Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Happy New Year

Chiefie and the rest of us are looking forward to 2015, the Year of the (blue) Sheep!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Coal on Christmas

Here are Coal's Christmas 2014 pictures. He has been a good boy, and even though you get coal in your stocking from Santa Claus if you have been a bad kid, I have always felt blessed to have such a good Coal in my life. :) Even though he is a little monkey at times!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Spot's Progress, 12-26-2014

Spot's photo from Christmas Day, 2014
Patience is the Key

I haven't posted on Spot's progress for a while. It feels like we are in another one of those "plateau" stages again. I have to just be patient and keep working with him, and I am sure we will take another step forward at some point, very soon. We've been through these plateau periods several times in the past year or so. Patience is the key; sigh! Sometimes patience is difficult to muster! :)

Overall, Spot's doing well. He can do a nice short to medium gather without the wheels falling off. But, if I send him too far, those wheels may go flyin'! It's all stuff we have to work through and figure out together.

The driving is coming along, slowly. He is getting it about driving, but the steering part, is coming a little more slowly. He is getting the idea of the inside flanks, if I am super careful about setting them up with relation to the draws, the sheep, and me. I do put a solid stop in between each command...he needs it. The outside small flanks are almost harder to do because he wants to take them as a full flank all the way around to the heads, to gather. I am trying to work on all of this without getting too picky on him and flustering the both of us.

His recall is good. The whistles for stop and steady are in place; the whistles for the flanks are not all depends on the situation.

I use him for whatever small "chores" that we may have...which are not many. So sometimes I make up a chore just to do something different. Recently I was super pleased because I sent him into a smaller paddock for a group of about a dozen half-grown lambs, out a gate, then brought them through another narrow-ish field, and through another gate out into a large pasture. Spot took every stop and flank that I asked him to take, while escorting those lambs out to the field. It felt super to make that happen without any kerfluffles! :)  So there IS progress, once I start to add it all up. He is a good boy and tries hard.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Morning Fun

Dogs love water. I love doing chores on holidays and just hanging out with the animals. The guardian dog, Neve, got extra treats with his breakfast. The Scotties got some apples in addition to their alfalfa. The boys decided that playing in the little seasonal pond was great fun.

A branch had blown down from the tree that hovers over the seasonal pond. It must've blown down last night or yesterday when we had some winds blow through. The weather has changed from warm and wet to cool and sunny. The branch was in the seasonal pond and the dogs thought it needed a lot of attention. Ryme and Coal decided that it needed to be dragged out of the water and it was funny to watch them tackle that job together.

Ryme says this baby is mine!

Ryme and Coal work on dragging the branch out while Spot supervises

Ryme and Coal are still working on that branch!

Even Chiefie gets in there to help!
Ryme and his prize, dragged almost to "shore". 

Christmas is a time of gratefulness and sentiment; and connecting with family and friends. I'm always grateful when I can spend some time out with the animals, and give my dogs a chance to just be dogs having fun.

I did work Spot after all the water fun, but I didn't take any pictures of him. We will have to try another day when someone else is out there with me.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Cool Pics of Coal from Dunnigan Hills

Wow, I was really surprised and pleased to find these three gorgeous photos of Coal in my message in box. They were taken at Bill Berhow's Dunnigan Hills Fall trial a few weeks ago by K. Nichols.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Ryme & Scotties, last winter

This photo is from January 2014. We had no rain at this point in the winter.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Rain Like in the Old Days

Whew! We've had rain this week! We asked for it, and we prayed for it, and we did just about every other thing to beg for it, and by golly, we got it. All at once. Folks are saying that water rose up to places where it had never risen before. Wow. Lots of flooding and trees blown down, and other damage. A friend said it was "rain like in the old days" which I thought fit so well. We've had a long dry spell to say the least.

Spot working a week or so ago
The picture above is from a week or so ago. See the little bright green ditch that is between Spot and the sheep? That is now full of water. See the lighter green depression off to the right shoulders of the sheep? That is a vernal pool which is now full of water. Water, water, everywhere!

