Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Things I am Working On.....A Dedication

I was one of the lucky folks whose name was picked to run at Scio this past weekend.  Two dogs were allowed...and I picked Nell and Sally to run open.  Saturday, Sally was my first dog to run...and yes, I did sleep with the running order under my pillow the night before!  Just sayin.  I loved Sally's run....there were a few bobbles, all of which I can take credit for as handler errors. 

After Sal's run, I was talking to a blogger friend, J, and he said something along the lines of...I sure like it when bloggers post where they are sorting things and not just the common theme: my dog ran great.  I thought about that all day.  One reason I do not focus on my struggles is...I am working a mental program that emphasises that "what we think on, we become".  Also, sharing struggles makes for some out there transparency and often elicits advice.  However, I do see a challenge for myself and so I will share "what I am working on".  I do in fact share my struggles....with a group of friends that I feel have my best interest in mind and want to see me become all that I want for myself and my dogs.  And for those few folks, I am very thankful!

Sally and I have been working hard all winter.  With a little bit of brain picking, sage words, and lesson after lesson, Sally's shed is looking way better.  And maybe my shed is looking a wee better too.  Also, I have worked on my handling style with Sal...no hard "lie downs" unless needed and a bit of steady and keep your kep...and I got all that and more on my first Open run of the season.  Lastly, at the pen, I had a ewe that was stomping and talking trash to Sally with "your mama" comments.  I handled that a little different this time, willing to give up the run to have Sally keep using her talent....gave a lot of shushing and 'get hers'...and we got our pen. 

Nell ran dead last for the open class. I did not mind...by then the day had cooled and the sheep were settled.  I have felt Miss Nell growing up, maturing, and really wanting to work for me over the winter.  I'm not sure what changed...me/her/ or her 4th birthday, but I have really begun to enjoy her as much as I love the talent I see in her.  She did me proud....giving me everything she had and more.  I have to admit...her score, and placement, and first points towards the finals were very sweet and nice....but the magic of the run and being in the zone as a team for the first time with Nell in open was priceless! Not to say she has never run open...just never well.

Sally and Nell would both like to guest blog here and say.....they have been working on my shedding over the winter and were pleased to see it finally coming along! 

Nell ran first in open the next day....and as I went to bed the night before, I kept saying to myself...consistency, consistency, consistency.  Once again I really loved how she ran for me.  As the sheep came down the fetch line, I saw I had "that sheep!"...the big fat one with the pink nose and the blue ear tag...the one that the sheep provider warned me about...the very same one that laid down on the course the day before.  And honestly, Girl Scout promise...I thought....bring it on baby! 

I did not take into account the change in the draw to the exhaust and how it would affect the cross-drive that was now heading in that direction, and I totally mis-handled my dog.  I gave up a lot of points to make MY point with Nell...you must do what I ask regardless of the draw....and I am glad I did.  I actually stayed at the post to make my point....generally I would have left it...but darn it anyway, I had a bet on my run so I stayed glued to give the fellow a run for his money.  An RT would have been too easy for him! I'll just say again, I was glad I stayed at the post...but I ended up owing and it will be a debt that I will never live down...ever!

Sally's last run was a bit of magic for me.  The same theme as Nell, consistency....and I handled her the best I have in a long time. We had to work for our shed...and I bobbled her at the pen....and at some point the panels were irrelevant....it was just that team feeling that left me on cloud nine.

Two days, four runs, and my dogs brought everything they had with them and gave it back.  So here is what I need to work on...ready...ME!!!!  Oh my gosh!  Timing, strategy, understanding, better use of what my girls have, understanding the terrain and watching to see how the sheep are affected, draws and that stuff.

One of the highlights of the weekend was sitting with a couple of friends that are handlers I look up to.  Run after run after run...the sheep ran all the way down on the fetch, and I mean RAN!  I said I knew that Top Hands would never run sheep like that on the fetch.....so can these sheep actually be walked or paced?  They assured me, YES and then talked to me about strategies on doing so. 

I was reminded this is about the sheep...and the balance of bringing out the talent and beauty of our dogs because of the sheep.  It is only about me, as I fit into that picture....of keeping this about the sheep and the dog.  That is what I will work on.

Seize the Day!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Gyp Did It!

