Finding Warmth on Winter Days

For everyone who expressed concern for Jig over the last couple weeks, I’m pleased to say she’s back to 100% piss and vinegar. She had her recheck on Tuesday and passed with flying colors. She was even gracious enough to leave one suture in-tact. The vet decided Jig did that to make her feel like she had something to do. She doesn’t know Jig very well.

 

I’m glad Jig’s back to normal for all the obvious reasons, but also because she’s not a very good patient. As soon as she started feeling even remotely better, she wanted to be wherever the boys were, tried to eat her brand new, spiffy, cone off her head, didn’t care for her onsey, and did I mention wanted to be wherever the boys were? Gotta admit, that surprised me a little. Then again, what’s a queen without her subjects, am I right?

 

And she’s finally allowing this loyal subject to romp with her. That makes me all sorts of happy!

Speaking of the boys, we were able to reap the benefits of mild January weather and get some structured sheep time last weekend. I didn’t get any film of Finn working because, even though I could swing the gates, the snow was deep enough to lessen my mobility considerably–picture large bear lumbering uphill. I had all I could do to keep up with the boy. I really do need to come up with a workable (read: inexpensive) solution to filming my training sessions. Finn was thrilled to get back to work. He’s been taking turns with Dillon to help with chores. There’s not much to the job beyond keeping the sheep off the feed bunker and occasionally rounding up a renegade that sneaks back into the barn when the help leaves the gate open. Needless to say, until we got some snow packed down, our training session involved a lot of huffing and puffing on my part, along with the occasionally colorful outburst when I couldn’t get where I needed to be. Not that Finn was out of hand, he was just fast and a tad pushy while me and the sheep were much, much slower. Kudos to him for not taking unholy advantage of the situation and becoming Little Bastard.

 

I did get this lovely clip of him celebrating a job well done. The boy absolutely loves snow.

 


I was able to get some video of Dillon being as he’s more advanced. My intent was to work on his gather; he’s tight and tends to bring the stock in full steam ahead as opposed to slow and thoughtful. We’ve got lots to work on, yet, especially on the Away side which has always been our bad direction. At one point, when he wasn’t taking the away, it actually turned into a very tight inside flank which I realized after the fact. For those who don’t know, by tight I mean I wasn’t more than ten or fifteen feet away from Dillon and I asked him to come into that pressure to cross between me and the sheep.  Not fair to ask him to do that, and it contributed to his hesitancy on the Away. We also need to do work on getting him to bring the stock TO ME instead of somewhere in the general vicinity when, like these yearlings, they aren’t volunteering to do. That little habit is on me. I’ve allowed him to do that for too long while I focused on other things. That’s why I ask him to walk up into that pressure when he stops to hold them several feet away from me. He gets pretty antsy about it and pops the sheep, but at least he puts it back together again.


 

And or those of you who don’t follow me on social media, or may have missed it, this is happening…
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
What’s it about? Glad you asked…

 



 

Driev Talbert desires only one thing ~ never to return to his old life. Raised among the privileged of Mossrae, he is now content to eke out a living as a jack-of-all-trades in the city’s underbelly. When an attempt to save a friend from the gallows leaves him saddled with a street urchin instead, Driev is reminded that the gods aren’t as benevolent as some would believe.
Seeing the boy safe is a tough promise for Driev to keep when he’d far rather lose himself in his cups. Then there’s the matter of facing off against the powers of Mossrae, who want the boy for their own agendas. Worse, helping the boy lands Driev in the hands of the Coinblades, the elite of Mossrae’s Shadow Guilds. For Driev, death would be preferable. Even a slow, torturous one.
With the boy’s life hanging in the balance, Driev is forced into the middle of political games with deadly consequences. He must outwit mages and guild uprights, and choose between facing his own demons, or sacrificing an innocent boy. A decision that’s not as easy as it might seem.

 


There will be more info on Bound in Shadow as release day draws closer, as well as a chance to purchase a signed paperback and awesomely cool t-shirt. So stay tuned.

 

Also, keep an eye out for the relaunch of my Stockdogs Rule line of shirts and hats. They will be available in February along with several new designs and products I’m working on. And if youbneed anything screen printed or embroidered, let me know. It’s what I’ll be doing starting in March. Dog clubs get a special discount.

 

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Out With a Bang

My dogs have an uncanny ability to see challenges in the strangest places, and they are more than happy to pick up the thrown gauntlet. For instance, if my vet says, “I’ll be out of town this day this day this day.” One of my dogs will invariably counter with, “Time to develop some mysterious ailment.” When my vet says, “I’m retiring from doing surgeries.” You guessed it. Challenge accepted.