We worked dogs this morning and my guys were so happy to get out. They have been sequestered for almost a week. Everyone worked well considering they have been on hiatus.The only problem was working in amongst and around all the pools of water. It made for some interesting reactions in the dogs, and it makes the sheep reluctant to go in certain directions. I had to think a bit differently in order to work the dogs on things I had in mind to work on.

I had to pull out rubber boots that hardly got worn at all last year. I am still looking for overshoes that will go over my regular leather work boots. The muck boots are OK but do not provide much support. Last year I skated through; this year I will not be able to!

I know the drought is not over. I saw today online that Shasta is still only at about 30% capacity. But, that is up from the 20-something % capacity (less than 25%) that I saw only a few weeks back.  It will take a lot of water, rain like in the old days, to replenish Shasta. But it seems to be on its way there!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday Foto

I did not have time for Wordless Wednesday this week, so here is a Friday Foto (photo) of Spot.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Dunnigan Hills Fall 2014

a beautiful day at the Dunnigan Hills trial

from exhaust back up to judge's trailer, handlers, and spectators
Coal and I had a great time at the Dunnigan Hills Fall sheepdog trial. We had two open runs and I am happy to say that we completed the course -- finished!! -- on both runs. We made all the gates, too. They weren't the polished runs that I would prefer to look back on but they were good.  

A happy Coal after his run!
Coal tried hard and was really perky after both of his runs. At age eight  I am very glad to see him act like that! One issue though, was he would not stop for me at all on Saturday's run. Rather than fight with him on the trial field, on Monday's run I elected to just go with it and steady and steer him instead. It worked. He still needs to stop for me, and we will be working on that in practice (as we already have been but clearly it is not ingrained enough to hold up at a trial!). But a wise trainer told me once that if the dog won't stop in a trial there is no sense yelling on and on at the dog and making the judge wonder what you are doing. You have a few choices but if your dog is the type who can run a course that way, then go for it, run the trial with your steady, and fix the no-stopping problem at home. It's not ideal but that's what we did.

Saturday's weather was beautiful (the photos above are from Saturday) after the fog lifted. There was a slight delay in running dogs both days I was there, due to fog. Monday's weather was colder and more foggy, and the sky remained cloudy and it never really cleared up. That was all OK with me because we did not get rained on and it stayed nice and cool for the dogs and sheep.

I am super appreciative of such a great trial so close to home. I am grateful for the trial hosts who put it on, the judge, clerk, and all the helpers including the fabulous setout crew and course director, and all. The Chico CSU kids brought food and drinks to sell, on the weekend, which I am sure was greatly enjoyed by everyone. We were all also very glad to see all the green grass starting to sprout on those Dunnigan hills...after the several drought years it was a welcome sight.

What surprised me and also what seemed to be on the tip of everyone's tongue, was the question of when Spot will make his debut in a trial. I don't know but it might be soon, just as a practice to get him out for experience's sake.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Working Dogs in the Rain

working in the green grass, The Rymon pictured :)

Should I change his name from Spot to Stretch?
I had a day off today, so I enjoyed working my dogs and they enjoyed it too...despite the intermittent showers (and one big downpour which caught me out in the field with Spot and Coal, but luckily I had put a raincoat and rain pants on) it was so nice to be out in the green (growing) grass. Talking with other friends, we realized that last year we hardly even got our rain gear out of mothballs, so to speak. I don't think I wore my rain pants more than once or twice.

Ryme proved himself quite useful to bring in the sheep and sort them for the other dogs to work. At one point I was particularly proud of him as he was able to shed a large group of sheep just on my voice commands, while I was twenty or thirty yards away from him (holding the gate for the smaller group to go through into the larger pasture). I haven't really tried this much with Ryme although I have been working on his farm-style shedding. All of a sudden it must've made sense to him (doing a real job) so it was neat to see. I learned to do these faraway sheds from our trainer, and always laugh at myself when I am able to pull them off. It is either a sign of great skill or great unwillingness to walk further back and forth; I am not sure which. :)

Tomorrow is Ryme's birthday and he will be six years old. I'm pleased that he's able to help me so much as a chore dog even though he has not worked out to be a trial dog, as I had hoped.

