Monday, December 18, 2017

Jingle Trial

We went to the Jingle sheepdog trial at Point Pleasant Ranch near Elk Grove in early December. My goal is just to get to the post, whenever we can, and try to work on some of the things we've learned over the past few months in order to help  Spot to be successful.

It was a very constructive experience for us and I was so pleased to be able to finish the course on both runs and get a score. It is amazing how good it feels to be able to complete the run before the clock runs out. We were not competitive in the HA points but we were respectable. More than that, I felt like we put into play some of the advice we have been getting from the experts who have been advising us, and it sure seems to help. There are lots of holes in our work and many things to practice and improve ... but there is no better way to find all that out other than just putting in the time at the post. I am very grateful that the trial hosts are willing to have these trials!

Jingle Trial scores

We are into the darkest part of winter, and the shortest days. Some weeks it is hard to get out and practice on the sheep at all, during the week. The boys have been very patient about being cooped up at home but they do love an outing on the weekends, when we get one!

Sad, work from home dogs...

Happy dogs on the weekend!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

July Pics

These pics are what remains from my July 2017 folder. I am having serious challenges keeping up with things this summer but I am enjoying it...all but the heat.

Sheep wrangling at its finest (photo by Jill H.)

Spot and I (and to a lesser degree, Ryme and I) were the sheep wranglers for an awesome training clinic near Ferndale (photo by Jill H.).
This cowboy came home from the Farmers Wife Barntique!

Coal looking handsome as always

Spot and I working in July (photo by Gloria A.). Truly I am trying to stand up straighter, really I am.

Saturday, August 19, 2017


Shepherding is not always about the sheep. Sometimes it is about the guardian(s) of the sheep. Without our guardian dog it is really difficult to keep sheep in this county, due to the predators in the area. The trapper told us that without "that dog" (meaning Cosmo) we would have at least one mountain lion kill per year. I have no doubt that what the lions would be up in the pasture whenever they pleased, without that dog's presence, and I am guessing that it would be way more than one kill per year, and that we would probably just give up on keeping sheep to work our dogs without Cosmo. The lions are protected in California and some are being collared locally and followed on a research project. It is a delicate dance of science and sheep.

A few weeks ago, Cosmo was feeling poorly and not eating like he should. I had been out of town and I had not seen him for a few days and when I saw him I knew something was amiss. Looking him over I found one ear really inflamed and the other slightly less so. His ears were really ouchy. Poor guy. I started treating his ears right away with what we had on hand and tried to source out what else might be of more help. Once we read the label, the ear wash that we had on hand - a veterinary product - was disappointing - main ingredient, propylene glycol - antifreeze! What ??? I searched for something else. I had some Panalog at home, and some witch hazel, both of which seemed to help. I consulted with a Labrador owning friend who has been a groomer and she gave me a reference to a great alternative, which has helped a lot. I am using the products -which have no nasty ingredients -- now twice a week after cutting back from daily. Cosmo does not like me messing with his ears but true to his great temperament, he allows it, which I reward with scoops of good quality canned dog food. His ears look great. He is eating and happy and watching his/our sheep.

I call all of this, "the glamour side of sheepdoggin'".  Sigh.

Photo by Gloria A.

The fire danger in our area is very high in summer. This summer, it is particularly so, since we had so much rain which has created so much "fuel" in the form of tall grasses and vegetative growth. We were at the other pasture that we work dogs earlier this summer, and a friend and I were sitting under a tree enjoying a chat after working dogs on a Sunday afternoon. Suddenly we turned and saw a brush fire coming our way. Flames were shooting in the air. I turned into what I call the Mother Piranha on steroids and yelled at my friend to get her car out to the road, and I ran and drove my car out to the road. The sheep were already turned out and were pretty much out of harm's way unless the fire went really out of control. Only the llama remained close by. I did not know I could run. Normally I would testify that I cannot run. But run, I did, back down the driveway to chase that darn llama out to the farthest pasture area so that if the fire came through he would not be trapped against the fence. All I could think of was Zamora when the fire burned the sheep who were trapped against the fencing. By the time I raced down the drive and chased the llama out to safety, the fire department had come and put the brush fire under control. My friend backed her car down the drive and yelled at me to get in. We had both, apparently, turned into Mother Piranhas. :)

Yes, it's the glamour side. 