 

Miss Jig has been having a rough couple of weeks. She tested positive for Lymes but even with a course of antibiotics and a few other drugs, she was just off. She had little to no appetite and a fever that would come and go. Monday her symptoms worsened and got us back to the vet’s bright and early Tuesday. When Dr. D came out of the clinic to talk to me, I knew it wasn’t good. Jig had developed an open pyo and would require surgery sooner rather than later.

 

I need to point out that I’ve been pretty spoiled where vets are concerned. Dr. D has been my vet for close to 30 years. She knows me, knows my dogs, knows I don’t tend to panic and don’t need things sugar-coated. Her staff is awesome and love my crew even with all their idiosyncrasies. I trust her. That’s not something I do easily. Especially where the care of my dogs is concerned. Unfortunately, my back-up vet lives over 3 hours north — which wouldn’t have deterred me except Jig hates to travel and they were predicting a winter storm. My next closest back-up vet was under-staffed and over-booked. They recommended a clinic about a half hour away. To have to entrust Jig to a vet I didn’t know at a clinic I didn’t know… let’s just say that didn’t help my anxiety one little bit. They had an opening Wednesday morning, however, and I had to take it.

 

That was The. Longest. Day. Ever.


Have to admit, I was a bit wound waiting for the clinic to call, realizing I’m not even remotely prepared to lose Jig. Bad enough to have her out of my reach in a situation beyond my control. It conspired to unhinge me. My morning litany consisted of repeating she’s going to be fine any time my thoughts wandered down the dark, tangled paths of imagining everything that could go wrong. I attempted to keep myself distracted as the morning wore on and on and on in that interminable way time does when you don’t want it to; teetering on that edge of wanting the phone to ring and dreading that when it did it would only bring bad news.



I even got to the point of spotting these two pics I’d hung up as a reminder to deal with that project.

I studied them a moment and it struck me how similar the images were, how alike the dogs in them had been, how one is gone and one not…

My superstitious brain took over. I saw it as an omen and snatched Jig’s picture off the wall.

It wouldn’t go back up until she was safely at home.





When the phone finally rang shortly after noon I was terrified to answer. The voice on the other end told me the surgery had gone well and Jig was in recovery. I damn near cried, I’d been that stressed about it. Even still, I wouldn’t — couldn’t — relax until my girl was home. A while later when the phone rang and the clinic’s number popped up again I about had a coronary. No worries, they just needed to check what meds we had here so they knew what to send home. Damn, damn, damn. Okay. Breathe. Be calm. Don’t imagine the phone ringing again in the middle of the night.

It didn’t. And as of slightly after 10:00 this morning, my girly-girl was back home where she belonged and my world righted itself.


 

With Jig down & out the last couple of weeks I’ve been having Dillon tag along for chores. The Man may not mind fending sheep off the wheelbarrow and feed trough, but I do. What’s the point of having dogs if you’re not going to use them. Am I right? Earlier this week, I decided to introduce Finn to the job as we haven’t spent much quality time together of late. He did rather well. He has this way of approaching a gate with so much enthusiasm you expect he’s going to be out of control on the other side. As soon as he gets into the pen, however, he just settles in and goes to work. He did so well, in fact, the Man decided both the boys should join us for chores the following day.

Surprisingly enough, it went far better than it could have. They’re so totally different in personality and working style I really wasn’t sure if they could work together. Finn is so intent on the stock, however, I don’t know if he even realizes Dillon’s in there. I’ll try and get some pics or video, but it’s rather hard having to manage a wheelbarrow, the boys, and a camera.

 

And now a quick update on other fronts as I’ve alluded to changes and then went silent. I hate when people do that, don’t you?

 

I think we can all agree, 2020 has been quite the shit-show. So many people have been affected in many different ways. All things considered, we’re weathering the storm fairly well thus far. My control issues have made things stressful at times, but I’ve managed to keep most of my remaining sanity. How much that is remains a highly debated topic in some circles. I truly do despise the over-used term new normal to describe life in general right now. We all need to determine our own normal. In mid-October I discovered ours would be changing. The company I work for announced we are shutting down due to our largest customer pulling their jobs from us. And by largest, I mean 99% of the work we did. As of the end of February I will be unemployed. What that means for us is still something we’re navigating. No, I can’t retire yet. A plan is forming, however, and you’ll be learning more about some of it in the coming month. Whatever happens, we’ll muddle through. That’s what we do.


 

Happy New Year
 
May the best day of your past be the worst day of your future.

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Following the Heart


A year ago we introduced this guy to our family. You can read about that momentous day here if you missed it the first time around. Gotta admit, it was a bit of a rocky puppyhood for us both. Looking back, I have to take the blame. I wasn’t ready for a pup. Not to say I didn’t love the little bastard straight away. Finn claimed his piece of my heart the moment he climbed into my lap and told me he was mine. I tend not to argue in those cases.