I took Coal and Spot out together, and tied one to the fence while I worked the other. Again, it could be laziness or it could be my feet were starting to hurt. Anyway by the time it was their turn, the big downpour had started. The pouring rain did not dampen Spot's enthusiasm, nor Coal's. Coal tried to say that it meant he did not have to lie down on whistle nor verbal but I soon set him straight on that. There was not that much water pouring into his Dumbo ears!!

The water was starting to fill up low-lying areas. Soon the vernal pools will be filled. It is wonderful to see this happening as we had almost no rain last winter, and certainly nothing by this point in time last year.

Chiefie is lobbying for his supper, quite unmercifully. So here's to the rain!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

My Working Team

My Working Team, caught together in a rare moment

This is my working team: (l-r) Coal, Ryme and Spot. It's too bad that Ryme is looking away from the camera, but of course he is looking in the direction of the sheep!

Coal is now eight years old (which is hard for me to accept and believe) and he is my Open trial dog, that is, when I can go to a few trials. I am regretful that I could not trial him more, but that's the way things have been in the last few years. He is a life changing dog for me and I am so grateful to have him. Coal is always willing to try whatever I have in mind, and he has a lot of want-to.  He has placed in a few USBCHA trials, and I think the highest we have ever been is second place in Open. His downfall is his extreme amount of eye, which I constantly work to try to deal with. He is a merry little monkey off the sheep field and always makes me smile. There is not a bad day for Coal - he always has good days!

Ryme is almost six years old. He is my best guy for ranch work and chores. He loves to sort sheep and do any kind of close work. The wheels sometimes fall off if I try to work him at too much of a distance. As a result, most trialling scenarios have not worked out well for him. His temperament is not good and he is not trustworthy around other dogs and people that he does not know. So I am really careful with him in public. With people and dogs he knows, he is very friendly and playful. I am just trying to give him the best life that I can. He has a chronically bad rear leg so we are very careful with that. Right now I am teaching him to shed. This will help us a lot with chores and it also provides me with another learning experience of teaching a different type of dog to shed. It also gives us something to work on when I train. Yesterday there was a little ram lamb who was trying to get bossy; I put Ryme on him and Ryme snapped at that little ram right at his nose. The ram decided he'd better move along with the rest of the flock. It's nice to have a dog who will do that!

Spot is two years old and he is my hopeful. It has taken a long time to get him going, in comparison with all the other pups of his age group. He was so keen and so strong that it was difficult to get him started in the right direction. But now we are on our way and Spot is learning to drive. I'm using Spot for any small chore that comes along (or that I can make up, literally). I wish we had more sheep chores for him to do. Right now I am just working on his driving and lengthening his outruns...working on that elusive stop on the fetch, so I have it just in case.  I'm really excited about his prospects and am fairly certain - at least at this point - that he will make a trial dog. His temperament is excellent and his stock sense is very good.  Spot has a TON of want-to and is (now) willing to work with me to make that partnership happen.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

On Thanksgiving Day, I always like to try to take pictures of the dogs. I had a hard time getting them to line up in one frame, today, but below are the two choices that I came up with. Neither photo is too great but they are better than nothin'! :)

Dogs who would rather be running around playing, or more importantly, working not care to sit still for silly photos for mom.

We had a great day, working sheep, doing chores, and just hanging out. I got to play with two litters of puppies, and I made two new recipes that I've been wanting to try. One recipe is from The Beef Jar, a blog that I enjoy reading.

The dogs got nice raw bones late this afternoon and they are more than thrilled that I had the day off and they in turn got a break from their work day routine.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Some Nice Rain and Some Thoughts

We've had some nice rain this past week...a couple of days of lovely wetness. It is very welcome in these parched parts. Maybe soon we will have as much green grass as in the above photo with Coal (from two years ago). For today, however, the rain seems to have stopped and the wind has really picked up. Time to get the summer umbrellas off the back porch and stowed until spring.

The dogs are so bored because of their inactivity during the week; however I am finding that when I do get them out to the sheep they are not as wild as I might have guessed. Coal and I are a bit rusty, and his stubborn side is showing, which I am trying to tune up before the Dunnigan trial. But the younger dogs seem to be taking it in stride that we have hit that midpoint of winter where the days are short. Another month, and the days will start to get longer, again.

