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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Possibilities Abound

November has been pretty mild so far which means I’ve been able to work the dogs with relative frequency. Given the shortness of the days, this usually takes place on the weekends, which also means I can generally talk a training partner into joining me. It’s helpful when it’s someone unafraid of telling me when my bad habits are showing. Not that I always agree, or want to hear it at that particular moment, which can lead to some spirited arguments discussions. There are, after all, multiple ways to skin the proverbial cat (sorry, feline friends) and perhaps there’s a reason (in my mind) for what I’m doing. More often than not, however, I’m not even aware of doing whatever it is because it’s just one of those things I fell into while training solo. And that happens far too often. Just ask my dogs.

After my last post where I shared the video of Jig doing a long gather through several gates, a friend asked what I would do if something happened to her and she got laid up. That got me thinking. As far as I’m concerned, Jig is irreplaceable around here — especially when I need power. Maybe not so much when I need finesse and a softer hand. Still, she is the only one of my current crew who knows, and is capable of, the jobs that need doing. It’s something I tend to take for granted and we all know what a bad idea that is.


With that thought in mind, I decided to see how Dillon would handle being sent on a gather through an open gate. It didn’t go as bad as I thought it might, but he definitely wasn’t sure of the job I wanted him to do. And that’s okay. I’ve never asked him to do this before. And, not only were there sheep out in the field, there were sheep in both corners of the arena and in the alleyway as well. He didn’t completely suck at the job and we’ll keep working at it until he gets it. He’ll undoubtedly put his own spin on the task, just as Jig has, and that’s okay, too, as long as it gets done.


Speaking of Miss Jig, she provided the highlight of my weekend by… drumroll, please… playing with Finn. Yes, playing, for the first time ever. We approached things cautiously as Jig hasn’t been very accepting of the young man. Finn, however, was very respectful and turned on the charm big-time to win Jig over and next thing we knew…


It’s not all play, even for a young dog. Finn is really starting to come along and I’m able to ask more of him each time we work. He really is a lot of fun now that we’ve come to an understanding regarding proper behavior around livestock. He still has his moments, but he’s young. Just like every other dog, Finn has something to teach me as well. In his case, it’s how to work a dog with a lot of eye which is something new for me. He doesn’t quite get being sent from my side. He’d prefer to stalk straight into the sheep and hold them. So, we’re working on it.

“I have them right where I want them.”

“Wait… you want me to do what now? Go around them??”

All right, youngster, I’ll help you figure it out.

There we go. Now fetch ’em over.

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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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If you’ve spent any time reading this blog, you will know Dillon has been a challenge. There have been times when I questioned if we would ever overcome our many issues. Many times frustration overcame good sense and I took it out on him by being blatantly unfair. All I can say is it’s a good thing Dillon loves me as much as he does. He’s willing to forgive and forget just about all my transgressions. And it’s a good thing I pulled my head out of my backside and started training to his strengths instead of pounding on him for his weaknesses.

I’ve gotten in some steady work on all the dogs the last week or so. None have shown more improvement than Dill. He gets to do the bringing in and sorting, then I’ll give him a break and take him out after Jig and Cian for an actual training session. Suddenly, I have a dog who does that thing he never wanted to do… gather. It’s far from perfect, and he’s only good for about 75′ or so, usually with a redirect when he starts to pull up short and look back at me. He also has a tendency to slice. And he does it all at warp speed. At this point, I don’t care. He’s doing it. I can finesse it once it becomes more fluid. Right now, I’m working more on getting him to SLOW THE HELL DOWN once he gets behind the sheep. He still doesn’t realize the point of the gather is to bring the sheep to me, not just round them up and take them blasting past.

You get two clips today. In this first one I send Dillon on a short gather then attempt to get him to lie down part way in and walk up nice and steady because, as those who know me are aware, I like mashing things together working on two things at once. Please note, it’s an Away, the direction we’ve had problems with in the past. Dillon wasn’t taking my downs, and we’ve got lots to work on, but it’s all about baby steps (something Dave reminded me of when I told him how things went).

