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 you need anything screen printed or embroidered, let me know. It’s what I’ll be doing starting in March. Dog clubs get a special discount.

 

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

Winter Interlude

There’s generally not a whole lot to write about this time of year but winter has been unusually and suspiciously mild around here so far. That, combined with some time off, has given me the opportunity to get in a bit of training. And, of course, there’s this…

Okay, on to working dogs. I was fortunate enough to talk Bob into coming out one day and bringing his camera which is one of the few times I get pictures of my dogs during training. I have a group of this year’s lambs that I hadn’t been working until recently. I’ve been using them more over the past several weeks. They’re good for helping teach so many things as they aren’t fetchy, they’re sensible, and there are at least two the dog needs to keep an eye on or they’ll leave.

I’ve been taking both dogs out on them for different reasons. With Jig it’s still fine-tuning her gather and cover with a little driving thrown in. With Dillon it’s working on a gather, getting to head, and rating better. He does a good job of that in the small arena, but out in the open it’s push-push-push.

Knowledgeable eyes on you while training is always a good thing and that opportunity also presented itself a few days ago. (Thanks, Janna!) She pointed out several things I was doing with Dillon that weren’t helping our cause any. Like, trying to fix the gather at the end instead of at the top where it needed fixing — which would probably take care of the rest by default. Also, I was moving my feet to try and make Dillon right, instead of moving my feet to make him more wrong which would cause him to correct himself. And, lastly, um… “He’s looking at me way too much.” Hmmm… how would I know that unless I was also looking at him? And where should I be looking? Yeah, not at my dog.

Me, not watching my dog. This is one of the times when I guarantee he wasn’t looking at me in return.
I was thinking of setting up a parallel drive here, but Dill was being Mr. Pushy and that needs fixing first.
Miss Jig got some camera time as well, doing a little driving.

And before I forget, I wanted to share an example of how our focus and what’s in our heads can influence our training and our dogs.

I was working Dillon and had very clear expectations for our session. I was focused and completely in the zone which, honestly, doesn’t happen that often. When I gave Dillon a flank he took it without hesitation. We were really working well together. I wasn’t watching him, he wasn’t watching me. I was not only cuing him verbally, but my intentions matched. I was, quite honestly, lost-in-the-moment.

I broke him off to set him up for another gather and that’s when I spotted two figures in camo walking our lot line. I stopped to watch them and see if I needed to ask what they were doing, but they headed off into the neighbor’s woods. I continued to ponder what they were doing, what hunting season it was, and who they were when I asked Dill for a go-bye. He started, paused, curved back. I redirected, but I was still looking in the direction of the figures and my mind was now completely on them. Dillon stopped his flank and stood there, watching me. Yes, I looked at him in return, then pushed him out into his flank. It wasn’t his best but, then again, at that moment neither was I.

Just something to keep in mind for the future. The right mindset can make all the difference. Especially with a dog that’s really tuned into you, which Dillon definitely is.

Continue Reading

Teamwork & Communication

More teamwork.

Due to circumstances we were forced to keep the cattle longer than we wanted (BTW, we still have beef quarters or halves available for any of you local folks who might be interested – message me for info). Anyhow, keeping the cattle over winter meant dividing the barn so they could be fed inside. Not something that thrilled me since four large beef cattle make a mess in a hurry. Thankfully, they prefer to spend the majority of their time outside, even in inclement weather, and only come in to eat. They’re a pretty mellow group but still… large and pushy.

The silver lining? Moving them off the feed bunker has become one of Jig’s regular jobs now. It’s one she thoroughly enjoys and I’m seeing vast improvement on how she handles them. No rodeoing, very matter of fact. She’ll walk in on noses, hit if necessary, release pressure as soon as they turn off. If they ball up with their backs to her, she hits the heel. I love seeing that.

The other silver lining? Dillon gets the benefit of job shadowing. Jig’s a good teacher and Dillon is getting a little bolder each time. Instead of hanging back as he did in the clip above, he’s been moving in, shoulder-to-shoulder with Jig, more watching than doing but hopefully it will make an impression.

