Monday, May 31, 2010

Baseball, Baby!

The Chemeketa Storm made the playoffs this year. My first born son is a pitcher on the team. I am so very proud of him!
I drove to Longview, Washington to catch a game and then.....yep....on the way home I stopped to see a few more llamas. And I thought buying a llama would be easy.......
As we embrace Memorial day....I remember my grandpa. He fought in World War II, a member of a ski brigade that fought in the Alps of Italy. He was one of the boys that came home to live out his life helping us remember to value our freedom! I am so thankful that I am an American.....land of the free because of the brave. May we NEVER forget.
Seize the Day!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Weekend Key Peninsula SDT

I used to be a highly effective time management sort of gal....working as a manager in hospital corporate America. I could tell you what I was going to be doing any day of the week...by checking my handy dandy daytimer. Then...I had children, added dogs, bought property and livestock, and the children started having lives....and now...I never know if I am coming or going! Literally!

My oldest son's college baseball team is in the "playoffs".....one never knows what time they are playing because it is all based on winning or losing! They keep winning....thank goodness...but add in the weather that is not May-like AT ALL and we suffered from rain delays and schedule changes. The best made plans of mice and men.....I'm not sure why I am putting this all down in writing...maybe so I don't look like I am really THAT crazy!

Regular scheduled plans changed with a Friday rain out....so I got up real early Saturday morning to drive to a sheepdog trial. Very glad to be running Sally again! The weather was nice, overcast, slight breeze....perfect dog running weather. This trail was filled with famous handlers....And a very nice judge....who is from Idaho....and I promise to not hold that against him....unless Boise State decides not take a good look at my youngest son....then we'll see.....
The course was straight forward.....the sheep a foursome of Scotties and Coops.....Sally ran FABULOUS hindered only by handler error. She did everything I asked of her.....but I am not going to turn this into a confessional about me....so instead here are a few pictures from the trial!

Here is a very nice cross drive from Jo Fergusson......right about "there" the sheep lean down on the course due to some standing water....and Jo has done such a nice job of putting her dog on the inside of the course to keep the sheep on line through the cross drive panels. Some "unnamed" handlers fell apart here....cough cough
Diane Pagel and Roo on the first leg of the drive......
Diane Pagel's Nan (half sister to my Bella) and the MacDonald's pigeons!
This is Ian Caldicott and Joe Kidd putting down a nice run.
Getting to the finale of the single at the end of the show...... After the trial...I was supposed to stay the night with friends in Seattle....Bella's daughter Dahlia's peeps.....but my Nell came up sick! That certainly was not on my daytimer....grrr. So me and girls came home...and at 4:30 this morning I could not imagine another 4 1/2 hour one-way drive.....I am missing my sweet draw of 16th today......oh well, that is my new life! A life filled with wild rides and dramatic change of plans....and you know, I don't think I would have it any other way! Well, except to be running Sally today 16th......

Seize the Day!!!!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Is Your Mama a Llama?

When my boys were growing up, one of my favorite books to read to them was called "Is Your Mama a Llama?" It was a guessing game book with not-near-clever-as-Dr. Seuss rhymes...but the illustrations...Oh My! Yesterday, I visited Raindance Llamas and felt as if I tumbled into the pages of "Is Your Mama a Llama?"Pretty cute.....Check out those banana ears! What is it about baby animals that makes a person want to grab them...shove them into a dog crate and fly down the hill to take them home? Then I remembered I was there to find a new guard llama....one to fiercely protect my lambs back home....and a baby llama would fail miserably...I must get a grip! Looking out into the pasture of llamas....I wondered, how could I ever begin to decide.
Kindly, the llama folks at Raindance had sorted a few of the female llamas that they felt might make a good guard......Ruby caught my eye...she is related to my Gingerbread.
And then there was this girl....

You know, I have never ever been a good shopper!

Seize the Day!!!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Jack Knox

Jack Knox is coming to Jefferson, Oregon to teach private lessons on Thursday, June 3rd, 2010. If you are interested in a private lesson with Jack Knox.....email me for more details at lora(at)rockingdogranch(dot)com. Understanding and training sheepdogs.....is like breathing to Jack. It comes so very naturally! He is one of the best.......

Seize the Day!!!!!

The Shearing of the Sheep

I love shearing time! I always laugh, thinking back to my first day of shearing.....leg crooking the sheep out of a big holding area. It was hard work made more complicated by lack of knowledge and experience. Thank goodness for one very patient, understanding shearer!

