Thursday, June 28, 2012

Shed a Little Shed

While in Kentucky at the Bluegrass Classic, I ran my camera a bit.  Hindsight, not as much as I wish I would have...runs I missed filming include Tommy Wilson and Sly, I sure wish I had his runs captured.  I did get some great runs: Scott Glen's winning run with Don the first round is one I have watched a few times over.  I also ran my camera for friends and, in doing so, caught the shed that was given the honor of the 2012 Bluegrass Classic Best Shed.

With all the trialing I have been doing, I've been thinking about shedding...yet again.  Last year I did a 30 day shed intervention, I attended a shedding clinic, and I am finding a little more confidence with my shed.  The basic shed comes a little easier than the more challenging shed of "single: last one on the head out of three lambs"!  So now, in an effort to take myself and my girls to the next level of our shed relationship, I'm back to studying all things sheddy.

Last night, I found myself chatting with a friend who was giving some input on a project I have in the works.  The conversation easily leaned to talking about sheep and understanding them; the whole underlying reason for the border collie if one were a real shepherd.  I was reminded that all work that relies on my reading sheep without my dog is not wasted and is the foundation of the master shedders.  Sage words. 

I've dissected my "worst shed fears" at a recent clinic.  Now I find I am disciplining myself each time I go out to work dogs, to shed down to the group I want for the day.  And in that dance of letting go, calling in to stop the flow...I am finding a little more trust hidden in the tall grass of my fields. 

Seize the Day!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Dear Brave Girl,

Every weekday, I get an email from The Brave Girls Club...always worth reading and applicable if I'm open to do the hard work, darn it! 

Dear Amazing Girl,

It's perplexing how we can go along feeling perfectly wonderful all day long...even for weeks at a time, even for months....feeling like we are on track, doing the right things...feeling completely content, grateful and like our life is our own and we are living it exactly the way we are supposed to be individually living it...and then BAM! WHAM! SLAM!! ..... we get the wind knocked out of us.

What are some of the the things that stop us dead in our tracks and take our wind away? Comparing. Criticizing. Complaining. Doubting. Fearing. Imagining the worst. Letting other people get to us. Letting opinions get to us. Letting the ways of the world get to us.

Beautiful girl....remember that bumps in the road and bad days are completely normal...even when we are on track. Remember that things happen that could potential derail us, but that we have the power to not allow that to happen. Remember that WHENEVER we spend ANY time comparing our lives, or our selves, or our bodies, or our homes, or our jobs or our children to ANYONE else's life and everything that goes along with never goes anywhere good. Remember that YOU ARE ONE IN 7 BILLION......incomparable, unforgettable and just right exactly as you are.

A great way to get all of the air back in your lungs and your feet moving in the right direction is simply to keep kindness and good thoughts in your be happy for let go of let things go and live give and love and serve without expecting anything in return.....and to REMEMBER that bad days always turn around and there's a tomorrow after them that is brand new...and ready to be painted beautiful colors.

You are gonna make it. You ARE making it.
You are very very very loved.

A message from your friends at the Brave Girls Club -

So here's to the bumps in the road.....and for the brave girls that ride along shotgun!

Seize the Day!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

I Made it to the Other Side

Two days of a higher education and I am exhausted!  Tonight I go back for one last shin-dig.  The things (how is "things" for an educated word!?)  I learned...priceless.  Yesterday, I spent some time with an editor. His years in the business, the changes he has seen....where once a publishing house resided on an entire street in New York City, it now exists in an office that does not consume one floor of a building in New York City.  Amazon appears to have taken over this world! 

He spoke on "fear".  Interesting how that is a topic in so many other areas I am studying right now. The fear of failure, the fear of success, the fear of completion, fear of rejection,...what keeps us from being all we can be?  He recently spoke to an athlete who had participated in the Olympics winning a gold medal in a sprinting event.  The athlete spoke of the momentary joy followed by deep soul invading questions that started the minute people could speak to him.  What is next?  How will you get there?  Can you sustain your success?  He had to dig deep and do the hard weeding of finding himself amidst his temporary success...find his identity that 'was' the pursuit of the gold and, as with everything in our lives, changed that one fraction of a second where he crossed the finish line: the fastest man in the world, for then. 