The dogs are generally around when I’m doing chores. At one point over the weekend, Jig was off doing something (probably making a snack of chicken feed) and Dill was with me while I was filling water troughs. Being that they’re insatiably curious, one of the cattle wandered in and presented Dillon its nose. I encouraged him to walk up, intending to help him move the steer if needed so he could be successful. I gave him my ‘get-em-up” whistle to encourage him and that’s when the stealth bomber appeared. Jig brushed past Dillon, hit the nose, steer left, Jig left (presumably to go back to her snacking), and Dillon looked up at me as though to ask what had just happened. I shrugged and told him, “That’s how it’s done.”

**Editor’s note: the Farm Hand relayed to me yesterday that Dillon moved the cattle off the feeder for him during morning chores because Jig was “nowhere around”. I grilled him on how Dillon did it and if he really did it or if the cattle just left because… dog. Sounds like Dill really did it. Proof the job shadowing is working.**

Clear Communication

An ongoing issue with Dillon is getting him to slow down at the topside when I send him on a gather, a flank, into a pen, or pretty much any other time he brings stock in my direction. This results in the sheep running past me. In the arena or the field this also results in the sheep leaving. You can imagine how pleased I am when that happens. Granted, Dillon will collect them up again, but, not slowing down… aaaaaannnnnndddd they’re gone.

I’ve tried the usual methods to indicate my displeasure. I have stepped through my stock and put pressure on Dillon to slow him down. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. I used a flag. I used a shaker bottle. I used a pocket rocket. He would respond by popping out of my pressure, trying to flank around and beat me, all while staring at me as though I’d sprouted horns. As soon as I released the pressure he’d get to pushing again.

I pondered other methods and last week employed the silent version of a pocket rocket: a plastic bottle weighted with enough water to make it throwable. Silent, and hopefully effective.

I set Dillon up for a gather and as soon as he hit the topside and aimed the sheep at me without ever once breaking stride, I whipped the bottle his way. My aim is notoriously bad, however, this time it was spot on. The bottle bounced off the ground in front of him and Dillon sprang backwards. He eyeballed the bottle as though it might leap up and attack, looked at me, looked at the sheep and offered a down with no further input from me.

That was the one and only time I had to throw that bottle. Every gather after that, he’d hit the topside, slow to a walk, and as soon as the sheep were within 20′ of me, he’d down on his own. In one or two cases he chose a stand, usually when the sheep were looking like they might veer off.

Wow. Success.

Well, sort of.

As is sometimes the case, success with one problem brings up new ones. Now that I had Dillon understanding he needs to think a bit when bringing me the stock, I had to convince him to walk into the pressure of me and those sheep to bring them closer. I liked his thoughtful approach but there are going to be times I need the sheep… well… a bit closer.

And, yes, that is Linus watching from the other side of the fence.

As you can see, he’s starting to get it. We’ll keep working it until it’s smoother, he’s surer of what I’m asking, and then we’ll move to a bit bigger area.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Have a great Thanksgiving. Be safe if you’re traveling. Eat, drink, hug the ones you love. Take time for yourself.

Always remember to forget
The troubles that passed away.
But never forget to remember
The blessings that come each day.
Go raibh mile maith agat.

Continue Reading

Two-by-two

Last Friday the weather was finally conducive to getting the ewes out with the ram so the afternoon became all about getting them sorted and moved. Knowing there would be a few challengers in the group I fully intended to give Jig the nod. Dillon needs more experience learning how to handle belligerent stock and though I’ve been working on it with him, we’re having a few problems. It’s well known; Dillon and I have communication issues.

Then, in the way it often happens, the wise words of a friend popped into my head. Why not work Jig and Dillon together? How better to learn than side-by-side with an experienced dog?

