Thursday, February 18, 2016

Jack Knox Clinic at Hopland 2016

We went to the Jack Knox clinic at Hopland again this year. I think this is my fifth time to go to that clinic, but the first time I worked a dog in the clinic instead of just auditing.

It is no secret that I love to go to Hopland to the University farm there. As I have said many times, this is one of my very favorite places on earth.

Spot was in the clinic and worked well for me most of the time. All the clinic dogs worked their first turn in the round pen so that Jack could evaluate them.

In his subsequent turns, Spot and I worked out in the long narrow field that is next "door" to the round pen area, near the big lambing barn.  This is a nice field to work in with some trees and things to navigate around, and a draw back to the barn that pretty much simulates a real working situation that most of us deal with, in one way or another. In the field, Spot was very good. He took a bend out on the outrun, for sheep that he could not see, at first. He did not seem tense, which was a bonus! Jack told me to watch his flanks, and correct them when they are tight, which they sometimes are. The stops also needed work. None of this was a huge breakthrough but it was nice to get some coaching and some different ideas on getting the stop. There were a lot of other nice dogs, to watch. I always learn a lot by paying attention to the other handlers and dogs in this clinic when they take their turns.

On Sunday Spot's first turn in the field was also very nice. He showed me a glimpse of what his truly adult self may be like. It was good. There were no problems. I was beginning to wonder if Spot would show us any of his issues! Jack had some good insight for me as to the number and pace of my commands. I have run my other dogs in trials, Coal and Bid, a certain way, with a lot of whistles, but it seems that Spot needs a method with fewer commands so that he stays cooler-headed, at least for now.  What they needed is perhaps not what Spot needs. We will give it a try.

We got to see his older sister, Daisy, too as she was in the clinic. It was nice to see her and her owners as I don't think they were there last year. Daisy and Spot are like bookends as they look so much alike, and have the same goofy ear set. Daisy has just a little white tip on one of her ears, however, and of course she is dainty and feminine, where Spot is just a big moose. But it was fun to compare notes on them. :)

Our second turn out in the field started off fine but then we were interrupted by a random ewe who tried to jump in with our working set and join up with them, and as a result, got herself stuck in the fence. I called Spot back and we retreated, so that the ewe would not feel any extra pressure. People in the clinic ran to help. There was a doctor, a veterinarian, a farrier, and several others in attendance, besides, Jack, who all helped to free the silly ewe. They got her loose and then Jack called us back to work. This little hiatus on a warm day seemed to get Spot going a little bit more tense than when we started our turn, maybe, and he did show us a little bit more of a brief panic behavior. It was good to have Jack work through this with me. We called him off then put him right back to work.

The advice was to give Spot his head some more than I have been. I also watched Jack putting dogs through their paces of bringing sheep up to a fence, pulling the sheep back off that fence, putting them into corners and taking them out. These types of exercises are going to get added to our training list as well.

The clinic was low-key and the two days just seemed to fly by. Since I was still getting over being sick I did not take the pages of notes like I normally do at a clinic. I am hoping that I retain at least some of the great work that I saw. I really enjoyed working Spot with Jack, so I am sending in a deposit to get into another one of his clinics this year. I really appreciate all the work that the University staff put into these events, and I'm sure everyone else did, too, who was there.

Jack also will have a book coming out, which will be really interesting to read. At the clinic the talk was that they hope the book will appear later this year. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

As Long as It Takes

I can't remember exactly why or when I subscribed to Danielle LaPorte's daily "truthbombs" via email but sometimes they are interesting. :) Yesterday's truthbomb #990 was <as long as it takes>. How appropriate. 

I really wanted to make one of those silly hand-printed signs and hang this saying around Spot's neck with baling twine! :-) But creating it on the computer was easier. 

The sickness that has been hanging around our work office for over a month since New Year's Eve, finally did me in, last week. But since it was such a nice sunny weekend, I still took the dogs out to work sheep a little bit on Saturday and Sunday. There is still a lot of mud and standing water but that just makes it easier to break things down and work on getting things correct, close at hand. The dogs do not mind the mud. 

At age nine, Coal is giving me unpredictable up-and-down days of working on the sheep. We have been doing some basics the past few sessions and he seems back up to speed at least for now. He has always been a dog who needs to stay tuned up. We are not entering any of the trials locally, though. I'm sort of bummed but that's how it is. I don't think he is up for a huge outrun on the hills but we still have fun working together. 

Other random thoughts and discussions with others over the past few days, have been: the overwhelming and rising costs of (what may seem somewhat simple) veterinary care for our dogs; the high cost of being involved even in a minimal level in sheepdog trialling; the necessity for a lot more free time and places to work dogs, in order to be involved in sheepdog trialling (again, even at a moderate level). On the up side, we're looking forward to the Knox clinic this weekend at beautiful Hopland. There are many things to ponder. 

Today's truthbomb is, <listen for how to give>. My only New Year's "Resolution" (and I really don't "do" resolutions) was to try to be a better listener. Hummm! :)

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The New Guy

This is the new guy; his name is "Cosmo". I love the name! It reminds me of one of my favorite movies, "Moonstruck".  Someone else noted that the Kramer character in the TV show Seinfeld, had the first name of Cosmo, also. Anyway I think it is a great name for him and he is adjusting well. So far his temperament is super and we are transitioning him into his new situation which he seems to like. We are super grateful to his prior owner, and very fortunate to have him!

