Monday, September 7, 2015

Labor Day Weekend

It's been a very enjoyable but low-key Labor Day weekend: watching the scores come in from Soldier Hollow, working dogs, and doing cleanup chores at home. I'm super grateful for an extra day off of work for all those reasons.

Saturday I bought hay and was happy to see that the price has come down a dollar per bale from our last purchase. I am going to get another load so that we are stocked up for the next month or so. Things are going to get busy here, really soon!

I love this photo of Spot because it is so him. It's like he needs the miniature angel on one shoulder, and a devil on the other. :) Well maybe not a true devil, but perhaps a teenager.  He tries so hard to be good and then sometimes, he just can't stand it, and he blows it. At the larger pasture where we work, there is a new pen for practicing penning with the sheep. These sheep, while pretty darn broke for working dogs, are not broke at all to going into a pen. Several of us tried and failed to pen them with various dogs over this past weekend. Spot is a very inexperienced penner; we have only worked on that task a little bit. On his first try on Sunday morning, however, he almost had the sheep penned; they were marching in, and I was starting to inch in to close the gate, and what the heck - Spot dove right into the sheep. Arghghgh. Back to the drawing board. As Derek S. would say, the dog is wondering, "why doesn't she kill it?" when we pen the sheep. Spot did not wonder why but thought about taking matters into his own paws.

Other than the awful penning episode, however, Spot was pretty good this weekend. I am using him for any chores that I can.  At the larger pasture, we've been going out to walk the llama in with the sheep before we can really start working, which is something new for Spot. He doesn't want to stay with me, behind the llama, but he wants to run ahead and work the sheep. No, buddy, this is the job - you walk with me and we bring in the llama, first. But also you need to pay attention to that llama and stay out of his way.

Coal and I are working on his getting back into shape, mentally and physically, for the fall trials. He seemed to bounce back pretty quickly today even though it was pretty hot out by the time we went out to work and we did a fair amount of work. Fingers crossed that we get into some of the trials. And that it cools off!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Boys of August

Coal and Spot have birthdays in August. Coal turned nine years old on August 29th. Spot turned three years old on August 22nd. Time was running out for me to get an August birthday picture so I just grabbed these with my cell phone camera, on the night of August 31st. :)

Coal is in pretty good shape, except for those darn stiff feet!

The birthday boys of August

Spot's infamous tongue makes another goofy appearance

I am ready for ACTION! 

(rolls eyes)... let's get this photo shoot over with and back to sheep

Chiefie is not a birthday boy (his birthday is in October), but I did get this sort of nice picture of him recently, as well. Chiefie has been sort of uncomfortable with a lot of scratching (and there are no fleas) so I started him on an all-fish  (no other proteins) diet, which seems to have helped at least somewhat.


Spot has been working (for the most part) really well.  He will have a minor meltdown here and there, but mostly we are on the road to improvement. I still don't understand the occasional starbursts, but at this point they seem related to slow or heavy sheep. I am going to work on getting him more comfortable in close with sheep and pushing them when they are slow. I think I can set up that situation a few different ways. It is frustrating though. What few chores we have, I am trying to do them all with Spot so that he has to listen to me and still work through a situation that is not just training for trials. I hope it will help.

Coal and I are trying to get tuned back up for the fall trials. I hope we can do it. I'd love to have one more season in open with him. The first set of entries went into the mail on September 1.

Ryme is always a good helper. He is happy to do any sorting, moving sheep, helping to catch, whatever. I don't think his bad leg will hold up very well on this hard ground, though, so I am not trying to just train on him much at all. Just chores for him, for now.

This summer still feels hot. Of course it is dry and hot as well. I hope we have some winter, this year, and if so it will be quite welcome.

The Rest of July

I spent a very long, but good day judging the RESDA trial at the Johnson Ranch in Boonville, in July. I had great help; two friends volunteered to clerk, and then I had another volunteer on the spot at the trial. It is much easier to judge when you have great helpers. I really appreciated that they volunteered to drive all the way up to Boonville just to help out at the trial, and neither are running dogs, nor active in RESDA. Such a nice crew! The field was nice; the sheep worked well, lunch was delicious, and we were blessed that it was not too awfully hot, with a nice breeze. There are lovely shade trees to sit under at this trial, for which we were very grateful. I'm glad that my assignment is over with though. It is a bit stressful, to judge, knowing that people are working towards year-end points gleaned at each of the trials. I can only judge what's in front of me, and I try hard to stay focused on good dog work and proper sheep handling. It's all one can do.

