Sunday, April 19, 2015

"More Than One Way to Skin a Cat"

That has been a favorite quote of mine for quite some time.  It pretty much sums up life and reminds me to be open minded...or at the least, try to be!

I've been bringing in heavy bred ewes from the field to overnight in the lambing barn.  During the ewe's day out on the pasture, many have lambed while others are trying to. At the end of the day, the goal is to have all the sheep in the barn; mama's and their babies, lambing ewes, and heavy bred ewes.   Each person I work with has their own idea of how the task should get accomplished.  Some like to take out the four wheeler and trailer and bring in the new lambs and their mamas first.  While others like to bring in the heavies and leave the mamas and babies for last.  Some like to bring a laboring ewe into the barn for the pull work, while others catch her up in the field and sort it in the wide open.  Some of the workers have dogs, some have good dogs, some have none......this changes each person's perspective on how a job should look.

I'm working on "paying attention" and seeing how each person creatively gets the job done.  At the end of the day......"there is more than one way to skin a cat." On some days, even my way does not work as it should and I have to be open to trying a new and different way to get the job done.   I guess that is what I am enjoying most about my dip into the work force.....little ideas that I take home and sort with my dogs.

Now I need to teach Bella and Nell to ride on a four wheeler.

Seize the Day.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

New Start

Sis is almost 15 months and I find myself doing things with her that I would never have done with a youngster in my past life. Maybe because I did not have any dog except Gyp at this age.....Nell, Bella and Dot came to me older.  Maybe because I have the opportunities to do interesting real work now or maybe, and mostly likely, because I have changed over the years.

At the end of the day, it is fun watching Sis sort things out.  I'm trying to listen with my eyes and hear what she is telling me.  My goals for myself are to work on allowing Sis to grow up, to learn things for herself, to be of help when she needs it, and to trust the whole process.  I believe those are Sis's goals for me too.

Seize the Day!

Monday, March 23, 2015


Oh yes, my friend tells me "never and always are words reserved for God" and I believe Murphy sets out to prove us wrong with his Law.  I'm so glad I've not stood on my soap box and said, "I am NEVER lambing again" I did  few years back.  I've told my friends, "I'm not lambing this year" and now here I am.....lambing.

I actually love lambing; using my nursing skills with lawyer-less patients that might not appreciate my help but really don't have a choice.  I love bottle feeding babies although I never really had to use that skills as my bummers were rehomed to a good friend's farm every year.  I can pull lambs and sort out tangled legs; I can tube lambs and insert paddles for prolapsing ewes.  I owe a lot of my lambing skills to a fellow in eastern Oregon, who allowed me to come help him lamb years ago.  I've attended three lambing schools at OSU which were held at ranches around the valley.  I enjoyed seeing the different set-ups and learning to band lambs.  Most of my experience has come from the school of hard knocks....the years I lambed at my place.  I think my biggest issues came from over feeding and the big singles that resulted.  But for the most part, I did not have to deal with ketosis or prolapse and my lambing seasons were successful.

I find myself lambing again year, and I'm loving it!

It's the best of both worlds for me....I get to lamb and it does not come with all the worry.  I'm lambing for a friend.....I think there are 1500 ewes that will go through the barn at the end of the season; the first timers come in at the beginning of April.  It's good fun for me.....and secretly I enjoy the bottle babies. I'm the Girl Friday....on call for the times a helping hand is needed.  With a big operation I am learning to let go a little....all those things I cannot control do not allow for obsessing as the lambs keep coming.

Here's to the lambing of 2015!  The perfect scratch to my itch.

Seize the day!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Friendship.....a Small Detour

This came across my Facebook feed today.....very worthy of some brain action.  I know I have already posted a billion times about my experience running my dog at the 2014 finals.....the inside job that has followed requiring some very extensive renovation; walls torn down, ceilings lifted, windows added.  I've taken a break from "trialing" and clinics... I'm not certain how long that break will be at this time.  I do know I need to take some time, how ever long, for the renovations I've mentioned.....finding my way to joy both inside and out.

I've been thinking a lot about "friendship" and how much I truly value and treasure those that are deep and meaningful. Friendships that might have started about the dogs and yet have evolved into being more about "relationship": accountability, authenticity, vulnerability.  I've been working dogs, to some degree, for 10 years now.....and over those years I've met many great people, some of which have become "friends".  I'm amazed, pretty much every day, how those "friends" are still beside me even while I'm taking a break from trialing and traveling.  Those friends have found a way to be interested in my life, my family, my running, supporting my fundraising efforts for St. Jude as I approached my first half marathon.

I understand that sometimes, people come into my life for a reason or a season.  I'm really thankful for those friendships as well.  But it is those that stick with me, faults and all, that I'm celebrating today.  Thank you for sharing in the hardships (both yours and mine), the successes (on and off the trial field).  Thank you for holding me accountable, asking the hard questions, giving advice and allowing me the same. Thank you for knowing my good qualities tied with my less desirable qualities and loving me.