Over the years, I have gotten a little smarter and have purchased movable sheep-handling equipment that makes many jobs easier. This year, I made a sweep and alley to have the sheep close to the shearing area.
My shearer is a young, fit gal. We've become friends over the years and I love catching up on her life. She comes from the sheep industry and is involved in 4-H, running the Turner Lamb Festival, and an assortment of other "sheepy" adventures. We need more like her to keep America thinking sheep.
I love watching the shearing process. I always think "I could do that" until a sheep jumps and she magically pulls the blades away....where as I might be leaving shearing war wounds!

And then I see her stand up.......and I think..."oh my aching back".......and I remember to tip her well so I don't have to do this myself!

It also takes a small village to get the sheep and wool handled. Adele and Beau were in charge of moving the girls sporting new hair cuts around the barn to their pasture. Sounds easy but the sheep are very squirrelly from the shearing....and singles are not easy to work on the best of days. Adele had her work cut out for her.....and Beau did real fine.Traci and Natch Kant filled the holding chutes and then skirted and bagged the fleeces. Kant's job was to shred the skirted off wool........well, she thought that was her job! The skirting and bagging job was a little different this year as many of the fleeces were WET! We have been having an unusually wet spring and 24 hours in the barn was not enough time to dry the girls out. So my work is not done just yet......half of the fleeces are drying up in my playroom much to my family's chagrin! Hubby says our house smells like the fair. I thought I would compliment that statement by having corn dogs and elephant ears for supper tonight!

Seize the day!!!!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Serendipity!

Serendipity....an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident; good luck! And so the story goes.....how a nice couple came out to have their rescue border collie instinct tested....and ended up with a very nice Bella pup. Meet Serendipity....or Sera for short. She looks so much like Bella, it takes my breath away. Her personality is very sweet.....her owners have done such a great job raising Sera to be a confident, well mannered, lady. As with some youngsters, Sera being 7 1/2 months old, it took a wee bit of encouragement to get her going......Once she got going.....she loved working the sheep!She was all business and trying so very hard. She looked fabulous! I'm so excited to see Sera taking the first step towards becoming a nice working dog. In addition, it is even more exciting to see her owners get the hang of training her!

Sera's owners will be working her a little bit at home and giving her plenty of time to grow up. I look forward to the next time we get together to work dogs! Until then.....

Seize the Day!!!!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

One Fine Guard Llama

Five years ago, when I started my journey as a shepherdess.....I bought a guard llama. I had no idea what I was doing.....but the whole idea of my sheep hanging out at the ranch with no protection, and the idea of finally having a great excuse to own a llama....lead me to buy one from Raindance Llamas. I am so very glad I did.

Gingerbread was awesome, from the day she arrived she took to the sheep like a girl to chocolate. The sheep figured it out real quick.....and would run to Gingerbread any time they felt a threat. That would include dogs wanting to sort them off to work them! My dogs got very good at shedding sheep off the llama and Gingerbread got smart and let us !Gingerbread had a few quirky habits.....first, she would lick the fence when she got bored! Cleaning each top rung and moving down the fence.....she must have been on salary and not hourly wage!
She was very famous at the Vet's office. All the staff knew how much Gingerbread loathed Dr. Reynolds....and I am sure the staff played "rock, paper, scissors" to see who got the honor of ranch visits for my llama.

A few years back, she started occluding her esophagus. First it was when eating grain.....little piglet of a llama seemed to eat fast without chewing.....so grain was fed only in small doses....and mostly as a lure to catch her for the infamous vet visits. The occlusions became more and more regular on all food sources and it was decided that she had a malformed esophagus....a disease familiar in the camelid family. She began to loose body condition and eventually was so miserable she went off food. It was time to say goodbye to my special gal. A very sad day indeed.

Gingerbread....you were all I could have ever wished for in a guard llama. You hummed while I worked, always hanging out to be a part of anything I was doing. You were so upset the day the neighbor dog jumped in with the lambs......and would have done a great job had I put you in their pen. You brightened my days...especially when the ewes and very tiny young lambs were turned out with you. How you loved those little lambs! I remember the day I let a ewe have her babies in the pasture and you were right there...helping the new mom.....humming away, as only you could. I miss you so very much! Guard the sheep in Heaven ......until I see you again!Seize the Day!!!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cowgirl Friend

I have a real live, horseback riding, cow and sheep dog handling, Wrangler wearing, cowgirl of a friend.....and she kindly taught me how to whistle with my fingers last weekend. When we started out....she tried to be nice and said things like, "the best finger whistlers learned as kids". Never one to give up....I annoyingly showed my persistent if not OCD personality.....and she did not give up on me..."your lower lip is not right"....."your fingers are too far in"....."your tongue needs to do something different".....and I did it! Her parting words were...."you need to practice and get your muscles in shape"...hey now! Let's not get too personal...okay?

