Thursday, May 31, 2012

Take the Long Way Home

Though the Bluegrass was over for me, my trip was far from ending.  I have to pause and say, sometimes this sheepdoggin' world amazes me....that, and FaceBook.  Before I had even put a mile beneath my tires, I decided that on my way home from Kentucky, I would try to make daily amusement park stops...aka...stops to talk dogs and work dogs along the way home thus providing the carrot before this horse; little things to look forward to.  And even before that, when I bought Miss L&M Belle (Bella) I was somehow adopted into the L&M family with a fan club in South Dakota.  Those South Dakotans seem to be of the mind.....".if you are a friend of my friend, then you are a friend of mine!"  And so, the seven degrees of Miss Bella brought me to  a visit to Jamie Springs, just a 'tad' out of the way but heck what is a couple hundred miles when you are driving thousands?

I think I drove through many of Jason Aldean's Fly Over States....

Take a ride across the badlands
Feel that freedom on your face
Breathe in all that open space

Indeed, I drove through the badlands and talk about open space!  Breathtaking!

The girls and I took a good long walk and then I noticed what I had no idea lived in South Dakota:

I alwasy think of cactus and Arizona, or New Mexico or Texas but not South Dakota.  No dog seemed to care but still...who knew?

I got to meet two of the cutest girls around.....and the dog that I have admired from afar....GIRLIE!  I had an empty dog crate...but Emma kept a sharp eye on Girlie so I do not have a new dog.

Emma showing me how Girlie walks on a leash

Joni smiling for the camera
I've also heard Emma is a puppy snatcher...when I have a litter of pups I so need one of these.

Jamie, whom I have never met in person, warmly welcomed me into her life.  As we chatted, I kept thinking how nice it would be to live closer but maybe it was best we didn't.  Somehow I think we could get into some serious over-thinking trouble together!

Jamie as caught by photographer Emma
Before we went out to work dogs, Emma gave us a brief sheepdog demonstration! I see no tension as she pulls those sheep off that fence.....such feel!

Jamie grabbed some open ewes and we headed out into the open badlands, where the cacti dot the landscape, and hardly a fence is to be seen.  I gave my camera to Emma, who is four by the way, going on 19, and she kept busy taking pictures.

sheep from a four-year old view point

Emma's Bella portrait

I tied my camera around Emma's neck so she could not drop it and told her I did not care how many pictures she took.  My one and only "rule" was to not take pictures of me.  When I got done working Bella, Emma confessed she had accidentally take a "few" pictures of me.  Yes, Emma, that is like owning a few pair of shoes, or a few border collies or better yet, Kentucky being only a few miles down the road!

Jamie had a go at shedding.

Then we ate lunch, Emma painted me a picture, and I was back on the road.  What an amazing day with amazing people.  My only regret was missing Laura Hicks...but that makes going back all the more exciting.  Maybe a sheepdog trial will be in order next visit!  Thank you, Springs family, for making me welcome and taking time out of your life to share it with me.

Seize the Day!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Big Event

Lexington, Kentucky....very close to Heaven on earth!  The green rolling meadows, white fences dividing horse pastures, rock walls and mansions that brought to mind plantations from the deep south yet not quite. One could feel the pulse of horse country with all the training facilities dotting the way to state park where the Bluegrass Sheepdog trial was held.

I pulled in late Monday evening to a breathtaking view.  Campers and trailers and tents lined up neatly everywhere.  Handlers greeting handlers with such familiarity, I felt a little out of place being this was my first dance.  Tagging a tiny little trailer that was just a bed and a light, I decided to make the near-by RV park home so I could shower and have a bit of wifi and respite from the rising temps and humidity. 

As I mentioned before, Nell ran 16th following Scott Glen and June.  I was glad to have a familiar face spotting sheep and heading onto the course before me.  It was also nice to see June put down a beautiful run, and Scott makes shedding look so...effortless!  Nell and I walked to the post, me breathing and telling myself this was just like practicing with a friend....with a horse and dog holding sheep at the top.....and a billion top hands watching!  I have to be honest, I got lost in Nell's run....she was such a good girl, listening and working hard with me.  I got to the shed ring, and Nell missed coming through what I felt was a nice opportunity.  I looked at my watch and with 10 seconds left, I hail-married and called her in on a shed that ended in...yes...disaster!  GRIP-olla!  I mean really, what was I thinking...a single on the head of the last of three lambs!  In my head, I could hear my husband asking me what the heck!?  I am generally so conservative......but the moment caught me, and Nell and I have some work to do.  Still, all in all, it was a nice run....besides that one part! As the trial wore on I realized, it was a very difficult shed...and I joined the ranks of about 1/3rd of the handlers that gripped in the shed ring.  

