Thursday, September 29, 2016

Back To School

Back to School, or, "Confidence comes with Experience"

All the kids were going back to school early last month. Spot and I also went back to school, too, in early to mid-August. We've not been attending daily like the kids do, but we have put in some regular weekend lesson sessions over the past few weeks. It is really helping Spot a lot in his confidence and experience level. My main goal is to get him more experiences so that we both feel ready to trial, when the time comes. I am not sure, other than Hopland, when that will be as there are so few PN trials to go to.

All the cool kids are playing with this iPhone app, called Prisma. It has some stunning effects! :)
I had thought that Spot was pretty good about taking sheep away from a stock handler ("spotter") but when you add in a lot more distance and hills, the ATV, some in-your-pocket sheep and a couple of extra dogs at a place that is not "home", it got a bit more tricky. We have been working on building Spot's confidence to lift sheep off of the stock handler. I've been enlisting any friends I can get to help me when practice on the home fields, but at "home" Spot does not seem to have any trouble with it. He is getting better and better about lifting the sheep at the lessons so I am sure we will work it out. But that is one of the things that we have been working on, over the past few weeks. His fitness level also wasn't up to par when we first started back to work in early August, after the pneumonia, but it is much better now. Next time we will be experimenting with chicken broth to try to entice Spot to drink some of the Energy Edge after his lesson. So far he has not wanted it just mixed with water the way Coal was eager to take it.

The driving is getting better and better as the experience level increases. Spot's outruns on the hills are still not quite as confident as I would like but they are coming along. I am hopeful that we will both feel prepared when our turn comes to finally go to the post after a year off of trialling. We're also working on his shedding and I think I got ahead of myself a little bit in the lessons with that but he IS shedding. I want to go back and work on some more beginner shedding, just calling him through a larger group, before we try to whittle it down too much to 4-5 head in a more trial situation scenario. The days are getting shorter for practicing at home, so I am really grateful that Spot's training has come together so well when soon we will have much less time to work sheep while winter is here.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

August Birthdays

I seem to have very good luck with boy dogs who have August Birthdays. Augie was born on August 20th. Coal on August 29th. Spot on August 22nd.

Coal just turned 10 years old on August 29, 2016. It is so hard to believe that he is ten. I am not celebrating...I wish he were turning five twice for a second time, but not ten. He is happily engaging his retirement from trials. From time to time I call him The Poodle...because he yaps. He is merry and bouncing around, apparently feeling wonderful, but he barks with joy whenever he feels the need. Yikes! :) I work him lightly to keep his brain and body in shape. He likes holding sheep for other people because he knows that job and I don't have to tell him what to do...he's on auto pilot...his favorite situation.

Coal and I were doing chores on a recent evening...I love this light!
Spot turned four years of age, on August 22, 2016. Spot is looking very mature, and bulked out like a young man coming of age. He is really working well for me and is such a character. I really love his stable, happy, solid temperament. And the way he lifts sheep...oh my. :) It has taken a Village to bring him to this point and I am most grateful...there are many folks I would include in that village. We are getting ready to run in our first few PN trials, I hope. And I also hope we will be able to move up to Open before too long.

Spot enjoying some nice cool green grass (not at our house!)

Dear Augie; I miss him so. What a grand, grand dog! :)

Humboldt County Weekend, 2

Coal and Chi were the super-swimmers

Look at that water! :)

Ryme in the Eel

Spot has no experience with swimming so he was cautious about doing more than cooling his feet.

Working with the lambs at Boggy, Spot and I were able to achieve some more success in his experience and training. The lambs have been worked by dogs but not very much. They are curious and slow. They wanted to stay together! At the end of our Saturday work session, I did a mini-International style shed and kept letting a few lambs go, creating a strong draw. I would let a few lambs go and call Spot up to hold the rest. We did this a few times and the pressure got stronger. Spot held it! Yes! We got down to just two lambs...I wondered if Spot would hold them without blowing. He did! The two lambs wanted very badly to return to their mates...but Spot kept the "gate" closed until I said he could open it. This made my whole trip worthwhile.