 

Still, bringing him home hadn’t been easy and I probably shouldn’t have done it. I was an emotional trainwreck; still reeling from losing Cian. The Sad my constant companion. I undoubtedly wasn’t in the best frame of mind to raise a pup and I believe there were times when Finn told me as much.


A year later and I have absolutely no regrets. Well… there have been moments… Finn’s nickname is Little Bastard, after all. And he came by that honestly. Then again, if he didn’t have some kind of attitude, he wouldn’t be my dog. And most times, that particular nickname only gets applied when we’re training and he decides to be an asshat, something that’s getting to be less of a problem. Or maybe it’s more of a manageable problem. 😉 In any case, he loves to work and we’re starting to click more often than not.

At least… I think we are.


Dillon loves to work as well. These days, however, I feel we’ve lost our click. I think a huge part of that comes from raising the bar and the fact that I probably tried to raise it too far, too fast. Okay, who am I kidding? No probably about it. We all know I possess quite the talent for trying to go from A to Z without hitting a lot of the letters in between. It’s never worked in the past and it’s definitely not working this time around either.

 


Some dogs are pretty forgiving about that kind of thing. Dillon, however, is not such a dog. He’s very sensitive about corrections. Not in the “I’m going to go sit in the corner and pout” kind of way. He never quits me. He will begin to question everything and stare at me a lot, though. To be honest, half the time I’m still trying to figure him out. Which is okay, because he’s probably trying to figure me out as well. I imagine that’s why he gives me that look. Those of you with working dogs know that look. It’s the one that says…

I guess I have to answer yes to that one. Admitting it, they say, is half the battle.

Raising the bar too far too fast is also a sure way to shed some light on your holes and Dillon and I have quite a few. I’m working on plugging them. At the moment, we’re concentrating on flanks and gathering and learning how to rate. I believe I’ve written more than once over the years regarding how Dillon likes to bring the stock in at a high rate of speed and then proceed to take them past me.
Wrote about it.
Obviously didn’t fix it.
Working on it.

Some of that work has paid off as evidenced by the end of this video clip. That truly made me smile. Actually, as I watched it again, there is a lot about this clip I like. The fact Dillon ignored the sheep in the alleyway. The way he handled this group of challenging young lambs. That inside flank after the redirect, after which he kicked out so far I lost him from the frame. And that little kick out he does when he has the lambs on the far side of the free-standing pen? It may not look like much, but it released just enough pressure to keep the lambs from exiting the arena via the side gate that someone forgot to close prior to our session. *strolls away, whistling innocently*

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Endings, Beginnings, & Everything In Between

The quote in the feature image really resonated with me when I first heard it several weeks back. Probably because I’m going through a period where I’m facing several endings on both personal and professional levels. Won’t lie, there are one or two I’m struggling to come to terms with. As the rest of the quote points out however…

 

…it’s not negative. It’s just life.

 

And we face endings every day. Large and small. Yes, some cut deeper than others. Sometimes it’s hard to see past the pain and disillusionment. Sometimes we search for a reason we’ll never find, other times we don’t even notice them. When all is said and done, without endings how can we have beginnings? (or dessert, for that matter?) Every evening is an ending, every morning a beginning, full of promise and new adventures. A chance to, in some tiny fashion, begin again, or at least to carry on the best we can manage.

Urghabhail an la!

 

(That’s your Irish language phrase for the day. 😉 )

 

Speaking of new beginnings, this little guy came to hang out this weekend. Don’t get excited, people, he’s not ours, but he is a working dog. This is Jet, service dog in training. As of right now he’s in what is described as the ‘puppy raising and public access stage’. At this point, he does not have a specific task assigned him as his person hasn’t been chosen. I hear there is hope he will become a diabetic alert dog. Jet’s visit was a win-win for the rest of us because… PUPPY SNUGGLES!!!!!!!!!! And that’s the best kind of therapy for whatever ails you.

This past weekend was pretty good for the soul from start to finish. Beautiful weather, a group of awesome folks with nice working dogs, and the camaraderie that comes along with days such as those. Hopefully everyone learned something and found some new tools for their box, whether they use them now, or down the road.

The only drawback to weekends like this is that my own dogs don’t get to work too much. Except, of course, for my right paw, Miss Jig, who thought the pumpkins we threw out for the sheep were a good breakfast before we sorted.



I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our supervisor, Rebel Kitten. Rebel usually avoids crowds, but obviously thought this one was da bomb! because he couldn’t seem to leave us alone. His favorite participant by far was Arrow, the BC. The adoration was reciprocal, though not much appreciated by us humans when he came out into the training field to say hi to his new pal and show his support. That cat can be a real pain in the ass, sometimes, but he’s also quite the character. And, after all his hard work, he helped himself to a much needed water break. Maybe that’s what he thought I meant when I said I needed a drink.

