Saturday, April 30, 2016

Until a Few Days Ago

Chiefie portrait from November 2015, by Marnie N.
Until a few days ago Chiefie was having fun, as much as a 14+ year old dog can have. This week, I had to take him to the vet because he did not eat and had a fever, and we got some bad news. Through xrays and an ultrasound, we discovered that he has a mass on his spleen and on his gall bladder. Those masses could be surgically removed, but I do not feel he is a candidate for this surgery.  He is anemic due to the spleen issue as well. I have talked it over with the veterinarians and I am very sad to acknowledge that this means we are coming near to the end of our time together. I don't want to prolong his situation and I certainly don't want those masses to burst, or even more importantly, for him to be in pain. For some unknown reason, he was also having some pretty major back pain, which we now have controlled. We are enjoying a little more time together and next week sometime I will make arrangements to let him go.

That said, after getting him on some pain management this week, this morning he looks almost just about like he did about two weeks ago when we had our fun trip to Ferndale. He's begging for food, wants to go along with the other boys (although at a slower pace), and taking lots of naps. In between he is bright eyed, attentive, and interacting with his friends. What more could we ask besides a happy life right up (almost) until the end? The vet told me to spoil him, let him eat whatever he wants, and just keep his medication levels up and his food and water intake going.

We've had some great adventures and it seems like a very, very, long time ago since December 2001, when he came home with me as an eight-week-old pup who looked like a fuzzy white baby opossum. :)  I'm sure I will write more about him but for now this brings everyone up to speed. Happy weekend to all, and enjoy your dogs. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Flash Cards

My latest plan is to create flash cards for my dog training. I'm making a list of the things I want to work on, this summer in the evenings and on the weekends.  Flash cards are most likely a thing of the past, as are these sheepdog blogs (!) but then so am I! :) I thought it would be a great idea for evenings when I get home tired from work, but still want to get the dogs out to the sheep. I won't just do the same ole, same ole, whatever comes into my head...I will pull out a flash card and have a fresh idea of what to work on, and might (just might!) actually get through (or at least to) the many many things that need to get worked on.

I'm compiling the flash card list (I don't have actual cards yet) from the training plans that I got from Derek. I'm also adding in many of the things in the Vergil Holland book (the new one) where he mentioned things that you should practice before you enter a trial. I am part way through the book, the second time, adding highlighter and post-it note tabs on those pages where the exercises are discussed.  I don't want to hand-write on index cards so I need another idea to make the cards. Something that is not hand-intensive to create even more hand pain than I already have, from work. Ideas?

Our trip to Ferndale (where I thought of the flash cards, as we were winding up our time with Derek) was exactly everything I'd hoped for, and then some.  The clinic was held on a beautiful sheep and cattle ranch. Spot got to work out in an open field, no fences (except perimeter fencing, far away) on real sheep and a chance to put things together a bit from what we've been working on over the past month (and really over the past year and a half or so). One of my plans for this year is to get Spot out as many new places as I can, on different sheep, without actually taking him to trials just yet. This clinic was perfect for that. We worked on our basics that we have been doing, and we did more driving, and even a couple of sheds. The older lambs/young yearlings that we were working were pretty easy to split apart so it was a primo chance to try a shed with Spot (who is a beginner shedder).

Plus and even more importantly the group of people at this last clinic was just fantastic. We have all grown supportive of one another's attempts to improve our dog work. It is just a great bunch.

Here is the field in Ferndale where we worked (excuse the faraway i-Phone photo):

This looks like heaven to me!
This is a photo of my boys on the last morning of the clinic:

Ready for the next adventure
Training a sheepdog from a puppy to a competent adult that you can run in Open (or even PN) takes a lot of work. If you don't enjoy the process, then it would be best to either buy a trained Open dog or find another activity. The time and miles are worthwhile to me but it does seem to take, forever. The people you meet along the way, however, are jewels who also make it all worthwhile.  My friend hauled her LQ horse trailer into town so that I would have a place to stay for this clinic...I don't think people get much nicer than that. I enjoyed staying on site, at the venue. The little enclosed barn lot above in the photo, was just outside the door of the trailer. What could be nicer for the dogs and me? Not much. :) We are very lucky.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Homework on the Weekends

Spot and I have had a good weekend, working on his homework. 

The weekend is way too short, though! 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Picture Journal

Cosmo is working out really well as our new sheep guardian...we are very, very grateful to have him!

There has been so much rain that the vernal pools are back everywhere...and the geese, ducks and frogs to go with them.

Ryme is awaiting his turn to work sheep. 

Ryme will pose himself for photos :)

The sheep are happy to have lush green grass. 

Spot and I are still working on his driving, of course.

Chiefie enjoys a patch of sun. 

Chiefie and Cosmo have a discussion!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Yes and No

The big three Northern California spring sheepdog trials have come and gone. I didn't enter any of my dogs at any of them. Have I missed out? Yes and No.  If I'd had a dog ready, I would have liked to enter at least some of them. I am hoping that by the next time around, we will be ready. Spot is just not quite there yet; I want to feel confident and comfortable in his work before I enter him. I want to be prepared. Coal is just not up to those big long outruns on the hills at Zamora and McCormack any more. Ryme sadly just doesn't have the scope for great big open fields. 

Instead of going to the trials, I've been putting my money and time into training for the first part of this year. We are so lucky to have gone to a Derek Scrimgeour clinic the weekend before last. I took a lot of notes and we had a great time auditing and helping out. My boys got to help move the sheep in and out of the clinic area so they got some work in, even though we weren't entered in the clinic as a participant. I love listening to Derek. He is so clear in his method and so generous with his thought processes. His energy for the work is amazing and very contagious! 

Spot helping at the clinic; photo by Marnie N.
Everything is so lush and green which we have not seen in a while!
The days are finally getting long enough to train my dogs in the evening after I get off work. Finally we can put into play some of the training ideas that we have been collecting over the past weeks and months. I know I missed out by not going to the trials but I also know that Spot and I are making real progress. 

I'm using some of the information from Derek to try to improve Ryme's work, again. 

And I'm cautiously optimistic that Spot and I will get there. :)