Friday, May 29, 2015

Lesson Three

I've wrestled with myself on what I should call this lesson: "no one likes a yeller" "who wants to work for mad?" "try a little self control, baybay!" I'm still struggling.....

This memory is etched into my mind and comes from the days when I had an all breed trainer teaching lessons at my slice of Heaven.  I would get to my place early and move the sheep around, dividing them into little groups and putting them in pens for the day's lessons.  After a few months of this...the sheep absolutely knew which day was terror Tuesday and they did not want any part of the moving and separating.  My 5 acre field feeds into a 300 foot long alley way where I had set up pens under the line of big shady trees.

It was lesson day, so I grabbed Snook to gather the field and that is where things started to go wrong.  The sheep did not want to move towards the gate feeding the alley and I was under the gun.  Lessons would start soon and I needed to be ready.  I was so frustrated and my voice began to show my feelings....clearly.  I heard my main gate rattle and looked up to see my husband had arrived, dropping off something I had forgotten before heading to work. Snook looked up and saw him too.  At that moment she decided she was done with me.  I was frustrated and yelling at her and she would just rather go home for the day.  She took off running, jumping five foot fences and climbing gates all the way up to my husbands car. She slipped through the open gate and loaded herself in through his open door.  Me, well I walked the walk of shame......covering 10 acres to go fetch my one and only work dog from my husband's rig.  He did not even have to ask what happened.

I was thankful for the gates and fields I had to walk through to get to my allowed me time to cool off and realize that if I were going to get anything done, I absolutely needed Snook.  I took a deep breath and grabbed a grain bucket as I headed back to the field to accomplish the tasks for the day ahead.  Nobody wants to work for anybody that yells and demeans and shames.


I think most of the time things went wrong with Snook, I could look at myself and see how it was my preconceived ideas of how "it should be done" that started the whole situation down a slippery slope of not getting anything done.  There is that one time a ewe went to take Snook out and I yelled at the sheep....that ended up poorly as Snook had no idea who I was yelling at and only knew I was mad.  I had to go to the truck and talk her out on that day as well.  Now some people will say they would never keep a "quitter and a sulker" but I am thankful today that Snook was both.  She taught me so much about self control, emotional control and looking in the mirror at me before I got mad at anyone else in the picture.

Life lesson #3 is one that I keep learning over and over, to varying degrees with each of my dogs.  Thankfully I am getting better and seeing my part in a frustrating moment quicker....not always before it comes out in my voice or mannerisms but quicker.  As I struggle with this life lesson it reminds me to give my dogs patience and they work through theirs.

Seize the Day!!

Monday, May 25, 2015

More Lessons

Last night, for the first time, I carried Snook up the stairs to sleep on her bed next to mine.  She had made it about a quarter of the way up before her back end gave out and she could not figure out how to get anywhere else.  She waited for me, patiently and with no complaint.  I laid on her bed with her, remembering.......


I might have learned this lesson with Snook although ever new-to-me dogs reinforce this; deepens and mellows the idea of taking time like a good Scotch or Bourbon.  Me, the ever perfectionist, coming from the world of agility where practicing wrong makes for wrong muscle memory.  I've always been that trainer who wants to "fix" every wrong which allows no room for the dog to figure it out.

I'm decluttering my house right now, which is taking forever because I stumble upon old pictures, old score sheets, notes taken from clinics gone bye.  Jack Knox once told me, "just because Nell is wrong does not mean what she is doing is bad."  Poor Snook lived her life being cleaned up and, well, basically told what to do by someone who was not as well qualified to read the sheep as she was.  Back in my Snook training days, I never thought about sheep or the difference in sheep at each trail.  i never thought much about terrain or grass or set out people and their dogs, or even horses for that matter.  I did not realize what experience brought to the relationship or how confidence on the trial field could be cultivated with help and partnership and trust.  Giving all things time.....allows for learning.

As I laid with my Snook last night, stroking her thick old dog coat and whispering in her ear, I thanked her for this lesson of "giving time".  I used to wonder how much better Snook could have been had she not been my first dog sacrificial lamb:  the dog I made so many mistakes with.  Today I know that there is always a first dog.....and I'm grateful mine was Snook.

Snook's first AHBA trial 2005
Seize the Day!!!!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

My Teacher, My First Dog

My Snook dog is getting old.  Her body is wasting and she does not get around like she used to.  Some days I have to give her a boost to get her back legs under her so she can get around.  I know I am living out her last days and I pray I'll know when she is ready. I'm finding creative ways to spend quality time with my best friend.

As I think over the past 12 years, I've begun to make a list of all that she has taught me.  She was my first border collie; one I trained from start to finish...all the good points and mistakes are mine.  She came into my life from a lady who rescued border collies.  The big rescues not willing to let me adopt any of their dogs because I had Jack Russell Terriers and I was assured that was not a good mix.  I was looking for a border collie to run in agility for my eldest son as my youngest son had been given one from a good friend.  I drove the 6+ hours to George, Washington and when I met Snook, I knew I was taking her home.

10 months old, long legged, lanky red dog; I had no idea how she would change me life.  Her story goes: a farmer had taken her and she kept running away from home.  She was sent back to the breeder, who was sick, and so Snook was relinquished into rescue.  She came to me afraid of men, afraid of loud noises, afraid yelling, afraid to pee or pooh anywhere but my back yard.  My dreams for her to be a high drive, kick ass agility dog slowly melted as the teeter bang sent her into frenzied panic all the while she could not remember where her feet where and she tumbled off the dog walk.


After months of frustration working with different agility trainers to see if I could work through her fear issues and make her love agility, I called a dog behaviorist.  She told me something along the lines of, "You have an agenda for you dog that might not be your dog's agenda."  I hung up wondering what that could mean......Snook has an agenda?  A few of my friends suggested I take her out to a local sheep farm and have the trainer put her on sheep.  Maybe tapping into her instinctual side would help her with her fears.  I was still nursing my agenda as I headed out to the sheep lesson; get Snook over her fears and into the agility ring....where we would be kick ass and awesome.

I made my sheep appointment and drove 45 minutes to the sheep ranch nervous and anxious but hopeful.  That one day with Snook in the round pen and a bunch of sheep changed my life.  Her first turn in, she would not work for the instructor so I had to take her in and she would barely follow me around. She was so afraid of the unfamiliar.  My next time in, the instructor told me to chase the sheep around myself....and bam.....that little smallest of small lights ignited into a small flame and Snook was bending around to bring me sheep.  I left my lesson knowing I have found something amazing.

Over the coming years, Snook and I dabbled in agility...she loved tunnels and jumpers with me running to try and keep up with her.  But her days on sheep were what she lived for.  She had found what she was passionate about and was sharing that passion with me. Her fears faded and our relationship grew stronger.

I think about what growing up was like for me......square peg trying to squeeze into round holes.  I tried ballet as a young girl, then gymnastics....I too fell off the balance beam like my long legged, big boned, red dog's dog walk attempts.   I was not talented and gifted at piano nor painting.  I've spent a life time finding my passions and even then I work at letting go of expectation.  I run but I am not fast.  I've been raised and possibly genetically coded to believe that when I do anything, I want to do it well.  My years have taught me that "well" is defined as my best and not compared to others.  I arm wrestle with is so hard to no compare: runs, dogs, scores, times, sizes, styles.  I make conscious efforts to let go of comparison regularly.

Life lesson my passion.....get caught up in experiencing each and every step of living a passionate life; m best passionate life.  I remind myself of this daily, hourly, minutely, hoping that one day it will be my muscle memory.

Seize the Day!

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 :)