We’re also working on the take pen. Dillon is more than happy to help in the pens, he has no qualms about being in tight spots, but no way, no how, does he want to bring sheep out of a pen when he might lose them. When having him take stock out, I generally have to open the gate only wide enough for him to squeeze in, then quickly swing it open when he gets around. Opening the gate all the way and doing what I do in this next clip has never provided these results. Yeah, he’s pushy. Yeah, he’s fast. And I don’t particularly like the way he wears behind me as we do a bit of walking about, but we’ll get it sorted out in time. The ultimate goal is to have him enter the pen without me, of course, and control the stock calmly and slowly right from the get-go. It’s something I’m working on with Cian and Jig as well.

It feels like Dillon and I have had a long overdue breakthrough. Or maybe we’re just starting to understand one another a bit better. Whatever the case, I promised him a kiss on the lips after our last session, guess I better pay up.

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The Year of Training Pays Off

At the end of last year I was so frustrated and upset with how the trialing season went, I decided to take a year off. Not so I could sit in a corner and lick my wounds, but because I was determined to fix as many of mine and Jig’s issues as I could. I’d had enough of our melt-downs and non-qualifying runs. She’s a better dog than that. I like to think we’re a better team than that, though I’m definitely the weaker partner.

I gave myself one trialing goal: finish Jig’s WTCH. We needed only one cattle leg to do so. Jig and I both love working cattle though our methods are at opposite ends of the spectrum. I want nice, quiet control, power when required, and no rodeos. Jig seems to like rodeos, and has been known to actively go looking for a fight.

After our failed attempt at getting that final leg in the spring, I worked even harder at preparing us for the next one. It was difficult because my plans to get us both off the farm didn’t transpire, and we didn’t get to do any training on cattle. Still, I sent in my entry for the Coyote Classic over Labor Day weekend. To be honest, going into the weekend I was thinking, “If we can’t get this one last leg, with these cattle, on this course, then I’m done.” And by done, I meant throwing in the towel and never trialing again.

Well, I’m pleased to say Jig is (pending official ASCA verification), WTCH Heartsong of Shadowdance OFTDs DNA-VP.

We finished her WTCH on our first run, which took a lot of the pressure off for the rest of the weekend. Our last run of the weekend, though not qualifying, was some of the best work we’ve done on cattle. We missed a Q because I took the opportunities to make things right, which meant some parts of the run weren’t as smooth as they could have been. It all started with the take pen when I refused to allow Jig to Go Bye because that would have put her immediately on the noses. Have I mentioned a time or two how much Jig likes to hit noses? Yeah. To prevent that, I insisted she take an Away. She fought me on it, but ultimately I won. By the time we finished our run, Jig was actually holding her position on the drive and not creeping up, taking her stays to hold pressure until the cattle moved off, even if that meant she was nose-to-nose, and there were a couple instances where she hit a nose and I was able to get her to stop right there and allow the heifer to move off. That last one was a huge victory for us.

We still have a lot of work to do. A. Lot. A WTCH may be the end of one journey, but it’s also the beginning of another. Not only are we going to make a run for the 2020 Finals, but I’d like to get Jig’s Post Advanced titles next year as well. That means I’ll be hitting a lot of trials in 2019. It’s all time and miles, but I finally feel as though we really can do this.

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I have a tendency to mention the problems I’m facing during training, but the video clips accompanying those posts are usually ones in which things are going fairly well. Today I’m going to step out of my comfort zone and really put me and my dog out there with a few clips that illustrate our problem areas. Apologies in advance for the quality of the video. I had my cell phone strapped to the fence post. Also, if you’re thinking this group of sheep was a bit light, you’d be right. They’re light on purpose.

