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!!!

Friday, January 9, 2015


Winter has been good to me so far.  I'm not lambing this year and, right about now, I believe I can say that firmly.  In years gone bye, I've proclaimed "I'm NOT lambing" and then I've weakened my resolve, or had a ram sneak in amongst the ewes.....and I end up with cute baby lambs racing and bouncing all over the fields in spring.  My friends laugh!

I also closed the ranch for winter, though we have not been terribly wet, I like to keep the fields in good condition and give the ranch a much needed break of "off time".  For me, though, I love's the time where I get to answer the calls for "real work"; traipsing around the valley working and sorting with my girls.

This year, Dot and I have enough strength in our relationship  that I feel comfortable putting her on the Sheep Boss' flocks.  She is settling down and finding some tension free method; especially when I don't fall into getting mad at her.  Oh the "Getting Mad at Dot, Knee Jerk reaction" that never, ever works!!!! As I've trained up Miss Dot, I know a few things....1) she HATES pressure from me 2) she really wants to please me 3) she has a bit of "mental unplug" in her that is going away with age, training and patience from me  4) when I get mad...she just tried harder...but she tries harder doing what she is doing and it goes very, very wrong.  Dottie Jean is the PERFECT MIRROR...when she is wrong, or falls apart....if I am supportive with my corrections and remain calm....she figures it out and is a very nice dog.  When she is wrong, or falls apart....if I get mad, or harsh with my correction....she falls apart and it goes very south.

Some of my flock work has me driving lambs across a huge field to graze portions where they don't want to visit.  I've not quite figured out exactly why these lambs don't want to graze the lush grass on the "other side" of the field....maybe because we are still growing grass here in the valley and they prefer the tender shoots of newly grown blades, maybe because they are lambs and they like the comfort and routine of being in the same place, maybe the grass on that side of the field is bitter from runoff; whatever it is, they don't like going there.  I've always known that working lambs is one of the hardest things I can do with my dogs. There is hardly a leader amongst the flock and they stand, not moving off the dog and then...bam..... take off running as if the devil himself were hot after each of their wooly souls.  For a successful drive, taking these lambs into the pressure of where they are not wanting to go, it takes a dog that will push and sustain push, but then cover the sides without over doing it to keep that forward motion.

Dot has never seen nor done anything like the work of moving a little mob of lambs.  She is very comfortable with sheep that will move off of her but has not developed a method for sheep that require sustained push.  Like most young dogs, she will push but does not stay in the pressure of the push to get "commitment" from the sheep.  Instead she will slide off to catch the sides, which stops the motion and makes getting them going again harder and harder each time they stop. She is also not sure what to do with the lambs that just won't move as she walks in, and finds herself uncomfortable in the closeness that can result.   I love the days where I have hours on end to get the job schedule pressure, instead the offering of giving time to allow Dot to learn.  With the days of real work, Dot is gaining understanding of our job, my words, what is required to complete the task at hand.  There are times where I struggle holding her in the pressure of, what looks to be, the lambs that are becoming the flock leaders.  On my long drive home from my winter field of dreams, I think about all the things I can do to help Dot gain more confidence and understanding.  Ideas include, counter flanking her when she flanks off, holding her in the pressure with a long line, moving in with her and creating the forward motion in the lambs who are not being cooperative, moving myself ahead and turning the task into a fetch vs. a drive, putting a more experienced dog in the mix and driving brace.  Of course the more I do the job, the better Dot understands, the more comfortable the lambs are driving to the fresh grass, the easier the job gets.

Slowly, ever so slowly, Dot is sorting; as am I.  I find myself falling back into "madness"; then things go to crap and I see how being mad does not serve anything with good end results.  I'm staring to see my faults sooner, letting go quicker, getting back to what the dog needs from me and we get the job done.  I'm working on letting go of the idea of "perfect work" to embrace the process of becoming a team.  True enough, there are days where I'm not in the mood for patience, the clock presses me for the day, and I grab an experienced dog to allow the push across the field to be a different experience.  Other days, I give Dot a break from push and work her at home on lighter, familiar sheep where she becomes shiny and we both celebrate the end results of her "real work" learnings and her blooming confidence. Good friends often listen to my sorting all the while reminding is about the journey and not so much about the destination.  Sorting is a good thing.....

Seize the Day!!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

What If???

