Saturday, July 23, 2016

Spot is Back to Work...

Spot is back to work. I am super grateful.

We had our much-anticipated veterinary re-check this past week, and Spot got an exam and chest xrays. He was pronounced, "spotless", and the veterinarian was quoted as saying, "turn him loose." Yes maam!

There is no guarantee that whatever it was, won't come back. But in talking with other folks whose dogs actually had foxtails in their lungs, those dogs were much more ill than Spot was. I am very hopeful.

His first couple works have been a little bit ragged and his flanks are a bit tight. But overall he is working great for me again and I can't wait to get him in a little bit better shape so that we can move forward again towards our goals of being ready to trial in the Fall and after that.

Mr. Coal also had a re-check at the vet. She felt an enlarged spleen on Coal upon palpation, three weeks ago when Coal had his annual exam which happened to coincide with Spot being sick. We decided to re-check Coal when Spot had an appointment this past week to come back into the vet. She said that the spleen felt smaller than it did three weeks ago. Whew. But she wanted to xray his abdomen just to be sure. The xray showed no masses on the spleen and the margins of it were nicely defined. There is no reason, at this time, to move forward with other diagnostics such as an ultrasound. My vet will check him again in December when Coal is due for a vaccine.

Since his spleen was good, I asked Dr. Joy to check Coal's front feet which have been very lame. He has had swollen and off-again-on-again sore front feet for some time. Since he already had one xray on the invoice, it didn't cost much more to add another view and she got an xray of his front feet that told us a lot. The feet are not particularly arthritic so she feels that his swelling and lameness is inflamed soft tissue. That is something we can work with. I started him on some Metacam and he is walking more soundly already. I don't want to keep him on Metacam but it is a dramatic enough improvement that I can totally see that working on keeping his inflammation down is going to help a lot. Whew! There are also some other things we can do including supplements and therapies.

I'm glad that there is a little bit of July still left. :-)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Mid Summer Night

Here are the boys on a July evening when I go to do chores.

Cosmo, The Magnificent

Ryme. I liked the colors in this photo.

Coal, aka water monkey, or Mr. Monk, enjoying some cool off time.

Spotto, of the big tongue.
I'm sorting off the oldest two ewes to supplement them with some alfalfa pellets (actually they sort themselves off now, after a couple days of this routine). These two are eight years old and starting to show their age. We are not feeding hay to the others, yet. There is still some dry pasture and they have some protein supplement to lick. They are all still in very good shape. They are not bred or anything so we can wait. We're assessing it week to week but will probably have to start feeding hay soon, or certainly if the sheep start to get worked more.

One more day of antibiotics for Spot.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sheep and Down Time

I got to visit these 5 fab guys recently.
When I visited our five white wethers recently, it was nice to see them so fat and happy. You can't see it in this photo but they came up to lie down and chew their cud just a few feet away from where we were sitting and enjoying a glass of wine at the end of the day on the porch. :) It's so nice to have social sheep.

They are such a nice set to use for working young dogs, which leads me to my next topic. As a postscript to my recent "Quandary" post, we recently saw a really nice young adult BC female who has had a little training but is certainly just very nice "right out of the box", i.e. with few to no commands. She balances, has nice open flanks, the beginnings of a stop and a call-off, just lovely. This little female's owner bought her as a baby puppy. It really is the luck of the draw when you pick a puppy out of a litter at a young age but this little bitch is perfect for a novice/beginner handler.  I'll look forward to seeing them working at the local events.

Until Spot is declared fit to work again, I have had a lot of down time. I am alternating between cleaning and yard work, and just taking some R&R time to kick back. Once necessitates the other, I guess. :) This morning's chore: the garage (and still much to be done there).  Spot seems to be feeling fine; he is eating, and wants to play and run. This is the latest version of  "Spot's progress." I'm trying to keep his activity from expanding into over-exertion, which is why I am not supposed to work him on the sheep. I almost think that some quiet controlled sheep work would be better than some of the stuff he does in the back yard. He is still on twice a day antibiotics until mid to end of next week. Fingers crossed.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Happiness Is...

Happiness is... empty dog food bowls. Meaning: everyone ate their meal and no one is sick, or has a fever. Yes!