Bella, well lets say her outrun was killer.....but then she lost her head and I had to run up the field at the Bluegrass...muttering to myself "DEATH to EGO!" and a few assorted other mutterable words, none worthy of print.   One person told me, "with a stop like that, it's a good thing she is pretty!".  I kindly replied, "yes, it would be a bitch to not be able to stop an ugly dog!"  And so Bella and I had some mind melding to do, truth be told, I actually thought about pulling her for her next run!  Instead, I sent her...4:00,85 degrees and what felt like 100% humidity....I sent her and when she blew through my lie down whistle, I stunned and amazed the crowd with my lung capacity and resonating LIE DOWN!  Which worked wonders, as the crowd gasped, and my Bella and I got around and to the shed ring. There I found a very toasted Bella, not able to do much of anything but we timed out and I was tickled with her.  It did help that one of the judges offered to take her off my of the highest compliments I like to receive!

Nell ran second the last day of open.  It dawned clear and a little cool.  I thanked the man who ran before me for showing up....and he went out and put up a spectacular run.  No shed but what he did do in the shed ring was pure magic and something I long for with my dog.  I am not sure what to say about Miss Nell's run.....we hit all our panels and she had such a nice way with the sheep.  I got to the shed ring and felt tension in as the shed manifested, I hesitated calling Nell through and we timed out...keeping our points for the run.  She gave me all she had and I just want to hug her.  We've come a long way baby.  But all that to be said, I was a little disappointed in me.  I put Nell in a situation by my handling that, well, it is hard to express all the feelings I have had over the past week about how hard Nell has worked in our partnership and how, I might need to pony up a little on my end.

It was funny, as I was sorting my run, out of the blue a friend and mentor called and we talked for an hour about my feelings....that run and the whole amazing huge trial.  That chat put me back together, maybe not with kindness, or soothing words, but with the remembrance of what this is all about.  Relationship. 

I am so glad I went to the Bluegrass.  The way the trial played out was good to see from a bit of an outsiders perspective.  Would I go again?  In a heart beat!  Would I do things different...yes and no.  Yes on better preparation now that I know....and no, I would not change those who helped me along the way....I really do have a great group of friends and mentors! And as they introduced me around...I found, they attract some pretty neat people!

Here is what I got to take home from the Bluegrass:

I need another shedding clinic!

Seize the Day!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Rest Stop

Being on the road with four dogs for two weeks has taught me to appreciate fabulous rest stops!  One of my favorite was located in Missouri...

Okay, okay, truth be told, this rest stop was the home of the Knox family.  I had the opportunity to stop and rest a night on the way to Kentucky and also a night on the long trek home.  True confession: it was so fun to sneak a peek into the world of their home life.  Kathy grabbed Sal and together they caught up a laboring ewe to pull a big single lamb.  The team work required to snag that half crazed cheviot and then get her back to her lamb once the task was completed was a little mini clinic in itself.  Then in the other field, Jack was gathering the flock of ewes and lambs to put in the over-night field for predator protection.  I do believe he used three (yes three) of his young dogs to accomplish this task and both the dogs and this voyeur learned so much about how dogs learn through real work and correction.

Be to the fact that this used to be Grace's home...she played tour guide.

"This here field is where they keep the sheep that need to see me up close..k?"

"That's where my old bed used to be...we can't go in there cause my new bed is in the big red truck and that is where I plan to stay and leave...k?"

"Um, that there is Jack.....

"And this is where we take our long walks...come on!"

The girls loved the long miles of walking and all the exploring offered up to them.  It was so good to stretch out all of our legs after being truck bound for a few days of hard driving.

At the end of the walk, Grace was sure the BULL needed a closer look of her beauty.  All I could think of was how much trouble I would be in back home if I let her get killed by a bull in Missouri. 

On my way home, it was so fun sitting with Jack and watching my Nell run from the Bluegrass.  My crazy friend from Honest Dog graciously got up too insanely early to tape my run and I am so glad he did.  It really was one of my most favorite moments of the trip: talking through my run with Jack.  He knows my Nell and Bella ever so well and has helped me understand them.  His words, advice and the next day's lesson are still playing in my head.

I dipped my toe into the temperatures that I would meet later on the trip, plus the humidity, but just a dabble.  I got lucky on my visit days, early evening arrival and mid morning depature, that I did not really feel summer Missouri.  I've never been that far east by auto.....the scenery was beautiful.  I was amazed at seeing the beginning of the journey that Lewis and Clark started: the journey that ended right where I live now. What I drove in three days, they walked and explored and survived in what took nearly two years.  That puts a road trip in perspective!