The team, ready to go to work. Jig’s ear set says she may looking forward to it a bit too much.
Right off the bat, someone has to cause an issue. Dillon isn’t in the picture, but he’s right behind Jig in this image and the next. Watching and, hopefully, learning.
Walking in nice and steady, giving the ewe the opportunity to make the right decision.
She invariably did, saving her a hit to the nose.
It took a lot of years to get Jig to this point and I sure do love watching her in action.
You can just barely see Jig in the back pushing everyone forward. Dillon voluntarily took up a position on the side, keeping anyone from making a break for it.
He’s definitely got his eye on the potential troublemaker
The one time Dillon joined Jig at the rear, making sure there were no stragglers.
For the most part Jig and Dillon kept to their self-appointed roles: Jig providing the muscle and the push, Dillon holding the flank and tucking heads. Every now and again Jig would come up to make sure Dill had it handled.
Dillon giving a final push to get them through the gate while Jig was back by me getting a straggler.
“That’ll do,” brings Dillon right back, while Miss Jig…
She apparently wanted to make sure the ewes were all the way through the gate.

I’m not sure how much Dillon will learn from this exercise, but it sure was fun.

Part of my plan going forward is to make a concerted effort to get the dogs off the farm more often and take advantage of other places to train. Although you can’t recreate trial situations due to all the factors involved, the more opportunities you can give your dog, and yourself, to train on different stock and at different facilities, the better you will be for it.

Toward that end and much to Jig’s dismay, I packed the dogs into the truck Saturday and headed north for a day and a half of working dogs, talking dogs, planning future arenas, and goofing with our dogs, topped off by some serious damage to a gallon of apple cider and a bottle of Fireball.

Jig and I got the opportunity to work in a couple Post Advanced sized fields.

One of the fields we worked in.
Although narrow, this field was over 600′ long,
giving us a chance to work in the type of area we rarely have access to.

She had still her high ears on, so things weren’t as pretty as I would have liked. At home I’ve backed up to some foundation work with her and when I started doing that, things went better. Not spectacular, but nothing overly horrendous either.

Dillon not only got to work in the large fields, (which he handled awesomely — outside of the fact it became blatantly obvious he has no clue it’s not desirable to run the sheep over the top of me) but we even worked ducks. *gasp!* Twice.

The first time was out in the yard, which was an epic fail except for the part where the ducks disappeared under a pair of trailers. I have to say, it was pretty impressive watching Dill work independently as he figured out how to get the ducks out from their hiding places and regrouped. Once that happened, however, it all fell to shit again.

The next morning we worked the ducks indoors under my friend’s watchful eyes. I’ve said it before, it really helps to have experienced onlookers not afraid to tell you what they’re seeing. It made all the difference in the world. Dillon doesn’t know much about ducks and I’d been doing too much handling out in the open. That caused him to spend far too much time watching me and not paying any attention to the ducks. Inside, once that was pointed out to me, I switched gears and went into doing some Big S Turns. Once I got my timing right, things went much better. Everyone relaxed and it felt like a really good session.

Not only that, but it was, overall, a really good weekend. Just the right amount of fun, relaxation, pushing boundaries, and learning. I need to make having more of these a priority.

Continue Reading

I’ll be honest, I’ve been struggling with this post for a few weeks.

First it was going to be about training; where I’m at with the dogs, what I’m working on now that the clinic & trialing year is done, plans for next year, the usual.

Then I thought I should really give Rebel Kitten his own post because… well…

Truth of the matter is though, I’m finding it difficult to write anything other than a post more fully answering the question some of my friends have been asking. How am I doing since losing Cian?

I have that post written. When I finished, I couldn’t decide whether I would hit delete or publish. I did neither. The writing of it was, in itself, truly cathartic. There are reasons psychiatrists suggest people keep journals. Just getting your thoughts and feelings out can really aid in healing. Or at least in dealing with them.

Though I still have that post, I decided not to share it. It’s… pretty emotional and I’m generally more private when it comes to deep emotions. I’m not a ‘wear-my-heart-on-my-sleeve’ type of gal. Although I share some things here and on Facebook, only a very few, very close friends ever get the dubious honor of seeing me completely melt down. And even that is rare. Not saying it’s the healthy way of handling things, but I’m pretty accomplished at the art of internalizing, dealing, and moving on. Usually.

