Thursday, June 30, 2011

Back To Our Regular Scheduled Program

Thank you all for the kind words about my Porsche girl.  Time is the healer of hearts....and the pack is re-adjusting.  My cool neighbor made me a cross to mark her grave that is in my bottom pasture under the Maple tree. 

June brought me a rare opportunity in regards to dog work.  I participated in a Jack Knox clinic and then two weeks later, hosted a Kathy Knox clinic.  The opportunity was found in working two dogs with Jack, spending two weeks sorting out what he said to me, and then working them with Kathy for some final input until I see the Knox's again.

Sometimes, when I work with Jack, I don't totally understand the concept of what is presented until I chew that cud over and over and over.  My over-thinking seems to start on the drive home from the clinic and continues as I work the dogs...with dedication to seeking out the answers, clarity comes.  With Bella, we worked on that tiny bit of tension that remains at the top.  She is coming in tight and a bit "wrong".   Jack suggested a stop and blow out as one tool to try for a while....with the goal being Bella finding the answer in the correct and then seeking it herself over time.

The Italian hand gestures coming out in me, working Bella
I worked Gyp for Jack looking to open up her flanks and address "feel".  Instead what I got was a grudge holding pup not wanting to work for Jack and a frustrated me....and then a whole talk and "making" the dog.  Back to square one...make vs. get.  I certainly had a lot to think about and sort through at home!

Two weeks later, I greeted Kathy, Lorri, Cheryl and Geri at Rocking Dog Ranch....for the pre clinic pep talk.  I was thankful I had weaned lambs but wishing I had weaned the katahdin lambs as well.  Thanks to help from friends and my neighbor I mowed, pulled a few fences, and generally cleaned up the ranch into spiffiness.  Most of my own personal clinic experience learning was obtained from the top end as I moved and set sheep with the help of Lana and Geri.  Actually, it was interesting to be up where I could not hear but could watch intently.  It was fascinating to see how the sheep behaved by how they were handled.

Geri and Kathy working in the bottom pasture
 Kathy added more insight into Bella, suggesting a "speaking" to at the first of her outrun to soften her into a thoughtful finish.  Though it did not do a miraculous "fix"....I felt that with the application of both Jack and Kathy's input for Bella, over time I will help give understanding so I will keep with this for a few months. 

Kathy helped me put Gyp on lambs...and all the "feel" I have been looking for poured out of that 17 month old pup!  Oh, so that is what Jack meant!  I need to be conscious of making sure I put Gyp on sheep that create the need to think...those type of sheep certainly brought out the best of all I have been working towards with Gyp.

I have to confess, I really enjoy my time working with and discussing dogs with both the Knox's.  I love the experience they bring to the dogs....and the fact they are so willing to share all that they know.  They never seem to hold information back...even for questions not asked.  I now have a whole summer's worth of over-thinking material...until I see Jack again in August.  He is coming back in August to judge a trial I am helping put on......I'm not sure he has ever seen me run a dog!  That might be the start of a new chapter of "discussions with Jack"...handling on the course! 

Seize the Day!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

One Last Dance......

It was 8 years ago last November that a tiny, smooth coat, black and white border collie came through a list I follow as a dog in a local shelter needing a shot at life.  A person known for evaluating shelter dogs gave a positive review of this border collie for a potential agility dog, and I was in rare form....just sure this dog was for me!  And that is exactly how Miss Porsche GT...aka Rocking Dog's Smooth Ride....came into my life.  Her story was...she had lived on the streets of Roseburg, homeless as a 7 month old and needing to be trapped to be caught.  Her life at the dog pound only intensified her fear.....every time I visited her while she waited for her owner to come forward...she could not focus on food, or a toy or me.  I have to admit...that really dysfunctional side of me came out...the one that wants to fix things and give love to the unlovable and be super woman.  So Porsche came home with me. 


Her fear was so intense....she had learned a few things on the streets: people were to not be trusted and when in doubt...RUN!  So the first year of her life with me she lived dragging a 300 foot long line.  She spent many sessions with dog-behaviorists sorting out how to get this dog to have a functional life.  Dead were my dreams of a kick-ass agility I just wanted to rehab her and find her a home! In addition to her fear...she had absolutely no dog communication skills. She could not play and if any of the dogs wanted to play she policed the party.  None of the dogs liked her and she could not read the snarls and growls that were thrown her way.  My early memories of her were filled with drama....the day my son and I were packing for the Mega Dogs agility trial.  I took Porsche out into the back yard for one more potty opportunity just as the lawn service showed up and came out back.  Though they quickly retreated out of the back yard, it took my son and I two hours to finally catch Porsche and get her in the RV.  Or the trip the next year to the NADAC Finals in Colorado.  One night Porsche ate part of a rug...and the next day she ended up pooping it all over my bed as she broke out of the kennel when my son went to pet her and console her.  We quickly figured out that Porsche would not be a dog that anyone would want and so she became my special project.

