Saturday, April 14, 2018

March Came in Like a Lion

While February 2018 was "precariously dry" as I wrote in my journal, March came in like a lion, precisely on March 1st. We had rain and wind, and rain and wind again. Raining so much it became hard to work the dogs and the sheep got stressed. One of our Scotties got really sick but with care and medications she pulled through. Sometimes you wonder why Mother Nature has to do it all at once?

Mr. Technicolor continues to grow... (photo by Barb McP)
We went to Sonoma Wine Country, and we went to Zamora; two Open runs at each trial, and all four runs, RTs. No scoreboards in this post. :-) At least I got these pictures of the boys at Zamora before I left for home:

I couldn't help feeling a little disappointed, but I've been telling myself that I will not get really upset over these spring trials, as I knew they would be really hard. In three of the four runs, Spot got out to the sheep. That is huge. In two of the runs, we got the sheep at least partway down the field. Lots of the teams could not do that. Each trial has its tricky bits, Sonoma has the draws and Zamora just has the immense course. Both have the range ewes who are not Spot's forte. Still, his outruns are improving, and we are both less nervous than last year at this time. We are trying. I know how much work I have put in with the lessons and practicing and trying to analyze our best strategies, and pretty much don't care what anyone else thinks. March was hard on me. The cold and wet weather seemed to exacerbate my foot and leg pain to the max, again. I made an extra visit for acupuncture. Super grateful for that help.  Super grateful also, for the friends who provide feedback and support on the sheepdog journey. Gloria sent me the Teddy Roosevelt quote, "the man in the arena." OK, so I'm the woman on the field with a dog (LOL) but it does seem to fit:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

February Pics and Valentines Pt. Pleasant

These were my pics from February. It was still very dry and we were worried about another drought. Sunny and warm, a lot of the time. Pleasant, and good for dog work, but worrisome..
A beautiful evening at 7 Oaks, and my new pickup :-)

Beautiful Santa Rosa evening skies

One of the seven

Ryme pursues his new hobby - hunting gophers

Big bro and little bro

Cap and Jerry the llama, in the background

Little Bro is catching up to Big Bro

Mr. Technicolor

Cap and his real brother, Leo
Cap got to see his litter brother Leo, again, for the first time since they were eight weeks old. They disliked each other right away. LOL. Typical teenagers, but both good looking boys. Leo is a lot bigger than Cap and is a rough coat; he is one handsome dude.

A gift of love from friends in memory of a lost friend and her dog

We went to the February Valentines Pt. Pleasant sheepdog trials. Spot and I got a score, both days. It was another round of confidence-building.  Saturday's run was our best. I sent Spot to the right, and for the first time in forever, I did not need to give any additional whistle support to get him out to the sheep. It was pretty exciting for me. We finished the course - which included one pass through a Maltese cross -- with 80 points out of 100.
Sunday's run was not quite as good but we did OK and  Spot worked hard for me. An added second pass through the Maltese made things much more complicated and difficult and it was the deal-breaker for many teams. We managed to finish the Maltese but did not have time to finish the single, before time ran out. We got 74 points out of 110. Still, I was very happy.

The Spencers' winter trial series was super helpful in allowing us to work out our trial routine and just get more comfortable with going to the post again and again. I am super grateful for this opportunity although I know putting on these trials is a ton of work.

Between going to the winter trial series, and in between, fitting in lessons approximately twice a month, I felt like I was doing what I could to prepare for the bigger trials coming in March and April. It seemed like we were getting our routine down, Spot and I were both more relaxed, and his outruns were certainly improving.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Cap is 7 Months

...and other happenings...

Cap turned seven months on January 21. He really thinks he is something! He IS something, but I feel like I need to wait longer to really work him on the sheep. Cap is very keen and shows nice stuff...but he is still so puppyish otherwise. Gloria took these three photos of him, while we were at the Pt. Pleasant sheepdog trial:

I will continue to take him out to go around sheep every so often, when I am feeling up for it and when there is somebody around for safety backup (just in case I can't catch him on my own, and just in case I would fall down in the mud or something!). So far he looks really nice and I am anxiously awaiting for him to be old enough to train (soon).