This is not a good picture.  Can you see her?  That tiny black fleck on the left side of the road is Gyp!  The decision to take Gyp for her first go at trailing the sheep to the neighbor's was a whimsically, camera-free, spontaneous one.  She had to do a little gather of all the ewes and lambs out of my top most pasture...which was a little "reactionary" to say the least. But all those involved settled right down as the sheep passed through the tiny gate and the drive began.  I had my iPhone in my pocket so I snapped this shot.  I was very pleased with her level of confidence that far away from me. She eventually slide over to the right to tuck in that ewe and her triplet lambs.  Once she got them to the neighbor's field...she really did not want to leave the sheep behind to come home. 

Well done, Gyp!

Seize the Day!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Funny How Different They Are

The task of trailing the sheep to the neighbors and back has not become a chore yet.  I really love the trip and it is making me get out and walk.  Each time I move the sheep, I have used a different dog.  I find it fascinating to see how each dog works different and bring subtle nuances to the task.  Bella has to be twice as far off as Nell. Sally has the calmest group of sheep while Bella creates a bit of tension in the lambs.  And both Bella and Nell could do it in record time without me.

It is also very interesting to see the differences in approach from last year.  Nell used to want to be off to the side of the group of sheep.  This year, she can keep the sheep on the road and remain on the road herself!  Last year, Sally had one speed...this year, she can pace down but the pick it up for the push past the Rhodie bushes and into the field.  And for Bella...I'm not sure I would have ever used her on ewes with very young lambs. This year, the improvement in our relationship and communication is so freaking cool!

The little lambs are very reactionary right now.....little jumping beans of uncertainty.  I will continue to sort them with the dogs...and then look forward to the day Miss Gyp gets a go.  It might be sooner than later....

Seize the Day!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Trailing of My Sheep

Every year about this time, I trail my sheep down to the neighbor's field to graze.  The whole trip is about 1/3 mile one way. Generally, I take down mature sheep. This year, I decided to do things a little different due to the fact I lambed out more ewes and my grass is dwindling.  The hair sheep flock were picked for the job, so yesterday I spent time dividing the hair sheep from the wool sheep.  Today, I decided to give it a go and see how it all went.

Ten ewes, twenty lambs and three yearlings were to be squeezed through the tiny gate, taking a hard left to follow the winding driveway down to the waiting pasture.  Bella was the dog of choice for today's drive.  It only took three attempts to get all the sheep headed in the right direction.  The ewes knew the drill from years gone by...however, a few silly lambs freaked out seeing their moms leaving them and out of complete silly lack of thought, tried to head back to where they knew instead of heading into the unknown.  Bella kept her head and was very patient.  Once the sheep were out the gate, the neighbor's helped....

they put up little directional signs translated into sheep talk.  By the time this jaunt is over, my TAG lambs will know how to read in addition to being able to follow signs.

I think Bella might have done this a time or two last year as well.  She had her groove on but I made her pace herself  to walk the sheep at a speed I could attempt to keep up with.

At the end of the drive, the sheep take a hard right and go by the neighbor's house and out into their pasture.  It was fun to see Bella full of confidence, totally trustworthy, and finishing the job without much help needed from me.

By the time I got down the driveway, and around the bend, Bella had the sheep all tucked into their new pasture and grazing.  Too bad I can't teach the dogs how to open and close the gate.....but then again, I need the exercise.

Just look at that grass!  My sheep were so very happy.  For the next month or so, I will be taking this flock down the road to graze for the day....and then bringing them home at night.  It is good work for the dogs and saves the sheep from the night visits of coyotes that live in the glen of trees that borders the creek that runs at the edge of the property. 

In the coming days, I will give Miss Gyp a go at the trailing of my sheep.  Nothing like a job to help bring meaning to the training of a young dog! Can't wait to see how she handles it....

Seize the Day!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

It's Only Bad When

I do not believe Over-thinking is a disease.  I do not believe it is something to be cured of.  Many of the most successful people in the world are "over-thinkers"!  Including top hands in the sheepdog world. 

Over-thinking is a serious problem when it heads in the direction of negativity. Whether it be negative self thoughts, negative other thoughts, thoughts of comparisons, or worry of all the negative that could happen.  On the other hand......over-thinking can be fun when the brain is turned loose into dreams for the future; oh the possibilities. It can also be terribly productive when turned loose into the realm of problem solving and potential answer finding.   I also happen to believe, because I do use my brain so very much, that I won't end up with dementia! 

