Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dog Food Diaries, or, "Oh now I see your tattoos!"

The dog food diary continues.

I realized that I did not have enough of the dreaded kibble to carry us over into next week, when I hope to start the boys back on raw. With many errands to accomplish on Friday besides working, I ran into a small locally-owned pet store that I like, near my frequent lunch stop. For some reason my feeble brain had registered that this shop carried Orijen, when I had stopped there in the past. No such luck. No Orijen. No Wysong. The friendly proprietor told me they are in negotiation with a distributor in order to carry Orijen, but not yet. I needed dog food and didn't have time to go to the other store (across town) that I knew carried Orijen AND Wysong. Surveying what else he had in stock that might be close to the Orijen, we came up with this:

I gave the guy my card to pay for the food. After swiping it and handing the card back to me, the fellow says to me, "You work on (street name of my office building), right? In suite 300?" My mind raced as to how this young man might know where I work. I was relieved when he then said, "I work for Fed Ex two days a week and I deliver to your building all the time. I recognized your name."  Whew! I don't have a dog-food selling stalker!  Then I realized that I hadn't recognized him because he had on long sleeves and long pants; normally when I see him making Fed Ex deliveries he has on shorts and a short sleeved shirt. That way you can see more of his (many) tattoos! So out of my mouth I blurt, "Oh yeah - I see your tattoos now!" Luckily he has a sense of humor. Turns out that he and his dad own the pet shop. Yes I will be back to buy stuff even with the boys on raw. After the tattoo comment I probably owe him at least one more sale every so often!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Convenience, but at a Price?

Photo by G. Atwater
Coal on the hill course at Sonoma Wine Country SDT, 2012
The boys are still eating dry dog food. It feels weird. It is convenient, but I wonder when I set down those bowls, how good it is for them. I can't wait to get them back on raw, which I hope will be soon. Even after just a couple of weeks, their breath is getting bad. They drink SO much water after they eat! I worry about it.

On the other hand, meat prices have skyrocketed. It's getting harder to source the raw food for them without going "whole paycheck". So far their coats look great and they are in good weight. It has taken a little adjusting to find the right amount for each dog. Coal and Chief would eat anything; Ryme is a little more picky. It may be that I will have to go back to the schedule we were on in 2009 - that is, one meal raw, one meal kibble. To be continued...the dog food diaries!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Focusing on the Solution

There are a lot of neat things going on with us, as well as a complementary gaggle of challenging things. I suppose that is true for everybody. Life has unfortunately been too busy for blogging. My goal is to stay in the present as much as I can, and focus on the solutions. And above all to be grateful daily.

Have a great week, everyone!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Persistence, Your Name is Mr Chewy

Several months ago (way back in January) I got a cheery email from Mr. Chewy. He offered a discount on an order if I would review his website on my blog. At the time, several others of the bloggers that I visit were also reviewing Mr Chewy. It seemed like a  whole lot of Mr Chewy, all at once, so I thought I'd wait until the Mr Chewy uproar kind of died down, to do my review. And, I mostly feed raw food, so the order discount was not as enticing to me as it may have been to some. And so, life intervened...

But Mr Chewy is a very persistent fellow! A couple of weeks ago he emailed me again, saying that he would still like for me to review his website and would still offer the discount. In the meantime I had heard from several friends who had ordered from Mr Chewy very successfully. The service was good. Shipping is free if you order at least $49 (which is easy to do at today's dog food prices, plus the vast selection from Mr Chewy). With gas prices over $4/gallon in most places that free shipping probably sounds pretty enticing. I thought to myself, I should have no problem giving Mr Chewy a good review! And, I was discovering that I would be doing some traveling this year, so it might be good to find some dry dog food that my guys could transition to, temporarily, for those trips. As much as I adore feeding them raw food, it is a pain (which I do endure) to feed them raw on trips, especially trips longer than a night or two away from home. Fridges in motels seem to be constantly in Arctic mode, so that the food never thaws out; I end up keeping the food in the ice chest so it can thaw but not spoil, which defeats the purpose of having the mini-fridge. But I digress.