The oldest (Coal) and the youngest (Cap).
I liked this photo of Coal and Cap better in black and white. Coal's eyes are shining so brightly; he is still a crazy dude despite his self-imposed semi-retirement.

I had an abundance of riches for my birthday. I took the day off work and we were blessed with a sunny day in which I had a plan to work dogs with friends (I know that will come as a shock !). LOL.  Then some of us went out for Mexican food for dinner. All in all a great time.

On the heels of my birthday, Gloria came for a visit and to work dogs. Ryme and I enjoyed playing setout crew so that she could practice some outruns. It was very foggy, first thing in the morning, which made it hard to see anything very far away but it was interesting for photos. 

Ryme setting sheep


Ryme is now nine years old (how did that happen?) but he really is my right hand man for chores and little jobs. He seems to know just what I want. He has really taken to setting out sheep for others to practice outruns. And when I want to sort sheep to work, he is stellar. It is super to see him so happy and enjoying his work.

After all the upsetting things in 2017, I am just super grateful to be in a new year, and enjoying 2018 with my dogs being happy and healthy. Here's to the year of the Dog!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Fires

It has been almost four months, now, since our county and more of Northern California, caught on fire, on October 9, 2017.

I have not really felt like I could write about it. People from outside our community, however, have asked me questions so that they can understand and know what happened. I was not personally affected; I was not burned out nor even evacuated, and certainly I experienced no loss of loved one, or animals. I was one of the very lucky ones. Yet, we are all wounded by it, and life will never be the same. I am ready to at least write down my experience. It was truly a life-changing experience and unlike anything I had ever experienced.

5:00 AM on Monday, my co-worker texted me. They have police scanners, and had been up all night. She said that "Sonoma County was on fire". I stumbled out of bed, trying to figure out why I smelled smoke in my bedroom. It had been SO windy overnight, like 70 mph gusts - more than anything I'd ever experienced here. Ryme had barked all night. I could not figure out why; he was not sick. Now I suddenly knew why. That dog is wired into something else. Wow.

Talking with my coworker on the phone at 5:30 AM. Trying to find the KSRO radio station on my radio, and any news online. There wasn't any. Starting to panic. The smoke was bad. I decided I'd better get dressed ASAP  and get ready to bolt. My brother called. I literally talked to him while I was in the shower. I was getting really  nervous. Dressed, I went outside at daybreak. My neighbor across the street was outside in front of his house, and we compared notes.  Smoke was everywhere. We both thought we'd be OK, but I went inside and started preparing go-bags, just in case after my neighbor showed me how to turn off the main gas valve to the house, in case we had to leave. Oh my.

We learned that a friend was among the missing after she and her husband had to evacuate. Others evacuated, some to the Fairgrounds, some to friends in other areas. Some sections of my town were suddenly evacuated because of fears that another branch of the fires would jump Petaluma Hill Road. I was afraid but also felt safer at home with the dogs if I could stay. That evening, Cosmo, our LGD came over to stay with me for a week. Our sheep were still in harm's way, which was really worrisome, but at least Cosmo got out.

It was a very anxious and stressful day -- the first of many. Dreadful reports came in all day - terrifying. Another friend evacuated herself, her sheep and her two LGDs, by herself in the middle of the night. The sheep and LGDs went to our other sheep field, across town, which was at least at that point a safe place to be. That's where I planned to go, if I had to evacuate, and from there I could re-group. At least the dogs and I would be safe.

It was nearly impossible to work but I checked in with work and co-workers and managers. My big comcast internet was spotty but my good old landline slow DSL still worked. I was so glad I had kept my landline and that DSL. At least I could get out to the outside world. My cell worked as did all my other utilities which was not the case for many other folks. I stayed put. Friends from far away were urging me to go...but I was safe here...I did not want to go unless I had to, with 5 dogs...and everything was working here. I stayed, and worried about our sheep...did not get undressed and slept fitfully in my clothes, with bags packed by the door. Everyone signed up for Nixle alerts and my phone went off constantly.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Someone got in to feed our sheep in harm's way. They were still alive. Whew. That place had not burned. The house was still standing; it was a huge relief.