I love the whole process of looking for potential answers.....sorting, sifting, watching, observing...and then out of the blue...it hits me!  Oh, there it is.....a new set of glasses!  That is an exciting aspect of training dogs.....no dog is exactly the same as any other so there will never be a definitive black and white solution for training. Nor is any one "method" the end all to be all.  Personally, I believe that most top trainers have proven "methods", and my goal is to sort through what "method" will help me achieve MY goals...which are different from other people's goals....and that is a good thing. Yet just because I chose to employ a specific "method" into the training up of my dog does not mean that another "method" might not have been effective.  In fact another method might have been more effective in another person's hands....but what matters is my path and use of tools...not the argument of whose method is better.

A GOOD THING. One thought I have been ruminating on for the past....oh, year.....is how many folks I have been blessed to work with and keep as mine some of their approach to working sheep dogs.  Many of them have different methods in training, different styles of handling...and yet they consistently are successful on the trial field. For each of them, at the end of the day.......it is about the dog.  The training and trialing is about bringing out the best in the DOG without allowing anything else to muddy the water.  They have become ducks to the negative comments that float around and instead know in their hearts....it IS about the dog. 

Can you tell my son just had his tonsils out and I have had plenty of time for over-thinking!  Today I am hoping to get the girls out for some training to sort through some of what I saw at the clinic this past weekend.  Plus the sheep need wormed...and the thistles needs sprayed.....it is so good to get into the rhythm of life and not be consumed by what is happening in the world. 

Seize the Day!!!

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Other Side of the Blade of the Knife

This past weekend, I was a participant in a KK clinic.  After the last clinic I attended.....the Knox method most certainly is the other side of the blade of the knife.  The side I am most familiar with....and have embraced and have tried to fully understand as I trained up Nell and Bella and sorted the beginning of my Gyp. 

Bella showing some newly found eye

Right, wrong or indifferent; clinics are becoming a time to sort and evaluate my dogs and myself.  Where I used to be nervous and strive to be perfect or have my dogs "look good" and get that "what ever" seal of approval......now I am hoping that things go wrong so I can get help sorting out what the next step in training is. (though I am still a little nervous)  I also find myself pushing to understand the input given back and why.  That is the beauty of having folks that are waaaay further down the path providing some guidance to be able to learn some of what they have experienced without having to actually go through it.  I also really appreciate clinicians that will push into the nugget and not just say "because I said so."

Tweed says he LOVES clinics!

After I got home, I talked to a friend that knows what my life has experienced for the past month and she asked, "are you really confused now?"  I'm not sure it is confusion as much as it is a mode of sorting.  One of my goals at the end of the day would be to find my own "method" and be able to have flexibility to meet my dog's needs.  Looking at the dogs from different angles and taking those ideas home to sort out for clarity.....I can't wait to see what works, what needs tweaked, and hopefully add the next layer to understanding and relationship with my girls. I also think I am beginning to understand myself better.....and am open to trying some different ideas to see how my dogs respond.  Hopefully, I can sort out quick enough it the results are where I want to go and massage them for the good of the dog.  I'm wondering if that is the secret to the top trainers and handlers...knowing when to apply what and then when to do it different.

 Amidst a group of really awesome dogs, I saw the coolest little dog at the clinic!  She took my breath away.  I am so excited for her owner.....he deserves a "dream come true" dog.  It brought me back to what one of my mentors told me long ago...."every now and then you will see a dog that will take your breath away. But at the end of the day, most of the great runs are about relationship and team work."  It is so refreshing to see that lived out....as the owner was not resting on the talent of the dog but instead was working on developing their relationship without over-pushing the dog.  Watch out for this team!

I now continue on my journey of finding that special bond with each of my dogs.  And while on that journey,  I am so very thankful for the laughs, knowledge shared, and understanding of my over-thinking disease! I continue to die to "ego", ANTs, and the voices of "critical comparison". My journey is about my dogs and the enlightenment of become all we can be together.  And if along the way, I can share that richness with good friends.....I'm blessed.  That, in itself, is the best place in the world to be.

Seize the Day!