Just Working and July 4th

Part of the plan for Spot and myself to get back on the more successful trail was to just work him. We have been lucky enough to help a couple of ranchers doing some real jobs, a couple of times. One of these opportunities was combined with our trip out of town for the Fourth of July to escape the firecrackers in our neighborhood.  Once Spot knows what a job is, and especially if it is "real" work, then he really gets into it. It is so cool to see him dig into a job. It's as if all the generations of working border collies behind him just light up and synch together. So cool. :)

Pushing hundreds of sheep through a barn sorting system was not something we had ever done but we did our best with it. What we accomplished in a little over half a day would have taken one person at least a day if not longer so I felt like we were at least a little bit helpful. I admit that I am sometimes slow on the uptake about which gates lead to which areas and where it is best to stand and approach the sheep, and so forth...but both Spot and I got better as the morning went on. We worked four or five hours just pushing sheep so they could be sorted off for different reasons. I think we stopped once for water. Spot just worked and worked, pulling sheep out of corners and various pens, and pushing sheep through the chute. Luckily it was cool out, and shaded inside the barn. At the end he heartily drank up some Energy Edge, which is something he has been reluctant to take in the past. I am hoping he will realize that he needs to take it when I offer it.

Bringing sheep in before sorting; photo by JTH.
Then our holiday began and we enjoyed a wonderful time with the dogs swimming in the Eel River again, and barbecuing a boneless leg of lamb that I brought, and all the fixin's for the Fourth of July as it should be (minus all the random firecrackers).

Spot followed me out to this rock in the Eel. Photo by Marnie N.

So grateful!

Spot looks for me.  Photo by Marnie N.

Long Awaited Shearing Day

Everybody, it seemed, had to wait a long time for sheep shearing day this year. The shearers were behind schedule due to all the heavy rain that we had.  We finally got shearing scheduled in early July. This might be the latest we have ever had our sheep sheared but we were so glad to get it done.  The Scotties had some really heavy coats.

It was a warm day, which our shearer said he prefers, so that the combs go through the wool and grease more easily. Getting our sheep cleaned up was wonderful and it's always great to talk with our shearer. Now it feels like summer can really begin, even if a little late. :)

One Thing Leads to Another

Sometimes folks ask me, why their dog does a certain thing with the sheep in their training. I often say that I don't know why but I can give them some suggestions to work on that problem so that both they and their dog can get more comfortable working with the sheep. I am not a dog psychologist and certainly not an animal communicator.  I am about as dumb as a box of rocks in the empath/intuitive department although I have some close friends who are totally dialed's a blessing and a curse, both, but I digress. I can't begin to tell you why a dog does something, most of the time, although sometimes I feel pretty confident, if it is a problem or mistake I have brought upon myself in the past with one of my own dogs. :)

A phone call from a friend who normally doesn't phone me led to a person who, in contrast, is very competent in telling you not only why your dog may do something but is also super competent in helping you to fix a problem (and build your confidence). We trekked back to Tulelake in June for a clinic with Jack Knox. I went to this same clinic last year and had a great time. I hadn't planned to go this year but I ended up going at the last minute due to one thing leading to another in true fashion.

Jack was our judge at McCormack Ranch back in the spring, and at Hopland last fall. He has seen Spot and me work several times when we were at our best, and also at our not-so-best. He was able to help me at the clinic a great deal. I was feeling pretty much like a person who has gotten thrown off their horse and is a little afraid to get back on. Not physically hurt but mentally drained. Jack helped me to get back on that horse. He told me not to be drained because my dog would feel it immediately, which is so true. He can tell me like it is, without pulling any punches, but also with compassion and helping to rebuild our confidence. I'm very grateful that he was available to help us get going again, and we have worked on the things he advised me to do, over the summer. I also decided at that time that I was not going to make myself crazier by trying to figure out what happened, or when; I got back in the saddle and want to just keep moving forward. One thing leads to another.

The boys and I have been enjoying a good summer. :)

Shower day glares

Happy boys at evening chore time

Sunday, August 13, 2017


On June 1, I wrote in my journal, "what will I do with this summer?"

Clearly, what I have not been doing this summer, is blogging.  What  I have been doing, is trying to stay as mindful as I can and live every day. Having some troubles with my dog (and being on the receiving end of some sources of unrequested input) made me a little sensitive to writing publicly about our sheepdog work, so either consciously or unconsciously I took a blogging vacation.

