Sunday, March 26, 2017

On A Roll!

I have some pretty darn amazing friends in my life.....right now, they are all off seizing the day and allowing me to live vicariously through them.  I especially love the calls after a run....where they share their glories and disappointments and, together, we begin to sort out what might have happened.  I LOVE that mental chess game!  A common theme from the range ewe trials is that one ambitious ewe that appears to not want to flock and prefers to go off and do her own thing...testing the dog every step.  "How to handle this?" being a common question being asked after a run with a rogue appearing ewe.

I remember back a few years...gah more like 7, when I went to a clinic with Nell.  The clinician asked me what Nell had on her...and I said, "well, she knows everything."  What I meant was.....she knows her commands....come bye, away to me, lie down (although one would never know this), walk on and steady.  She absolutely knew those commands on dog broke sheep and, on said sheep, looked very shiny for the most part. With the patience of Job, this clinician stuck with me.....helping me to see that "knowing commands" and "knowing sheep" are two hugely separate skills for both me and my dog.  Thus began my lifelong endeavor to know sheep, to allow my dog to know sheep through feel and lack of me telling them what to do every step of the way, to begin to really appreciate and respect that natural instinct that lies in my dog's DNA when it comes to sheep.  Yes, the training of commands and the reciprocal allowing me to tell my dogs what to do is important.  However, for me...... the ahhhh producing feel and understanding a dog has of sheep that have rarely seen a any dog besides a predator is what makes this journey magical.

I've been pondering sheep a lot this winter....because, heck what else did I have to ponder?  Sheep, being a prey animal...and our dogs, being predators, brings a multitude of variable reactions to the field of sheep dogging and big gathers.  What makes that one ewe go on a recon mission?  Did she show any subtle signs she would be testing the dog?  Did the dog give any feedback that they might allow the sheep to do whatever she wanted?  I've been told about fight or flight.....and getting around the course is giving the sheep the option to flee the way we want them to in a walking fashion.  I've also witnessed runs where the most belligerent sheep, sheep that had beat the set out dog and ran back to the pen a few times before being set, were settled down and trained around the course by a respected handler.  I scratch my head and watch the video over and over and over.  How did the dog and handler settle those sheep?

The idea of "bossing sheep around" is probably said tongue in cheek......I know I have felt like I wanted to boss sheep around many times.  The idea of "I'll teach that ewe a lesson!" is so easy to fall into on a run going bad or when sheep do not want to go into the Pratley, cross the creek, or go through the footbath.  Pulling the excuse out of my back pocket..."that is just a bad ewe"....makes life simple and yet top handlers rarely get bad ewes!  How can that be?  Sure, every now and then they do...but for the most part, top handlers end up at the top of the result list for a few reasons.....and most of the handlers KNOW sheep.  I think back to that run in Virginia where Jack Knox drew up an recalcitrant ewe.  Though his run did not get him through to Saturday......watching him work the sheep around the course was a clinic all in itself.  I'm pretty sure he never had "we're going to boss these sheep around" in his mind ever.  Perhaps there were a few times where Jack's dog told that one ewe what to do..but it always ended with the sheep being allowed to go.  The run was all about pressure and the release of pressure....pressure corrects, the release of pressure trains.... together, Jack and his dog used this concept to get that packet of sheep around the course.

Studying sheep.....knowing what sheep are thinking before they actually think it.....understanding sheep behavior.......beginning to understand when to use pressure and when to allow escape......all the little fine details of just knowing sheep makes working sheep smoother.  I'm not there yet!   I sorted sheep with my sheep producing friend the other day.  I used my dog, some shedding, and a gate to sort a few I was selling.  I missed two so my friend sorted them out of the barn for me.  She just used her body and her eyes.  I seriously doubted her ability to get this done......wrong on my part!  It was an international shed, allowing sheep to leave, while knowing exactly what to watch for and keeping the two back to the end.  It didn't hurt that is still in her 20's!  I think I need to do more of that.....moving and working sheep without my dog so I can understand them better.

I have a lot of respect for sheep.....we wouldn't have these dogs if it weren't for the sheep. My  mentors have helped me learn that sheep are not stupid; like so many creatures, they do crazy things when they get scared.  I'm beginning to learn that it is a life long endeavor to understand sheep.  I love the never ending learning!  That and the dogs are what keep me out of the bars at night LOL!

Seize the Day




Friday, March 24, 2017

Finding Joy

Perhaps I should have named Josie Joy. She is the funniest puppy I have ever owned.  She loves to pounce on things....all things including, and especially, her brother and her mama. She has this rare ability to make a game out of everything.  Any found item becomes a toy.....wood chips, fern branches, old, dead toy remnants, tiny crawling bugs.  She's very bold and confident; she has no issues attempting to take chews from her mom or letting the big, black, barking lab know she is not to be messed with at her first nose work field trip.  She is also biddable, friendly, and takes corrections....for now anyway.

I really love Jon too.  Although he is playful, silly, and rambunctious, he has a more serious side.  He has some opinions and his own way of doing things.  His leash is NOT his favorite training tool.  He is very thoughtful and is very bonded to me....but he definitely marches to his own drum.  Since I've never raised a boy pup before, I wonder if it is that Y chromosome, his genetic make up, my raising of him or a combination of all the above.  He forces me to think outside the box.