I did some inquiring on Facebook and email with border collie and other doggie friends as to what dry foods they have found successful for their dogs. Mainly I was looking for something not manufactured by Diamond (which leaves out a whole huge sector of the marketplace). I'd also had a bad experience with a very popular brand not made by Diamond. One friend on Facebook happens to be a consultant at a popular non-chain pet food store. Oh boy could she tell the tales! Before I knew her actual job title, I thought she must be a hair dresser, based on her comments about her clients. I looked through Mr Chewy's website and easily found the brand that most folks recommended: Orijen.

So, that's what I ordered, along with these two Wysong products, just to try them out. I thought they looked interesting, and I hadn't seen them in the local feed store where I have bought other Wysong (Synergon - see below). I have used Wysong off and on for a while, as an emergency back up food.

The Optimal Performance is small bites, much smaller than the Orijen. It also has small clumps of powdery stuff which I assume is the "raw" aspect that is advertised about this product. My dogs all liked it. They also liked the Epigen. Both products are very rich, based on their ingredients list. I am just using them as an additive to the Orijen. Unless your dog is working all day, every day, I think they would be too much for his or her sole food.

Below is the Wysong product I have bought at my local feed store. It comes in convenient small packages and is priced very competitively with the other popular brands. It is a lower-octane product and probably more appropriate for a retired but active dog like Chiefie. The quality has always been consistent.

While I normally feed raw (and usually a certain proportion of that is raw/frozen tripe), I like to keep some canned food on the shelf for emergencies, like when there is no raw food thawed out, or for those dreadful "almost payday" woes that mean the freezer is nearly empty. The canned food of choice around here is Trippett (canned green tripe), which Mr Chewy does not carry. That is one recommendation that I would make to Mr Chewy: please carry Trippett in cases and it is one thing I might order more often.

Otherwise, rock on, Mr Chewy, you're doing a great job! I noticed that he shipped out of PA, which means it is a long haul for the food to get here. That might explain why it took a week to get here via Ground. Still, I would order from him again.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

RESDA Spring Trial, Full Moon, & More...

This past week there was a gorgeous full moon. I really enjoyed it! 

Yesterday was the first trial of the RESDA season, the annual Spring Trial. This is when handlers traditionally dust the cobwebs off of their handling and the Johnson Ranch range ewes demonstrate their ability to find escape routes in places where no dog or handler had possibly anticipated.

We had a lovely weather day. Coal ran late in the open class and we had a very challenging set of three ewes. He tried his best but we did not have a pretty run, and while we got the two panels on first attempts, we did not get the chute or pen and timed out. But, I was very pleased with Coal's attitude and how hard he tried. I'm not sure what else we could have done to try to smooth out our sheep packet and get them working together more quietly. Sometimes it just doesn't happen no matter how hard ya try!

After a potluck lunch anchored by tri-tip barbecued over a wood fire, we ran the pro-novice class, in which Ryme was up mid-roster. This was Ryme's first time in a trial in about six months. He ran out really nicely in a beautiful outrun. I stopped him at the top and then he got flummoxed, I think, by the five big range ewes who gave him the stink eye and then they ran to the fence where he did not want to pull them off. I don't really blame him! After a few attempts by whistle, I retired, walked up the field, and helped Ryme to pull them off the fence. Another day, we will get them. RESDA is a great place for Ryme and me to practice as the atmosphere is so low-key.

Thanks to all who helped to put on the trial as RESDA is really a hands-on affair even more so than ever, this year. In order to save the club some money since finances are low, the members voted not to have the paid helpers for setout as we have done the past few years - which meant that handlers have to help work the pens, set out sheep, set up and tear down the course, and everything else that makes a trial a "go". It certainly makes for less socializing, but it is somewhat satisfying to know that you are putting together nice quiet packets of sheep for others that have been handled with good stockmanship up top at the letout. It's messy work but I do enjoy it as long as I don't have to work the whole trial!