My personal high point from the weekend is depicted in the video below. No sound because I was chattering and it was windy. You’ll see Jig enter from the right side in the sun flare. For some reason Jig thought there was a gate at the far corner of the field and I had to redirect her to the actual gate, then she missed the return gate when something else caught her eye. I’m sharing because I was pretty proud of her in this moment. Also, because there’s been some chatter on a group list I lurk on, regarding what real working Aussies are or are not. It’s a bit of a burr under my saddle, have to say, because the long and the short of it is certain people discount the dogs belonging to those of us with small farms and limited numbers of stock. Apparently if you don’t have thousands of acres of open land and huge herds of cattle or sheep to manage, and your dog doesn’t have a job each and every day, it is not a true working dog.

I beg to differ.

I don’t have wide open fields. My largest open area is probably just a hair over 2 acres. I keep anywhere from as few as 20 to close to 50 or so sheep, occasionally a handful of steers, and a flock of chickens. There are days in a row I don’t need my dogs to do anything. Then there are days I couldn’t manage without them. And if I can stand by a pen gate and send my dog out of the arena with nothing but a flank command, through one gate and pasture, out into another, to bring in the whole damn flock with me never having to leave my post or put my coffee down, well, that’s my definition of a true working dog.

 

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Working Through Issues

The last several weeks have been a bit tough, not gonna lie. I’ve started, deleted, and re-started multiple posts multiple times in another case of I need to get the words out because that’s how I deal. I’m not generally the wear my heart on my sleeve type who shares everything, however, and when you throw in a touch of get over it already... well… I figure people have their own problems, they don’t want to read about mine. That was before (what I felt to be) a surprising number of people reached out to tell me how sharing just the little bits on this blog that I have has helped them in one way or another. That was both unexpected and very humbling. It certainly helped me to hear it, though. I guess that makes the blog a win-win. Now, if you’re in the camp of those who would rather not read that portion, just skip over the next paragraph. I get it. No harm, no foul.

 

As I mentioned in previous posts, Fall is a tough time for me. This year has been exceptionally hard with October 6th marking one year since losing Cian to epilepsy. The days leading up to the 6th found me at the edge of tears more times than not. (It doesn’t help that I see the back of WVRC twice a day from the parking lot at work. WVRC being where Cian spent his last days.) The waves would surge up with little warning and crash down on me. Turns out that wound is still as raw and jagged now as it was then. Which, yes, frustrates and annoys me. Social Media hasn’t been a great help either, with its steady stream of Cian memories. Another recent solo road trip gave me time to analyze the lingering Sad and I came to the conclusion I’m still pissed. Pissed at epilepsy for being the insidious monster it is, and pissed at myself for not being able to protect Cian. Even though I know we did all we could, our best wasn’t enough and I’m having a hard time accepting that. And, because I lean toward the belief most things happen for a reason, I’m still left wondering what that reason was while all the time realizing it is one of those questions I’ll never find the answer to. And, you guessed it, that pisses me off as well. 

 

 

 

Okay, enough about what pisses me off and onto things that make me happy. I took another road trip to MI with the boys. This also tends to make Jig happy because she gets to be the only dog for a few days AND she doesn’t have to travel anywhere. If she knew Finn got the opportunity to work cattle again, however, she’d have something else to hold against him. And Jig would have loved this crew.

They were a challenge for a young dog as they didn’t want to move off the fence very easily and, left to their own devices, would rather have spent the day grazing. Finn got himself clocked in the shoulder first thing. Actually, I think he cut it too close around the back end and ran into a leg. In either case, after a chance to rest up and make sure he was okay, he went right back at it — though with much more caution. It was exposure, and right now that’s all it was. He also got a chance to work with his dad providing some assistance. That was kind of cool. We’ve got a lot of work to do. Finn’s a pushy boy but not in a mean way, just in the oh-my-god-I-love-this-so-much-get-out-of-my-way-and-let-me-do-it kind of way.

 

Dillon could use a little of that push. We’re still working through some issues. Most of which are my fault for not fixing them when he was younger. In my defense, we had other challenges to overcome and I was picking my battles. It’s all good. I’ve no doubt we’ll work it out. Dillon tends to take corrections to heart, especially if he doesn’t understand what the correction is for. Then he starts questioning everything and we need to back up, find the broken thing, and fix that before jumping ahead again. So, at the moment, we’re back to working on correct flanks as opposed to the slicing flank he thinks is how it’s done. Good thing there aren’t any trials for a while!

 

And in other news… the next several months appear as though they are going to bring some big changes that I’ve been hoping for, but didn’t really envision happening this soon. Oh yeah, there will be a major adjustment and perhaps some scrambling and, hence, the quote in the feature image. The winds of change, they are a-blowin’. There will be more updates to come.