I learned of friends who evacuated and lost their homes, but got out safely. Two couples, each of which were part of my very first job in Santa Rosa, each lost homes but got their pets out. Each of them had an elderly pet, however, who did not fare well with evacuation and ended up being put to sleep soon after.

Our friend whose wife and her dog were missing, still had not found them. Heartbreaking.

Again I tried to work but was so distracted. At least all my services worked, and comcast got us back up and running, so I was very lucky. I did not leave the house. The windows were all closed due to the smoke. I felt badly for Cosmo being outside but he was a trooper. He was a champ. I left the garage door open so he could come in the garage but I think he was afraid of the concrete floor.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017
An emotional roller coaster day. After successfully evacuating our sheep with the help of total strangers (more to come about that) we found out that our friend's wife and her dog were confirmed deceased in the fire. Heartbroken.

The livestock rescue. The smoke was thick in the air but folks were jumping into action to get horses and other livestock out of the paths of the fires. I got in touch with some folks via Facebook who were hauling animals. I asked for help and I got it. They were mobilizing from Sonoma County Fairgrounds. They told me to go there and I would get help so I did. I literally stood on the street corner at the south end of the fairgrounds and got dozens of calls and texts from folks willing to haul. Finally it was arranged, but Animal Control would have to escort us. I jumped into a pickup with some folks I did not know but they knew they were to pick me up. We waited for AC about 20 minutes and these guys were getting antsy. They said they could get us thru the barricades, so I called AC and told them we were going in. She told me good luck and let her know if we didn't get in. Off we went. I just sat in the back seat of the big pickup and let the guys do the talking with the deputies, and they waved us through.

From there it was eerie and quiet except for the backhoes and helicopters working feverishly to stop the fire from the Glen Ellen area from mixing with the fire at Anadel and then marching down into the rest of Santa Rosa. Bennett Valley road was lined with tractor trailers who had hauled in the backhoes and helicopters and other heavy equipment. The mountain was burning. It was a surreal experience. They were cutting trenches and setting backfires and dropping big loads of water. Unreal. We got into where the sheep live, and they were spooked. Luckily there were 5 of us including me and we got them walked into the trailers without too much trouble. A couple of the  Scottish Blackface were spooked and did not want to load; I told the guys, if we have to leave a couple of them, I will just pull out a bale of hay and leave without them. I did not want to jeopardize the rest. They were steadfast, however, and got the sheep loaded. These guys were experienced and had been hauling horses out of the area, all night. They did speak of one set they had to leave behind, who would not load. They left them in a large open arena that had firebreak and they left water and hay. In some cases that's all they could do. We got out. It was so bizarre. I gave them directions to get across town to the other field. The traffic was miserable but we made it. The guys were elated having made a successful trip. They dropped out our sheep and hurried on to another rescue; they would not accept any money for fuel despite our pleas to offer them cash and our profuse thank yous. I sat exhausted in a chair at the pasture and said to the friend who came to pick me up, "what have we just done?" It was so good to know that our sheep were not going to burn up. That was the turning point.

Thursday October 12, 2017
...was a blur...trying to work but very distracted.

We did evening chores feeding the sheep. Our evacuees seemed somewhat indignant about their less than 5-star accommodations  but they were alive and that's all I cared about.

The smoke was still awful.

Friends who had been evacuated, dropped by with extra dog food for Cosmo and my dogs. They looked gaunt and worried, which was understandable.

Every time we heard a noise, we jumped. Helicopters and air tankers and all kinds of planes flew overhead constantly. They were a welcome sight because it meant somebody was doing something and making some progress. I listened to KSRO as much as I could stand it. I never shut my phone off. In fact I have never put my phone back on silent since these days. I am too afraid.

