Photo Friday

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. And since I’ve been keeping that little Canon in my pocket, I’m starting to get a collection of daily life farm shots. Time to share some.



 

I’m labeling these next two When your chore dog… fill in the blank.

 

When your chore dog… decides to use the pull-by-the-ruff method of putting the ram back where he belongs and this is what you find when she’s done.

 

When your chore dog… thinks she’s gotten one over on you by stealing an egg when, in reality, the joke’s on her. It’s a wooden egg.

 


The snow finally crusted over enough that we can walk on top of it. So into the field for a romp with the boys.



 

 

Then it’s on to chores.


 

Finn and Linus are developing a special relationship. Linus is not particularly thrilled about that.

Finn apparently needed a better view and thought looking under the wheel barrow would work ???


Winter is finally starting to fade, temperatures are rising, days are longer, and spring is on the breeze. The air is full of change and adventure, and I find myself in some very strange territory these days. I’m excited about the coming year and what it will bring. A little scared as well. There is already a new routine forming on the farm, and I’m having to learn how to loosen my grip on some things. That’s hard for a control freak, but old dogs can learn new tricks. Sometimes it just takes a while.



Continue Reading

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

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.

Continue Reading

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*

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

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.

 

Continue Reading

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

Continue Reading

Believing to be More

A friend sent me the above text in a conversation regarding how Dillon had done at our most recent trial. Up until then, as seems to happen frequently, I had a different post all set to go. It was basically just a run down of why I haven’t written much of late and how the dogs were doing. (The answers to which are: I’m working on revamping the site and thought I’d post at the ‘reveal’ but it’s not happening as soon as I planned, Jig is semi-retired, Dillon is exceeding expectations, and Finn…

In any case, my friend’s text struck a chord with me and prompted this post instead of the original.

Dillon has been a hard dog to figure out, and I still haven’t got him 100% pegged, but I’m getting closer. A lot of folks I know would have given up on him. Some even suggested I do so, but that’s not how I roll.

It’s not that Dillon didn’t want to work or didn’t turn on as a young dog. Quite the contrary. He’s always wanted to work. He’s just always done it… differently. We had a rocky beginning because of that difference and we spent too much time fighting. That’s on me. Dillon was telling me all along that trying to force him to learn how my other dogs did was a waste of time. I needed to adjust my methods and play to his strengths, something I don’t think I truly figured out until last year. Bless his soul for sticking with me.

Truthfully though, there were times I doubted Dillon and I would ever trial. Those times, however, were always crowded out by the glimpses of talent I saw: his ability to read his stock, the way he could–and still does–get even the lightest sheep to trust him, the things he would do when I shut my mouth and waited him out to see what he was up to. I always knew there was more in him than I was giving credit for.

This year Dillon has truly amazed me. In 6 ASCA Arena trials over two weekends he earned his OTDs and STDcd, with one leg in open ducks, several placements, a HIT cattle and a MPS. None of which means jack squat to him but makes me feel pretty damn good. And over the course of those two weekends, I learned quite a bit about the boy. For instance, he’s a fairly laid back traveling companion and he’s just as laid back trialing. He has (thus far) walked into every arena as though he’s been there before, an attitude which serves to make me far more relaxed than normal.

I’ve also learned he needs to get very comfortable with something before he begins to excel at it. Sheep are definitely his wheelhouse; he sees those day in and day out. Cattle and ducks… not so much. The more he sees them, however, the more he learns about them, the better he gets. And it doesn’t seem to take long. In our first attempts to work ducks earlier this year he would watch me more than them. By the end of our first trial weekend, he was no longer watching me but watching and working his ducks. The same thing is happening on cattle. More slowly, but in a way even more dramatic. He’s gone from bouncing out of their pressure just a few weeks ago, to showing he will go to head and hit a heel. That second is something I honestly never thought he’d do. This past weekend was the first time I ever saw him even think about it. Not only think, but try. Three or four times. His first attempt was high and got him kicked, but the failure didn’t shut him down. Yes, he was a bit more thoughtful after that, and our next run wasn’t at all good, not entirely his fault. By the third run, however, he went for another heel when the cattle needed a more compelling reason than just an open gate to leave the take pen.

I have always felt our mental attitude and the energy we put out affects our dogs, just as theirs affects us. Our moods can often dictate our success, or lack thereof. Even though I had doubts… and maybe it wasn’t Dillon I doubted, as much as my ability to work through some of our issues… I always believed Dillon had something. My friend is right in that regard. I haven’t always believed I could do him justice, but I’m beginning to.

Thanks to Tracey Mc for the images from That’ll Do ASC’s July 4th trial.

Continue Reading

Lambs & More

The current Covid situation means I’m home full-time for lambing for the first time ever. That’s one of a couple silver linings. There are also many depressing aspects to the stay-at-home quarantine. I try to keep from thinking too much about those. Dwelling on what we can’t control isn’t very good for the soul. Most days I can keep from succumbing. Cloudy, wet, cool days when I can be too much in my head… maybe not so much. We’ve already determined ‘in my head’ is not a good place for me to hang out.

Which is why it’s a good thing I have the dogs and livestock to occupy me even in those moments when I don’t feel up to being occupied.

This little guy was one of a pair born to a first time mom. She’s being really good with his brother but, as sometimes happens with first timers, she didn’t realize they were both hers to raise. I’m calling him Pita, even though he’s really not. He took to the bottle straight away and is doing really well with a minimal amount of fuss.
And even though I don’t often name lambs, though other people have been known to name them for me, this duo were the first to arrive and demanded to be called Salt & Pepper. If any lamb is going to cause problems, it is one of them. They’ve already caused me to put up additional fencing to keep them in the maternity ward.
This is the second year I’ve used Cello, a Barbados ram, and I love not only the personality of the lambs, but the coloring — getting both brown and white Barb marked lambs.