I have three third that of a cat; my family life, my running life, and my life of sheepdogs....each brings joys and learning opportunities....each comes together in the making of me.  Recently, I've been logging a few running miles in preparation for my first ever half marathon that I will run January 18.  I love running....not so much the act of running because that comes with some baggage, but the effect running has on my brain.  If not world problems then most certainly my problems get solved or, at the least, put in perspective right around mile 3; every mile there after is productive sorting of ME.  Some days I drift into wishing I'd found running earlier in life.....who might I have become had I?  I always come back around to being grateful I have found that my two feet can carry my brain into inner depths of finding more and more of who I really am; what I am really made of.

Lately, I've been thinking about "what if's"?  "What if this were my last Christmas?" Would I spend it the way I did?  Would I say the things that came out of my mouth, had I known it was my last?  Would I have extended grace in the face of bitterness?  Would I have found compassion as disappointment showed up?  What if my first half marathon, in reality, were my last?  Would I prepare more, release expectation of pace, find blessings amongst the sore muscles and wheezy lung?  What if I let go of trying to make others happy?  The "what ifs" taking me deeper in as well as letting me go....freeing.

I look at my Snook dog, my first border collie, the one who introduced me to sheep and the ugly side of myself.  Snook is turning an old 13 this year; hind end thinning with wasting muscle.  I know my "what if's" are closer to reality with Snook.  I pinch her cheeks and remember all she has brought into my life and I discipline myself to seize the day with her.

I've always reveled in the week between Christmas and New Year's Day; collecting slogans, motivating pictures, dreams, goals, aspirations for the year to come.  Every year, I read a few more motivational sports psychology books and am told to "visualize", "manifest", "name it/claim it", "a person's mind cannot tell the difference between that which is vividly imagined vs. what is real" or something along those lines.  I look back over my vision board and note that much of what I have put on it has come to be.  On the one hand, I'm blessed, honored, astounded.....on the other hand, a sense of superficial ME-ism rears its ugly head. I understand that working on me is what I should be working on, however self absorption might be best tempered with .....something other than that.

I wonder: what if this year, I put on my vision board:  join in curing 90% of childhood cancer, building  a school in Africa, donate what has been collected to the betterment of others?

A few things about me, that I know for sure:  I have always been "all or nothing".  When I want to learn something new, I delve right in...reading books, watching videos, getting in and dirty with all that is required to understand, accomplish, conquer, succeed.  I'm also pretty freaking honest which has the down side of knowing that sometimes "truth is relevant"; very cliche but every so.....true!  For 2015, I believe I am going to strive for "BALANCE".....looking for answers into the "what if's" before I act so that each day can be one of making my life extraordinary.  With balance, I know there are things I must let go of along the things I need to embrace.

2015's vision board is coming to life, filled with one portion self improvement, a scoop of joining the cause of something bigger than me,  and a few sides of dreams, goals, and impossibilities to round me out and keep me living a life that, if it were my last days, would be so worth living.

For my half marathon, I am fundraising for the kids at St Jude Children's Hospital.....where the goal is to cure 90% of childhood cancer and no child with cancer goes untreated because of not being able to afford care.  Want to join my team?  You can donate here:  Be a St Jude Hero

Happy New Year!!!  May 2015 be filled with profound intention and dreams come true!

Seize the Day!!!!!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

And Then This Happened

I've spent the past few months watching my 2014 final's run with Bella.  As I've confessed, I've gone through the stages of death and dying.....shock, denial, anger, bargaining, anger, depression, acceptance and HOPE. Yes, I'm still sorting....months later.  I'm grateful to good friends who spend their precious time watching, providing feedback, listening; honesty with the heart of greater good is such a rare commodity these days.  I could delve into the mirky waters to share what I have learned about myself: real deep inner ah-ha's from 10 minutes on a hay field in Carbondale, Colorado with my instructors: 5 sheep and Bella.

photo by Jenny Glen
I've been running my body, miles and miles of road running, in preparation for a half marathon in January.  All the little details of working towards the race amaze me at what I never knew I had inside myself.  Everything requires practice:  14 mile long runs getting my joints and bones accustomed to the pounding,  speed work to make me faster, lifting for strength, hills for endurance and racing to understand pace, work on mental toughness, feel what it's like to run with hundreds of other runners.

