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! :)

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The New Guy

This is the new guy; his name is "Cosmo". I love the name! It reminds me of one of my favorite movies, "Moonstruck".  Someone else noted that the Kramer character in the TV show Seinfeld, had the first name of Cosmo, also. Anyway I think it is a great name for him and he is adjusting well. So far his temperament is super and we are transitioning him into his new situation which he seems to like. We are super grateful to his prior owner, and very fortunate to have him!

Thursday, February 4, 2016


Regarding storytelling, that is of the non-fiction kind, recently I filled out a survey from a USC (University of Southern California) Ph.D. student/researcher who is part of The Narrative Group. The survey was sent to bloggers who were discovered through their software (a "bot"? I am not sure if that is the right term for it) that seeks out blogs that are posted to somewhat frequently with real-life stories. It was sort of interesting, and gave me something to think about other than what has been sort of an up-and-down start to a new year.

Most of the questions were pretty simple, like "why do you want to write a blog" and "what aspects of your life do you include (or not include)"? One question was about views on Hilary Clinton, which I thought was weird! :) But, maybe these researchers can make some associations based on that. They know more about their research than I do, obviously.

This connection is one more reason to keep blogging, I guess. Other than Rocking Dog Ranch continually poking at me, that is! :) Since I used to work in a university research environment, years ago, the USC survey was appealing for that reason, too. It is too bad that most of the other sheepdog bloggers have given up but that is their choice. Certainly it is not as easy to blog as it is to post on FB but there is room here to expand and do more, which is one reason why I like it. It also functions as a journal of sorts. And a place to put photos that I have played around with in my photo software. :)

From the Narrative Group's website:

The Narrative Group investigates storytelling and the human mind, exploring how people experience, interpret and narrate the events in their lives. We pursue creative research at the intersection of computer science, psychology, and communications. Our projects range from basic science research to advanced prototype development.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Memories from the Dog Wars

The recent discussion and re-vote by the USBCHA Board of Directors stirred up a lot of memories in my mind and some trauma that I thought I had put to rest for good, but alas, not.

Things felt just as swirly over the weekend on the District 1 FB page, as the photo effect that I applied to this photo of Ryme driving our Scottish Blackface sheep across a newly-greened-up pasture.

There was a Rule in place, in the USBCHA that AKC judges could not judge the USBCHA National Finals, the premier event of the year, in which a champion wins a double lift finals. A motion was passed in a Board meeting by phone last week, to change that rule to bar AKC conformation judges only, and allow "herding" judges, and then days later, another motion was passed to go back to the original rule. Some felt it was stupid. Some felt strongly that the rule needed to stay as it was - i.e., no AKC judges on the panel at the Finals. I am one of those in that latter group. I felt, and still feel, that a person needs to make a choice between judging AKC and judging USBCHA, especially at the Finals. The four judges at the Finals are the face of the organization. As much as I value individual liberties and choice, I just couldn't fathom having one of those four being an AKC judge. All of this took me unwillingly back to the Dog Wars.

The Dog Wars. The battle was being fought when I got my first border collie, back in 1990.  She had registration papers from both AIBC and from ABCA. This was before AKC full registration of border collies. When I decided to try Novice A Obedience with my girl, after taking classes at the local dog training club, I applied for and got an ILP number for her. She was spayed. Her pedigree was all working dogs. In fact all of the border collies were working type dogs. Their pedigrees were the same as the dogs that handlers walked onto the sheepdog trial field with. Some of my friends at the dog training club had border collies (and aussies, actually) who had registration papers from NASDS, too. Certain lines had just started to become popular with the obedience people, but no one, and I mean no one, that I was friends with at the time, wanted full AKC recognition. We wanted to be able to show our border collies in obedience and train them for tracking. We did NOT want to put them in the show ring. My little bitch was spayed, anyway, and she would have gotten laughed out of the show ring for her conformation. We got some qualifying scores, and got a CD, but we did not win any prizes! We were both very much beginners.  I would have loved to try her on sheep, but there weren't any, and no trainers around to even give it a whirl. But AKC conformation, no way. We could see what AKC was all about and we just wanted to do our training thing. AKC "herding" was for dogs in the Herding Group and thus our border collies were not eligible, as they were in the Miscellaneous Class. There wasn't any UDX or MACH or Rally or even agility. You got a CD, CDX, maybe a UD and maybe a TD and TDX and you had fun. We even went to Canada for a week in the summer and everyone got Canadian CDs. Big fun on a girls' trip. :)

Then came my second border collie. He came from the West and had a real working sire, who worked on a ranch. I desperately still wanted to try him on sheep. A person moved to a nearby county who had come from California, and she had been a handler and knew a little about sheepdog handling. She brought in a clinician who was very good; in fact he was the National Champion. I took my male border collie to this clinic and we had a great time. By this time, AKC had begun to register border collies with full registration. I didn't register my dog, even though people told me I should since he was handsome and I should show the judges what a real working dog looked like; I didn't want to.  I foolishly thought all sheepdog training clinics were like the first clinic with the National Champion. A year later this now-local person brought in another clinician. I signed up eagerly. But, this second clinic was not the same. And that's where things get dreadful. I'll have to think about whether I can write about it or want to.  Possibly, to be continued, or not. But that is some of my history from the Dog Wars.