The puppies are headed to Puppy Class starting next Monday. I am so excited!  A good friend is going along to handle one pup while I work the other.  Leash walking is top of the list of things I want them to love....that and riding in the car!  I'm starting to drag them along with me to nose work class as well.  With two, I have to discipline myself to work on all the puppy things that are important to me: leash walking, riding in the car, waiting patiently in their crates, sleeping in crates, coming when called and perhaps not trying to cut me off at the pass when I am walking!

I've retired Nell from sheepdog trialing and have career changed her into nose work.  Nose work is like search and rescue to some degree....only thing is, we are rescuing "odor" in the form of anise, birch and clove.  I started into nose work with Dottie Jean.....I had spent so much time on sheep with Dot....attempting to sort her tension.  On the one hand, she was a natural. But on the other hand....the tension laid just under her skin and I'm not sure she found joy in her work.  Together, we started nose work and she really blossomed.....she loved Tuesdays and even attended a few mock trials.  Dot has since gone on to live with my good friend up in Washington and loves her life...filled with hikes and dog parks and people. She has a new best friend and is loving life....and I could not be more happy for her and my friend.  After she left, I started Nell on nose work and just love to see Nell sort and figure out things....and shine.  My little sheepdog, the one who took me to the finals and ran on Saturday......loves sniffing for things.  She surprises me everyday with her ability to overcome......nose work class meets at crazy places like Lowes and dog training facilities....places Nell has never gone into.  She does not care about the people, or the other dogs....she just loves searching for scents with me!

Here in the Pacific North West, we are having the wettest winter (in the history of the world according to me!) and the daily rain that started October 1 is relentlessly holding on. The weather man predicted it will last well into April.....at least turning into showers and not steady, mud producing, faucet impersonating rain.  It's warming up and things are growing which is nice but frustrating as I see the hemlock growing unhindered by the spray I am longing to drench it in.....I can't because of the rain.  The bees are eating me out of house and home...one hive is consuming a gallon of sugar water daily.  Because they can't get out to collect pollen and nectar, I am feeding. My bee class says March is ofter the month of hive death because the bees have eaten their winter store and starve not being able to fly in the rain.  Not if I can help it!  Finally something I can feed the heck out of and not worry they will get fat!

As I wait, not very freaking patiently now, for some sun....these are the things that bring me joy.  I know sunshine is just around the corner.....in the mean time, I'll get ready to hit the road running.  Literally!!!  Running is top of the list of things I have missed this long, crazy winter.

Seize the Day!!!!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Season For All Things

Sigh...I look over to the right of my blog and see my blog list.....is it time to let go and clean it up? Sheepdog blogs are definitely a thing of the past.....sadly, some of the bloggers have passed on.  I still go back and read Vet On The Edge...her writing brought so much normal, mixed with serious humor, to my life!

This year, I've written my list of things to do...and decluttering is top of that list.  I've promised myself to declutter yearly....keep to the clutter less (or less clutter) ways of downsizing and moving.  Funny how things stack up...bee supplies, books, dog gear, clothes......oh and yarn, gah.  Perhaps decluttering the blog would be a good clearing as well.

Today we have SUN!!!!  I want to take off all my clothes and run naked through the muddy wet field...okay, not really! But I am tackling a few things....1) planting my bare root Honey Crisp apple trees!!!!!!  2) planting my blueberry bushes!!!!!!  And 3) getting into my bees!!!!  Because, guess what?  Rain is a coming!

I am doing a bee mentorship program with Oregon State University.  My bee mentor is coming out today to help me sort my hives.  I've been voraciously readying the bee book required.....out of three hives I attempted to winter over....I've got two that are very busy on warm, sunny days.  The third....I'm not sure they made it.  I'm looking forward to getting into that hive ands seeing what is up.  If it is not strong, I'll mix it with a split from a strong hive later this spring.  I'm thinking both big hives will require early splits before the blackberry nectar flows......hoping to keep swarming at bay this year.  And then that is it for me....four hives is my maximum!  I'm enjoying the bees...but they are labor intense if they are to be done correct.  A person has to get into the hives every 16 days while the hives are growing to keep swarming away.  And even after all that....there is the honey harvest...and then the August dearth....where the bees have no food source and the yellow jackets get MEAN.  I am trying to plant ahead this year for August food for my bees.....I'm doing a bunch of sunflowers and a few other plants that bloom in August.

I planted 5 acres of my bottom 40  in clover last fall.  Thanks to the folks who lease my property...they tilled it to the point of being able to plant!  The bees are going to LOVE the clover...and if I can keep it grazed....clover should bloom will into the fall.  Clover honey is delish....I'm thinking my honey will taste very different this year!

The puppies are growing, recalls are good for now, of course they know their names.  They are sleeping in crates at night...we are in bed by 9 and up by 6 with no middle of the night potty breaks.  A friend has volunteered to help me take them to puppy class....so we can get them leash trained and comfortable traveling and being in new places while meeting new dogs.  Secretly, I look forward to sticking them on sheep...and some days the draw is hard to resist!  But they are young....12 weeks yesterday....there is time to take and things to learn before they head to the round pen.  I think back to the quote by Virgil Holland....."I've seen more dogs ruined by starting them too early, than staring them too late."  So I will die to my curiosity......although when they see the sheep heading down to the bottom pasture to graze, and they pull up and watch....it makes my heart sing!

Seize the day!!