photo by Jenny Glen
Then life, running and sheepdogs meet right there in the middle of my the finals and most trials, I find myself either filming runs, asking to scribe, or sitting off watching runs....all of which equals me really watching.  I enjoy the different styles of dogs, the different ways handlers approach the course. My true confession is: sometimes I get caught up in running my dog way different than I train my dog.  Be to the fact I do train my own dogs, this can be very problematic.... and, at the least, frustrating for my dog!  I believe that is what I see most in my final's run.....a dog trying to sort out who the heck was standing at the post and what the heck she wanted!

photo by Kerri Back Photography
What's a girl to do?  

photo by Kerri Back Photography

I've taken a little break from trialing and teaching lessons; this winter I've put my name out to work in the trenches.  I really enjoy the "real work" on so many levels.  Some of my younger dogs are getting to take a turn at jobs and it's so amazing to see the understanding develop.  When I close the gate on a tough job, the level of pride I feel for my dogs is just darn right amazing. It's in the real work that I find myself again, how I train, how I communicate, all things relationship.  The sense of the job brings clarity and corrections become help, I can laugh at the ridiculousness when things go south. These are the qualities in me that I would like to take back onto the trial field.

As I live my life out.....I am really beginning to see how much mental discipline is something that is worked on and developed much like strength and endurance.  Strength and endurance don't just happen, I work at them.  Eric Orton from The Cool Immposible writes: "It is easy to perform when things are going well, but just like in life, 'real' performance is about how we act after we think, being aware, and continuing to perform when things "seem" to be wrong.But in reality, the only thing that is wrong is this flawed thinking in the moment. Can you perform when your thinking goes south?  Can you be aware when thinking goes wrong?  Can your mind perform when you want the current situation to be different?
I tell my athletes, everyone has negative thoughts; it is what we do with the negative thoughts that separate the elite thinkers from the average thinkers in sport.  This is important to understand.  We all have negative thoughts, no one is immune.  The first step is to understand this and realize avoidance is not the target.  And, when we do have these thoughts it doesn’t mean we are not mentally strong.  The mentally strong have trained and perfected how to respond to challenging times, which inevitably produce negative feelings.  So the take home here is do not beat yourself up if you have bad thoughts during your performance, EXPECT IT and then MODIFY IT."

I jump from Eric's thesis of practicing, training and perfecting response to negative feelings to practicing running my dogs the way I train...and then being true to myself when things go south just as much as when the run goes well. For me, it's something that requires work and thoughtful practice to strengthen this to begin to become my strong muscle memory.  As I delve in, I see the dogs begin to relax and give back with greater understanding, consistency and relationship.  Funny how it all comes back to me........and there in lies my hope.

Seize the Day!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

In Retrospect

I look over at the right side of my blog.....scrolling down my blog list of readings that have occupied time over the years.  Some blogs provide fodder for fabulous over-thinking, others, mindless time-killing when more pressing needs required soothing.  Such is today...I have a long run ahead of me, yet I sit here, my 13 1/2 year old Jack Russell, fresh from the vets where she was diagnosed with "tonsillitis".  Ruby Tuesday (the JRT I speak of) is very persnickety, never allowing a person to look in her mouth...EVAH!!!!  This fine, if not stubborn, quality resulted in administered anesthesia to have a look around today.  I figured I might as well get my money's worth, so I went ahead and had them clean her teeth while they were at it.  Now, Ruby on one side, wrapped in a big fleecy blanket while Sis teases me with intermittent cuddles on the other side of me, Grace, needing a shower after a crap rolling session out in the back yard, lays by the door, and Snook pancakes at my feet, sleeping hard and breathing slower as time marches on.  I reflect over the blog list.....many the exact same as I left them over a year ago.  One blog in particular catches my attention on this day: Vet on the Edge.  I miss that Alaskan Vet with the wicked sense of humor.  Whenever she posted a new story, I could not wait to sit with my cup of coffee and share the beginning of the morning with her. Today, I wonder if she knew the lives she had touched over the years?  The world lost yet another amazing vet the other who touched many lives.  I did not know her, nor had I read her...but many of my friends were touched by her teachings and some called her 'friend'.  I've spent time wondering if she knew the lives she had touched; how much people truly and deeply cared about her, valued her, esteemed her and loved her?  I wonder if she knew the huge hole that would be left  in the wake of her  passing, how many people would cry? I wonder........

As I tickled the toes of the Rocky Mountains, hanging out at the sheepdog finals, watching and filming, I wondered then too.  I took time to watch, really closely watch, the interactions: dog, sheep, handler, volunteers, leaders, friends.  Is it age, a place in the midst of my life well lived, finding myself closer to the end than the beginning now, that leaves me wanting just a little bit more from myself?  I want to believe that my life has been and is being lived for something bigger than my performance at a sheepdog trial. I wonder.....