I sat on campus and pondered my do they define who I am?  Do they?  Do I have the strength and courage to dig deep into myself and face, with authenticity and transparency, at the least to my self, the dark fears that keep me in a life of  faux predictability?

The editor ended his time by sharing a simple and profound foundational truth to his life well lived.  He said, "Life is too short to work with miserable people.....for that is also too long to work with miserable people."  I wonder, do people become miserable when they let their fears swallow them and become their reality? 

I'm off to the Black Sheep gathering today...sounds like a sordid affair where all the black sheep of any family meet to show off their motorcycles and tats.....but no, it is an "all things sheep" event.  The drive will give me time to over think about my past two days...and dig a bit deeper on what is to come next.

Seize the Day!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

"I Could Tell You Stories"

My day at the writer's conference was filled with Creative Non Fiction (CNF).  I'd not thought about Non Fiction being that...creative.  Although it is what I lean towards in my readings....sometimes leaning more towards Creative Fiction based on Non Fiction...History....Life.  I was introduced to Patricia Hampl.....not personally meeting her but instead the meeting based on respect by two of the Writers Conference speakers.

"I was just riding shotgun in my own life. I could not have imagined containing, as the farm woman slumped next to me did, the sheer narrative bulk to say, "I could tell you stories," and then drifting off with the secret heaviness of experience into the silence where stories live their real lives, crumbling into the loss we call remembrance." ~ Patricia Hampl

Those words....they are heavy with so much responsibility......"crumbling into the loss we call remembrance"....a result I fear and press insatiably forward to prevent that end.  Life stories to be told....creatively.

"For we do not, after all simply have experience; we are entrusted with it.  We must do something-make something-with it.  A story, we sense, is the only possible habitation for the burden of our witnessing. (...)  Memoirists wish to tell their mind, not their story." ~ Patricia Hampl

Seize the Day!

Open Minded

Today, my feet will skip over the paths and waltz through the halls of higher education yet again....some 25 + years post Linfield graduation.  HA!  More likely, I will climb, panting and red faced, up the steep hills of Corban College to spend a few days lifting heavy weights with my brain!  I've been attempting to stretch it out all week in effort to get ready plus I have been taking my Ginkgo, when I remember! 

The dogs sigh knowing that they are left home, sheep-less and possibly even crate bound.  All this while I attend a writer's conference with my sister-in-law....the writer of amazing Russian literature; Gina Ochsner.  Me, well, I am bringing a legal pad, a couple of pencils and my handy dandy voice recorder, hoping my instructors are more in the mood for sharing about themselves and not wanting to see my "work".  I am suspecting that I will be surrounded by the highest level of over-thinkers. 

I love stepping out and learning the new.....makes life even more sweeter.  So higher education, ready or I come! I wonder if they really meant it when they said, "no dogs allowed?"

Seize the Day!

Monday, June 18, 2012


A friend got me thinking about the Grateful Dead and now I have Truckin stuck in my brain, worming around unstoppable unless I can find a more sticky song to replace it. Truckin...its not such a bad song to be stuck on today:

Sometimes the lights all shinin on me;
Other times I can barely see.
Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it's been.

I spent the weekend in Heaven, so to speak. I was at a Kathy Knox clinic...nice and small and allowing me to have two working spots to look at my dogs. Originally my intent was to spend four of the slots on Bella....sorting her top end with Kathy. Fun how the best laid plans change directions under the tutelage of a whisper like Kathy. It was awesome sorting Miss Bella out...putting her in different situations to see her intent and finding so many supple changes in her. Sometimes after clinics, I get a certain training idea stuck in my head and forget to analyze it for all it can bring to a dog. Like for example working a single. I know that brings out eye in a I have not done it with Nell. However, it is something she needs to do for other reasons so, every now and again, we will be working a single. I also re-learned that some exercises bring huge confidence to my dogs...... even though they have it mastered, I need to keep with it for just that: Confidence.