This time, however, the ‘moving on’ seems maddeningly difficult. Something I realized when I found myself still answering those inquiries as to how I’m doing with, “It’s been tough.” accompanied by a boatload of tears when what I want to say is something upbeat because it’s been a month now and I need to move on.

So why share even this much? Well, as I’ve said before, writing is my therapy. And the purpose of this blog, after all, is to share my journey. A journey not unlike many others, I’m sure. And so you’re getting a bit of everything this time around.

First, training. Jig and I ended the trialing season with a couple Final’s Points in sheep and ducks (LMAO on that one) and I think 1 point on cattle. Over winter I need to decide if I’m going to keep trialing Jig or retire her. With things already scheduled for next year I don’t have a lot of vacation to play with. Finding trials early enough in the year to get the remaining points would mean travelling south and I just don’t have the extra travel time. So the question becomes, do I keep working with Jig, take all we’ve learned and look toward 2021 Finals instead? Decisions, decisions.

And then there’s Dillon. He and I continue to have moments of brilliance and moments of …

Lately we’ve been working on getting him to understand and use his power. It’s not that he’s overly soft. He’ll stand in the sheep’s pressure all day if I let him, just begging one to pop so he can put it back, but when he needs to push from the rear and get a stubborn sheep to move, he’s just not certain how to handle that. Toward that end, we’ve been doing some chute work with me helping him, letting him know it’s okay if he has to nip one. He’s been punching with his nose, then popping back and looking at me. I don’t give him too much eye contact, keep my focus on the stock and verbally praise and encourage. I can’t overdo the praise or he gets all sorts of goofy and wiggly. The boy can be a bit immature at times but he certainly makes me smile and utterly adores me. Can’t knock either of those qualities.

Next up… Rebel Kitten. This cat. I can’t even. He’s such a character. He really deserves some screen time. It is a rarity for me to be able to work the dogs without Rebel coming along and helping out.

Lastly, Cian… it’s been tough. I’m stuck somewhere between the anger and the sadness. There are, as I would say with Cian’s epilepsy, more good days than bad, but there’s also not a day I don’t think of him and fight back tears with varying degrees of success. Being me, I lose patience with myself in short order for being a weenie. Also, being me, I’ll work my way through it and come out the other side.

The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss… you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again, but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same, nor would you want to.
                                                                                                                               

~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross & David Kessler
Continue Reading

The past couple of weeks have been tough. No doubt about it. Cian isn’t the first dog we’ve lost and he won’t be the last but, in many regards, he was the hardest. I want to take a moment to publicly thank all of you for the kind words, the private messages, the cards, the hugs, the support and the understanding. I’ve been riding the roller coaster of grief as best I can, trying not to think too much, bouncing erratically from tears to anger, most times settling somewhere in-between as I remind myself to live in the moment.

In any case, healing is coming, though it’s taking its own sweet time. I read somewhere that if you can tell your story without crying, you’re well on your way. Guess I’m not too close to that point yet, but I’ve been attempting to help it along by doing those things that always prove good for my soul.

The weekend after losing Cian we took one of our yearly family camping trips that had been planned for quite some time. Nothing like campfires, hiking, drinks, food, laughing, hours of table games, and the company of some of the most important people in my life to help reclaim my happy.

There wasn’t as much of this as usual. High winds, rain, sleet…
…and even some snow, gave us only a few short windows to enjoy sitting around a roaring camp fire.
There was, however, quite a bit of this, regardless of what Mother Nature tried to throw at us. Nothing like losing yourself in nature to soothe the soul.
And of course, there were shenanigans.
This is what happens when you don’t behave on a hike.

This past weekend, more soul food as Jig and I road-tripped to Michigan for the SEMASA trial. As usual, we got to see people we don’t see nearly often enough. There were hugs, more tears, more healing. I will admit, however, I almost lost it altogether after Jig’s first cattle run. In a very un-Jig-like fashion, Miss I-Love-Me-Some-Cows barely looked at the steers. As I headed to the re-pen after accomplishing next to nothing, I had to fight back a wave of frustration that found energy in some grief to give it even more impetus.

