Finding Warmth on Winter Days

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 


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


 

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

 



 

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

 


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

 

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

 

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Following the Heart


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

 

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


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

At least… I think we are.


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

 


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

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

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

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

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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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