 

 

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When Your Dog Saves Your Bacon

There’s no question, at our farm, Jig is the power. When there’s a task that needs doing, and I suspect the stock might not cooperate, Jig is the one who gets the call. It’s a very handy on thing to have, especially on cattle.

It can sometimes be a bit much on sheep. Though, over the years, I’ve been able to convince Jig to tone it down a bit. Most times. Still, loading the chute is one of her favorite jobs because she might just have to use some of that push.

“Just say the word, boss.”

Last Saturday morning I suspected I would need a little of Jig’s touch. We were loading three sheep into the back of a pick-up, up a steeper ramp than they’re used to. Our plan consisted of running the sheep into the small side of the barn to a temporary chute and up into the truck. The small side of the barn makes a roughly 8′ x 16′ pen. The set-up worked pretty good, the only drawback being there’s no gate on the barn and the connecting alleyway is about 60′ long so it makes a good escape route if the sheep decide they’d rather not play the game. Unless, of course, you’ve got your right hand… er… paw guarding the exit.

Under normal circumstances my sheep don’t mind going into the barn but when they saw the ramp, a strange truck, and several people who were obviously up to no good, they opted to go elsewhere. Jig happily directed them back into the barn where I held a position at the bottom of the ramp, ready to assist any volunteers. It usually only takes one to convince the rest it’s the way to go. Getting a volunteer to even look at the ramp took a bit of coercing, however, because by that point Jig had her crack ears on. Nothing like having to use push to make a pushy dog happy. Unfortunately, the sheep know Jig very well and are quite familiar with the meaning behind her crack ears, hence they were more than a little concerned regarding her intentions and had no desire to take their eyes off her.

Can’t say I really blamed them. Jig knows the job, you see, and was clearly thinking, “You want the sheep up that ramp? Clear the way, I’ll put them up that ramp whether they want to go or not!”

I, on the other hand, was trying to maintain order and some semblance of calm. Though it’s usually fruitless, I reminded Jig, “Sometimes less is more. Give it a minute.”

Eventually I convinced her to hold her ground — which only means I kept repeating “Stay!” and “Don’t you do it!” through clenched teeth when other threats failed to get her to back the eff off. **oooohhhhmmmmm deep breath** I really can’t fault Jig. When she sees me tussling with a sheep she really just wants to help. She just doesn’t understand how to help a little vs full bore.

Finally one of the younger wethers decided the only way out was up the ramp. Just as I reached down a guiding hand to ensure he didn’t change his mind, out of the corner of my eye I saw the biggest wether spin around and make a desperate bid for the relative freedom of the alleyway. I had a split second to think, “Well, shit.” before a black blur launched into action and explained to the wether what a bad decision he’d just made. I didn’t get a good view, being I was intent on keeping the youngster headed up the ramp, but from the little I saw and some eye-witness accounts there were some aerial acrobatics combined with a few cutting horse maneuvers. Needless to say, said sheep did not make it even a foot out of the barn. In fact, the next thing I knew that big wether was begging to be allowed up the ramp and apologizing for the error of his ways.

Of course, the three of them got to the top of the ramp and balled up because… SCARY DARK HOLE THING WE DON’T KNOW WHAT IT IS WHOSE IDEA WAS THIS ANYWAY! I followed them up to give a push with Jig trying to get through my legs the whole time. She was a bit too cranked up by then to let her assist. After all, we wanted the sheep in the back of the truck, not the back seat.

In the end, we got them loaded in far less time and with far less labor involved than if we had tried without a dog. I love the fact working Aussies are thinking dogs. Oftentimes that gets taken out of them for the trial arena. Gotta say, I’m really thankful I never managed to do that to Jig and still have a dog who knows the job and how to get it done without waiting to be told what to do. Even if sometimes her enthusiasm gets the better of her.

And for those who don’t follow me on Social Media, here’s a clip of Jig gathering from the far field. Nothing but a Go Bye to send her. It never grows old.

 

https://youtu.be/7JXP9KLGQLk

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Sometimes You Have to Make Your Own Opportunities

I was supposed to be at an ASCA stock trial this past weekend. Like so many other events this year, it had to be cancelled. Instead of kicking the ground and going into woe-is-me mode, I created my own opportunity by taking the trip anyhow, meeting up with some friends, and turning it into a training weekend. Dreams and goals take work. It’s work you need to make yourself responsible for. Blaming your failures or lack of success on others is giving them an awful lot of power over your life. True, not everyone has the same resources, but if you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way. Apologies for the tirade, but it needed to get said.

“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances.

The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want,

and if they can’t find them, make them.”

~George Bernard Shaw

Anyhow, some of you who follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook may have met Carl a few days ago. He’s the character headed toward me and the camera.