And one more side note, I feel the need to point out that I’m not picking on Dillon. He just happens to be the ‘problem child’ at the moment. That’s not to say we’re not making progress. A session or so after this video was shot, he took a Go Bye from about 60′ off the sheep. Not a big deal for some, but it was for us. Not only did he go, he got to head. Cause for celebration. Last night’s session also went well. We had our moments and I have to push A. Lot. If that’s what it takes right now, that’s what it takes.

Anyhow, Dill and I have two major issues. First off, the take pen. Jig had huge take pen issues at one point as well. She does them much better so I know Dillon and I will get through this. Actually, as you’ll see in the first clip, he handles it fairly well. The problem is I can only open the gate wide enough for him to squeak in or he won’t go. It’s not a method I recommend, but for right now, it works and we’ll build on it.

For those whose first thought is going to be “lack of confidence”, Dillon really has no qualms about being in a pen, even a packed one–so long as the gate remains closed. I can go into the pen with him and he’ll work in there as calm and quiet as can be. As a matter of fact, if he’s helping me sort and I go into the pen without him he’ll slither under the gate to come help whether I ask him to or not.

So, what happens when I swing the gate open? Will he follow them in and out? Ah… no. In this clip I try sending him from my side, then move to the post to see if I can push him into a ‘Go Bye’. Nothing doing. I go in with him. Nothing doing. Then I do that magical thing and close the gate. Voila! takes his flank with ease. Several twirls later I lay him down in back, swing the gate, allow Dill to cover.

On to our second issue: Dillon’s lack of a gather, lack of cover, and his unwillingness to take a flank from a distance. Before you ask, yes, he knows his flanks.

Here are two short clips to illustrate my frustration. The turning back, bouncing, staring at me… some days that’s harder to deal with than others. To be honest, this is where I tend to lose it. Normally I would have had him lie down and set it up again, but I wanted a good demo clip of the worst case. As I walked in I was calmly repeating my request for him to… oh, I dunno… maybe get the freaking sheep and bring them back? When I finally gave up the fight and sent him on a ‘Go Bye’ we were relatively close to the stock.

Next up, a split. What you may notice is that Dillon’s far more concerned with the sheep we already have as opposed to going to bring the others. Finally it’s the sheep that make the decision to return. Toward the end of the clip, you’ll see me do a little stomp and turn away. This was me correcting myself for being an idiot and correcting Dill at the wrong spot which actually made him come off the flank. Handler error. I should have pushed, not corrected.

So there you go, a glimpse behind all the glitter. 😉

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So much for weekly updates, right? What’s the excuse this time? Let’s see… heat, humidity, rain, more heat, out of town, put on 53 hours a week at the dayjob, changed web servers, did I mention the new horrendous work schedule? When your plate is already packed, and then it shrinks to the size of a saucer, shit falls off.

Anyhow, I did manage a few sessions since my last post so let’s start off with Miss Jig.

Up until now I’ve allowed Jig to merely cover the stock as they to bolt towards the draw. Well, no more. Time to start learning how to actually control the stock on the way back to the re-pen or wherever it is they may want to get to. In all fairness, her failure to do so is my failure as a handler and trainer. I accepted the way we had been doing it and settled for ‘good enough’. Jig has shown me we don’t need to settle. She pushes me, and I push her.

One of the ways I’ve been working on this is to take myself completely out of the picture so the sheep aren’t tempted to draw to me. That means stepping outside the arena. I have Jig drive them to the bottom, then turn them toward the top where they most want to be. This is the point at which we all start to get a bit twitchy. The sheep because they want to break. Jig because she knows they want to break. And me because I know what Jig’s likely to do when they do break.

Needless to say, our first few attempts were a bit messy. There was incoherent blabbering and flailing of arms on my part, and quite a few confused looks on Jig’s part. After that, we got some good input from a couple of friends, reminders that Jig has brakes and steering and I might want to utilize them. Seems I tend to forget in the heat of the moment. Like when a sheep takes off and she covers, maybe I should lie her down as soon as it heads back. You know, as opposed to letting her bring it back and turn them all around again. We’ll get there.