There was a real rancher at this clinic...he bought a trained dog for all the tasks he needs done on his ranch. I could sit and listen to "those" stories all day long....the stories filled with grit, sweat, hard work, a bit of pride in jobs well done but lacking egotistical self righteousness. He shared some training ideas that came with his dog, and here is what I took away. I'll never forget my very first Knox was a double with both Knox's as clinicians. I have such fond memories of this clinic...filled with so much frustration and tears eased by new friends and laughs. My newly found friend Marilyn had just bought a new dog and was out working her with Jack and I took meticulous notes. Then it was my turn...I went out and did EXACTLY what Marilyn had done with her dog. Jack stopped me, and kindly asked..."what the heck are you doing?" only a Scotsman can ask kindly. I told him I was doing what he had told Marilyn to do. His reply has stuck with me over the years of clinics...."that is what Marilyn needed to do with her dog on this day...problem is, you don't have Marilyn's dog!" From that day, I have learned...each dog, each day...needs to be watched/assessed/analyzed to see what needs to be corrected and what is allowed for being correct...and every day its going to change.

A fellow blogger recently asked: "What are your plans for making it to the next level with your handling, competition and the journey with your dogs?"

My answer is this: I am going to look at myself and each of my dogs and work on seeing them correctly...the good, the bad...what needs work and understanding as well as what we rock at. I am going to work at giving up my ego and willing to leave the post a little more to help my work on keeping my temper in check as my dogs really do want to work with me. I am going to put relationship and understanding above "scores" knowing that scores only reflect one man's opinion. Instead of looking at where I placed, I'm going to focus on what I saw and learned about me and my dogs. I'm going to try to give up other's opinions and input (unless of course I have asked for it)...what they think about me and my dogs is none of my business. And while I am at it, I am going to not worry about anybody else's dog or journey but will continue to seek out those to share the journey with. Each of us in on a journey that is for sure and I know there are special people to share the journey with. I am going to embrace my journey as the one I am exactly supposed to be on..and I am going to try very hard to enjoy my dogs and be open to all they are teaching me. I want to lift my eyes....look around and enjoy the view while I climb......

Truckin, Im a goin home. whoa whoa baby, back where I belong,
Back home, sit down and patch my bones, and get back truckin on.
Hey now get back truckin home.

Seize the Day!!!!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Bloomin' Onion

As I drove through Walla Walla...I still had onions on my mind. Passing field after field of those sweet, famous break and day close....thankful my friend would give me sanctuary and miles to think about my own onion and her layers.  Onions were the topic of conversation with another friend...whom I can't seem to stop disagreeing with; more for the sake it is fun and good thinking to try to see sheep and dogs a little different every time we talk. 

This onion story actually started a few weeks ago...first paragraph written by the Helsleys who challenged me to run my dogs without a stop for some time.  The idea of which had me shaking and sweating that cold, hard, frantic sweat....."can I use a steady?" escaping in a whispered squeak....and "how many can I have" when the answer was yes.  So I ran Bella with only a pinch of stops....which then mirrored some things about myself.  With this new to me style of handling, my timing was a tad off.....leaving for just a smidgen of over flanking....enough to stop forward motion so that two of my sheep were on the wrong side of the shed ring...leaving my drive points on the field...all 30 of them.  Still, all in was surreal to handle in a new fashion...having my dog work with me....and learn a little more about the three of, my dog, and the sheep. Mr. Helsley said, with time and practice, my timing would become better and my dog more willing to work with me.

The second paragraph of this onion chapter goes back to what lies ahead next weekend.  Besides running stop-less....I tried something new on my outrun with Miss Bella.  After doing a few days of flock work with her.....when I brought a mob of sheep in from the big field....I kept blowing Bella out each time she felt like she was pulling in on the moving sheep.  I actually blew her right around to the heads on the far side of the field...and never a slice off or chase was seen.  I also know that some of the tension at the top, okay, all the tension at the top is because Bella falls in a little and not because of her lack of stop.  She can't seem to stop because she has fallen I need to correct the problem and not the symptom.  At the trial.....I used a big open blow out when Bella felt like she was falling in and both go's I had a supple dog with lateral coverage at the top end and surprise, surprise...a stop.  I know I am giving her the answer with the blow-out....and my end goal is for her to find it journey now turns into "what is next and how to get understanding while keeping a thinking supple Bella"? I'm hoping Kathy has some good fodder for summer over-thinking.

