I've been thinking a lot about one of my past posts: mistakes. I've received some good emails.....good meaning filled with thought provoking feedback about dog mistakes/training mistakes. I also had the opportunity to attend a day at a Jack Knox clinic and as always, Jack challenged me to think!
Recently, I zipped out to the Sheep Boss' place....I pulled into the barns and there, in the field adjacent, was the Sheep Boss on a four wheeler, young dog in tow trying to move a flock of sheep. I knew he was down in numbers of hands to help with sheep work so I grabbed a dog and went to the task at hand; me thinking these were pregnant ewes and a goal of walking ewes with good stock management would be in order. What I found was...these were lambs and it was later revealed that these were lambs that had never been worked by dogs before coming from a five-string poly wire grazing life. Having never been worked by a dog meant they had not respect for a dog, nor did they want to stay together...at all...and pushing them over the two string fencing that was on the ground was near impossible! I will say...I made mistakes, my dog made mistakes. I had to grab another dog and work brace...and all three of us made mistakes! True confession: I loved every minute of it. I was frustrated at times....Bella covering escaping lambs to chase them and take them down.....slapping forehead, "I thought we were done with that crap!". That second of chase, relieving the pressure so the flock could start to turn back up the field took time and it was as if we had to start all over again. Bella is smart, she figured it out real quick and she started to bend and cover, bringing the renegades back, while pushing and maintaining the pressure on the flock. Nell was a good partner to Bella, she gained a lot of confidence with Bella as her wing biotch. Although I'm sure if you ask...Bella would have seen Nell as the secondary worker.
Then again, a few days back, I got a call from the Shepherd. Lambing is on, his dogs are in transition and he wanted a spare, if not free hand to help with the days work. It was a huge field with not-quite- yearling lambs there to graze and the goal was to gather, sort out the fat lambs, load the trailer and ride off into the misty rain. Again it was another day of mistakes and learning. I'm working on my skills of observation...indeed I did see that little creek as Bella jumped it and sprayed a bit of water coming in short on the other side. She ended up bringing about 1/3rd of the flock and here is where "I should have known better; or maybe had a better plan". It was the perfect set-up for a sweet look-back but hindsight, I should have brought my little flock over the drizzle of field water before sending her back. Nope instead I sent her back, creating a large flock of lambs not wanting to get their feet wet.....and so back to brace I went. This time grabbing Gyp for a go; good, confidence producing tasks for a young dog who was up for the challenge. Especially when the Shepherd brought out his handsome Huntaway to show off for my swooning girls!
I love this work.....it fills my soul. After the job is complete, I often wonder at the difficulty that was thankfully unseen as I entered the field...leaving me to finding ways to get a job done without knowing the challenge before hand. It is also a crazy wonderful environment; the years of experience the Sheep Boss and Shepherd bring. Knowing that sometimes things just don't go the way they are planned allows me to learn; make mistakes and really learn. Sure I've had my butt chewed a few times...more times than not, fun is poked....I've learned a few new ways to use old cuss words and I don't shock anyone with my creative flare of making sentences where all the nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs are cuss words when I hurt myself. I have to harden my "softy heart" as I go into the lambing barns this time of year......hundreds of ewes lambing magnifies the agony of defeat. It becomes a numbers game and heart can't dictate reason when the production is a business; so they tell me. But I learn from those "mistakes" as well.
Winter time: a time of less training and more learning. I'm counting down the days to my first lambs.....trying to store up my sleep so I can be ready for the "every four hour" checks! As the Terminator said, "I'll be back"! Maybe after lambing is done at Rocking Dog Ranch...but I will be back!
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