Spot's training is coming along. He is picking up on the whistles, the driving, and everything I am throwing at him. What needs attention (again) is the stop at more of a distance, now that I have probably mixed everything up in his head. I've been trying to make up chores and jobs for Spot to do, whenever we can. He is so willing to work with me, which is very exciting! And for which I am very grateful. Thanksgiving is next week so it's probably a good time to come up with a gratitude post. Food for thought. :)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Remembering Green Grass and Water

These pictures are from approximately two years ago at this time of year, when we had actual rain.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Coal

photo by L. Heringer
This photo made the BCIA 2015 calendar. :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Just Work Him and Have Fun

Don't train on him by rote, just work him and have fun.

That's the latest in Spot's progress. He's progressing so fast and so well that the latest mantra from this week's lesson is to just work him and don't train on him. Don't push him, don't try to fine tune him yet. Let him work, find practical jobs for him to do, or make them up as you go. Get him out and about wherever you can on whatever different sheep you can (yeah, right, that is always the tallest order).

Our lesson this week started out with me showing what Spot and I can do with a small packet of sheep. We gathered, we drove, we fetched. We had a great time ... and then we were challenged to do much more.

We drove the small group of sheep much farther than ever before, up over a hill. I tried to keep up on the hill. A couple of times Spot tried to head the sheep but he stopped when I asked him to, and waited for me. When we reached the top, the sheep drifted to another pen full of sheep while we caught our breath from the hill climb, and Spot got a drink. Then we took all the sheep out of that pen and drove them away, and brought them back and re-penned them.

Then we took them out again, and we got to do long outruns on the hills with all those many sheep. Oh my. It was such a thrill to see Spot doing what he was bred for, working sheep on the hills. I am so grateful, yet I know we have both worked so hard for this connection.  "Hills make a dog." Such a true statement! He learns a lot by doing. We do have some things to work on. :) The stop on the fetch at a distance, for example, and whistles, and more. Can't wait!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Covelo Work Day

RESDA sponsored a sheepdog work day last weekend at a ranch in Covelo, CA. It is a long drive but definitely worth the trip! We went last year and when the opportunity came up to go again this year, it was a must-do on the to-do list.

The green grass in the pasture was ankle deep which was a shock both to our systems and to the dogs. We are used to dried up brown, hard dirt with a few springs of brown here and there. To walk and work in nice lush green grass was a real treat.  I guess they have had rain up there that we just haven't gotten yet.

The sheep were older Dorper lambs who had never been worked in small groups, so that was the major challenge.  They also had their heads buried in that lush green grass and did not want to move. That changed what I was able to do with my dogs but I am still very grateful for the chance to get out on different sheep in a different place.

Coal did a nice outrun and fetch but then was pretty much unable to drive the lambs very far without some help and encouragement. Most of the dogs were similar, and had to kind of weave back and forth to get the lambs to move once they had planted themselves in a location. In contrast, Spot was able to pick them up and drive them without the sheep hesitating.  Spot did a nice outrun then picked up the sheep and drove the sheep away from me as straight as a string with no weaving.  That made my weekend to see!

I was super happy with all three dogs that I took to work as I felt that they all tried hard. The drive back and forth to Covelo is a long one and we left early enough to get home (or at least out of the area of the winding and hilly roads) before dark, the weekend of the time change.

It was also great to see many of our handler friends and have a visit in such a pleasant location. Oh and the fact that there was surprise barbecue and fixin's made it extra special.  Thank you to everyone who helped!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Wordless Wednesday, a Day Late

The Beef Jar blog has some nice Wordless Wednesday posts so I am going to try to follow suit. :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Spot's Progress, 11-05-2014

I haven't posted about Spot's progress in a long time, it seems. There for a while in the late summer/early fall, it seemed like we were treading water, again. I was just waiting and hoping, for another breakthrough in his understanding, and meanwhile we just kept plugging away at the work with the sheep. He wasn't doing anything bad, but it seemed like we weren't getting any better.