Here’s where being surrounded by the sort of camaraderie present at the trials I attend is a wonderful thing. The certainty that if I had to have a meltdown, the folks there would be the ones to have it in front of because they understood and would be my strength if my own faltered, made it possible for me to smother the surge of emotion. I took their strength, added in some constructive input from a good friend and what she thought was happening during our failed run, tossed in more than a few deep breaths, and created a new game plan for our next go. I’m pleased to say it was a vast improvement.

Jig and I had quite a few ups and downs over the weekend. It’s funny how things always seem worse from the driver’s seat. I felt as though Jig was being fast and pushy, not listening, and I was handling like crap. To those watching, it didn’t appear as bad. In fact, I received several nice compliments on Jig and one offer to take her off my hands if I didn’t like her. As sorely tempting as that might be at times… nah, it would never happen. And, even though I didn’t think we’d accomplish anything, we somehow managed to collect a couple finals points (one in ducks, of all things!) and take High Combined WTCH for the weekend.

When all was said and done, I felt pretty good about the weekend. Yeah, there’s a lot we still need to improve on, but we’re making progress and that’s always a good thing. One of the suggestions that made the biggest impact was for me not to come down on Jig so hard in the trial arena. I have a tendency to go straight to the Level 10 Felony correction. If, however, I remained calm but firm and kept things at, say, more of a Level 3 Misdemeanor, it made a great deal of difference in how Jig responded. It also made a great deal of difference in how I handled by keeping my stress level down.

Image result for meerkat meditating

So life, as it always will, goes on. Someday I’ll be able to tell Cian’s story without tears. Until then I need only remember…

Only in the darkness can you see the stars. ~Martin Luther King Jr.

Continue Reading

This appeared in my Facebook memories this week..

It’s hard to believe that was only a year ago. It feels like it took forever to reach that milestone. So much frustration and self-doubt. So many times I thought about throwing in the towel. I won’t stop singing the praises of those closest to me for their support, encouragement, shoulders, ears, and swift kicks in the arse whenever I said stupid things like, “I’m done.” I need to remind myself I was on a very steep learning curve. And by ‘was’ I mean ‘still am’. Jig isn’t through teaching me things yet.

Unfortunately I’m not as smart as Jig and I sometimes don’t retain lessons very well. Fully evidenced by the sound thrashing I received from Deb last weekend. Deb is allowed to pound on me. She’s one of the people mentioned in the paragraph above. Anyhow, Deb had been watching me trial and saving up all sorts of questions as to why I was doing what I was doing. The answer to which has a tendency to be something like…

She started off by asking me what I thought my problems with Jig were, to which I replied, “Mushy Theres and not taking her flanks.”

Deb smiled and replied, “No. Now let me tell you what your problems are.”

In reality, there weren’t a lot. However, being as I train alone most of the time, I have a tendency to get sloppy and probably a bit lazy. I do things without realizing it. I say things without realizing it.

Me to Jig: blah blah blah.

Deb to me: Why did you say that?

Me: …

Among other things, I accept grey in place of black and white. I’m grey — and we ain’t talking my hair, here. Jig doesn’t have mushy Theres, I have mushy directions and corrections. Or rather, mushy directions and ineffective corrections.

Perfect example: I gave Jig a Go Bye. She thought about it for a time. I repeated the command. Jig finally took it but she was rather flat and looking back at me. I took several steps forward and waggled my stick at her then looked at my sheep. Jig frowned, moved a bit more on the flank, looked back. I took several steps forward and waggled my stick at her then looked at my sheep. Jig cut in front of me to go Away instead. I gurgled something unintelligible and threw up my hands in frustration.

Image result for the definition of insanity

After which there was some discussion between Deb and I, a few pointers, some suggestions. I implemented them and after a bit of time in which Jig questioned my seriousness, I started to see the results. Jig stopped being mopey about taking my directions and wasn’t confused on what I was looking for. It’s not that I was doing anything new and earth shattering. Jig and I know this stuff. I had just let it slide.