In sad news, we lost one of our youngest sheep -- an almost yearling mixed hair-sheep ewe -- to pneumonia this week. It came on very suddenly and took her down very fast. It seems we learn from every experience with sheep.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sunny Sunday

Wow - a sunny Sunday after a lot of welcome rain. No schedule, just a day off and work dogs and do chores. I haven't really mastered taking pictures with the i-phone yet but here are some attempts.

Ryme works with 3 yearling-ish lambs



Lambs thought they would escape 'round the burn pile. Not, says Ryme!

Ryme drives

Ryme cools off

Ryme has a muddy face but is a happy dog!

Mr & Mrs Goose

Another muddy but happy dog -- Coal

Coal with 2 Blackies and 2 Dorper crosses



Coal's turn to cool off

Zamora 2012 Wrapup

Finally, there is a bit of time to post about Zamora. While the weather threatened, it was not awful, for the most part. There was some rain Saturday afternoon and a lot in the evening and overnight, but most of the day during the actual trials, it was not too bad. We are grateful for the rain here in Northern California, this year, so no one was complaining too much. It was rather ironic, though, that after weeks and weeks of being clear and dry, the few days before the Sonoma Wine Country trial and most of the week inbetween that event and Zamora, it literally poured buckets from the skies! Oh well, we are glad to have that rain to grow grass for our sheep and other things. It was going to be a pretty bleak summer around here, if that long period of no precipitation had continued.

Zamora offered two trials over three days for the open class. For me with only one dog to run, this meant that I only had runs on two of the three days. As it turned out, Coal drew up very early Saturday morning and very late Sunday afternoon. The sheep were range ewes from the Slaven ranch production flock and were very fit, fine-looking ewes in fabulous shape, on their home turf! They were overall nice, mostly undogged, and presenting a challenge to the handlers. Once in a while one or two of them could get an attitude but in general the sheep were fantastic...just perfect for this venue.

Here is one important thing that I learned this past weekend: Maria's Cantina in Woodland, CA, is a very good place to eat!

Coal was up third dog in on Saturday morning so we were there bright and early. It was overcast and cool, not raining; perfect sheepdogging weather! I felt lucky not to have the sun in my eyes coming up over the ridgetop, as Friday's early handlers had been. Most everyone sent Away on the field, with only a few exceptions. (I only saw two dogs, personally, who made a success out of a Come Bye outrun--there may have been others that I did not see--and one of those two went really wide out of sight but still found his sheep.)

Coal started off wide enough to the right, and then dropped out of sight into one of the little valleys and in so doing, drifted down to nearly the centerline of the field, as many dogs had done. As soon as I saw him, I blew a couple of Away whistles to get him back out, which he did. At the lift the sheep had squirted to my left, whether he came in tight or or whether the sheep got away from the stock handler, I don't know; it is simply too far away for me to see. But I was proud that Coal was able to scoop them back up and not let them get over the hill and out of sight (and thus probably back to setout). The fetch started out offline though as a result. We got them back online and continued a pretty good fetch with our five ewes. The fetch ended with us turning the sheep around a cone across the ditch from the handlers' post - in other words we did not turn the sheep around ourselves like the usual - but around a post out in the field. This threw off a few of the dogs but most of the experienced dogs did not mind it, and Coal was OK with that as we have practiced that manuever many many times.

I was so pleased that Coal was responding well to the whistles - nothing like the second day of Sonoma Wine Country where he got on those range ewes and then wouldn't listen to me at all. He was very responsive both days at Zamora, about which I was thrilled! We fiddled around a little to get panel #1 and then I was unsure of the cross drive line, as it was hard for me to see, but we skimmed panel #2 just high. Many did. There was a pretty good turn back to the end of the drive, sheep across the ditch with no fuss, then our shed. I can't remember it! Drat! It happened so fast but it must've been good - for zero points off. We went to the pen but timed out.  Ten minutes were allowed for the course. I was so happy that Coal got out to the sheep and was so responsive. The comment was made to me, from someone who has mentored me a lot, "do you realize how far you've come?" Yes!!!

Saturday evening there was a get-together to celebrate Elgar's birthday. It was so nice to be a part of that milestone!

Happy Birthday, Elgar!