My agility days ended with my son's interest in sports and I found sheep.  Be to the fact that Porsche was a border collie....I just knew she would be a good "herding" dog!  Porsche has worked with some top names including Derek Scrimgeour and Patrick Shanahahn.  Really at the end of the day, Porsche could work sheep as long as they moved!  If they did not move, she would quick foot it, spinning around them till she dazzled them with her tight fast craziness and something happened.  At home, she would often leave the sheep she did not like in the field...bringing only the girls who would come. The flock figured her out and less sheep moved and more sheep stayed out.

I kept banging at my training with my heart I wanted to believe that she could find confidence if only I would believe enough in her.  She did actually go high in trial at an AKC trail up at Fido's farm.  She loved to work sheep even if it did not go well. 

I will never forget the day that Patrick put his arm around me and told me something along the line of...maybe we had taken Porsche as far as we could.  I know I augured...and told him I would show him!  It brings tears to my eyes even today.......I just so wanted to believe that love and belief would be enough to heal this dog!

But over time, I learned to listen to truth.  Porsche was really scarred and some of those could not heal.  After attempting to take her to a few sheepdog trials where we were staying in the RV.....her neurosis making her sick and keeping me up all night.  I decided to leave her home...and she got all nervous and full of fear without me there.  She was a little autistic in needing home and me with her.  So doggie downers were prescribed and Porsche started settling into a more quiet life.  


 There is so much to say and not enough words to do justice.  Over time, storms became Porsche enemies....first in wind and then rain.....with seizures following the fear.  Quality of life is a gift we get to give our dogs....and fear-free painless passing follows as a close second gift.  Porsche's good days were fewer and her bad days more frequent.  I wanted to be able to say goodbye on a good day.

Today was a good day.  A romp with her pack and a spin on the sheep.  A last dance together, Porsche and me.  She stood in the stock tank cooling off, enjoying the breeze, drinking in a glimpse of the paradise awaiting her.

Miss Porsche taught me so much.  Sometimes no matter how much I love and work to fix might just not be the journey I had envisioned when I started out.  However, if I look real close.....the joy, love, patience and devotion exceeded anything I could have hoped for in wins and glory.  Oh Porsche....I hope it was enough.  Run fear free sweet girl.....I really am going to miss you!  Thank you for picking me to tell your story to and share your journey with.  Rest in Peace till I see you again!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Yesterday vs Today

Yesterday was quite the day.  The last sentence to a long chapter of training, trial organizing, clinicing, hosting and the likes from the past two months.  See I am living out a a Kathy Knox clinic!  It was just 4 years ago that I met Jack and Kathy Knox and their style of training spoke to me and has permeated me....much like a tea bag does hot water.  As I share my journey of training dogs with friends, I have looked forward to the day I could share the original presentation of the Knox method with those who train with me.  As with pretty much everything I do, I went all out to help this party be all it could be.  I rented a big sheep operation to have access to big fields and fresh sheep.  Knowing it would be a lot of work at a place I did not own, I was okay with that.  However, the best laid plans often go awry (thank you Of Mice and Men) and I found myself yesterday standing in gooey mud in the middle of the young dog training pen with field pipe needing moved.  As I gazed out at the big beautiful field I had planned on using for the big dog outruns, oh say about 500 or so ewes and lambs were busy grazing the grass with no intention of being hauled out of there in the coming few days, with the wet weather keeping other fields from being usable.  Where that flock of sheep might have gone on to graze, those fields are still standing in tall grass meant for hay but too wet to cut.  Mud in the small training area for the younger dogs (along with farmie my items that needed dug out for safety) and no access to the big field of dreams, I pulled the plug.  And I cried.  I actually cried a lot and my youngest son had to give me a pep talk about how I needed to put my big girl panties on and get er done!

I love my family...and my boys rock.  So, at 4 in the afternoon, I loaded my car with dogs and went to my little ranch and decided this was the first sentence in the new chapter of my book of life and I was and am going to find the blessing and be thankful for what I have.  I will not be focusing on all I don't have and what I long a 100 acre ranch and a big uniform flock of gone excuses and pathetic longing!  I have a beautiful 10 acre ranch...that is now half mowed.  With creative input from my neighbor and a friend, I think I have figured out how to park all the attendees.  Thankfully I weaned a group of lambs last week so I have fresh lambs and ewes that have not been worked all winter.  I am pulling a fence today to make for a bigger outrun.....not "field of dream" big but enough. I have an amazing family, really awesome dogs that are teaching me just what I need to learn, the best group of friends that I don't deserve....and I get to share Kathy Knox with them all!