Thursday, February 4, 2016


Regarding storytelling, that is of the non-fiction kind, recently I filled out a survey from a USC (University of Southern California) Ph.D. student/researcher who is part of The Narrative Group. The survey was sent to bloggers who were discovered through their software (a "bot"? I am not sure if that is the right term for it) that seeks out blogs that are posted to somewhat frequently with real-life stories. It was sort of interesting, and gave me something to think about other than what has been sort of an up-and-down start to a new year.

Most of the questions were pretty simple, like "why do you want to write a blog" and "what aspects of your life do you include (or not include)"? One question was about views on Hilary Clinton, which I thought was weird! :) But, maybe these researchers can make some associations based on that. They know more about their research than I do, obviously.

This connection is one more reason to keep blogging, I guess. Other than Rocking Dog Ranch continually poking at me, that is! :) Since I used to work in a university research environment, years ago, the USC survey was appealing for that reason, too. It is too bad that most of the other sheepdog bloggers have given up but that is their choice. Certainly it is not as easy to blog as it is to post on FB but there is room here to expand and do more, which is one reason why I like it. It also functions as a journal of sorts. And a place to put photos that I have played around with in my photo software. :)

From the Narrative Group's website:

The Narrative Group investigates storytelling and the human mind, exploring how people experience, interpret and narrate the events in their lives. We pursue creative research at the intersection of computer science, psychology, and communications. Our projects range from basic science research to advanced prototype development.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Memories from the Dog Wars

The recent discussion and re-vote by the USBCHA Board of Directors stirred up a lot of memories in my mind and some trauma that I thought I had put to rest for good, but alas, not.

Things felt just as swirly over the weekend on the District 1 FB page, as the photo effect that I applied to this photo of Ryme driving our Scottish Blackface sheep across a newly-greened-up pasture.

There was a Rule in place, in the USBCHA that AKC judges could not judge the USBCHA National Finals, the premier event of the year, in which a champion wins a double lift finals. A motion was passed in a Board meeting by phone last week, to change that rule to bar AKC conformation judges only, and allow "herding" judges, and then days later, another motion was passed to go back to the original rule. Some felt it was stupid. Some felt strongly that the rule needed to stay as it was - i.e., no AKC judges on the panel at the Finals. I am one of those in that latter group. I felt, and still feel, that a person needs to make a choice between judging AKC and judging USBCHA, especially at the Finals. The four judges at the Finals are the face of the organization. As much as I value individual liberties and choice, I just couldn't fathom having one of those four being an AKC judge. All of this took me unwillingly back to the Dog Wars.

The Dog Wars. The battle was being fought when I got my first border collie, back in 1990.  She had registration papers from both AIBC and from ABCA. This was before AKC full registration of border collies. When I decided to try Novice A Obedience with my girl, after taking classes at the local dog training club, I applied for and got an ILP number for her. She was spayed. Her pedigree was all working dogs. In fact all of the border collies were working type dogs. Their pedigrees were the same as the dogs that handlers walked onto the sheepdog trial field with. Some of my friends at the dog training club had border collies (and aussies, actually) who had registration papers from NASDS, too. Certain lines had just started to become popular with the obedience people, but no one, and I mean no one, that I was friends with at the time, wanted full AKC recognition. We wanted to be able to show our border collies in obedience and train them for tracking. We did NOT want to put them in the show ring. My little bitch was spayed, anyway, and she would have gotten laughed out of the show ring for her conformation. We got some qualifying scores, and got a CD, but we did not win any prizes! We were both very much beginners.  I would have loved to try her on sheep, but there weren't any, and no trainers around to even give it a whirl. But AKC conformation, no way. We could see what AKC was all about and we just wanted to do our training thing. AKC "herding" was for dogs in the Herding Group and thus our border collies were not eligible, as they were in the Miscellaneous Class. There wasn't any UDX or MACH or Rally or even agility. You got a CD, CDX, maybe a UD and maybe a TD and TDX and you had fun. We even went to Canada for a week in the summer and everyone got Canadian CDs. Big fun on a girls' trip. :)

Then came my second border collie. He came from the West and had a real working sire, who worked on a ranch. I desperately still wanted to try him on sheep. A person moved to a nearby county who had come from California, and she had been a handler and knew a little about sheepdog handling. She brought in a clinician who was very good; in fact he was the National Champion. I took my male border collie to this clinic and we had a great time. By this time, AKC had begun to register border collies with full registration. I didn't register my dog, even though people told me I should since he was handsome and I should show the judges what a real working dog looked like; I didn't want to.  I foolishly thought all sheepdog training clinics were like the first clinic with the National Champion. A year later this now-local person brought in another clinician. I signed up eagerly. But, this second clinic was not the same. And that's where things get dreadful. I'll have to think about whether I can write about it or want to.  Possibly, to be continued, or not. But that is some of my history from the Dog Wars.