Gratitude for what is positive. Today is the first day with only one antibiotic instead of two.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Waiting Game

We're playing the waiting game, around here. In one day, Spot will be finished with the first of the two bottles of antibiotics that were prescribed a week ago. In one more week, he will be finished with the other bottle of antibiotics. We are waiting to see if his illness (pneumonia brought on by an unknown cause - an aspirated foxtail? an aspirated something else? an infection? what? ) will recur if he is off the antibiotics. If nothing else happens, we have a vet appointment scheduled for two weeks from now, to repeat the chest x-rays. It is a waiting game. He looks fine and appears to feel fine. He is eating and wants to play, and clearly really wants to to work; it's "Spot's progress" of a different kind. I am not supposed to work him for fear of over-exerting him and making that thing move in his lungs, that is if there is a thing at all, although the veterinarians saw something on the xrays (but it sure did not scream at me, "hey! I am a foxtail!" but I am not the one with a DVM).  I miss working him, very much. I am letting him walk the sheep in, at night. That means, a dog appears in the field and the sheep go to the gate. I open the gate, the sheep go in. The chore is complete. Poor Spot. We count our blessings; things could be much, much worse. Everyone has been so kind about this, reaching out and continuing to ask about Spot. We are very grateful. 

In this photo from a few weeks ago, Spot and I were working on driving a large group of sheep. This is not what we are doing now. I'm hoping that we will be back to this in a few weeks.

Sunday, June 26, 2016


Sometimes it's all about working the dogs and making progress in their confidence level.

Sometimes it's about enjoying their company in the shade of a large tree on a weekend morning, when all is well.

Most of the time, it is both.

A Quandary

This post is about something that I and others have struggled with for a while. It is not about me or my current dogs but dogs that I see and am acquainted with. [Actually it could have been about me, with Spot when he was young but for now at least Spot and I are getting along. I have had to learn several special and important lessons with Spot but that learning process is the topic of the "Spot's Progress" labeled posts over the past couple of years! :) It could have easily been about Chiefie and me, way back when.]

The quandary is this: a person buys a young dog or a puppy, or even breeds one and retains a puppy from the litter. Then when that puppy is old enough to start on the sheep, or even just "try it out" as we often do at 5-6 months or so, it is very apparent that this puppy is way "too much dog" for what is often a beginner handler, to handle and train.

Those first few works, or even the first couple of months of training, and the approach that is taken, are SO important.

And besides training the dog, what about the handler? He/she has to learn a whole new set of rules for  working with the super-keen dog.

What does this person do? It is a huge quandary. They don't know enough to know what to do, or who to ask to help them. They only know that the cute little puppy has suddenly changed into something they had not reckoned with. It is a super-keen, fast-flying, sheep (possibly eating)-machine. They are scared that the sheep will knock them down, with puppy flying right behind the sheep. It is all bewildering and happens all wayyyy.......... toooo fast.

Or, the puppy has something physically wrong with it, and after that problem is corrected, it comes "back" to its work with so much vigor that the handler is taken aback by the intensity that has developed. This was the case with my Augie, years ago, who had intestinal surgery to repair a problem that had apparently been brewing (but I did not know about as he was so stoic). After his surgical recovery, he came on like gangbusters, and eventually without the proper resources to help us, I quit trying to work sheep with him. :(

Even the more experienced, (for lack of a better word, "intermediate") handler like myself will take a step back and say "whoa...this puppy is not at all like the other few that I have started".  There might even be two pups in a litter who are night and day. One is easy, one is hard. The handler says, "I need help for the hard (for lack of a better term) one." But where to find it? There are trainers. How to find the right one? How to get into the rotation with someone who is appropriate?  Clinics are great if with the right trainer. Clinics do not, however, always happen in the right time frame or geographic location to help us when the timing is right for our pup. And what happens when the clinic has ended?

For some reason, I am often asked to help people find dogs or pups. I am not exactly sure why I am asked but I guess it is perceived that I can network with the sheepdog folks. :) It's something that I approach, now, very warily because then if the dog or pup turns out to be gangbusters, then in my heart I feel responsible (even though intellectually I know I am not as no one can predict how a sheepdog puppy is going to turn out).

Meanwhile, I have no answer. I know the trainers that I prefer and the methodology that I see working for me and that methodology keeps the dogs in contact with the sheep despite the pup's over-enthusiasm. I know that I am extremely grateful for the opportunities that I have had to work with some of the greats in the sheepdog world, for Spot's advancement.  But it seems like over and over again, in the past year or so, I have seen and talked with folks who are experiencing this quandary. I am understanding in great degree, now, why people buy started and trained dogs, or even pups who have been put on the sheep at least a few times, to assess what their basic approach may be.

Totally unrelated, below is a picture of Coal that I snapped with my phone on the summer solstice, a few days ago. Coal was easy to start but not necessarily easily categorized as easy or hard to train. He has a lot of eye which for a beginner made him both easy and hard. We went round and round and even "to the woodshed" (figuratively - not literally) a few times. I had a really great trainer helping me with him - one of the very best in the world. I was not ready to learn everything that Bill tried to help me with Coal but we did get there.

Coal on the Summer Solstice, 2016