Today, on Marie Forleo, she asked each viewer to imagine what it would be like to be at the end of your life....what will you remember most, what will have been truly important...and then soldier on to create that.  For me, I know there will be dog working days that make my heart swell and trial runs that amazed me in partnership and trust.  There will be challenges that I sorted, both with the dogs and in myself, that in the sorting I became more of me.  There will be trails I've run, inner demons I faced and conquered, times of digging deep with relentless passion, and other sweet moment of the ease in which my heart's desires just came to me.  And smack dab in the middle of those memories....I will see my friends.....I am grateful.

Seize the Day!!!!

PS as the 2015 trial season begins......thank you for allowing me to live vicariously through you!  You know who you are :)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

These Are the Days of My Life

It feels like a life time ago, yet I remember vividly, driving to my grandparents  house, my red border collie, Snook riding shotgun.  Together we drove south on I-5, seeing field after field after field of sheep from Salem to south of Grants Pass.  I fantasized about pulling the van over, tossing Snook onto the green grass field, sending her on a huge outrun and gathering all the sheep. I would then call her off, somehow get her back over the electric fence, put her back into the van and quickly leave the scene of the crime.  Hopefully no one would see me (like that would happen right there on I-5) and if they did, they would think I was supposed to be working those sheep. I never wanted to tempt fate or the sheep owner's shot gun...I kept driving and dreaming.

Today, I remembered those thoughts and feelings as I lived out my driving daydreams....I pulled up to a field along I-5, grabbed my Bella, jumped the two string hot fence and drove a flock of lambs to the northwest side of the field.  The sun was shining, the field was not muddy but instead it was nice soft green grass, and the lambs moved off my dog that was so happy to be working right there beside me.

My day had started early with a field gather of a flock of heavy bred dorset ewes that were headed back to lamb on the grass fields off the coast.  Recently, I'd come to the conclusion that, out of habit and the knowledge that I could get it done, I always grab Bella when the sheep boss calls.  I vowed to myself to work the other dogs: Gyp could use experience and Dot could use time and miles.  I started the day with Gyp, who did well but I could tell she was very confused working along side a new to her dog and two humans besides me.

I moved to the next field.....this time it was a big field gather of long lambs that were to be loaded and hauled to another field so the wheat could begin to grow.  I grabbed Nell out of the truck, she who has not worked for quiet a long time and was very, very full of herself.  Stopping has never been her strong point and today, on tall, wet wheat fronds, and quick moving lambs, she assured me she could not understand a single whistle!

After moving the lambs with Bella, I decided to leave her in the truck for the rest of the day.  She is starting to come into heat and that could bother the boy dog who was my partner in crime's right hand.  Our last task of the day was a big order....moving the last of the heavy bred Dorset ewes, putting them in a big pen overnight for an early morning haul to their coastal homeland.  I grabbed Gyp thinking a second chance would be in order...see if I could get better understanding and partnership with the length of the drive being long and challenging.  As Gyp and I headed out to gather the field, I glanced to my left and there was Bella, coming along for the work.  She had squeezed herself out the window that I left open so she could have air and was very proud of herself for knowing we might need her help.  What's a girl to do?  I worked Gyp and Bella brace....

I've told my sheep boss friend many times: I LOVE THIS WORK!  Even the impossible moments steeped in major frustration are amazing and I always leave with a feeling of accomplishment.  Today was no was fabulous until it wasn't and then once we crossed the impossible was fabulous again.  I learn something new every time I go out, especially on days like today where every field has different challenges.

I've changed a lot over the years of working for the sheep boss.  In years gone by, I would get to a field, the boss would bring me a four wheeler and I would never feel like I needed to use it.  Most times I would end up sending my dogs onto miles of outrun and sometimes leave sheep behind as they like to hide in trees and ditches lining the fields.  Now, even if I do big outruns, I always go back over the field on the four wheeler and check to make sure I have gotten all the sheep.  Today, when I found the heavy bred ewe who had cast herself and could not be made right, or the mama that wanted to go with the flock but kept turning on the dogs which made my friend and I look carefully to find the hidden new born lamb in the tall wheat, I was glad for the lessons I'd learned.  Lessons of patience and observation and reading sheep.....those are priceless and, for me, only earned through the work.

There are days when I get very frustrated with the work.  I still try to wrap my head around how a flock of 200-300 sheep can be pushed over a creek or a hot wire fence for that matter.  Those are the times when my Kiwi friend would tell me I need a Huntaway.  I want to yell and hoot and holler and run at the sheep...sicking my dog on them or getting a big long hot shot.  I want to make them want to go over that creek!  Silently, stealthily, my friend sneaks in, snags a new born lamb, and ba's to the mama...luring her over the creek all the while pulling the rest of the flock over as the tide ebbing off the shore line.  I stand in wonder.....and think about the idea of "get" and ease.  I still have so much to learn. Yes, these are the days of my life.......