I'm also amazed at the relationships that are developed and nurtured through the dogs.  Folks who graciously open their doors to a wandering traveler, allowing for a safe that is what I call PRICELESS!

Seize the Day!

Sunday, May 27, 2012


As I drove the long, dusty, desert road to Big Willow...I pondered...where the heck is the Willow?  Sage Brush - yes....Willows - not so many.  Funny but yesterday I was talking to a friend and we both agreed that Big Willow is one of our most favorite North West trials.  Situated in the desert outside is the antithesis of where I was headed next: Kentucky and the Bluegrass.  The desert, all terrain with abundant wild life; little owls that watched the field and ground squirrels that teased the dogs.

This was the first Big Willow dance for both of my girls, although the third for me as Sally and I had made an appearance twice.  From Sally's runs, I knew, this trial was filled with good tough challenges both in sheep, land and handlers.

Bella drew up early the first day.  Being young and new to open, I felt a little tension in myself as I walked to the post and Bella spotted the sheep being exhausted.  We were early enough in the day to not be influenced by other young dogs who got tangled in those sheep...instead, I walked her up a bit, sent her on a very tight away outrun, and then blew her out with the delight that is felt when a dog understands and meets the suggestions with an attitude of team work.  I was very happy with Bella's work, and ever so amazed at how the fine wool sheep sort of like her.  Bella was popping the end of her flanks and we spent some of the course settling that debate.  Bella had a bad shed present itself and me, I tidily put it together wanting a good clean one.  I'm still sorting all this hard the shed is to get, the dog I have, and when to gamble on the points to move to the pen.  All in all, I ended up with a run that improved our relationship and was wishing she could have a second go to see how it all was playing out with her. Instead the road was calling and I pulled Bella for that opportunity.

Bella watching the trial from mountain top
Nell had a nice draw, being second up on the second day of the first trial.  I was so pleased with how she ran for me...although she still wanted to slide off and catch an eye....she took every correction (though I missed a few) and we got those sheep around the course and to the mouth of the pen.  Perchance a little more on my end, not playing it so safe, and I would have had the pen?  The balance of when to gamble becomes a theme on this road trip.......

Nell spotting sheep

I ran Nell her second open run and then headed out to hook up the little trailer and begin the next leg of my journey.  It was good to get an early start as the trip, with four dogs getting used to hauling all day, took a little longer than I anticipated.  But that is a story for another day........

Big Willow 2012 brought so much to think about on my drive to Kentucky.  The girls and their stops and how I am using them, Bella's bit of tight flank and do I have a tool to open it when I need it open, shedding and the art of mastering the shed, and still yet a bit of tension at the top with Miss Bella, gambling and knowing when to hold vs fold.  It was weird to start the list of things to look at and work on...and only have a list.  If I were home, I would be sorting the list the very next day....yet on the road it was what it was.  No time to work and train, only time to get down the road. 

All that to be said, I did leave Big Willow very thankful for my girls; their ability to get up to the sheep, their willingness to work things out with me.  I really don't ever want to get to the point where I take that for granted.

The open beatuy of Big Willow
Seize the Day!

Friday, May 25, 2012


Cultural Dictionary
ego [( ee -goh)]

The “I” or self of any person ( ego is Latin for “I”). In psychological terms, the ego is the part of the psyche that experiences the outside world and reacts to it, coming between the primitive drives of the id and the demands of the social environment, represented by the superego.
Note : The term ego is often used to mean personal pride and self-absorption
How do I even start to share my two week journey across America and back?  What I learned along the way about myself, my dogs, my friends and my country.....mile after mile of "new" even when it appeared to be the same.  I saw my first armadillo, and a snapping turtle trying to cross the road.  Mountain goats, buffalo and antelope dotted the landscape and a herd of deer meandered through the rv park...thankfully it was the open girls out to go potty. I'm not sure I can tell this story in chronological order...instead it is unfolding in degrees of thought:  the amount of time spent over thinking while driving hour after hour after hour after......

I had a very interesting conversation about EGO with a few friends and myself.  The question of my finger whistles, their use with lack of subtlety, and if my striving for mastery is EGO based?  That one question needs rolling around in a little before a good honest answer can be formed.  The question actually created more questions without a balm of an answer yet to be found.  Is my quest for learning the art of shedding EGO based?  What about all of the nuances of trialing a dog.....the "competition" aspect of trialing...the quest for the Finals debut.....where does EGO fit? 