It will be nice to have some time off from trialing.  I feel a little un-centered at the house needs attention...and my boys are home.  I'm looking forward to continuing my work with Bella....maybe instead of looking at her layers...I might continue to encourage her to bloom.  That said, Joe, you missed your opportunity to pull a prank...I did enjoy the thought of it.  Keep your eye open for a little gift I am sending you to help you with your understanding of onions and parfaits!

Seize the Day!

Melinda at the pen with Coon
All about the finish!
a new type of farming

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Thank You!!

Well I just downloaded pictures from the Dirt Blowing Trial and was tickled beyond words that a friend grabbed my camera and took some photos of my first Nell run!  So I interrupt the regularly scheduled program to bring you this:

Nell and me at the post......

I think Nell's sheep were a little hard to hold.....
looking good.....
messing with the panel.....
"I suggest ewe move along girls....or I'll, I'll, I'll
I'll bite ewe in a very cheap sort of way....and hang on.....and ride that shoulder....
Thank you?  You're more than welcome!"
That's our story and we are sticking to it.  Thank you.....

Seize the Day!

Monday, June 11, 2012

If You Think You Have This All Figured Out.....

I got home late, blown in, with nests for rats in my locks and an obsession about ticks.  The 2012 Dirt Blowing Trial was a good one.....I really loved it for a number of reasons, all of which I will enumerate on here!  I know I have said it before, but I really value my over-thinking sessions with handlers I respect.  Some of theses handlers have tossed out words over the years, words that I have picked up, dusted off and pressed into my mind book to take out on long road trips.  One of my mentor/teachers/zen masters never really seems to say much of anything along the line of "giving me answers".....but as I chew on the words, I have found the answers lie in me and stay tap-rooted if I nurture them myself.  The "given answers" aren't nearly as hardy.

Pretty much every trial I see Rob Miller at he says to me, "if you think you have this figured out.....just go to another sheepdog trial".  I believe he might have said in the beginning..."anytime I think I have this figured out...I go to another sheepdog trial" but now he helps me keep perspective:  Ego check, perspective check, life check. 

Nell and I learned so much this weekend.  I almost said, "struggled" but I don't feel that way...others do.  Besides my time with my dogs, one of the things I love most about trials is filming makes me watch. The Dirt Blowing trial lived up to its Blowing name this year so the camera never came out except when a friend filmed my first two runs and I, hers.  So instead, after I finished running my last dog the last day...I got the opportunity to scribe.  That really forces me to watch: pay close attention to details I miss when I sit and chat with friends.  I got to see a top hand run a dog similar to my Nell during my scribing session and I feel like I owe them for a lesson.  The handling and support.....well it really was priceless and I know the direction I am headed with Nell.  I can see what she and I are doing timing is late, her eye slips her off and we argue...which my one wrong flank in a precarious situation does not help!  Yet, sometimes, I am not sure exactly sure what to do or how to "fix" it with Nell.  Watching a dog very Nell-like was pretty darn amazing.....I see things a little different from just 8 minutes.

Funny how another top hand's young dog struggled a bit on the Targhees and as she left the field she said her dog just needed more experience on those type of sheep.  I thought to myself, "ya, Nell needs more experience - bummer is: so do I!"  But I did see some good when comparing my two runs. The first ended in a "Thank You" from the judges combine.  The second run was tough and better and once Nell and I worked through getting them to my feet, I left the post.  I wanted to end with the understanding on the fetch and not muddle it with the drive or a grip.  We both need more experience on this type of sheep for sure.  But that is the joy of this journey.....that if I am willing to push and stretch and challenge myself, all I have to do is go to another sheepdog trial.....

Seize the Day!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Gyp is Not An Onion

So today, Gyp got a go at real flock work.....and we ended up in over our heads.  All I could do is laugh, and grab Nell to help Gyp sort out the mess we created.  Gypsy needs more experience.  And note to self, though Gyp is not an onion...she is also not Nell! 