The next weekend, we went to the Sonoma County Fair, to watch the sheep shearing contest, take in a little bit of the Fair, and watch a little bit of the RESDA trial. The sheep shearing contest was fun, and we got to cheer on our own shearer!

Shearing contest at the Sonoma County Fair

The Ladies (juniors, actually) class...with mentors

 After fortification with an ice cream/root beer float, we went on over to the RESDA sheepdog trial which had just started in the big Chris Beck outdoor arena.

Tom and Angus pen!

Tom and Angus exhausting their set of sheep

We got there in time to see Tom and Angus put in a pretty nice run.  I watched about five runs and then headed for home, to pick up a dog and go out to put our sheep in for the night. Still worrying about mountain lions and coyotes...and trying to keep the sheep safe.

It seems like it has been a hot, hot summer, or else maybe I am just getting less tolerant of the heat. The ground is hard as a rock when I go out to work dogs. It hurts my feet and I know it is hard on the dogs, especially Coal and Ryme who are older. Coal already has bad feet and I don't want to make them worse.

I'm still working on Spot and his driving, especially. Inside flanks, outside flanks... driving away and cross driving. Any old driving that we can do. At the bigger place where we can work, I am trying to drive in a big rectangle, all the way around the field, with varying success.  Spot is trying; I am trying. We're trying.

I know people say, that there is no try, you just do. Well then OK, I am doing! :)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Was There Any Doubt?

Thank you to Marnie N. for creating this enhanced photo-thingie (above) that brightened my day, one day last week when I was feeling a bit blue.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Happy Fourth of July!

Every year, I try to find somewhere to go, to get out of Dodge during the Fourth of July Holiday. Where we live, the illegal and the legal fireworks go on for days and the noise is very scary for the dogs. The smoke fills the streets like a war zone. I don't mind a good municipal fireworks display with a band and the whole Americana deal; you can plan for the timing on that. But the local neighborhood's 24/7 pyromaniac schedule has us all on edge at my house. Some years we have gone to Carmel, but that can be an expensive outing.  This year I was so fortunate to have a friend invite us the opposite direction, to the high desert of western Nevada, where we not only escaped fireworks but enjoyed great sheepdog training opportunities and visits with friends. The weather smiled on us (it actually rained!) and we had a wonderful time. I was so happy to be somewhere "away" and at a location that was so beautiful. It really felt like R&R even though the visit was just a long (short) weekend.

Our friend has Scottish Blackface (like we do) so it was interesting to see the difference in my dogs' work on the same breed, but different sheep. There were several different fields to work in; I felt so blessed. :) Spot was good. There were no "starbursts"...that is my new mantra: NO STARBURSTS! :) Ryme and Coal got out for shorter work sessions as well. Chiefie got lots of walks and attention. They all got to roam about freely in empty horse pastures, periodically. It was heaven.

Morning and evening, we were treated to beautiful, open, Nevada high desert skies, at almost 5,000 feet elevation. Without all the city lights, the skies, the moon and stars, and surrounding hills were painted with subtle colors depending on the lighting.  Thunder clouds rolled in across the mountains and sometimes they brought drops of rain...and sometimes more...real rain! What a joy. Just the smell of it was wonderful.

Visiting with friends was superb. Often times at trials there are just short sound bytes of conversations and there is no chance to really talk through a topic. Over the Fourth weekend, we had some good talks about sheepdog and other things in depth, that I really relished. Oh and I was sort of forced to watch the first episode of Outlander, a popular series which I had heard of but never seen. It's a little rough for my tastes, but I enjoyed it and will probably watch some more episodes via Netflix. It was nice to find out what many of my friends have been talking about, and I can see what they like about it. :) And there was a trip to a nice little Mexican restaurant with great food... that part was easy to take.

As for our dog work, I found out that I need to make my shedding practice harder. Apparently our home sheep, even though they are Scotties, are way too easy to shed. I couldn't shed any of my hostess' yearling Scottie replacement ewes to save myself. Not with any of the dogs, including Coal. Oh my. Talk about a false sense of security that fell away like a thin cardboard floor... sigh.

All too soon it was midday on Sunday and I had to get home for work on Monday. Despite a long drive home it was totally worth it and I had a great time. Nevada, I will be back, I hope! :)