, she stops listening, and she goes batshit crazy. Maybe it doesn’t look that bad watching from the outside but, trust me, staring it in the face is a whole other matter.

We put the sheep in Larry’s arena and let them set up at the far end and I sent Jig on a gather, holding my breath, and waiting for Crack Dog to make an appearance. Though I could see Jig was pretty keyed up, she actually did a very nice lift and fetch, and continued to work the sheep with a mostly level head.

Larry sent us home with a lot to work on, and new techniques to try out. I feel we made some great progress over the week. Now comes the hard part. Maintaining it at home.

I didn’t get any working pictures, but I did take a few photos to share with you.

Some of the Cow Camp ‘participants’.

 

This guy was just an observer. He had a habit of making a real ass of himself. *groan*

 

Okay, no more bad puns.😉 This bull looked huge from a distance. I could only imagine how large he was up close.

 

Sweet Daisy, Dillon’s favorite friend of the week. The two of them adored one another, and their play sessions kept us laughing.

 

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Jig’s Journey ~ Cow Camp Part I

Saturday, Gail and I headed down to Larry Painter’s place in Missouri for a five day cow camp. I had the opportunity to work with Larry last year in Ohio and knew I wanted to do so again. I was super stoked to get in this clinic, as it’s likely the only chance I’ll get all year to put in any steady cattle work with Jig.

The clinic started yesterday. Larry has a great facility and some awesome stock. We finished day two on a high note, which was a good thing because the second half of day one didn’t leave me in very good spirits. We started working Jig in the small pen, roughly 16×24, getting her to stay in the pressure, to lie down when told, just reminding her of the basics. Also, because I haven’t gotten the chance this spring to do much actually training, I wanted to refresh both our memories. It went pretty well. I was very pleased with how she responded. In the afternoon we started in the small pen, then moved out to the arena. I expected a little bit of a rodeo because, well, that’s what I get most of the time in a bigger area. What I got, however, was a dog who wouldn’t take her flank, and was more interested in dinking around than working cattle, at which point I got to feeling a bit like…

giphy2So we moved back to the small pen and finished with something we could at least feel successful with.

Today I decided to address the problem head-on and make us both work through it. Because of the heavy rains that kept popping up, we moved to the indoor arena. It was a nice intermediate step between the small pen and the outside arena. Our a.m. session went really well. Jig was engaged, doing a bit of nice fetching, getting through against the wall, and showing me a lot of the thoughtful work I know she can do on cattle. By comparison, our afternoon session went…

giphy

Okay, fine, I’m spending too much time on giphy.com. I’ll try to get some actual pictures to share tomorrow.

In any case, I FINALLY got some lovely, square flanks out of the girl. Yes, I had to get after her a time or two, but she kept working with a great attitude even after I put quite a bit of pressure on her, and made her do things my way.

I expect tomorrow we may crash and burn. But we have three days yet, so hopefully, if we do, we can redeem ourselves by Friday. Besides, if I come to a clinic and don’t mess things up, how can I fix them?

As a side note, Dillon made the trip with us. He’s met quite a few new people and dogs, and has had great play sessions with Gail’s dog Hemi, as well as a corgi named Daisy. That was a riot. If they get to play again, I’ll have to see if I can film it. Dillon kept trying to get as low as Daisy, which just wasn’t possible. He’s doing a wonderful job of learning how to travel and hang out without causing a fuss.

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It’s That Time of Year

Yup. Now’s the time I bore delight you with far too many numerous adorkable lamb pics. So far we have 4 sets of twins, with ram lambs outnumbering ewes at 5-3. I’m hoping that turns around and we don’t have Year of the Ram. Pretty pleased so far with the size and coloring. The Captain has done well.

Ram lamb #1. Wasn't sure if he would make it, because his mother kept pushing him away. But looks like he's doing fine, even if she does like his sister better.

Ram lamb #1. Wasn’t sure if he would make it, because his mother kept pushing him away. But looks like he’s doing fine, even if she does like his sister better.

 

Mom, with his sister.

Mom, with his sister. For  awhile the ram lamb had to use his sister as a shield any time he wanted to nurse.

Red

Our second set of twins. The larger one is the ram, the smaller one is the ewe.

 

The ram lamb making kissy face with one of the yearlings.

The ram lamb making kissy face with one of the yearlings.

 

Speed's twin boys, grandsons to Mother. Some of you know her story, and how she got her name. Still, she turned out to be an excellent ewe.

Speed’s twin boys, grandsons to Mother. Some of you know Mother’s story, and how she got her name. Still, she turned out to be an excellent ewe.

 

I just love the expression on this lamb's face. Not sure if this is the ram or the ewe, these two are pretty similarly marked.

I just love the expression on this lamb’s face. Not sure if this is the ram or the ewe, these two are pretty similarly marked.

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Out Like a Lamb…

I go into lambing each year with a mix of anticipation and dread. Lambs, like puppies, are adorable. I can watch their antics for hours. Once they start to discover their legs and each other, they begin hopping about like popcorn and organizing lamb races while the adults eat. Such displays can pull a smile and laugh out of me even on my most frustrating day.

It’s tempered by the complications and unknowns that can arise. Some years are worse than others in that department, but a big part of the reason I chose Katahdins was their ability to pasture lamb with little to no interference from me, and without the need for lambing jugs. Yes, I’ve had to step in from time-to-time and, yes, the occasional ewe will find herself confined for a bit if I think she needs help or her lambs don’t appear as thrifty as I like. Overall, however, they need to be able to handle things because I can’t be there 24/7.

We’re lambing later than usual this year. Normally, I’m about done by now. Yesterday we had our first lambs. A set of nice twins, one ram, one ewe. This is the ewe lamb…

ewelamb

…all legs and a healthy set of lungs anytime mom strays too far.

I’m fairly certain when I get home today there will be others. Several of my ewes are looking quite wide. This is the first group of lambs from Captain Jack, and I’m anxious to see what he produces.

Yesterday, I also decided it was time to let Grady and Dillon have a bit more play time. Dillon’s been a holy terror to poor Rowan. He really needs to expend some energy with someone who can take his brand of rough-housing. He’s finally big enough that I feel safer allowing him and Grady to engage in a more lively manner, and Grady, for all his size, really is a gentle soul.

Grady also thinks the boy might be a bit odd. After all, who fights with a weed?

He does, however, think the boy might be a bit odd. After all, who fights with a weed?

 

stalk

It took Dillon a while to find his courage, and he spent some time stalking Grady before launching the attack.

 

And Grady 'falls down' so Dillon can have a bit of fun pouncing on him.

Grady crumpled under the vicious assault, and Dillon took advantage of it by pouncing on his fierce foe.

It was a short play session, but it certainly helped get some of the piss and vinegar out of the pup. Now, if only I could convince Jig he’s not for eating…

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