It really is enough, it is better than good......

Seize the Day!

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Little Grace

Meet Grace!  She is a Nell X Jake puppy...Gyp's sister...and she is visiting Camp Rocking Dog Ranch for the summer.

This is a picture of Grace the day she was born.

She has certainly grown into a beauty.  She is a tiny little bug of a girl....and very much like her mama!

This is what Gyp thinks of her:

At first Gyp was just ignoring Grace. Now, after a week, they are starting to look at each other.....and I actually caught them playing in the back yard yesterday!

It is fun having Grace here, she brings yet another style on the sheep.  Way different than her sister, she has a bit more eye and feels the pressure point.  Grace belong to Kathy, who is coming this very weekend to do a clinic with me.  I am looking forward to watching her work with Grace...and giving me her insight into what is next for my Gyp.  I am trying to help Gyp feel her sheep more.....and I must say, "feeling the sheep" is taking a lot of sorting for me with Gyp. 

Back to Grace, she has so much personality!  She bonds very quickly to a person and wants to be right there all the time.  As I type, she is laying on a dog bed behind my chair.  Although I am seeing some huge independent streaks as she spends more and more time outside with the dog pack. 

Oh Miss Grace......I think we are going to have a lot of fun this summer!

Seize the Day!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Four Wheeler

This past weekend found me down in Tulelake, California at one of my favorite trials; Dry Lake.  The field was what I would imagine the West to have looked like before too much civilization came along.  Driving down a gravel road through high desert, sage brush and juniper trees with volcanic lava rock strewn about like rice after a wedding, got us to the mile long grass field.  A herd of antelope skittered across my path early Sunday morning but more common was the Byrne cattle grazing the open range.

Long and wide, the field looked deceivingly flat from the post.  However, if a person walked the outrun the land would tell a different of much terrain and, from the dogs level, blind to the sheep either way.  The sheep were set at 600 yards....left provided a fence quite some distance from the fetch line and all the way up to the set-out pens.  Right had a little ridge that if the cards played out just right....a dog could see the sheep from and plan out the rest of their outrun.

Lana's sturdy red four wheeler sat just off the back side of the field ready to help the many crazy scenarios that came up...only in Tulelake.  Racing out onto the trial field to nab the flock of sheep that escaped from the exhaust and were quick footing it up the field to the set out 800 yards away!  Giving a ride to the handler whose dog had scope and was sure the white wrapped haylage bales that were off on the range with the cows some mile away were HIS sheep.  Helping to drive, lure, cajole, push that mama and her new lamb...the one that the set out folks lambed out in between sets.....up to the barn for shelter and overnight protection. 

My first time to the post with Nell, I reminded myself that she was new to open.  This year will be filled with providing "experience" for her...working on our communication and trust.  From the post, I thought she saw the sheep, she ran out 500 so very nice and I was hopeful.  And then, it happened....she came in, I could not get her to blow out, she crossed and looked everywhere she could think of to find what I had sent her out on only to come back sure I was a fool.  The trial host and judge were so incredibly supportive of the dogs that they told us at the handler's meeting we could help our dogs find the sheep that one day.  So Lana's trusty four wheeler was brought out to me....and Nell and I raced up the field.  When Nell finally saw the sheep....she gave me the dirtiest look of "why did you not tell me so" and we fetched them to the exhaust. 

Bella had her go in pro novice on a course that was shortened to the fetch panels but still a good 300 yards away.  The wind is famous down in that area, though generally not so full of itself at the end of May.  With it blowing straight into my face at chapping speeds and combined with sheep that were frisky to set, I asked Geri to have my new friend ready to role "just in case".  Indeed, trial Bella lifted the sheep much too tight, kicked one off, and started the chase.  I jumped on the ready four wheeler and flew up the field, pulling up about 20 feet from Bella and telling her that she had better lie down.  The look on her face....."where did you come from",  "you have never done this at a trial" and the huge skid mark she left as she laid down were worth the entry fee for my pro novice run!

All in all, the trial was amazing, wonderful, fun....I could go on and on.  My girls did so great; not winning money or getting points, but working hard to be a partner with me.  I finished the course twice on Sunday...with Nell and Sally....that after not getting my shed on Saturday and Nell not getting up the field.  I continue to see how much I need to work on in myself.  The journey continues.  I am thankful for trials that allow for the challenge to be such a positive gain.

Seize the Day!