Sorry I disappointed those who thought Carl was a new addition to the farm. Yeah, he oozes personality and character. Enough that he would have given Linus a run for his money. My fences (and my patience), however, wouldn’t survive living with goats. They are fun to work from time-to-time though, because they are just different enough from sheep to add all sorts of new challenges. The trio Dillon and Finn got to work over the weekend required a bit of push. Particularly Carl. Carl doesn’t see the need to goat. Hence my giving him the title of The Linus of the Goat World.

Until the past weekend the only stock Finn had met were sheep. And chickens, but those are off limits and the rule around the farm is No Chasey Chicky. So getting him on goats who work nothing like even my heaviest sheep was great fun. Carl did his best to convince Finn it was okay to leave him behind and only work his cohorts. I call that taking unfair advantage of a rookie. Much to Carl’s dismay, it didn’t take much for me to convince Finn Carl really was a goat and needed to work with his buddies. Overall, I think my young man did rather well. Finn doesn’t actually have a lot of training on him, so what you’re seeing here at 11 months old is mostly instinct.

Finn was also introduced to cattle. Next time I’ll try to get some pictures or video. We were working a group of 8 nice sized Herefords who would have preferred to continue grazing over being told to move. Since I really didn’t know what to expect, I put Finn in more experienced hands for his first exposure and watched from the sidelines. I certainly didn’t want Little Bastard making an appearance. Which, thankfully, he didn’t. Finn was interested but cautious. I will admit, I had hoped for just a bit more spark. The next day I was strong-armed into taking him convinced I should take him in myself and I got my spark. Nothing crazy or out of control. Although I couldn’t see what he was doing on the backside as we fetched the cattle around the arena, Finn kept them grouped and moving at a nice, steady gait, so he must have been doing okay. The cattle, like the goats, needed a bit of push. All things considered, I’d have to say I left feeling very pleased with what Finn showed me.

And what’s a weekend of firsts without ducks, am I right? Honestly, I hadn’t even considered putting Finn on ducks at all because, well, that whole Little Bastard part of his personality was sure to clash with fast and frail fowl. Nothing like a little peer pressure. (Work Finn on the ducks, she said. It’ll be fun, she said. ) Fine. Truth is, she was right. I don’t keep ducks and here was a chance to see how the youngster would do. Have to say, the boy amazed me. In fact, the first time in he was taking them out of the corner like a seasoned pro. The second time in, just like his second time on the goats and the cattle, he started getting a bit pushier in direct correlation to his confidence.

Dillon and I didn’t have as much success over the weekend as Finn did. I’ll attribute that to the fact I’ve raised the bar for him. Dillon and I have done okay in our first year trialing because he’s a very steady dog who treats all livestock the same whether we’re someplace he knows or someplace brand new. He’s very kind to his stock and not one to take cheap shots or get overly wound up.

He’s also happiest when I let him do things his way – within certain bounds, of course. The problem is, his way isn’t going to allow us to attain the goals I’ve set for us. Now, I’ve had dogs in the past that were pretty easy about switching things up – rules, training methods, etc. Quinn, in particular, would just roll his eyes and give me the “Okay, now what are we doing this time?” look. Not saying that’s a good thing to do, it’s just the case.

Dillon is not that dog. Even with our success, I’m starting to believe I’ve done him a great disservice. We’ve had such a struggle these past four years, trying to figure out how to work together, I feel I’ve let us swing too far to one side: His. Now that I’m asking for more precision, more of an out, more control, we’ve hit a bit of a wall. Dillon is questioning and unsure what I want now. Why I’ve changed the rules. How the heck it is I’ve become completely untrained over night.

It’s actually a good thing we don’t have any trials left this year because I’ve broken my dog and now I need to fix him. I’m not worried. We’ve hit walls before, Dill and I. We’ve always found our way over, through, under, or around them, and this one will be no different.

“Strength doesn’t come from what you can do.

It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t.”

~Rikki Rogers

And what about the Sad, you ask?

First off, I want to thank everyone for the comments and thoughts after my last post. Putting my heart on my sleeve like that doesn’t come easy for me. I’ve written and deleted more posts than I can count. Every now and again, however, I need to put it out there (though, those posts are highly edited) and the support has always been fantastic. So, again, thank you.

Being last weekend was a solo road trip and we all know how I spend too much time in my own head during those, the Sad came along for the ride. Sometimes the universe intervenes, however, and just about the time the Sad was planning on unleashing a helluva party, a friend called. Since I was driving, we kept the call short, but it was fantastic to hear from him and I’m sure he’s unaware of how perfect his timing was. And on the drive home I had so many other things to occupy my brain that, although I could feel the Sad lurking, it never did make an appearance.