The second field, I used Bella and was so amazed at how much Bella has changed in just 5 short months.  Her ability to solve the whirlpool and listen...and when shepherd Daniel was probably just darn right sure Bella and I were going to leave half the flock out in the field again...Miss Bella did a spectacular look-back and all the feet got bathed today!

Now I am getting ready to go to the Dirt Blowing Trial.....yet again another favorite....and one I have not been to in a while. 

Seize the Day!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bella is a Walla Walla Sweet

My Bella is like an onion.....she has layers.  As I ran up the field at the Bluegrass.....I was looking at a walla walla sweet onion layer that I thought had been pealed.  That little bit of fall in on the top....creating NO stop...creating a lamb attempting to leave...creating escaping sheep...creating tension....creating well you get it....I retired myself but not before both judges agreed with no argument between the two of them...I was DQ's, thank you. 

I lied to myself, saying "self, it was just the big field with three lambs, newly shoren and shipped three days on trucks, to be run on said big field."  Then I ran at another trial, smaller field, home flock of dog-worked sheep and still, I left the post running up the field to my walla walla sweet. 

Good friends are priceless, you know the ones, they speak truth while I chop my onions, assessing and thinking of all the possibilities of why and how and now whats. I wondered if my 14 days on the road and two trials might have cooked my Bella into onion rings.  One friend told me some dogs Bella's age, as they gain confidence, can get a little rebellious.  It is just the next stage to work through.  Another friend told me, real sheep work might be the answer and so today, when I was given the gift of a big field, a bunch of sheep to gather, and a four wheeler....I showed up with my onion.

I've also got a working spot just for Sweet Bella in the up-coming Kathy Knox clinic.  She gets four whole spots to being to peal the next layer.  The clinic host knows and understands my onion....she has it all set up to show all the layers that might need work as we approach what's next in our journey. And Kathy knows Bella too......and is sympathetic to my over-thinking ways.

Maybe someday Bella will be a parfait.  Everybody loves parfaits!

Seize the Day!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Someone Will Walk Them

Two years ago, I attended a trial where, on the second day of the trial, the sheep ran the cross drive into the draw created by the first day's exhaust.  Handler after handler after handler, crossed themselves or hoped and prayed that those running sheep were on line to hit the cross-drive panels.  Some runs planned in advance for the downward draw, most could not get the cross drive and then flank the dog in any tidy fashion for the third leg of the drive, more often than not having a hard pull from the exhaust pen.  Oh, and this was in open by the way.  At the end of the day, the judge radioed up and asked for another set of sheep while he grabbed his good open dog and proceeded to walk the sheep around the very same course we, the mortal handlers, had run them.  That day was the start of my "walking the sheep" quest.

It happened at the Bluegrass this year....I watched a top hand get set some nasty sheep. excuse on the set as one lamb ran into the fence on the top and then all three ran the top end of the field attempting to not have to run the course for the day.  Funny how this ended up being the winning run for the first go in open, and thankful I had my camera capturing the entire run.  The fetch was fast but the handler got a hold of the situation, dog and sheep, and walked the sheep around the rest of the course. 

My quest: How do they do it?  How do top hands make runs into winning walks as many another handler struggles to get around without the pace of a sprint?  While many of us make excuses, "my dog was on the muscle" or "I got a rogue sheep", these top hands work hard with the group drawn up and walk them. Time of day, breed of sheep, terrain, or even weather don't seem to prevent the top hands from walking the sheep, they and their dogs figure the walk out. 

I've begun to ask myself, "why are my sheep not walking?"  Is my dog not taking a stop?  Are my flanks too tight?  Is my timing off?  Is my dog over-flanking?  Is the walk-on too crisp?  And last but not least, do I have the communication with my dog to get what I need regarding the answers to the above questions? 

It is funny, at the trial yesterday, this was one topic of conversation for the over-thinking crowd.  Or maybe just those that humor my over-thinking.  I think I need a shirt that says: Walk the sheep or die trying. Of course, I have never been to Meeker....I wonder if the sheep can be walked there?

Seize the Day!