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! :)