Sieze the day!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Sorting Chapter 3

I just got home from a JK clinic...he was hosted down in Hopland and I took advantage of the opportunity to get some insight on Dot.  Dot's mama comes from his lines plus he has her sister; I was hopeful he could add some insight and direction for me with Dot.

The first day out, Ms. Dot looked "good" while she was worked.....still wrongs to be corrected but not THE wrong I was looking to show.  Dot has a little habit of walking on to sheep and when they start to move, she likes to slide off.....even the slightest of slides has had sheep turning back on her and the forward, that was so hard earned, is lost.  At the end of the first day, I admit I was a little bummed that MY issue had not been under the spotlight......Dot was holding out on me.

The second day was just about darn near perfect!  The dog before Dot had a little bit of trouble on the sheep and set Dot up perfect.   I almost jumped up and down with glee when Dot did her Dot Thing and started the forward motion of the sheep..... then did a tiny slide.  Jack, ever the dog observer, saw and the sorting began!  Here is what I learned about Dot:  She likes to use her body to move sheep.  There I have it......I need to help her use her eye and keep her from using her body habit.

After three days of a clinic, three days of seeing and talking and learning......I came home yesterday and moved sheep with Dot.  It was darn right amazing to see Dot begin to understand and apply what she had learned from her JK clinic experience.  And I bet if you read her blog she would tell bloody excited she was to see me applying all that I had learned from three days of a JK clinic as well!

The sorting continues......

Seize the Day!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sorting Chapter 2

After attempting to drive the mob of lambs with Dot, I realized we were missing some understanding between the two of us.  Sustained push in my "right there" command was not happening, at least not with any authority.  One half of a side step by Dot had lambs rolling over to have a look, sorting her out and seeing if she meant anything.  I put a long line on her to help her understand staying in the pressure and we got the job done. Sorting out the experience on the way home had me wondering, was it the difficulty of lambs, the lack of understanding push on a bigger mob, the mixed flock of lambs included bummers and of course lambs are curious regardless of their upbringing.

The past few weeks, I've been mixing things up at my place; giving Dot different groups of sheep to see how she fairs.  Interesting note, at home, some of the lambs give her trouble too.  There are days where she looks great, has understanding and is becoming a valuable chore dog.  I keep working on my corrections, trying to stay calm and supportive with them.  We are both works in progress.

When I got a call to help with tagging, I felt like I was headed to Disneyland again...well without the crowd that is!  The morning started early with Bella gathering the field.  She has not worked for a few weeks and as I got to the back of the flock to begin the push to the barns, Bella, always the head hunter, got away from me.  There are times I wish I could sit with her and have a morning cup of coffee and explain the day.  "Bella, today we are bringing a flock of yearlings from a big field to the barn to be tagged.  When they are headed to the barn, they are not getting away, they will be going where they are supposed to go, even though I'm on a quad behind them.  Got it?"  Bella cracks me up, and it's easy enough to get a hold of her and bring her back to the job at's great practice for me to laugh and enjoy my dog in her imperfections.  I'm getting better!

Once the sheep were penned, I planned on spending the day feeding the alleys to the shearers tagging.  A dog really is not needed for this task and it's a great way to get fitbit steps and use muscles I've not worked in a while wrangling backwards sheep and attempting to lift and open heavy gates.  My shepherd friend suggested it would be a good job for Dot.  I jumped at the offer and thus began the sorting of Dot and holding pressure part 2; another opportunity to show her what she can do.

I'm not sure why all the fellows laughed when I pulled Dot out of the truck.  The sheep boss said, "Oh she's pretty!" chuckle chuckle.  Perhaps it was all the super clean white and beautiful thick coat ...I dont' know.

In the beginning, it was tough going.....I had to get a little help from my friends to get the final push of the last 100 ewes into the third waiting area. I just could not get Dot to hold the push on the more confident ewes and the pen was to big for me to cover my end and help her with her side.   After the holding areas were filled,  Dot and I moved into the sweep pen, and the work began....up close and personal, I was able to send Dot to push and move over to help her if she got a little lost in the job.  As the day unfolded, I saw Dot begin to understand and become more and more confident in her job.  It was not perfect, we had things go wrong but more went right and, together we were able to get the job done.  By the middle of the day, Dot was working for anybody filling the chutes.

I'm looking forward to working Dot at home to see what she processed during her day of pen work.  If nothing else, I learned that Dot can get it done and is trusting in our relationship.  I really don't care if Dot ever makes it to the trail field, but I would love to see her be comfortable in the real work.  She has come so far, and every time we go out, I see her growing and learning and becoming more confident.  Where Bella is an onion, Dot is a Rubix's Cube....moving little pieces to get the colors right with each turn affecting the end result. There are times it feels like we go backwards to get the colors aligned but the big picture is still where we are headed.  And so, we continue the sorting, Miss Dot and me.

Seize the Day!!!