Friday October 13, 2017
Still mandatory evacuation at the place where the Scotties live. Some people snuck in to that area and were staying in, to defend their homes. The fires were not far away but they were staying away. Thankfully, the winds predicted Wednesday night did not materialize. The firebreaks that I saw being cut, did their job. Huge gratitude.

I was normally good in the day light, but when darkness came each night, I got anxious. It was reassuring, actually, to have Cosmo here. I don't think anyone would try to loot at my house with him here.

Saturday October 14, 2017
Feeling more productive. I got some hay for our evacuated sheep at the feed store. We had just bought a ton of hay but that was in the evacuated area, so I had to get a few bales more to feed them now. The gal at the counter at the feed store said everyone is in the same boat. I was just thankful to find the feed store open and that they had hay to sell to me.

There were lots of helpers, out helping. A huge PG&E base camp was set up just west of the casino in a dairy cow pasture. The National Guard base camp was set up at Ghilottis' yard. I was feeling more positive due to the activity and all the helpers. Every other vehicle on the road was a fire engine from out of town. It was very good to see. At Wal-Mart and Home Depot, all the major insurance companies were setting up their trailers to begin helping folks with their claims.

Sunday October 15, 2017
I spent most of the morning grooming Cosmo, since he was here.  He was such a good boy. The dogs are getting crazy without much work or activity. I let Cap in to interact with Cosmo and they got along well.

We were still not out of the woods; still waiting for the  mandatory evacuation to be lifted where our sheep normally live. Still nervous at any noise, still dreading the Nixle alerts...still very smoky.

Monday October 16, 2017
The mandatory evacuation orders where lifted about 12;00 Noon. Yes!

We went out to dinner. It was quite a celebration. Cosmo got picked up and got to go home. Now to get the sheep hauled back home.

Tuesday October 17, 2017
Cap had an appointment at the vet to get his vaccine. My vet was located in the fire area, just near the KMart that burned down. First the vet tech called and cancelled the appointment, saying they had no vaccines. They had been closed for a week due to no power to the area, and everything in their fridge was ruined. Then later they called me back and told me to come. They got vaccines from other clinics in the area, which I guess the drug rep had arranged by calling in a bunch of favors. Hooray, for more cooperation among folks. Wow. so we went for our appointment. The staff were so happy to see a puppy. Many of their clients had been burned out and lost their homes and their pets were missing or gone. We were a happy spotlight in their day, almost pet therapy, in a way. One of the techs lost her home and could not find her cats. Another tech was evacuated and near the fire zone. It was really hitting hard.

The burned out buildings were surreal, near the vet's office. The gun shop burned down and they had a big taxidermy bear inside, apparently, which did not burn up. He was standing there among the ruins of the charred building. How? It was so random, as to which buildings burned and which ones didn't, even adjacent to one another.

The standard question is, "Are you good?" This can mean that you got out but lost your house, or it can mean you escaped unscathed, or it cam just mean that you survived.  Lots of emotions. Survivor guilt. Gratitude. Bewilderment.

Wednesday October 18, 2017
It was a quiet day, in which I never left the yard...which I needed, I guess. It was very smoky. I am trying not to go outside, but it comes inside. Taking advil and some herbal cough stuff which helps, and breathe easy tea.

The dogs were going crazy but it's also the first day that we've had morning fog, since the fires (and it's very welcome).

Thursday October 19, 2017
I had an acupuncture appointment. She treated me for stress, trauma, breathing difficulties.

Rain!!! from about 4 PM-on, and some overnight. Fabulous!!!

Friday October 20, 2017
Overcast finally. The rain cleared things up a bit.

Took my dogs for a run. They have not worked for two weeks.  Still trying to arrange transport of our evacuated sheep back home.

Saturday October 21, 2017
I went to Zamora for a lesson, which led me through all the burned-out areas near Sonoma. Oh my. It is so overwhelming and sad. My trainer said that he has never seen me so stressed. My focus to work Spot was not very good but it was great to get out. The Stornetta Dairy. Oh My God.