Unfortunately, the same mistakes I was making with Jig, I was also making with Dillon and Cian. Jig has a lot of experience and a pretty big collection of tools to chose from when I’m being ambiguous. We have more history. All of which only means that she handles it better than the boys. And by ‘handle it’ I mean she guesses. A lot. The boys have a very limited toolbox and less history. Cian is more like Jig (I think he’s actually a red clone) and is easier and more forgiving when I muck things up. Dillon… not so much. He doesn’t do grey very well. When I remember to be very clear, and very black and white with him, he doesn’t watch me or come back to me. Oh, that. Yeah. Um… no more allowing that for him or Jig. That’s on me because I’ve been all sorts of confusing to my dogs of late. And, apparently, when I don’t know how to handle a situation, or can’t think of a command, I have been resorting to calling my dogs in to me.

Bad idea, that.

So, as usual, much to work on!! My brain had turned into a smoldering puddle of goo by the end of the weekend. I think I need to make myself some flashcards, or maybe some signs to hang around the arena reminding me of what I’m supposed to be doing. The biggest needs to read:

One, One, and Done.

Meaning one command, one correction, then move your feet and fix it.

Continue Reading

It’s been a long time since I left a trial feeling anything other than disheartened, slightly beaten down, and wondering why I keep throwing uncooked spaghetti at the wall. That’s not whining or a plea for sympathy, just the facts. My attitude was based solely on my mindset which, admittedly, was far from good. I was so focused on all the wrong things, I could no longer see all the good things that were happening.

If you’re a regular reader, you might remember my mentioning a good arse kicking I received from several of my friends and mentors a couple months back. Obviously I carry my brain in my arse, because that tough love served to reset my attitude and that caused a chain reaction.

This past weekend was Outback ASC’s fall trial. Along with two days of arena trials, they held a cattle farm trial. No secret Jig and I love to work cattle so I jumped at the opportunity and entered. For the first time in a long time, I went into our run not worried about a score or getting a leg, just excited to have the rare opportunity to work a larger group of cattle on something other than an arena course. Have to say, I had a blast. I’m pretty sure Jig did as well even though she took a hard kick in the pens. Usually a kick trips her trigger and it’s hard to get her to stop the fight once it ensues. This kick was enough to momentarily shut her down, and she wasn’t too keen on going back into the pens after that unless I went with her. My tough girl had her confidence a little shaken. We persevered, however, and saw it through. The icing on the cake was not only qualifying, but placing second by just two points behind a talented pair.

Second place seemed to be our theme for the rest of the weekend in cattle. It’s no longer all about the scores and placements for me, but I have to say, it felt damn good to finally be having some success. To see the training begin to pay off. Jig’s confidence returned quickly and by Sunday we even managed one of those elusive 100+ scores I had been so focused on earlier in the year. More icing and once again missing first place by a mere two points behind another very talented pair.

Oddly enough, our sheep runs weren’t so good. I’ll take most of the blame for that. I micro-managed the first run and Jig let me know in no uncertain terms exactly what I could do with that handling style. The next run we had a challenging group of sheep and I did slightly better. I think Jig was still feeling the effects of her kick, however, and wasn’t 100% in the game. By Sunday we’d both come around. I handled her like I train her, (what a concept, right?) and she worked like I knew she could on some lighter sheep who needed a bit of space.

In all honesty, I don’t even remember what the score was. I didn’t care. Crazy, but true. We were a team once again and it felt awesome. I felt awesome. Even in the areas where we failed, I saw changes I could make, training we still needed, ways to fix it instead of just kicking my toe in the dirt and going home with my head hanging.

Best of all… I had fun. And that’s what it’s all about.

Continue Reading

I was doing some website updates, transferring domain names, switching servers, panicking when I thought I lost everything… again, etc. etc. and suddenly realized it’s been over a month since my last post here. Yikes, right? But, you know…

And then there’s been this stretch of heat and humidity which are two of my most unfavorite things.