My patience is being rewarded. :) In the last few weeks, Spot has really started to come on again. He is just about two years and two months old, plus. We are making progress in his outruns, fetches, and drives. He's learning the whistles and doing much, much better. It feels like I am working a real dog. Yeah! He flanks, he stops (most of the time). He helps me to feed the sheep (which he loves to do because he gets to push).

I took him to the workday at Covelo and the sheep there were somewhat hard to move on the first day. They had their heads down in the lush green grass and did not want to go very far with dogs behind them. But, Spot had no trouble picking them up and driving them in a line as straight as a ribbon. Wow. It was as if it was something he'd been waiting for his whole life.

We've had a couple of lessons with our trainer lately, and in the bigger spaces without nearby fences to create pressure, it's neat to see the dogs bloom and blossom into real sheepdogs. I am super thrilled with how Spot took to working out in a more open space and also on the hillsides.

If this sounds like an enthusiastic report about Spot, that's because it is. Woo hoo! I'm hoping to get more done with him, over the winter. The only down side, is the time change, and lack of daylight. So our practices will have to be better focused because the quantities of sessions will have to be fewer, out of necessity.

A Short Trial Season

October was our trialling month, I guess, for Fall 2014. It was a very short trialling season for us. Traveling out of the area for trials just isn't happening for me, right now, and with no Hopland, that left only two trials for us to go to.

The new Patrick Ranch trial in Durham, CA was very well organized, just an all-around nice trial. Held on the grounds of the Patrick Ranch museum, there was a fall celebration and a fiber festival all happening at the same venue on that weekend. There were lots of interested spectators enjoying the sheepdogs along with their hayrack rides, pumpkins and viewing the fiber arts.  The outrun was not huge but the trial was not about the outrun. It was about everything else, mainly the sheep, who were crossbred older lambs/ younger yearlings from a grazing outfit and they had little to nothing to do with obeying a dog who wanted to move them about. The second day went better but the first day was pretty hard, for most of the dogs. Coal and I retired on the first day, unable to get the sheep around the post. The second day, we did better and actually started around the course, until I made a stupid handler error and drove the fetch panels instead of the crossdrive panels. Bucket list, check! I wasn't feeling very well over that weekend and my focus was nonexistent, apparently. Not enough sleep, working too hard, and getting two vaccines at the doctor the day before leaving for the trial, made for a very unfit handler. Anyway I have nothing but good to say about this trial, and I am so glad that NCWSA is getting back into doing open USBCHA type trials. I know it was a ton of work and I was wowed by all the many hands who were helping. I hope I can help more, next time.

Spencer's Point Pleasant fall trial was up next, for us. Michael Shearer, current winner of the World Trial in Scotland, was our judge. He and his wife are so nice and we have all enjoyed them on their prior trips to the area. Coal and I did better at this trial, and we got around the course in both of our runs. That was a huge confidence builder even if we didn't place up very high on the list. Coal and I both made our mistakes but it felt good to get out there and do a full course.  This trial is always well-run and this year was no exception with no detail left undone. The Pt Pleasant fall trial usually has the dogs running out through a gate on the outrun, which we had practiced ahead of time. I was really happy that Coal took his direction out the gate as we had done at home, and also that we got our sheds on both runs.

Big thank yous go out to both venues for all the hard work that goes into putting on a trial for our enjoyment!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Judging AHBA Recently...

I had a really great time judging an AHBA trial a couple of weekends ago. There were two courses offered, the HTD and the HRD.

HTD is a small "border collie" course, i.e. it is like a pro-novice course except that the level III handlers must also perform a ribbon pull (instead of a shed, although a shed can be used in this class) after the pen. Some black-headed Dorper sheep were used for this class and they were a challenge to keep within the boundaries of the course area. If handled correctly, however, they were very workable. It took proper dog work to make it happen and no mishaps.  In the level III class, however, on this course, I felt a bit like the Grim Reaper. There were very few to no qualifiers...ugh. The ribbon pull and the pen were the downfall of the level III folks: flanks and stops... oh my.