Being not pure of heart, EGO feels very gray to me.....something that can be skated, tiptoed by, submerged in, and then crucified, hanging to death only to be lifted off to work through again and again and again.  Do top handlers see "personal pride and self-absorption" as negative; something to stone and leave behind, only to be picked up on the way down?  Are there any top dogs in any venue of competition that have actually murdered their EGO to a finality of death?

Maybe my whistles are the epitome of EGO.....but as I look at this from all the angles that I can find to look at a subject worthy of over thinking, I believe I am finding a bit of "personal balance" in these whistles.   I look at mastery much like climbing Mt. Everest....not something that I want to get to the base of and then quit, walking away.  I want to climb that finger whistling mountain even though it is hard and I don't do the best of jobs of it at this point.  That feels a lot like "death of an ego" if you ask me.  Every time I have to put aside my fingers and use my brass whistle, I also die to what failure might look and feel like and be okay with the step backwards.  Identifying that it is okay to ask for help, it's okay to have to work hard to learn something new, it's okay to have others not like or agree or support or understand the challenge.....the self appointed challenge that might have began out of EGO but has turned into more of a journey of self acceptance: for right now, where I am with those stinking finger whistles and for the future as they become music to my dog's ears. I'm learning to be okay with just where I am, maybe being a little kinder to myself as I struggle, maybe taking the criticism, not to heart, but as a little spur to keep on, climb that mountain, rise to the challenge, and enjoy the journey. And I, I took the path less travled by, and that has made all the difference.......

Seize the Day!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Okay so I lied in the last post....the trip is NOT really 2,555 miles one is a meager 2,429.75!  And to top it off, I get to stop for a few days and have some fun in Idaho at one of my all time favorite trials: Big Willow!  I have exciting pit stops planned on the way to the Bluegrass and also on the way home. 

I'll post pics and blog along the way.  My neighbors and I own a little Burro...not a guardian donkey but a Burro...sort of like a Scamp. Well pretty exactly like a Scamp but it is called a Burro.  It is cute and I put the very comfy bed from the RV in it.  It is darn near packed and I am just about ready to go.

Bella and Nell brushed up on a few things all week, as did I .  Working on my whistles for finesse.  Shedding, stopping, flanking, looking and listening.....but I had real work to do as well.  I wormed the flock, sorted sheep, and docked a few tails. 

In reality, I am excited beyond measure and a little nervous but that is all good.  I've got 5 books on CD.  My friends have all been out to the ranch and gotten the run down on chores.  The hubby has the place all in order.  At his request, Snook is staying home.  It feels weird to be going on my first ever road trip without her.  I shaved Bella's tummy today.....did not do a good job but it is better. Nell and Bella got a pedicure and I also put some really nasty stinky no-tick topical on the four girls that are going.

Now I am just wrapping up packing.  What to take....what is the weather going to be like?  Guess I can't take too much and there is nobody to complain about over-packing. 

Right now, I am just counting my blessings.....fabulous friends that are pitching in to make this dream come true for me.  A husband that is being very supportive....I have never left home for this long of time.  And not to be take for granted....two very nice dogs that are game for the go.

Seize the Day!

Monday, May 7, 2012

2,555 Miles

I'm not sure why....seeing things in print makes it so real!  There it black and white print.......Nell.......runs sixteenth on our first go.......and Scott Glen exhausts my first open run on Wednesday at The Bluegrass.  Excuse me while I go throw up.....  Okay, I'm back...good news is, thanks to Lynn Green I now have a shower and another friend at the Bluegrass which is a huge relief and support.  Also, I was gently reminded that the Bluegrass uses horses to set on the open field.  Yesterday found me visiting friends with horses and sheep.....they kindly saddled up giving Nell and Bella the opportunity to lift off horses.  Lonnie said neither of them even glanced his way as they came around to pick up their sheep.  I keep checking off things on my to-do list......

Blogger is messing with me this morning and once I copied and pasted that running order on....I can't seem to get past it so I will  close mid blog and leave the print as a lasting impression.....


1McCaig, DonaldFly[1928]
2MacRae, AlasdairLi[2407]
3Meyer, LindaGnat[2382]
4Taber, RoyYork[2315]
5Riley, ChuckMoss[2416]
6Bingham, RonnieBreck[2321]
7king, carlaemma[2345]
8Penatzer, DeeNick[2142]
9OToole, AnneMint[1977]
10Lambert, BeverlyHemp[1613]
11Whittington, DonWoodrow[1515]
12Hickenbottom, AllenColl[2195]
13Fogt, BruceCam[2088]
14Dimit, CharlesRex[1257]
15Glen, ScottJune[2319]
16Withnell, LoraNell[2349