So all week, I have been exercising my muscles and practicing my finger whistling. It now only takes me three tries to get my first lie down whistle out. Many of my whistles are starting to sound like my brass whistles.....well, at least to me.....Sally has interpreted them all as "walk on" whistles....so I am not doing them for her anymore. Not until I get better! What a stickler Sally can be! I can also, once started, get 5-6 whistle commands out before I get light headed and need to sit down! I am making BIG progress!

In the coming weeks....if you drive by Rocking Dog Ranch.....and see me laying in the pasture, buzzards circling.....just know.....I have been practicing my finger whistles! Thank you, cowgirl friend!

Seize the day!!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Frolicking at Fido's Farm

What a beautiful day!!!!! Time for a field trip up to Fido's Farm.....just outside Olympia. Big fields, nice sheep, my dogs and a very good friend and her dogs......near perfect! I will say.....none of us are used to high 70's for the temperature....so we kept things short and sweet. My friend Jeanne B showed up and took a few photos of Sally for me..... Sally and I practiced our shed without a crook.....and did just fine. I am beginning to get the hang of it. And I do believe Sally appreciates that!My friend had some good practice work..... After we got done working the dogs.....it was time for a picnic.

Sally loved the cool grassGyp was her typical self.....and thought pretty much everything was better than Disneyland! Just like every field trip.....

Here is Traci's gal....Kant....looking like a page from a Sheltie Calendar.....
Echo really wanted to just work sheep......
Nell was too busy having fun to photograph......actually I just realized I missed her!
Next time....

Seize the day!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Camp Orchard Run

Bella has been begging to go to summer camp. She was tired of her wicked step sisters....and now with the addition of a youngster.....she is exhibiting "middle dog" syndrome! I checked out a few highly recommended camps....and the activities at Orchard Run were PERFECT for Bella . Massages, pedicures, and a new hair style.....plus sheep, sheep and more sheep! One last run with the family in the desert hills outside Caldwell........a few hugs shared between us, and a couple of tears on my part....I left Bella in the very capable hands of the camp manager, Diane Deal.

All joking aside, Bella and I have been doing really great........Bella is like a sponge right now.....and lesson availability is limited in my area....so camp seemed appropriate! I have taken some lessons with Diane, watched her train and run her own dogs, and have appreciated her training up of other folk's dogs......and the icing on the cake was the fact she has worked with a few dogs from Bella's lines and understands them! Done deal. Oh..that was bad.....sorry!

From my perspective, Diane has done a fabulous job holding my hand. The reports she sends back are great...but I really do miss my girl. I think Sally and Nell miss her too...but love the fact that they get to share her sheep work!

Oh, sweet L&M Belle.......Bella Rosa to me....I miss you already!


Seize the Day!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bloggin' Sistas!

I started this blog in late December of 2008......and in that time, I have found some really fabulous blogs to follow....all listed there on the right of this post. Through blog posts, I have found some new friends.....people that I would not have known if it were not for their blog! And reading them....I feel like I know them. My morning routine is to grab a good cup of coffee (a bad one if we are out of my straight from the Island Kona Coffee) go to my blog and then jump to all the new blog entries. Sort of like a nice chat with friends.
What is truly amazing, is when Bloggers unite! Which happened at Big Willow. Eyeherdewe was there! Yes, indeed...she was up top setting sheep. She is a local Idahoian with a wicked sharp way with words! I love it when she puts her thoughts into sentences and then...finally posts them. Yesterday, I met fame, as she mentioned me in her post....check it out.

Phantom Ridge Border Collies was also there. She was just like the US Postal Mail Person: Rain, sleet, hail, snow......she drove through it all on her way to Big Willow from Canada!We met in person at a trial in Washington last year....saw each other at the Finals...and it was great seeing her again at Big Willow. She humored me and took pictures of my run.....kindly leaving me out of them....and just admiring my dog and the sheep!She had great insight into reading the sheep....and it was fun ribbing each other about past blog posts. Well, maybe me more than her......

There were also some "readers of my blog" at Big Willow. A shout out to all of you....you know who you are....that follow my trials and tribulations! This journey is so much more fun to share with friends.....

Seize the Day!!!!

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Bunch of Great Runs


The field at Big Willow is not huge......but very complicated. Either way you send your dog.....it will lose site of the sheep on the outrun. Sally and I have been working on two aspects of losing site of sheep on outruns....1) having her actually look for her sheep all the way and not think they are always set at 300 yards and 2) taking a redirect once she gets started on her outrun. Last year, Sally was certain that a bunch of swaying sagebrush way up on a hill were her sheep....pretty much end of story.


