Saturday, April 30, 2016

Until a Few Days Ago

Chiefie portrait from November 2015, by Marnie N.
Until a few days ago Chiefie was having fun, as much as a 14+ year old dog can have. This week, I had to take him to the vet because he did not eat and had a fever, and we got some bad news. Through xrays and an ultrasound, we discovered that he has a mass on his spleen and on his gall bladder. Those masses could be surgically removed, but I do not feel he is a candidate for this surgery.  He is anemic due to the spleen issue as well. I have talked it over with the veterinarians and I am very sad to acknowledge that this means we are coming near to the end of our time together. I don't want to prolong his situation and I certainly don't want those masses to burst, or even more importantly, for him to be in pain. For some unknown reason, he was also having some pretty major back pain, which we now have controlled. We are enjoying a little more time together and next week sometime I will make arrangements to let him go.

That said, after getting him on some pain management this week, this morning he looks almost just about like he did about two weeks ago when we had our fun trip to Ferndale. He's begging for food, wants to go along with the other boys (although at a slower pace), and taking lots of naps. In between he is bright eyed, attentive, and interacting with his friends. What more could we ask besides a happy life right up (almost) until the end? The vet told me to spoil him, let him eat whatever he wants, and just keep his medication levels up and his food and water intake going.

We've had some great adventures and it seems like a very, very, long time ago since December 2001, when he came home with me as an eight-week-old pup who looked like a fuzzy white baby opossum. :)  I'm sure I will write more about him but for now this brings everyone up to speed. Happy weekend to all, and enjoy your dogs. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Flash Cards

My latest plan is to create flash cards for my dog training. I'm making a list of the things I want to work on, this summer in the evenings and on the weekends.  Flash cards are most likely a thing of the past, as are these sheepdog blogs (!) but then so am I! :) I thought it would be a great idea for evenings when I get home tired from work, but still want to get the dogs out to the sheep. I won't just do the same ole, same ole, whatever comes into my head...I will pull out a flash card and have a fresh idea of what to work on, and might (just might!) actually get through (or at least to) the many many things that need to get worked on.

I'm compiling the flash card list (I don't have actual cards yet) from the training plans that I got from Derek. I'm also adding in many of the things in the Vergil Holland book (the new one) where he mentioned things that you should practice before you enter a trial. I am part way through the book, the second time, adding highlighter and post-it note tabs on those pages where the exercises are discussed.  I don't want to hand-write on index cards so I need another idea to make the cards. Something that is not hand-intensive to create even more hand pain than I already have, from work. Ideas?

Our trip to Ferndale (where I thought of the flash cards, as we were winding up our time with Derek) was exactly everything I'd hoped for, and then some.  The clinic was held on a beautiful sheep and cattle ranch. Spot got to work out in an open field, no fences (except perimeter fencing, far away) on real sheep and a chance to put things together a bit from what we've been working on over the past month (and really over the past year and a half or so). One of my plans for this year is to get Spot out as many new places as I can, on different sheep, without actually taking him to trials just yet. This clinic was perfect for that. We worked on our basics that we have been doing, and we did more driving, and even a couple of sheds. The older lambs/young yearlings that we were working were pretty easy to split apart so it was a primo chance to try a shed with Spot (who is a beginner shedder).

Plus and even more importantly the group of people at this last clinic was just fantastic. We have all grown supportive of one another's attempts to improve our dog work. It is just a great bunch.

Here is the field in Ferndale where we worked (excuse the faraway i-Phone photo):

This looks like heaven to me!
This is a photo of my boys on the last morning of the clinic:

Ready for the next adventure
Training a sheepdog from a puppy to a competent adult that you can run in Open (or even PN) takes a lot of work. If you don't enjoy the process, then it would be best to either buy a trained Open dog or find another activity. The time and miles are worthwhile to me but it does seem to take, forever. The people you meet along the way, however, are jewels who also make it all worthwhile.  My friend hauled her LQ horse trailer into town so that I would have a place to stay for this clinic...I don't think people get much nicer than that. I enjoyed staying on site, at the venue. The little enclosed barn lot above in the photo, was just outside the door of the trailer. What could be nicer for the dogs and me? Not much. :) We are very lucky.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Homework on the Weekends

Spot and I have had a good weekend, working on his homework. 

The weekend is way too short, though! 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Picture Journal

Cosmo is working out really well as our new sheep guardian...we are very, very grateful to have him!

There has been so much rain that the vernal pools are back everywhere...and the geese, ducks and frogs to go with them.

Ryme is awaiting his turn to work sheep. 

Ryme will pose himself for photos :)

The sheep are happy to have lush green grass. 

Spot and I are still working on his driving, of course.

Chiefie enjoys a patch of sun. 

Chiefie and Cosmo have a discussion!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Yes and No

The big three Northern California spring sheepdog trials have come and gone. I didn't enter any of my dogs at any of them. Have I missed out? Yes and No.  If I'd had a dog ready, I would have liked to enter at least some of them. I am hoping that by the next time around, we will be ready. Spot is just not quite there yet; I want to feel confident and comfortable in his work before I enter him. I want to be prepared. Coal is just not up to those big long outruns on the hills at Zamora and McCormack any more. Ryme sadly just doesn't have the scope for great big open fields. 

Instead of going to the trials, I've been putting my money and time into training for the first part of this year. We are so lucky to have gone to a Derek Scrimgeour clinic the weekend before last. I took a lot of notes and we had a great time auditing and helping out. My boys got to help move the sheep in and out of the clinic area so they got some work in, even though we weren't entered in the clinic as a participant. I love listening to Derek. He is so clear in his method and so generous with his thought processes. His energy for the work is amazing and very contagious! 