Okay, enough with the gifs, that’s not what any of us are here for.

Let’s see, short recap; my last post was about how I was talked out of benching Jig and only running her in farm trials because I wasn’t having the success I thought I wanted. Since then, a second person whose opinion I value, concurred with the first. Actually, several folks concurred. So, I’m sticking with it and with Jig because I have a lot to learn yet.

Jig has some stuff to learn as well. Stuff I should have taught her right from the start. Stuff Steve Shope helped me recognize when he was up to give his yearly clinic at the end of June. He watched me work Jig as though we were trialing, which proved to be extremely helpful. Granted, I didn’t handle her exactly like a I would at a trial, and the stock knows us both, but Steve was still able to point out several of our weaknesses. One of the biggest (outside of my handling), is that Jig doesn’t pause on her There, or pretty much any time I ask for it. I’ve likely created the monster by letting her run the lift right into the fetch. That results in me attempting to make her stop, generally at the wrong time by telling her to down, which she fights because it causes her to lose her stock, which in turn requires her to have to re-establish control, and it’s just ugly.

Under Steve’s guidance there were a few times I was able to get Jig to simply check her pace. The sheep would settle almost immediately, and didn’t even consider bolting toward the draw because Jig had them right at the edge of the bubble. It was a thing of beauty.

So, it’s back to working on some sloppy foundations for Jig. As for my handling, I need to be proactive instead of reactive, and that’s going to take time and miles.

Dillon and I had a breakthrough as well. All it took was a bottle full of rocks. All my dogs are familiar with the ‘boogy bottle’. I find the noise it makes to be a very useful training aid with some of them. I hadn’t been using it with Dillon because I didn’t think he needed it. Turns out, he kind of does, but only to remind him to get the hell out of my bubble. Seriously. He’s so bonded to me, and so much my dog, that he has a problem working at any kind of distance – until I grabbed the bottle. Now a simple shake will convince him that he needs to do what I asked instead of bouncing around and staring at me. And it’s proven to me that not only does he know the commands I thought he did, but he also knows some I didn’t think he did, like inside flanks. Yeah. Way to prove me wrong, dog.

Dill is also getting to be quite handy in tight spots. He and Jig are about as far apart as you can get in their approach to putting sheep somewhere they don’t want to go. Jig is this ball of energy with a ton of push and an attitude to back it up, and she doesn’t quite get the whole hold-the-pressure-and-let-them-move-off thing. Her approach is more like, “I said get the hell in there NOW and I meant it.”

Dillon, on the other hand, is far quieter, worlds more patient, not so pushy, and he’s willing to allow the stock the opportunity to make the right choice as he holds his pressure. Sometimes I need a bit of Jig in him, and sometimes I need a bit of him in her.

And Cian? What’s up with that boy?

Adolescence.

He’s been leaving the arena during training sessions. Sometimes to socialize if someone’s watching, and sometimes for no reason I can figure out. He comes right back and keeps working, though, so that’s a good thing. I might have attributed the behavior to the meds he’s on, if not for the fact that his litter brother (who has been visiting for a couple months) has been doing the same thing.

Like everything else, we’ll work through it.

On the seizure front, Cian’s had two breakthroughs since our last ER visit in March. One where I employed our cluster-buster protocol and spent a night with very little sleep. Not because he had more seizures, which he didn’t, but because apparently diazepam does not make him drowsy and sedate but jacks him up to the point where all he wanted to do was play. All. Night. And, yes, I had to go to work the next day. About a month later he had a second seizure. This time his post-ictal phase was nearly non-existent. In fact, within moments after the seizure he was completely normal. Although I did administer some extra meds, I didn’t feel the need to employ our CBP. Currently, he’s sporting a Fitbark on his collar as part of a 6-month study being done by UW Madison vet school, which you can read about by following this link.

So, there’s my update. No training lately because of the weather. Next trial with Jig is in August. I’ll try to post some more in between times. I also have some random photos and video clips to share. In the meantime, remember…

Continue Reading