**And a quick note for those who are interested and either aren’t on Facebook, or would rather hear about posts as soon as a new one is up. If you look below in the footer you’ll see the option to follow the blog via email. NO SPAM. You’ll merely receive email notification any time a new post goes up. That’s it.**

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Time for the Self

Writing is my therapy…

 

I took some time off over Labor Day weekend to spend on me and it proved to be a wise choice.

Fall is a conundrum for me. It is, hands down, my favorite season. I love the crispness of the air, the colors, the cooler temps, and the strange sense of urgency that comes with the dwindling of the year. Typically I am more invigorated in Fall than any other time of year.

A part of me also dreads it. I have experienced too many losses in the Fall; both human and four-legged. Normally, as those memories begin to surface, I can pay them tribute and move on with only a touch of melancholy in a season seemingly created for the mood.

This year… The Sad has made an appearance, rearing up when I least expected it, the edges surprisingly jagged. And, because it’s me, I’ve been fighting it, which only serves to make it worse. So I spent some of my time off addressing it. Well, to be honest, it was more like arguing with it and telling it to bugger off. You know, the whole stages of grief thing — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance — on a loop like something out of Groundhog Day and me stuck at the second stage.

So that went about as well as you might expect.

If you’ve ever had to deal with the Sad, you know what that’s like. I don’t like it. It annoys me. I have no patience for it. In myself, I see it as a sign of weakness and I deplore that. I refuse to give into it and allow it to rule my life.

I also can’t pretend it’s not there.

Well, I can. And I do. Or at least I attempt to. In the end, however, acceptance will win out. Getting there means making and taking the time to do the things that light a fire in my soul. Creating. Reading. Yes, there is whisky involved. There is also sitting on my deck and giving myself permission to just be.

Dogs are my heart…

 

I also spent some of my time off working dogs. If there’s anything to help chase away the Sad, it’s doing something that sooths the soul. My dogs are my heart and the best way to heal it.

In any case, Dillon’s trial season is now over. The last two trials we were entered in both had to be cancelled due to lack of entries. That’s a bummer, but, on the flip side, it gives us more time to train and to address the issues he’s been having. After mulling it over, I think I know why he’s been getting steadily worse about allowing stock to leave pens/chutes/corners and the like when he’d been doing so well for a while.

Trials.

A lot happens at a trial that, because of its very nature, you handle differently than you would at home or in training. The stock has a tendency to want to bolt out of take pens and make a break for the draw any chance they get. Not always, but it happens enough, and we’ve been trialing quite a bit. I’m thinking Dillon has reverted to worrying about losing his stock.

So we’re taking a step back and working on some exercises to get Dillon comfortable with stock leaving while both of us are on the same side. I use heavy stock I know won’t head for the hills, and Dillon is starting to relax again. It’s going to be an issue I will need to pay more careful attention to as I know it’s something he’s always concerned about.

I also got to work Finn and… drum roll, please… got a couple pics and some video. Whoot!

Is it my turn, yet?

 

Finn’s in a bit of a wonky, adolescent stage. He’s gotten a wee bit sensitive when I correct him for being unruly with the sheep, and it takes him some time to think his way past it. He doesn’t quit or shut down, just gets more thoughtful. Which isn’t a bad thing. I’m not concerned. He’s a youngster, and a boy, and we’ll work through it. To help do that I’ve moved us back into the round pen. It’s easier to catch him and prevent issues when he decides to act like a rambunctious asshat.

https://youtu.be/Tw_tPEtt17c
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Updates All Around

Isn’t it the way of things? You prepare to your utmost, follow all the steps or guidelines to a tee to ensure a smooth go, and then the tiniest of things causes what should have been a walk in the park to become more like this…

…while wearing shorts… in the middle of a steamy afternoon… beneath the blazing hot sun.

As prepared as I was my web migration should have taken, at most, an afternoon. Instead, it became a hair-pulling nightmare that took the bulk of my spare time (and some not so spare time) over the course of a week and a half but finally the new website is up and running.

Browse around, give it a look, let me know if you find any missing/broken links or things just aren’t loading correctly (because that always makes my day). Things are close to the same as they were with a bit of a face lift; I added a new page for Digital Doubles (some of you may have seen those on Facebook), and the footer section has been expanded to show the latest Shadowdance news flashes, current posts, and Instagram feed. Individual dog pages are a work in progress.

And, speaking of dogs…

“Trust him. He’s shown you over and over if he has an inkling of what you want he’ll try to do it but it has to be his way, which we may find unusual, but it works.”

That was told to me by a good friend after I expressed my concerns about entering Dillon on ducks in the 3 Sheeps Farm Trial last weekend. She’s been along for the ride with Dillon and has seen him from the beginning. Funny thing is, several days later, after watching one of our trial runs, another good friend told me, “I’m proud of you. You kept trying to get Dillon to do it your way and he kept fighting you until you finally just backed off and let him do it his way. And he did it.”