Spot helping at the clinic; photo by Marnie N.
Everything is so lush and green which we have not seen in a while!
The days are finally getting long enough to train my dogs in the evening after I get off work. Finally we can put into play some of the training ideas that we have been collecting over the past weeks and months. I know I missed out by not going to the trials but I also know that Spot and I are making real progress. 

I'm using some of the information from Derek to try to improve Ryme's work, again. 

And I'm cautiously optimistic that Spot and I will get there. :)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Jack Knox Clinic at Hopland 2016

We went to the Jack Knox clinic at Hopland again this year. I think this is my fifth time to go to that clinic, but the first time I worked a dog in the clinic instead of just auditing.

It is no secret that I love to go to Hopland to the University farm there. As I have said many times, this is one of my very favorite places on earth.

Spot was in the clinic and worked well for me most of the time. All the clinic dogs worked their first turn in the round pen so that Jack could evaluate them.

In his subsequent turns, Spot and I worked out in the long narrow field that is next "door" to the round pen area, near the big lambing barn.  This is a nice field to work in with some trees and things to navigate around, and a draw back to the barn that pretty much simulates a real working situation that most of us deal with, in one way or another. In the field, Spot was very good. He took a bend out on the outrun, for sheep that he could not see, at first. He did not seem tense, which was a bonus! Jack told me to watch his flanks, and correct them when they are tight, which they sometimes are. The stops also needed work. None of this was a huge breakthrough but it was nice to get some coaching and some different ideas on getting the stop. There were a lot of other nice dogs, to watch. I always learn a lot by paying attention to the other handlers and dogs in this clinic when they take their turns.

On Sunday Spot's first turn in the field was also very nice. He showed me a glimpse of what his truly adult self may be like. It was good. There were no problems. I was beginning to wonder if Spot would show us any of his issues! Jack had some good insight for me as to the number and pace of my commands. I have run my other dogs in trials, Coal and Bid, a certain way, with a lot of whistles, but it seems that Spot needs a method with fewer commands so that he stays cooler-headed, at least for now.  What they needed is perhaps not what Spot needs. We will give it a try.

We got to see his older sister, Daisy, too as she was in the clinic. It was nice to see her and her owners as I don't think they were there last year. Daisy and Spot are like bookends as they look so much alike, and have the same goofy ear set. Daisy has just a little white tip on one of her ears, however, and of course she is dainty and feminine, where Spot is just a big moose. But it was fun to compare notes on them. :)

Our second turn out in the field started off fine but then we were interrupted by a random ewe who tried to jump in with our working set and join up with them, and as a result, got herself stuck in the fence. I called Spot back and we retreated, so that the ewe would not feel any extra pressure. People in the clinic ran to help. There was a doctor, a veterinarian, a farrier, and several others in attendance, besides, Jack, who all helped to free the silly ewe. They got her loose and then Jack called us back to work. This little hiatus on a warm day seemed to get Spot going a little bit more tense than when we started our turn, maybe, and he did show us a little bit more of a brief panic behavior. It was good to have Jack work through this with me. We called him off then put him right back to work.

The advice was to give Spot his head some more than I have been. I also watched Jack putting dogs through their paces of bringing sheep up to a fence, pulling the sheep back off that fence, putting them into corners and taking them out. These types of exercises are going to get added to our training list as well.

The clinic was low-key and the two days just seemed to fly by. Since I was still getting over being sick I did not take the pages of notes like I normally do at a clinic. I am hoping that I retain at least some of the great work that I saw. I really enjoyed working Spot with Jack, so I am sending in a deposit to get into another one of his clinics this year. I really appreciate all the work that the University staff put into these events, and I'm sure everyone else did, too, who was there.

Jack also will have a book coming out, which will be really interesting to read. At the clinic the talk was that they hope the book will appear later this year. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

As Long as It Takes

I can't remember exactly why or when I subscribed to Danielle LaPorte's daily "truthbombs" via email but sometimes they are interesting. :) Yesterday's truthbomb #990 was <as long as it takes>. How appropriate. 

I really wanted to make one of those silly hand-printed signs and hang this saying around Spot's neck with baling twine! :-) But creating it on the computer was easier. 

The sickness that has been hanging around our work office for over a month since New Year's Eve, finally did me in, last week. But since it was such a nice sunny weekend, I still took the dogs out to work sheep a little bit on Saturday and Sunday. There is still a lot of mud and standing water but that just makes it easier to break things down and work on getting things correct, close at hand. The dogs do not mind the mud. 

At age nine, Coal is giving me unpredictable up-and-down days of working on the sheep. We have been doing some basics the past few sessions and he seems back up to speed at least for now. He has always been a dog who needs to stay tuned up. We are not entering any of the trials locally, though. I'm sort of bummed but that's how it is. I don't think he is up for a huge outrun on the hills but we still have fun working together. 

Other random thoughts and discussions with others over the past few days, have been: the overwhelming and rising costs of (what may seem somewhat simple) veterinary care for our dogs; the high cost of being involved even in a minimal level in sheepdog trialling; the necessity for a lot more free time and places to work dogs, in order to be involved in sheepdog trialling (again, even at a moderate level). On the up side, we're looking forward to the Knox clinic this weekend at beautiful Hopland. There are many things to ponder. 

Today's truthbomb is, <listen for how to give>. My only New Year's "Resolution" (and I really don't "do" resolutions) was to try to be a better listener. Hummm! :)