I’ve also stepped up Dillon’s game. There’s still a lot we have to fix, but I can actually see us making progress and that’s a good thing. It’s no secret I have a tendency to run before we can walk. I get frustrated when I think my dog isn’t doing something he should. That’s led to some pretty spectacular meltdowns wherein I totally lose my shit. I’m not proud of that and I try to stop before things reach that point. I knew I went over the top one day when, after we were done and I put Dillon in his kennel, he turned his back on me and went to lay under his table instead of hanging by the door with a happy smile. Never train when you’re in a pissy mood. It’s the ultimate betrayal of trust. Thankfully Dillon is pretty forgiving, and there was no permanent damage done.

To give Jig a break, I’ve started using Dillon to help me sort. Here, for your viewing pleasure, one of the very first times we teamed up to get the job done. He has a lot to learn yet, but I think he’s off to a good start.

No worries, I haven’t forgotten Cian. The baby boy is doing really well in learning self control. So well that I introduced him to the pen last week. I hadn’t actually planned to do that. It was a case of necessity. I needed sheep out and he was handy. I intended to keep him on lead and just walk him around being as he’s never done it before, but he entered so soft and moved right to the fence so I dropped the line and let him do it on his own. Then, toward the end of his session, instead of just re-penning, I swung the gate wide open and pretended the pen wasn’t there, allowing him to follow them in, fetch them out, put them back in. He never even blinked. It made me very happy given all the take-pen issues I’ve had with his aunt.

And, just because I had my camera handy, here’s a very short bonus clip of Cian.

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The Year of Training – Another Piece of the Puzzle

Between the 4th of July falling in the middle of the week, and another blast of heat and humidity, I didn’t get a whole lot of training in since my last post. I got in one very short session with Jig and Dillon on Tuesday evening, but the weather got the better of us. The weather and the damn bugs. They’re the only ones who seem to enjoy these hot, muggy days. I have a tendency to get a bit cranky after too long a stretch, and that’s not very conducive to training, or much of anything else.

One of the things I was watching for when I worked Dill, was whether or not his chiro adjustment affected his Away. It didn’t. Not yet, anyhow. I’m thinking that if he has been physically uncomfortable going in that direction, it has become a habit of necessity to move a certain way. That’s not going to correct itself overnight. I’ve got another series of appointments scheduled for him with Dr. Robin, and I’ve gone back to encouraging him to flex to the left when he comes in for pets and lovin’.

Friday Gail stopped in on her way across the state and we of course went out to work dogs. Heck if I was going to pass up the opportunity to have another set of eyes on me, and I’m so glad I didn’t. I began Dillon’s session on a flank from my side. Gave him a verbal Away to Me and marveled at how quickly and smoothly he went, how wide he was, how he’d actually gone on a Go Bye.


Oops, my bad! Did it again and this time made sure he headed Away. Somewhere along the line, Gail suggested I have Dillon lie down when he started to fall in on that flank, which he does, a lot, then redirect him making sure he gave me a nice roll out first. She pointed out that, particularly on the Away, he was never really getting to head. It was one of those moments where you feel equal parts idiot and encouraged. Here was another little piece that had been missing. I’ve been so focused on the fact Dillon was fighting me on his Aways that I never looked past that and so created another bump in the road.

On Sunday I had quite a few sets of eyes on me as a group of us had our first Working Day. Dillon did really well. He took his verbal flanks (the correct ones), seemed a bit more fluid, and even got to head on more than one occasion without me having to give an extra push.

Now, if you read my last installment, you may remember I talked about getting shoved out of my comfort zone with Jig. Thanks to not having her handy, and having to move a new group of sheep to the round pen, Dillon got the nod. We tried him on lead first, as I wasn’t ready to trust any of our training by having him fetch the sheep to the pen. Needless to say, it didn’t go well. I  was forced to take him off his leash and, I dunno, maybe trust him a bit? Subsequently, I managed to make quite a mess of things. I felt so far out of my comfort zone with him that I turned into a babbling, flailing idiot. Fortunately for Dillon, we had two coaches who managed to calm me down until my brain re-engaged and I remembered that I had words I could use. Not just any words. Words that were directions that Dillon understands. And viola! we got the job done.