On June 6th, I wrote, "there's nothing better than June... the whole summer beckons, and I want to savor each day and not suddenly find myself at the Fourth of July (or how about the 13th of August!) not remembering the sweet days of June." Sometimes, things are satisfying but not exciting, like getting hay delivered to feed the sheep on a hot day. The pleasant things do not go unnoticed, even if somewhat mundane.

Some of the boys on hay delivery day, on the outside looking in

Coal found a way to cool off during June's heat waves - one day went up to 105!

Cosmo on hay delivery day: I really want to bark at that guy with the big truck.
Spot proving that we indeed did get hay delivered

And sometimes, the obstacles are the path. I don't know where I got that quote but it is one of the things I wrote down.

When I am volunteering at a sheepdog trial, I can't count how many times one of the trial organizers has said, "just take the quad." I would always shuffle and say, I "don't do quads". And I would walk. Walking is good for me, up to a point. I always felt so unprepared because I did not know how to drive a quad. I did not grow up with motorcycles or quads. It seems like everybody in the sheepdog world now lives on a quad. And now thanks to my enabling friends, I have started driving a quad, which granted was a fancy one with all the bells and whistles. But look, here I am, driving a quad and all three dogs are on the back because we were fixing to cross a paved road before getting back to the private road. Yippee, for me. So empowering. And yes that's my winter rain parka in June. Humboldt County. 

Smiling ear to ear, I drove a quad. Photo by Marnie N.
I also do not do cows. My dogs do not do cows. When a friend says to you, "just go back to that barn lot and sort off the XXXX sheep, you'll know which ones they are, there are about twelve of them mixed in with the others (about sixty), and you can take them out there and work your dogs, ok?  Oh and there are a couple of calves in there too." Uh huh. More empowering and enabling girlfriends, providing obstacles that become the path. Ryme was a superstar and we got this sort of sheep away from cows accomplished. Sorry, no papparazzi. :-) Friends are amazing.

And... Spot and some of the other dogs, including Gloria's dogs, in this picture that she took when we went back to Little Horse Mountain.
There is more to say, but that's enough for now.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Life is an Adventure, or, Little Horse Mountain

Life is an adventure. Whatever we do, it will be fun. Those are the takeaways from our trip to Little Horse Mountain, even though some  of it was not so fun for Spot and me.

Evening views

Mt Shasta

Sheep in the exhaust field

Sunset at Little Horse Mountain

Nursery handler walks to the post on Friday

Nursery field on Monday

Nursery handler and dog walking their sheep to exhaust on Monday

At the pen in Nursery

Cooling off after Nursery


It was so neat to watch the Nursery dogs. I love seeing the green dogs when they are just starting their sheepdog trial career. The foundations are there but the experiences need to be filled exciting!

Ryme and I sorted sheep out of the exhaust to drive back up the field for afternoon runs on Sunday. Photo by Gloria A.

Ryme and Nell push hot and slow moving sheep through the field back up to setout. A long walk. Photo by Gloria A.
Ryme had a great day on Sunday. We sorted a bunch of the ewes out of the exhaust, leaving some behind to graze and with Gloria and Nell's help, we walked them all the way back up the field to setout for the afternoon runs. By this time it was hot out and the grass was pretty tall. It was hard to push them and I was glad that we had the two dogs. Ryme acted like he was far younger than his eight years and worked like a champ. When another handler came on a quad bike to pick us up, Ryme ran with the bike like a two year old. He had a blast! He looked so happy. This made me happy. :)

Spot seemed anxious and confused and we had two RTs in his trial runs. We will be taking an indefinite period of time away from trials, and go back to as much "real" work as we can find, and just rebuild what we had. He seems affected by the negative experiences  at the trials, so it will take some time to get his attitude back. It is all puzzling but I just keep telling myself, Life is an Adventure.

Aside from that, this is always a great trial to go to and help with, and a lot of fun. The sportsmanship level is high and the gathering of great handlers is a wonderful place to be, amongst over-the-top hospitality and a high level of very competent trialling laced with a lot of good sense of humor.  Everybody pitches in, to make it happen.

Whatever we do, it will be fun. Life is an adventure.