Then we have a bunch of red babies, with or without white, and two solid browns courtesy of our solid brown ewe.

We’re down to just two more ewes left to lamb. Despite the issues that can crop up, lambing is one of my favorite times of the year. Mainly because there is no greater stress reliever than watching a bunch of lambs playing. The next nice day we get, I’m going to plant myself in a chair to just sit and watch their antics. I plan on taking Finn with me so he can learn how to relax a bit around livestock.

Finn gives ‘intensity’ a whole new definition. Let’s see, there are the sheep, of course, the chickens, Rebel Kitten, and, apparently, trimming trees. Something we discovered the day we took the clipper along on our daily walk-about to trim some of the branches hanging in the trail.

Finn was quite obsessed with the whole routine and would happily gather up all the branches, no matter their size.

He also attempted to bite off some of the tiny saplings we were thinning out. I’m not sure he believed Dave was doing it correctly.

I have to say, Finn is a pretty cool dog and I can’t thank Becky enough for giving me this opportunity. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of pushing a young dog as driven and as mentally strong as Finn is. Thankfully I have a friend and mentor whose opinion I value greatly to remind me how young Finn is and how unwise that would be. Finn has shown me what he has to offer, it’s up to me to take the time to develop that potential. Taking time means putting in the time on the groundwork. You can’t build a very good house on a shaky foundation. A lesson you think I would have learned by now.

As far as Jig and Dillon, we haven’t gotten in too much training over the past week, mainly due to a strong, cold wind off the lake. Makes being out in the field just this side of miserable even when the sun is shining. Hopefully Spring settles in soon. If I have to be home 24/7 I’d like to be able to work my dogs, even if I can’t be doing it in the company of the folks I most enjoy.

Continue Reading

Dancing in the Rain

You would think this forced quarantine would give me more time to write and more to write about. Turns out, when I have a lot of free time I also have a lot to fill it with. There’s a long list of chores on the side of the fridge waiting for decent weather and time, things like fixing fences, rehanging gates, cleaning the barn, spreading manure… And when the weather isn’t conducive to those chores, there’s plenty on my rainy day list. Also, I have to admit, it took me a while to wrap my head around the current situation. I’m not incredibly social, but I do have a tribe and I miss getting together with them, sharing some drinks, food and laughter, and working our dogs, or talking about working our dogs, or venting about life in general. So while it’s great to be getting a taste of what I can (hopefully) look forward to some day when I get to ‘retire’, it’s also a bit depressing to be doing it with only virtual camaraderie.

I guess I can take solace in the fact we’re all in the same boat.

One of the events cancelled for me when all this hit was a trip to Cow Camp with Dillon. I was really looking forward to it. Not only because it was a road trip and week of working cattle alongside one of my closest friends, but because I was really anxious to see how Dillon did. I still suspect I’m reading him wrong and there’s more going on than I give him credit for.

That’s become more clear thanks to the virtual trialing group I’ve joined, the brainchild of Jaqueline Tinker at The Instinctive Australian Shepherd. Jaquleine posts a new course to the MeWe group each week. We set them up as best we can and video our runs, posting our best attempts. We’re coming up on the third week. Jig and Dillon did respectably the first week given my sheep were off the wall frisky and we were a but rusty. Last week… not so much.

However, going back and watching my videoed attempts really serves to highlight areas that need work, which gives me more focus when training. In Jig’s case, I need to figure out what happened to her away flank which seems to have disappeared entirely. For Dillon it’s rate, rate, rate. He’s got a bit of what I call the Energizer Bunny Syndrome: he keeps going and going and going…

You won’t see that in the following clip, mostly because I resorted to lying him down. What you will see is some of what I mentioned earlier–the things he does that I don’t give him credit for. From the beginning of the split to when he got them back together I wasn’t giving him any commands. He made the mess, it was up to him to fix it. The cool thing, from my original viewpoint, was watching his eyes. He only glanced my way to see where I was, otherwise he was watching the sheep and trying to figure out how to get them grouped again. I really need to pay more attention to moments like this and stop attempting to mold him against his strengths.

And what about Finn? A week or so ago the boy accompanied Dillon during chores. The sheep were, as always, eager to get their food and mobbing the wheelbarrow so I had Dillon push them out of the barn. I didn’t pay much attention to Finn because up to that point he’d shown far more interest in the chickens than the sheep. No sooner were the sheep out, however, than Finn darted past me, went around them all and brought them right back in. I managed to avoid getting trampled by becoming one with the gate post and as soon as the sheep were past, stepped in front of Finn to check him up. As fate would have it, I had recently washed my chore jacket which meant emptying my pockets and they’d yet to be refilled meaning I didn’t have a lead handy. Fortunately, I can still carry Finn so I scooped him up and lugged him into the barn. The whole time his eyes were on the sheep and his ears were doing a fine impersonation of Jig’s crack ears. I knew then the fire had been lit.

This clip is from the end of his first formal session on sheep. It started out a tad rockier than I expected. You may notice I had to resort to the boogy bottle. Not something I’d normally do with a not quite 6 month old, but Finn’s a bit of a hard pup and he’s more mentally mature at his age than most males I’ve had. We’ve been doing a little off-stock work, giving to my pressure, down, that’ll do… nothing too excessive or demanding.

Yeah.

Well, he’s told me he’s ready for more. Don’t worry, I’ll be keeping in mind how young he is.

Stay safe, everyone! I’m hoping we come out of this coronavirus stronger than we went in, and looking forward to the day we can all get together and do the things we enjoy.

Continue Reading