Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Casting A Shadow

You can tell the days are getting shorter, lately, just by the way the light plays in the evening, despite the temperatures this week that feel like summer (hot!).

I do like this picture above of Coal casting a tall shadow and moving forward so purposefully and focused on the sheep.

I've been examining some of my needs lately, as far as sheepdog training. One of them is that I need to do better at focusing like this, as Coal does. I need to do better at leaving my work and other streaming miscellaneous thoughts at the pasture gate so they don't interfere with the enjoyment and engagement with my dogs.

Another way to look at this is that I need to work harder at exercising those mental muscles around being in the present.  I'm pretty sure this will help me with all of the dogs I am working.

I've also been lamenting not having any lessons or clinics to go to, and that's the sort of pity party that I shouldn't be RSVP-ing to. What I can do, however, is put more focus into my practice time and make practice harder. If I do that, then when we finally get to a trial, it will seem like a walk/trot in the park. :) 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Evening Drive

When we were teenagers, we used to go out just "driving around".  When I was really young, parents used to take their kids and sometimes the grandparents out for a Sunday drive. I am not sure anyone does that any more, with the price of gas and other constraints. But they were fun times.

Pictured above is Coal on an evening drive. Also a fun time! Coal is comfortable now, 8 years old, and (at times) working him is like putting on your favorite pair of broken-in work boots that suit you to wear all day, no matter what the day brings. These pictures are from one of those times.

At other times, though, I admit, that Coal and I butt heads! :) Sometimes it takes a lot of work to get him to respond properly to get the sheep where I want them to go and at what speed. It's all a balancing act to try to reach a higher standard of work.

Lately we've been watching the scores, videos, and photos from all the big trials both nearer and far away. Wow. Soldier Hollow, the World Trial, Meeker and now the USBCHA Finals and the International. So much to take in and ponder. Sometimes it's overwhelming. Such a high standard set at those events, to aspire to! I think everyone in the California sheepdog world was smiling for Michael Shearer and his win at the World Trial, though. He has been here several times to judge and he is such a nice man, and the real deal. It was his time to win and we're all happy for him. For me it put a happy spin on some timing that has involved some weird and sad stuff happening, not directly to me, but for those around me. As Lora is always saying, seize the day...excellent advice! Even if it just means enjoying the evening or Sunday drive.

 Still, there's some stuff that I just don't get and it crowds into my thoughts on my evening drives. Why do people dump an old dog (or horse) when they get a new puppy (or horse) or when they breed a litter of pups? Why do they breed a litter of pups anyway if they can't afford to take care of them?  That older dog (or horse) has provided a lifetime of they not deserve some retirement?  All questions that I cannot answer.

Granted, this is a disjointed blog post... many thoughts that may or may not belong together but no single thoughts capable of being sorted out to separate's like a mixed flock of old sheep and lambs, hair sheep and wool ! :) What has happened to all the bloggers anyway? I think that Facebook --while it has its place -- has sort of destroyed blogging...which is too bad. In a strange modern way, Facebook is like a Sunday drive...lots of visuals passing you by, some snips of small talk or conversation here and there, but not too much of longer or larger content (and no gasoline used), but certainly plenty of ground covered.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Spot's Progress, 9-1-2014

Spot's work with the sheep is coming along. I am able to ask him for a few more finer points than I could approximately a month ago. I can't ask for new things each and every time, because I have found that might blow his mind and set us back. But here and there, I can ask for something new and he will give it to me. It probably helps if I ask at the right time, with the right feel in my voice and the correct setup for the situation in terms of field, sheep, and my position.

This past week, I was even able to ask Spot for his very first, ever, inside flank. Wow! The look on his face was priceless. "You mean you can DO that?" seemed to appear in a thought bubble over his head :)

We still have a lot of work to do. I am starting to feel the pressure from the shortening days as we move into Fall, so I am trying to get out there with Spot on every possible training day that I can. 

But on the positive side, I have started the whistles in the past week or so, where I did not feel comfortable to try them before. Spot is responding well to the stop, walk on, and steady whistles. I have thrown in the flank whistles here and there but only sparingly.

Occasionally we've had an opportunity to do a real little chore such as putting sheep up for the night, walking them toward a gate they will go through, and so forth. Those are days I will look forward to, when I can take Spot out with confidence and do most any chore that needs doing.  We're not there yet but he is improving.

I'm looking forward to what the next two months will bring, while we still have evening daylight to work dogs.

Hope everyone is having a great Labor Day! :)

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Happy Birthday Coal

Coal is eight years old; his birthday was on August 29th and I am just now getting the pictures posted that I took on the eve of his birthday. They are just iphone photos, so nothing too fancy...just some pics of the boy doing his thing!

And then the next day we went to Puny Paws Dog Boutique to buy some dog food (it was pay day of course) and Sue gave Coal a birthday cookie! How nice of her, but then she's really nice. :)

He got to eat it in pieces over the next couple of days. It was a hefty cookie! No, he did not share. :)

I admit, it's bittersweet realizing that he has turned eight. Where has the time gone?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Monday, August 18, 2014

Opportunities in RTs

Gosh if you spell out the word opportunities, there they are, the RTs!

Recently Coal and I had some RTs. It was our first HA trial in a long time. We were not prepared. I knew we weren't really prepared. But the RTs were a great opportunity. I came home with a renewed motivation to improve our performance.

There are many cliches about the bottom of the barrel, and hitting bottom before you can see the top, and so forth.

What this did for me was to open my mind and think outside the box a bit! How can we expand our training, given the limited resources available to us?

With some brainstorming and team work, we are changing up our training and dog work, and how  we use the spaces we are lucky to have. Meanwhile we dream about that 40+ acre field that we don't have...but I am not letting that stand in the way of trying to do better with what we DO have. Just sayin'! :) And very much enjoying and stoked on the process, too!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Spot's Progress, 8-15-2014

This is another (short) installment in Spot's Progress. He is at the stage where I am trying to convince him that it is OKAY to drive the sheep and not just to gather and fetch them. He is a gathering fool, now, even though when he was a puppy all he wanted to do was drive them to the fenceline and hold them there. All has changed now! He has seen the light of gathering and wants to do just THAT.

Ahh, another lesson in patience for me. Yesterday evening we got a good flow of driving going. Whee! I was happy to be behind him watching him work and yes, DRIVING.  The sheep were flowing, and I had a rather large group out, which is what I like to use for training a younger dog. It keeps things happy. I was walking, Spot was driving, and the sheep were flowing. And when I laid him down and called him off, a very happy Spot.

And I should have stopped there, on a good note. Sigh.

When will I learn? :) When I work on new concepts with Spot I need to do just a little and then quit. That is what has worked for us to get to this point.

But, we still had a great time in the cool of the evening, with a nice breeze blowing in off the Laguna.

Postscript: There are a lot of bad things happening in this world. It has been a tough week for many. Some really nice friends had bad things happen. Some awful things happened that we saw in the news. It is touching many people, in fact most of us, and might make us lose hope, or get cynical or even hateful. But there are still good things in this world. There is still music. And there is still working a good dog on a Friday night after a long hard week at work that didn't have the greatest of news.