Methinks it will benefit us both to start throwing some little tasks into his training as well.

And, because I don’t have any training pictures to share this week, here’s one of Cian, mom Tam, and brother Taps. Tam looks about as thrilled as Jig whenever I turn the camera on her, and Taps isn’t much better.

I doubt I’ll have an update next week. I have a busy schedule and will be out of town over the weekend.


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The Year of Training ~ Update Numero Uno

I bet you all are sitting there, tapping your fingers on the table, looking at the calendar (because you have nothing better to do with your valuable time), and thinking I’ve gone and missed my first week’s update right out of the gate.

Wrongo. I wanted to wait until after Dillon and Jig had their chiro adjustments to see if there was any news to share. I was also busy putting together some short video clips.

Let’s jump right in with Dillon. Dr. Robin came out on Friday morning for Dillon’s first ever chiro adjustment. He was not amused. It took quite a few treats and lots of patience on Dr. Robin’s part to allow her to work on anything other than his front end. The findings were that, yes, he had some restriction in his neck, a few spots on his spine, and in his pelvis, all on the left side. Would this impact his wanting to flex his body in that direction? Possibly. He honestly did look like he was moving a bit freer when we were done with him. Unfortunately the heat and humidity has moved back in, so no testing the theory for several days.

We did get in a few days of training during the week, however. I purchased this nifty, bendable tri-pod that holds my cell phone, making it much easier to video my training sessions. I can put that little sucker just about anywhere. Mostly the videos are for me, alone. I’ll share a few clips here and there, however. Today you get three. The first one illustrates Dillon’s problem area. There are captions. No comments on my handling. I ain’t perfect and sometimes I confuse myself and my dog. At one point I probably confused the sheep as well. Those parts I try to edit out. In any case…

Watching the entire session I noticed many things I don’t get to see while training. Number one was how much tighter and less relaxed Dillon is on the Away side. Number two was all those good things he does that I love and give me faith we’ll get through this.

Okay, on to Jig. When Steve was up a couple weekends ago, I had the opportunity for some one-on-one time with him due to his flight getting totally jacked up which led to him staying an extra day. (Hurray!) I’ve been getting a little frustrated with my training sessions with Jig because she does really well and it’s hard to fix problems when they don’t crop up at home. We’ve fallen into a routine. Steve saw the chance to shake up that routine and leapt on it like Rebel on a mouse. This resulted in me having a glorious meltdown and it was AWESOME. Why, you ask, would I consider a meltdown to be awesome? Because it suddenly felt just like a trial situation and now, finally, I could address some of the disconnect Jig and I experience elsewhere.

Here’s the scenario. I had been fetching sheep from the holding pen, across the barn yard, into the round pen. Steve suggested, since I’d proven I have controls on Jig, making her drive them across instead. Sure, says I, cause I’m always up for a challenge. I’m certain the sheep start to view the round pen as the coliseum meaning they aren’t all that keen on going there in the first place. In any case, driving them away from a very heavy draw and into said coliseum brought out the crazy in me. I may have even started twitching. It also showed how, in times of stress, Jig and I loose our functionality. I start nit-picking, my voice escalates, emotions run rampant — who thought I could get that kind of stress at home?!!? The point of it all was to start to find challenges for Jig and I instead of going out, sorting sheep, working on the same exercises in the same manner. Seems like such a common sense thing but… well… the Routine Trap had snared me good.

So here’s a short clip of when it actually worked just a bit too smoothly. This group of sheep made it look easy.

And, here is an even shorter clip I call Bad Kathi, wherein I should have just shut my mouth when Jig had them close to the gate and trusted her to finish the job. Instead, I got antsy, didn’t trust her, tried to micro-manage her with, of all things, a lie down, and we lost them. This was a tough group of sheep to begin with. The white one was a huge cheater that caused us many problems. I finally had to call it a day and finish off with a fetch.

