Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day 2016

There was a gentleman with the local VFW with a card table set up outside the Oliver's Market where I went in to buy a few things today. On my way out I put a $5 bill in his donation bucket and he offered me a red paper poppy, just like we used to get when we were little kids. He asked me, "did you serve?" which surprised me. I replied, "no, my Dad". He said, "thanks for remembering." Of course. I put my flag out yesterday; there are quite a few flags up in my neighborhood. A description that I read online said that Memorial Day is really for those lost in wars, while Veterans Day is for them as well but also those who survived serving in wars and made it back home. I am not sure what the difference is...but when I was a child it was called Decoration Day. We didn't just honor the military dead, but also we put containers of peonies cut from our yard, out at the grave sites of all the grandparents and great-grandparents and other local relatives. So yes, I do remember.

My training plan for Spot has benefitted from having some time off of work for the holiday weekend. Yesterday I was really low on energy after working in the yard and doing house chores all day. So I chose something from his training list that did not require a huge effort on my part. :) I picked the exercise of having him stay still while I move around the sheep (such as in a shedding setup scenario) and vice versa, he moves around  (on my command) while I stay still. And so on, repeated back and forth. He gets it pretty quickly. I practiced rolling the sheep into position as I have been taught. (Ryme had set up three ewes for us to practice with.) I tried to pretend I wanted a certain ewe and got her into position, meanwhile Spot had to lie down and stay. He was pretty good. I was so enthused by all this that I decided to try to get a single. We had a hard time getting that. I finally decided that he was not nailing his stop quite the way I wanted; I gave him one verbal correction about his stop and he got right back with the program. And then we singled almost immediately. It's amazing how that works. Then he worked that single quite a bit and did not chase her at all! That is huge progress for Spot. My low-energy training session got fairly pumped up after all but I was having such fun with him that it was easy to let it morph. :)

Today we had the opportunity to work at the larger place where we can train and I had planned in advance to take advantage of more acreage, and work Spot on the 'going out the gate'  exercise. There is one trial locally where the dogs have to run out thru a gate on their outrun. It is also a good skill to have no matter where you are. I used Coal to push the sheep out as far as possible into the field, opposite of the chosen gates. Spot was watching Coal do this, tied to the fence. I switched Coal and Spot and tied Coal up. Then I set Spot up for a left hand outrun. He did not hesitate and acted like the gate was not even there. Woo hoo! We did a little gather and I flanked Spot around and sent the sheep back up the field.

Spot runs out to the left, through the gate, for the sheep marked in the photo with a pink star. 

We did it again to the left and then I tried some cross-driving, with me on the near side of the fence in the photo, and Spot and the sheep about halfway up the field on the far side of the fence in the photo. This exercise needs more work so our to-do list got some additions to it today. He did OK but  not great with it and was clearly worried about where I was, which was not our norm for working at this location. It seems like every time I try something, the list gets longer although I am super pleased with all the great work that he is doing!

After getting him some water and breathing time, we tried the outrun to the right (out another gate).

Spot takes off on the away side.
Spot has just passed the gate opening in this photo, so he's kind of hard to see; but there he goes...the sheep are to the left and out of the frame of the photo, up the field.
Despite a little confusion once he got out there and realized I was back on the other side of the fence after lifting the sheep, I was super pleased with Spot's willingness to step out of the norm for this exercise. We will do more of this, and variations of it, as the summer progresses.

I hope everyone has had a great Memorial Day weekend!

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