I ran Bella and came off the field feeling a partnership in flux.  I "felt" like she ran over me most of the way around until that magic moment where we found our rhythm and made the most out of the rest of the course, too late.  A good friend and mentor talked to me long after my run, his version not at all like me version of what happened.  I've learned over the years that mentor's words are to be ruminated on, so I boxed them up in a larger box than I would have liked and began sorting through them on my drive home.

It always takes me a few days, if not weeks, to find my courage to watch my runs, if a friend is willing to film for me.  I lucked out and a friend stood behind the camera for my run......I'm sure I am grateful. It is not her fault what she filmed was the reality of what happened and not my sugar coated, self absorbed version that skated dog blaming.  I grabbed my box off the higher shelf, where I had stored it, hoping it might catch some dust before I sorted out the contents.  I watched my run, in amazement the first time around, then moving through the Kubler Ross stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression.  My filmed run is NOT at ALL what I remembered!  That, and my mentor was RIGHT....gasp.  My video run showed a dog that was giving everything she had to sort twitchy, difficult sheep....and a handler who needs more work.  Work at what, I'm just now beginning to sort and gain ideas about.....I've learned over the years that the changing of me is that special life challenge that I am willing to embrace with everything I am.  I tiptoe through the depression stage......disappointed in myself.  My dogs give me so much of themselves and I am more than willing to take.  The good news is seeing.....the bad news is seeing.....the quest continues. I dig deep knowing that relationships are my higher quest.....dogs, friends, me.

Friday I got a call from the Sheep Boss; he needed a field gathered and his shepherd was MIA.  I pulled up, into the field, grabbed a four wheeler, my whistle and Bella.  The second I started up the field, big and deep with a bend to the left of it, tree lined shade beginning to creep its way onto the dark fescue grass, Bella took off on an outrun.  It might have been a pretty outrun, but Bella had no idea where the sheep were tucked into the shade, out of sight, around the bend and i did not have time to leave her to her own mistake.  Today was about team work, we had a job to do and the Boss does not like his sheep to run.  I yelled at her, "Bella, Lie Down!".  She ran harder and a bit tighter.  I yelled again, a pitch coming into my voice, one of how about I come kick your ass, "Bella, you better lie down".  She was gone.  Then it hit me, I had a four wheeler and I could out gas her.....I took off up the filed, stuck my whistle in my mouth and blew a lie down.  She stopped, and looked over her shoulder, waited for me.  I pulled left, calling out a "that'll do" and together we went out and around the shaded up sheep, walking them in to the catch pen 100 acres away.  Bella took the side draw, holding the pressure, catching the runners and waiting for my to push the sore footed laggers.  As the trailers pulled away from the field, packed full of our gathered sheep, not a single one left behind, Bella and I headed to the coffee shop to celebrate.

I found my stage of acceptance on the field of real work.  I know and have known that Bella hates it when I yell at her.  She is a lot like me, and pretty much everyone I know; she does better without being yelled at.  Me, well, I have to die to my ego I guess.....ego and old habits from lifetimes ago.  I relish the days where I'm allowed time to experiment and find the answers given back.  New vision to my eyes, from the real time and filmed runs from the finals, the good news is seeing, the best news is adjusting to what is seen.'s not about perfection; it's about seeing, adjusting, communicating, understanding, self change.

"One hundred years from now
It will not matter...."

I think on this quote...what exactly will matter 100 years from now?  Will anyone remember my score or my run at a trial?  I think not, I know I am hard pressed to remember who came in third at The 2012 National Finals, let along who came in third at Heppner last year.  Knowing this and living this are two different edges to the same sword.  As I look for a concluding "ah ha" moment, some profound statement to pull this all together, I can't find words to put to my feelings.  I'll keep to the work...I know most of it is an inside dogs a mirror to my growth.

Seize the Day......make your life extraordinary!!!!!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sounds Like Life to Me.....

Oh, sheepdog trialing.......slivers of the mirror of my life....if I look closely enough; funny how running is it the dogs or me.  I owe LaCamas a debt of gratitude for reminding me....allowing me to remember things:

1. My dogs run for me...they never look at the score sheet and I'm not even sure they know a trial is a competition.  They don't always 'like' running for who I become, at times, while I stand at the post...but they always run for me. In sickness and in health.....till death do us part....they run for me.  If they don't, I had better take a good look at their health and even a closer look at me.......the answer lies somewhere between the two.