I’m going to work really hard on NOT overdoing that fun little exercise, and continue to look for other opportunities to test us.

No clips of Cian. I think I only worked him once or twice during the week. Pretty soon I’ll start putting a few more demands on him because he’s doing well with the self-control aspect of the program.

I’m just hoping this heat wave doesn’t last too long. I don’t do well in heat and humidity. Makes me all sorts of cranky.

Happy training!

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A Slight Reboot

Life has been busy of late. That’s my explanation for the lapse in posting… again. I tend to set myself these crazy-busy schedules until I’m reminded there just aren’t enough hours in the day and something has to give before that something is me. Unfortunately, it’s generally the blog that suffers first which recently led me to question the why of it.

I started this blog because 1) I’m a writer at heart and that particular muse demands an outlet, 2) I hoped sharing my training journey might just resonate with others on a similar journey, and 3) those folks in #2 (and perhaps others as well) might just find themselves enlightened, inspired, and, if nothing else, entertained.

Because it kept falling off my plate, I toyed with the idea of ending the blog, but my muse staged a revolt. And, since I have dubbed this The Year of Training, and because of reasons #2 & 3 above, I’ve decided to put a bit more effort into it and use the blog as my training journal. I actually do keep one of those, albeit irregularly, and highly recommend it. I go through mine frequently to remind myself just how far I’ve come as well as to refresh my memory on how to approach a certain problem. How, you may ask, is that different than what I have been irregularly posting? In essence, it’s not. I am, however, going to aim for weekly entries that go into a bit more depth than in the past.

To kick this off, I’ll start with an introduction to my dogs and where each one is at in their training in the event you’re new here or just can’t keep them straight. I’m currently working three dogs. Crazy much? Yeah. That’s been established.

First up: Jig, 6 1/2 years old, one cattle leg shy of her ASCA WTCH. We’re fine-tuning everything in the hopes of making a bid for Finals in 2020. Jig and I–okay, mostly just me–tend to have frequent disconnects wherein I completely lose my shit. This generally happens at trials, though I learned just a few days ago that it can also happen on the home turf while training. The trigger seems to be when we find ourselves in a tricky situation. I start to get a bit buggy, Jig starts to push and, as you all know, the more frantic we get, the more our dogs react. So along with making every effort to remain calm and in control,

Image result for animal zen


I’m also working on getting Jig to be more fluid in her response to my commands. We need to tighten up her ‘There’ and improve her driving all while I attempt to stop pinching her and allow her to work even if it isn’t perfect. Also, when I see things starting to fall apart I need to FIX THEM instead of waiting to see if she will. I seem to keep expecting her to know things she doesn’t.

Dillon is next in line. 2 1/2 years old and currently my main challenge.

Dillon doesn’t seem to understand the gather and is extremely resistant when asked to take the Away flank. By comparison, his Go Bye is smooth and relaxed with no hesitation. Most every dog favors one direction over the other, but I’ve never seen one this insistent on avoiding it. That makes me wonder if something happened to him on an Away side that I never saw. To cover all my bases, I’m going to rule out any health-related causes. I’ve scheduled a chiro appointment for him next week, and he’s got an eye appointment in August. We’re back to working in the round pen until I can get him going both directions smoothly, and because it’s a nice area to free him up as well as help him better understand the fetch.


I’ll tell you this, the dog wants to work and has no quit in him. And, as several people have observed, Dillon truly wants to please me. There’s so much to like in what he does, I just need to be patient and work through this.

Cian is the baby of the group. He’ll be a year old on July 2.


He doesn’t get as much work as the other two, and the main focus right now is helping him learn self-control. We’ve done quite a bit of foundation work so he has a great down, and understands moving off my pressure. He is also super biddable and very keen.

As you can see, he also has a very long tongue. I hope he never trips over it.

There you have it. Three different challenges, at three different ages. They definitely keep me on my toes.






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