HRD is the ranch course with a series of exercises that resemble real-life "chores".  Some more broke sheep were used for this course, and the success level and the scores were higher. But it was not easy and those who did it well and scored higher, had to work at it.

The Vacaville facility is a joy to work in because it is impeccably maintained and the number of volunteers normally exceeds the number of jobs available to be done. What a concept! The people who train there have a club atmosphere and they cheer for each other as if on a team. It is so nice to see. They had a cake for one of their folks who had won an award at the national level, from their breed club (it is a breed not really known for working livestock). Everyone cheered for this gentleman's achievement.

I do enjoy judging, in small doses. One day, smaller trials, are the best for me. It requires a lot of focus and stamina and sometimes it is hard to maintain both at a consistent level, all day. I want to do a good job and I try really hard. It pains me when I have to call someone off the course or take major points off because of neglectful handler choices.

Normally it is not the dogs in these situations, who lose the points; it is the handlers. Several people had really nice dogs, and they reminded me of myself about a dozen years ago when I was in their same boots.  I talked to some of these folks after the trial, and told them that they had really nice dogs. Everyone is on their own journey.  This activity has such a huge learning curve. The more I learn, the more I feel that I am really still at the bottom of the mountain, just starting up the trail.

One really practical thing that the more novice people needed to work on, was in keeping an eye on their dogs and the other eye on their sheep. They tended to go for one or the other but couldn't handle keeping both in their perspective at the same time, which led to their downfall at places on the HRD course where they needed to open or close a gate, or perform a gate sort, etc.  Their dogs were (understandably) just trying to cover.

Overall though I had a really nice day and enjoyed the company of the several volunteers who clerked and timed for me. They were an enthusiastic bunch who wanted to help out, and to learn. I'm sure everyone is very appreciative of such a nice facility where folks can go to AHBA trials and further their learning experience.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Tune Up

Coal and Ryme had their tune up this week, that is, their chiropractic tuneup that is way more than just that. Coal was pretty good, with just his inside toes flared up, most likely from running on the concrete-hard, dried-out ground.  Coal is in good shape, body-wise, with good muscle tone and strength, which was all good news for me since we have two trials this month. Ryme was (again) a mess with his troublesome right rear leg. I checked back through my journal notes and this leg has been plaguing him for some time. What to do? I am trying to keep Ryme together in one piece so that he can work sheep at least on some level. Working sheep is key to keeping Ryme somewhat together, mentally and emotionally. I'm adding in some different supplements and herbs. I had already changed the dogs to (mostly) their "winter diet" back in August but there is some frozen lamb and mutton in the freezer waiting for a few cooler days, to be added to the dogs' food.

Another birthday pic of Chiefie with his pal, Ryme
Spot gets to see the chiropractor once in a while, but for now he is mostly made of rubber so he doesn't really need it. We have to budget our time and expenses for the ones who really need it. Chiefie used to have treatments but he doesn't tolerate it well, so he doesn't get an appointment any more. The main thing I try to do is trim Chiefie's long tail so it does not drag on the ground and thus pull on his back unnecessarily (this a tip from our doggie chiropractor).

Other than Ryme's leg, the boys are all doing well. I haven't posted on Spot's progress in a while, but there isn't a whole lot to report. It feels sort of like Spot and I  are treading water; we're not losing any ground but we haven't gained much either (or at least that's how it seems). The days seem to be on a crash course careening to getting shorter and shorter by leaps and bounds each my evening dog training will soon come to an end for a few months. I am still hoping for another breakthrough for Spot, similar to what happened just before he turned two.

For the first time we did fall shearing on the Scotties, last week, so they got a tune up of another sort. It's an experiment so that we can perhaps better observe and manage their body condition over the winter. Some of them had six to seven inches of wool growth, since April. Our shearer said he had done several hundred head of sheep in the past week in addition to his regular day job. We were not the only ones. We'll see if it helps us.  Our shearer always has such interesting observations to share, about sheep. He noted that sheep in the fall, are stronger and fitter. They are better able to fight with being held off balance by the shearer for clipping. They have had to search more for their food to find it rather than in spring when they loll about, munching on clover. It does make sense that they would be more fit in the fall. I always learn something from the shearer.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

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