Sunday, January 31, 2016


This was some cool fog a couple of weeks ago, that I caught with the iPhone camera. It's not as beautiful a photo as many of my friends post on FB but it will have to do. We've had a lot of rain, and days that looked like the above.

The calendar has a lot of days marked on it right now, for when entries are opening up for the local spring circuit of sheepdog trials. I'm also watching the sunset times, for when I can get a few extra minutes after work, to get out with the dogs in the daylight. This is sounding like a broken record, I know; but we are getting there finally! :) Hoping that Mercury is out of retrograde, finally as well. That's not normally something that I follow but this month of January has at times, been a very rough one!

Last weekend we had the chance to practice with the dogs in a larger area, again. Spot was good on his first session, driving and a few short gathers. Very nice. On his second turn, however (after a good break) he felt much more tense and ended up busting into the sheep when they accelerated a little bit going downhill. Very frustrating for me. And probably for him as well, otherwise he would not have busted in! I do not think he likes doing that. I set it up again and finally got him to follow the sheep downhill without a problem, at which point I quit. Later, after another break, he pushed sheep through a race, several times up close and personal. He was OK so I stopped there. I'm thinking that Spot and I are nowhere near ready to trial this spring.  If he can't follow behind sheep down a hill driving properly then we would be in big trouble at most of the nearby trials. That makes it easy to decide what to do. :(

Today we got to practice again, and with so much rain there was a lot of standing water. Spot is a bit flummoxed by the sheep who don't want to move off very well due to the water. That is something we will be working on. Since I'm not concerned about trying to get him ready for a trial for now, I am just letting things roll and will try to fill in all of the experiences that he needs to be successful and let the calendar do its thing without us.

Speaking of the calendar, Spot has been here for three years now, as of February 1st.

Ryme was a very good boy today helping me to sort sheep, and feed, and was the all-around chore dog.  I hope the dogs are all very worn out!

Ryme looking cute a couple of weeks ago. Awww. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Best Dog Ever

Last week, we lost our good guardian dog, Neve...the Best Dog Ever.

Neve was a Maremma. We got him as a retiree, in November 2010 for our small sheep flock, when he was about eight years old. He turned around our thinking about guardian dogs as we got to know him and fell in love with him. He won our hearts and made us laugh and also made us feel secure knowing our sheep were so well protected. He had silly things that he did, like he had to have his own pile of alfalfa when you fed the sheep. He would munch a few bites of hay every night at feeding time, having his "salad" which we all joked about.

In his former job, Neve was a great lambing dog. The people who worked with him remarked that he had different barks for different scenarios, when he was younger. When we had a few lambs in our own small flock, you could tell which ewe would lamb next, as Neve would stick to that ewe like glue. He stayed near her, helped her clean her lamb(s) but never harmed them or tried to steal them, as some LGDs will do.

As a guardian, he was wonderful. No predator dared to pass near when he was on the job. Even the flying kind did not dare mess with him. It was so interesting to watch Neve as he ran off the birds of prey, the ravens, hawks, and vultures; yet he let the ducks, turkeys and geese walk around him as if they weren't even there. He differentiated between the different types of birds, having instincts as deep or deeper than our border collies, but just of a different type.

Neve was the type of LGD who always, loyally, stayed with his flock. No matter where the sheep were, that is where you would find Neve, even as he got older and more elderly, and lost his hearing. He strived at all times, to stay with his sheep. We will miss him greatly and there is no replacing him, although we are looking for another LGD to open a new chapter. There are too many large predators around the area, to try to have sheep without a guardian dog. It seems strange, for now, to drive in to where the sheep live, and not hear his deep bark and to see a big white dog come bounding up to the fence to greet me. The best dog ever, won't ever be forgotten.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Playing the Shedding Game

This is a happy dog (Ryme) who is helping me to do chores. The best days are like this. :)
Yesterday and today I did the shedding game (seen in the video from yesterday's post) with both Coal and Spot. It was fun to do with them.

First I tried it with Coal. Our sheep are pretty easy to shed and all I wanted to do was to create two somewhat equal groups. It was good for him to have to listen and keep the groups apart and take commands without getting too eyed up. Flexibility is not Coal's forte' but we worked on it. He seemed to have fun. He needs work and conditioning as well as to stay in tune, so this is a perfect exercise for him. Today I tweaked it even more and whittled the group of sheep that we were holding on to, down to just two ewes. That made it more interesting for him but Coal was up to the challenge.

Spot is a beginner shedder, so I have to help him to make the two groups. He and I were able to do it though, both days, so I am hopeful I will be getting him to shed this spring. Spot really liked doing it, although he seemed more wound up today than yesterday. I did not change this size of his groups, as he is not ready for that. Just casting him around a group and keeping them away from the others on command, is enough for Spot right now.

I have not tried it yet with Ryme although I am sure he would do it; this is the type of at-hand work that he excels at. Ryme got to work though and I took a little time to school him on his stops and flanks. He needs that schooling time now and then just like the others. Ryme is the best chore dog, I know I have said it before, but I'll say it again. I'm also so glad I gave him a haircut yesterday; the mud is so bad that it is so much easier to spray him down with the warm water hose and clean him up, with his long hair coat trimmed back.

A notebook for 2016 has been purchased; I'm good to go. :)

We have just about two more weeks to wait before I can start working dogs a little bit in the evenings again. Happy Winter.