A year later: My first run with Sally, she crossed on her outrun but came back onto her sheep as if I had sent her right instead of left! Sally ran the sheep a bit on her fetch...and together, we fought the sheep and lost every panel.....got our shed....and settled into the mouth of the pen....time up!

I spent the day watching, taking mental notes, and thinking about how to improve...what's next. When to redirect, how to hold her off the sheep but let her work on, and further improve the teamwork that we are just now beginning to develop. Second day: I talked to her and tried to redirect earlier in her outrun.....she did blow through but as I watched her, I felt her hitch and think....when she topped the little hill and saw the sheep she blew herself out for our very first ever non-crossing outrun at Big Willow! Atta Girl!!!! Our fetch was very nice, hitting our panels...the sheep were pushing on Sally and I tried to hold her off and let her work in a rhythm suiting the sheep. Around the post.....and gasp....Sally sliced a flank and went to the sheep's heads! We ended up retiring at the first drive panels due to some serious overflanking on Sally's end....and handling management issues on my end. But here is what I have to say.......I was a winner!!!!! Yep, 30/RT......on the scoreboard but Sally and I won! This whole sheepdog trial experience is about relationship...and it has taken me a whole big fat year to settle my head on that! A Big Hat once told me, "you will go to trials and see a rare dog that is so talented they take your breath away.....but the winning scores are often the dog and handler teams that have the best relationship in addition to training and understanding." Well, that is my version of what was said.....and that is what I am striving for.

Here are a few of my thought about other runs that were memorable for me....fist and foremost was Rob Miller and Jen, who ran right on my heals the second go so I did not get any photos. The sheep were pushing on Jen in a similar fashion to how they pushed on Sally.....but Rob handled it with such finesse. His dog never overflanked, he let the sheep go and took control with incredible timing, and his dog ended up face gripping to cash the check! Amazing to really identify what was happening on both our runs...that for me is an important step in improving my handling. Thanks to Rob for talking with me after our runs!

Patrick Shannahan put down the winning run the first day.....I always watch and take notes...especially as he sheds!


Ellen Skillings ended up winning the whole trial......I missed her run as I went home to spend Mother's Day with my really awesome family.....but I did catch her near-flawless run the first day. Here she and Emer are bringing the sheep on one beautifully straight fetch. I am working on my "mental management" when it comes to running my dogs at sheepdog trials. Disciplining myself to think, first and foremost, on what I really liked, then spending some time thinking about what went wrong, why it went wrong and ending on how to improve. I continue to sift through what input I allow myself to listen to and what input runs off my feathered back. Those I respect, and want to be when I grow up, seem to wait for me to come and talk to them. They give great, honest feedback when I ask for it and am ready to hear it. They are also the same people who can help me celebrate the beauty and improvement in my runs.....and for that I am so very thankful.

Big Willow....what a trial! The course is complicated, the sheep are so bloody honest, the whole trial is a mirror, showing the unedited truth of what the dog, handler, and relationship truly is. I have work to do....but today, I will embrace my progress, celebrate my Sally, and call myself a winner!

Seize the day!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Big Willow.....As Told By Me!

I am not exactly sure why they call this trial "Big Willow"....maybe because the road less traveled to the trial is called "Little Willow". There are certainly NO willows to be found in this rustically, western, high desert, harsh beauty of a land.

This is the trial field......sheep are set, dog running just past the first drive panels to the left, handler at the post.....as you can see, the field is very, very complicated. No matter which way you send, the dog loses sight of the sheep on the outrun......lots of terrain going on.

The sheep are taken from a band of 1,000 sheep, grazed right there in the desert, lambed out right there in the desert. Never being handled much by human or dog until they move on to be sold or processed. And keeping in mind, much of their "dog" contact comes in the form of predators: coyotes and, the re-introduced into the environment, wolves.

The trial sheep are cut off from the main flock...which are then grazed a few hills over yonder. Handlers and other volunteers then graze the trial sheep......shedding off fresh sheep as needed for the runs....and keeping the "chosen" group from rejoining with those who just get to graze in peace.

A few times, the main group drifted over to make chaos for the " trial grazers". You can see some sneakers there on the ridge....naughty sheep!Times like that....the cowboy/shepherd came to the rescue on horseback! Or one of those "in charge" of the trial would ride off on a 4-wheeler to save the day.
At night, the temps dipped down below freezing......dry camping left my RV very cold and I was thankful for my bed warmers.......you could say it was a five dog night!

Every day, I took the girls for a couple of long hikes into the hills and they loved the wide open spaces.

Miss Gyp did great on her first major road trip! She did not particularly care for the 8 1/2 hour one-way drive.....but she was a good girl. I think she knows.....many good things come with a long road trip.

We've only just begun....
Seize the Day!!!!!!!