2.  Trials allow me the opportunity to practice what I need to practice....those opportunities will present themselves if I keep my eyes open...focusing on what is important.  I get to practice what I need...letting go of expectation, disappointment,  staying true to myself, finding the good in the dogs, building up and coming along side friends, working on me, being truthful with myself, allowing drama, politics, negativity to run off my oiled outerwear.....watching for patches that might need attention.

3. That I trial for myself.....the P in PR is PERSONAL.  No one walks my journey, nor I theirs.  Winning and placements only define me if I allow them to.  I won't.  If someone else allows this to be their be is their journey.  It's a choice to keep my eyes on my own journey.  And while I'm at it.....I get to make a choice to be kind to myself.

4. And while I am on the subject, scores do not define me....nor my dog.  I can look at my break down and it may or may not tell my story.....but it won't tell success of where I am and what I've been working on.  That is PERSONAL.....what I am working on.  The judge's scoring is just one person's opinion; mix in other's opinions of my run...good friends know and challenge my thinking in ways of improvement... my fetch might have been fast but I was working on not yelling at my dog and I made a bit of relational progress in it or not, that won't be shown in a score.

5.  Relationship is what I am longing for with my dogs. They are my dogs and I dabble in knowing them and how to handle them relationally.  Sometimes I fall back into habits of "make"; I'm a work in progress.  Sometimes my ego gets in the way of relationship; sometimes fear.  My heart was so filled with amazing joy to see Bella feeling good again at LaCamas.  It's been a LONG journey of rehabilitation from the cattle panel incident of April.  Fear whispered in my ear that she might never recover or trust me again.  It was fun to see her hunting her pressure points with much gusto.....and knowing that she is just a tad out of condition....we can work on that.  My handling was a little rusty.....a few miscalculations and hesitation on injury muscle memory on my part making a bit of chaos on the cross drive and a little wide turn at the cross drive panel......but we were a team.  Relationship! Today I hug that.....I've work to do, that's alright, but the relationship improves and I'm up for the task. She runs for me.

Sometimes when I run my body, I have the idea come to me to quit.  Early on, a book I read told me to embrace the idea to quit.....invite it to come running with me....let it in and let it out of my mind like the shopping list I always make.  It is just an "idea", it means nothing, I don't have to do it, I let it in and let it out...and soldier on.  With time, the idea to quit does not visit me much any more.  In fact, yesterday, after not feeling well for a few weeks, on my road run, quit came calling.  It's not been around for so long, I hardly recognized it.  I stopped, looked around and then, one step after another, I ran again.  "Come run with me, Quit.  You've been gone for a while......come run with me" and I soldiered on......bread, salsa, chicken, protein grocery list starting to form and edge out quit; it left the same way it came.  Sometimes when I'm at a trial to run my dogs, I forget all that is important.  I allow self doubt, critical thinking, ego, drama, and talking to distract me from my journey....I'm practicing allowing all that in, sitting with it and not fighting it, welcoming it along, and allowing it to move through, out the other side......those old tapes and habits and patterns are only what I allow them to be.  With practice, I'm hoping it becomes easier to not get trapped/caught up in all the distractions that want in.......with practice, I want to easily have them pass through, let them out and maybe they will stop visiting all together.  I soldier on, grateful for the ability to practice....come run with me.

Seize the Day!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Thrill of It All.....

I'm preparing to head up the road to one of my favorite trials....LaCamas.  It tops my list for a number of reasons: lovely field, challenging sheep, local.... really, though, it was my first every big open trial I attended way back in the beginning.  I remember hanging out by the open field, after my non-existant pro novice runs with Snook...who would not lift sheep off the setter from an old was outrun, glance at setter, same trajectory all the way back to the post to pick me up and take me to the truck.  I sat at the open field, off by myself, and watched run after run after run, dreaming of the day I would send a dog on that field at LaCamas.  Those memories of the years following, the dogs I have been privileged to send, the runs, the dramatic end of a grip in the shed, the gambling cone of last year.....and now I load the truck for another opportunity to live my dream.  Crook, check; lucky leash, check; security blanket whistle, check!  I am off.........

My goals:

*run the dog I am taking to the post
*stive for that magic of team work: appropriate corrections, clear whistles, sharp timing
*know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em
*Seize the day!