That, and a comment from a third person on how my problems at the farm trial were a workable issue but that Dillon “isn’t really wrong”, prompted my reply that Dillon truly is a lesson in not being able to fit a square peg in a round hole.

We’ve come a long way, Dillon and I. Little more than a year ago I had doubts we would have much success in the trialing game. This year, his first full season in the ASCA trial arena, he’s managed to finish 7 titles including last weekend’s AFTDs, OFTDm, with one leg toward his OFTDd. All of this despite my sometimes inadequate handling and several battles of will. Once I pick a fight with Dillon, I may as well just put his leash on and walk away because neither of us is going to win. At most, it will be a draw.

At the recent Farm Trials we got the job done and there were aspects of it that were damn purty (those were mainly on sheep and mainly our sort and pen work). From my point of view, however, there was too much that wasn’t so purty.

What I saw as our biggest problem, and the thing that caused me to lose my shit more than once, was Dillon’s insistence on not letting the stock go once it was trapped somewhere. You know, like in a pen, or a chute, or a corner. At one point I had to trick him into thinking I wanted a flank, just so he would allow the sheep through a chute. Otherwise, he gets them in there and no amount of flailing, pleading, or swearing will get him to allow them to leave and suddenly it becomes all about me and Dillon and no longer about the stock and that’s never a good thing.

That’s also totally my issue. Not his.

Ducks were more of a problem than sheep, as expected. Though, to be fair, Dillon worked them. I mean truly worked them. Still, I fear they will forever be the bane of my existence.

Dillon at the Outback ASC trial in August, showing that he can work ducks, despite me. He finished his OTDd and bumped to advanced.
Photo courtesy Bill Mikkelson

For the most part, our gather and the hold were okay. Once I allowed him to do things his way. Take them out of a pen, however? Not happening.

Let them come out of the crate? Are you a complete nut case, silly human? We just put them in there!

Out of the chute? Hells to the no. What’s wrong with you?

And if I tried to position Dillon somewhere and made him lie down or stay? As soon as the stock twitched, so did he, which is all it takes with ducks.

As was pointed out, he’s not entirely wrong. No one wants the stock to escape. We do, however, on occasion, need to give them the opportunity to… oh, i dunno… exit an area maybe?

I’m guessing part of the issue is Dillon either doesn’t trust he can control them, or he doesn’t trust me and thinks I’m setting him up to lose his stock. Maybe a combo of both. We’ll figure it out. In the meantime, we have two more trial weekends before our season wraps up. I’m hoping to finish with all our open titles but Dillon needs more experience on cattle and I’m not sure we’ll have that opportunity this year.

On the subject of cattle, did I mention Miss Jig finished her OFTDc at the Outback ASC cattle Farm Trial in August? As usual, she hated having to travel and was certain the camper was going to eat her. Nothing like a herd of bovine to make her perk up, though. After which she got spoiled for the remainder of the weekend.

Apparently, being within the bowels of the beast is fine. No stressing about the camper when you’re snoozing under the table…
…or when you’re curled up in the bed, stealing a corner of the pillow for your very own.

And Finn… I haven’t had a lot of time to work the youngster lately. We’ll be kicking his training up a notch this fall, I’m sure. Until then, he gets to hang out, learn some off stock stuff, and occasionally play with his girlfriend Ziva.

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Finn & the Big Sea

Okay, it was actually the big lake they call kitchi-gami, but likely as close to the sea as Finn will get and his biggest adventure thus far.

Last weekend Finn experienced what amounts to a rite of passage at our place: he got to be the Camp Dog. Not only that, he was flying solo.

Gotta say, the demonic little asshat amazed me.

He took to most of the Camp Dog duties like a seasoned pro. He was a little lax on chipmunk patrol. They could scurry right past him and he didn’t even flick an ear. And he had to be out of sight when we played Yardzee and Kubb. Being both games involve flying chunks of wood, and seeing as Finn is obsessed with wood, watching got him a bit overstimulated.

As far as generally not making a fuss, taking hikes, and hanging out with the group around the fire, he rocked it. He even had his own camp chair.

Fine, it was supposed to be my chair. He stole it.
Yes, that’s his happy ear.
He decided my brother is the absolute coolest playmate on the planet…
… and the camper is pretty nice, especially when Dave gets up so he can steal the couch.
Getting in and out of the camper, however, was a bit of an issue at first, what with the scary metal stairs, and all.

By far, Finn’s biggest adventure of the weekend was our trip to Lake Superior. He loves water but he’s never been in anything deep enough to actually swim. All we had to do was convince him retrieving drift wood was way more fun than chasing waves along the shore (and practically tearing my arm out of its socket — which is what happens when you aren’t paying attention and your dog suddenly hauls ass in the opposite direction). And just like that, he perfected his dog paddle.

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