Trial host Bill Slaven with judge, Alf Kyme
Coal's second run was on Sunday afternoon, second to last dog of the entire trial and day. Only a few die-hards were left at the trial grounds, and I know the crew was anxious to finish up. Sunday's weather was nice after a very stormy night. I was thankful that the clouds had cleared, mostly, for Sunday. By late afternoon the sun was behind us, and the air was cool and clear. The dog running just ahead of us, unfortunately did not find his sheep. So Coal and I walked on to take those sheep. I felt confident that Coal would find them, and he did. I sent him right, again, of course - not going to meddle with success. I whistled just one "Away" just before he disappeared over the first hill, as insurance. He probably didn't need it, and I knew it would cost me on the outrun score, but I also knew that if he dropped inside again I would regret that I hadn't blown a whistle. He stayed out and had a lovely outrun and lift.

We are getting the same approximate consistent number of points off of our fetches lately on the range ewes, so there is obviously something to improve there, however, we got them down the hill in OK fashion. The post turn was just a little wide but we managed it. It was hard to get the ewes turned toward the drive panel. In the afternoons the Zamora ewes had been a little trickier to work with and they showed more attitude. They were leaning on Coal but we got them to panel #1 and turned on the cross drive. At this point the sheep booked for home as they had done with everybody in the afternoons. It was hard to steer and we missed panel #2 - no big surprise - many did. It  was again hard to turn them back onto the line to the ditch crossing, they were leaning on Coal again, but we got them to the crossing. This time they were reluctant to cross. I had watched several dogs get stuck here and be unable to complete. I think a couple of years ago when Coal was less experienced, we may have gotten stuck there, too. But this time after a little bit of coaxing, he got them across which was like winning the trial for me.  There was water in the ditch from the  heavy overnight rains, and that made it a lot harder than the Friday and Saturday runs had been.

At the shed the sheep had really wanted to book on everybody. I had a plan in my head how I wanted to set it up but for the first time in either run, I felt a bit disoriented. Trying to take a deep breath like I have been advised...I did not set up a good shed. Coal came in on the three ewes instead of the two and of course the judge did not call it. I knew we had to keep working so I tried to set it up again but then Coal came in on the two and the shed was called. I didn't hear it so the judge called out to me again. By then I was really feeling disoriented. We went to the pen, started working on it, and timed out. It was difficult at this point for anyone to pen because you had your back to the draw, the dog had to push the sheep toward the draw but not let the sheep get around you to get away back to the exhaust, into the creek, or even out of bounds back up into the next pasture. I felt good that we just kept our sheep contained even though time was called, for us, too soon.

Victories: I was not "out of dog" on either run, which was a huge relief which you consider the length and breadth of the course and the hills that the dog must run out and back on. Also, Coal had to shake off distraction; there were a number of bitches in season at the trial, and some of the male dogs were very distracted by this (some would not even run out on their outruns). I noticed what was going on, early in the trial so I kept Coal sequestered in my car across the road and only brought him out to potty and to see one outrun and lift, each day. I did not want his mind on the girls!

The winning run of the second trial was really something to see. Bill Berhow's Coal dog ran the course with an 86 out of 100 (in only his second open trial weekend) and there was very little to imagine that went wrong on that run other than that the sheep booked through the panels each time and had to be turned back to get on line. There was not much that any of the handlers could do to control this, as the sheep ribboned out and the dog could not be in two places at once. If the handlers tried to turn the sheep too soon, then they would not have gotten all five ewes through the panels. If they waited too long to turn the sheep, then the sheep often got too far away from the dog for steering to be effective at all (and sometimes the sheep "won" and truly did get too far away resulting in an RT).

Our scores were not good enough to get any nationals points, but I really didn't expect to, going in. The victory for me was in part that we literally doubled our scores from our runs at Zamora last year in 2011. And, the zero-points-off shed on Saturday plus the nice gather on Sunday were fantastic confidence-builders for Coal and me. All in all it was a very fun weekend and the back-to-back trials meant that there were a lot of handlers from out of our area who had come to tackle both challenges. It was as always nice to see old acquaintances and make some new ones. Coal and I are looking forward to our next challenge!