On Sunday, we volunteered to help with the RESDA trial at the Humboldt County Fair, in Ferndale. Our friend with the lambs was supplying the sheep for the trial. There were only 10 dogs in the trial so it was very small and it was held in a very small, dark covered arena. I was glad that I did not have a dog entered in the trial although there was a huge crowd of interested spectators, probably 150 people or more at any given time. It was very well received. Ryme helped me to do the exhaust and he did a fine job. He had trouble hearing my voice though because after every run the announcer would talk on the microphone. Finally I switched to my whistle and that worked much better. It would be awesome if this trial could move outdoors to one of the green areas on the fairgrounds in Ferndale, and that would be much better, I believe. During one of the runs, a lamb escaped, ran down the midway, out behind the race horse barns, down the race track and into the racing grandstand, before he was captured. He was given a ride back to the arena on a policeman's golf cart. Oh my. This escape could have been fraught with so much disaster. Thank goodness nothing bad happened. Anyway, when the prizes were awarded, the winning run was obviously the winning run that earned the blue ribbon and the check. We got the lambs quickly loaded, they were taken back home and then all of us who helped with the sheep and the trial, went out for a much needed adult beverage!

On Monday, after way too much excitement, we kicked back and worked dogs at Eel Rock in the morning, took the dogs to the river, and I drove home through the Avenue of the Giants (the tall Redwoods), needing to be back to work and reality on Tuesday. 

Chi works sheep

Chi has no lack of enthusiasm for her 10 years!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Humboldt County Weekend, 1

Dogs having so much fun in the Eel River on a hot day

We spent a three-day weekend up in Humboldt County, last month. The dogs got some nice sheepdog work in, they got to swim or wade (by individual preference) in the Eel River and the humans had a blast along with some combination scary, fun, and exciting times.

Coal having a moment in the Eel River. He loves to swim!

Our friend Z's doggie, Chi, also enjoying the Eel River's cool water.

Spot got some nice work in at Boggy, on some lovely sheep, older wool lambs of various breeds: cheviot, perendale, romney, and crosses of same. I love Ferndale because it is almost always sweatshirt weather there. :)

Spot working lambs at Boggy, photo by Marnie N.
Where we stayed, is a little slice of heaven. More to come, in another post. :)

Looking towards the Eel River

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


The dogs and I have been getting out and working sheep, nearly every day. Today is a rest day for us which they are agreeing to unwillingly, but they have no choice. :) Spot has bounced back from his month off of work and has not missed a beat in where he left off. In fact after a few on-the-muscle moments the first couple of sessions, he has settled in to working at least as well if not better than before he got sick.

I have to thank Marnie for the above quote. I don't know where it came from, otherwise I would credit that source. Spot and I are now working on the finer points. His basic work is mostly all good. He lacks experiences so I am working on that. We've had a couple of really good lessons. We are stretching Spot out a bit and giving him experiences that I hope will increase his confidence level. I'm asking friends to help me to hold sheep for us to simulate a trial situation. I'm working on getting us there!  Spot is starting to get it with shedding a larger group of sheep so he is ready for me to work on four or five head now, once in a while. I am not going to push it as he clearly knows what I mean when I set up a shed. Again, we are working on building experience and slowly layering on the finer points. I have started working on a look back, too.  Spot is ready to just soak up all of these experiences and I am certainly enjoying it.

It has been really fun lately to follow along with the UK National trials and to see the high standard of work that they are showcasing. Here we are again in the high season for sheepdog trials...the four UK National trials, then Soldier Hollow, the International, Meeker, our Finals. So much great work to observe, and learn from, thanks to the internet. :)

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Inspiration and Losing That Loser's Limp

Spot, "waiting for the word..."

Ryme, pleased with himself and happy after his work session
I am inspired and uplifted and humbled by friends. I had allowed myself to develop a "loser's limp". A loser's limp is an ongoing excuse where you give yourself permission to fail, or at least to not perform up to your capabilities. This definition of the loser's limp is loosely gathered from the book " That Winning Feeling!" by Jane Savoie, where I first heard of the concept, years ago.  I haven't pulled this book off the shelf in a while but I am going to read through it again. I realized recently that I had a loser's limp.  I am so grateful for my friends who have been patiently inspiring me in ongoing fashion, and finally I took some action to flush that excuse and get rid of it...mentally erasing it off of the chalk board where I had been underlining and highlighting that limp. Page 66 from that book states, this quote:  " It's not what you don't have that matters. It's what you do with what you have."  

 I am also inspired by these good dogs who continue to amaze me.

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. :-)