Sunday October 22, 2017
Our sheep got hauled home. Yay! I was so happy.  The friend who hauled them was so very generous. I am so grateful and thankful. The cooperation among folks has just been astounding.


We are still in very deep sadness about the loss of our friend and her dog. There is a Celebration of Life planned for February 17th.

I am so glad I kept my landline and the associated, although slow, DSL.  There are other safety lessons to be learned in all of this. I have not turned my mobile phone off in four months. If it wakes me up at night, so be it. I will go back to sleep. Every text could be a potential Nixle alert and I will not get past that. Everyone should have a phone (either landline or mobile or both) in their bedroom at night; it is just a safety thing. Don't be isolated. Also, have a plan of where you are going to meet family members if you have to evacuate. Even more organic than that, where will you evacuate?  If you have dogs, can you possibly leave collars on them at night? If they have collars on, they will be easier to throw into the vehicle if you have to leave in a hurry. Maybe even practice and rehearse, "loading up" in  a hurry where you pretend to be excited and worried. It could save a life. What about important documents? What do you need?

I am forever grateful to the folks who hauled our sheep and to everyone who pitched in and helped in any way. This tragedy really did bring out a lot of good in people.

We will never be the same. It was a life-changing experience.

Friday, January 26, 2018

New Year's Trial

We went to the New Year's Trial at Spencers again, in early January. Here are the scores.

Happy to report that once again Spot and I got a score, both days. The first day we did not finish the course, but the second day, we did. All good. I think his confidence level is increasing (at least in that venue).

The first day's course included the full shed-pen-single, so the scores listed above for Saturday are out of 110 possible. The second day had more dogs so the course was shed-pen for a possible 100 points.

I still have to help Spot on the outrun with a whistle or two. It is coming along. Our fetches and at-hand work were good. I am still struggling with the driving which is puzzling but we are working on it. Sometimes his driving is the best component (such as at Hopland).

I am so grateful to have this small winter trial series to just get out there and do it. Going to the post multiple times is so helpful.  We've also had a few lessons on the hills at Zamora, which is also helping greatly. I'm feeling enthused and looking forward to a much better year in 2018 than last. After all once the Chinese Lunar New Year arrives, it will be the year of the dog! LOL

Just a quick post for now. I have other posts in mind but have not had time to complete them. :-)

Monday, December 18, 2017

Jingle Trial

We went to the Jingle sheepdog trial at Point Pleasant Ranch near Elk Grove in early December. My goal is just to get to the post, whenever we can, and try to work on some of the things we've learned over the past few months in order to help  Spot to be successful.

It was a very constructive experience for us and I was so pleased to be able to finish the course on both runs and get a score. It is amazing how good it feels to be able to complete the run before the clock runs out. We were not competitive in the HA points but we were respectable. More than that, I felt like we put into play some of the advice we have been getting from the experts who have been advising us, and it sure seems to help. There are lots of holes in our work and many things to practice and improve ... but there is no better way to find all that out other than just putting in the time at the post. I am very grateful that the trial hosts are willing to have these trials!

Jingle Trial scores

We are into the darkest part of winter, and the shortest days. Some weeks it is hard to get out and practice on the sheep at all, during the week. The boys have been very patient about being cooped up at home but they do love an outing on the weekends, when we get one!

Sad, work from home dogs...

Happy dogs on the weekend!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

July Pics

These pics are what remains from my July 2017 folder. I am having serious challenges keeping up with things this summer but I am enjoying it...all but the heat.

Sheep wrangling at its finest (photo by Jill H.)

Spot and I (and to a lesser degree, Ryme and I) were the sheep wranglers for an awesome training clinic near Ferndale (photo by Jill H.).
This cowboy came home from the Farmers Wife Barntique!

Coal looking handsome as always

Spot and I working in July (photo by Gloria A.). Truly I am trying to stand up straighter, really I am.