Sunday, October 12, 2008

Shakin' but not stirred. A recipe and a question.


Whats a good recipe to test your Border Collie pups recall? Well, that's an easy one. Have a lame DH that has apparent fencing issues. A big tree knocking down storm,(and big parts of trees fall on your fence) A couple of relatively bright horses, and an unplugged electric fence. (because tree fell on your electric fence)Simply allow DH to ignore said fence problem for Oh, lets say....5 FLIPPIN" WEEKS! Stir in 3 Border Collies, one Std. Poodle, and a GSD, and you have the recipe for disaster.
Yesterday morning was like any other morning around here, get up, shower, get a couple of cups of joe in me, get dressed and then start opening up all the crates to let the dogs outside before heading to work. As they are all standing at the door waiting to be let out, I realize I have a rock in my shoe. No biggie. I open the door,let loose the dogs of Hell, and take off my shoe to dump out the pebble. Every morning the dogs run straight out back behind the shop, to empty themselves first, and then make the rounds around the yard to say good morning to Bruin and to see whats changed since they were last out there. As I start off the porch, I see that the dogs are uncharacteristically scattered around the front yard, and I become quickly aware that the dogs aren't acting right. Some are standing with what look like expressions of disbelief on their faces, others are looking like they know better, and then theres 6 month old turned on to anything that's moves, Hank. Though Hank and I have gone the rounds about the horses, and he now knows better than to go onto the pasture where the horses reside, we hadn't had a chance to have any lessons in the appropriate conduct of what you should do when you have said horses standing in your front yard. Well, theres no time like the present I reckon. It was my good fortune, that first and foremost, Hank had to really pee, and as I came off the porch, he was standing there (squatting there) in the yard, letting the pressure off his bladder with a most intense look on his face staring at the horses (who were calmly and happily munching my front yard down with no clue what was going to happen next,) in anticipation for the chase he thought was about to ensue. I was in a quiet state of panic, all 5 dogs out there loose and with no apparent direction as of yet, because I haven't found my voice, and knew if I reacted wrongly, that this could have a really bad outcome. So I set my sights on Hank first, and knelt down and coo'd "Here Hank, That'll Do" Opened my arms wide to give him a fun place to come into, and well....no dice. I swear to you the dog did a double take. "But Leash Lady!! Cant you see there are horses in the front yard!!" A Little sterner, "Hank. That will DO! HERE!" And slapped my leg for good measure and just another cue so there was no reason for mixed signals. I can see the strained and torn look on Hank's face. Decisions, decisions.....I can see him weighing his options at this point, and try, by reiterating to break his thought process, "Hank! Here! That'll DO!"
I think at this point, I may have miss read my dog. Id thought he was confused/torn between his urge to chase horses verses his need to comply with my wishes, when in fact, I think his confused expression came from the fact that he was still, through all this, peeing, and was wondering how one little dog could hold so much pee! Ive had horses and Border Collies for many years, and so this was not the first time this had happened over the years, and Ive learned through trial and error, what to, and not to do. Taking a step towards the pup was asking to set things in motion. Leash Lady steps toward puppy, puppy sees that he will be caught, and kenneled. Not Hank's idea of fun. Unfortunately, I at the moment, simply was NOT as interesting as a couple of horses standing unfenced in HIS territory. Its my good fortune, that my horses are pretty laid back when it comes to dogs. They have had dogs trailing their hocks for many a year, and just aren't all that worried about them. So, when Hank shot off after them, it was then "them" that displayed an expression of shock and disbelief, and for a moment, were caught in indecision themselves, and looking at me in that split second trying to figure out if I was really going to allow this to happen. They spun together, seemingly to be thinking as one, to survey their options, and hey, the road looks good, lets run there! I live at the end of a dead end road, so going onto the road really isn't a dangerous choice, its just that I doubt my neighbors would appreciate the circus like atmosphere of two horses and 5 dogs, (cause you know everyone else would follow if I ran after the dog/horse chase scene)running through their yards at 7:30 in the morning. I am able to recall all the other dogs, and lock them in a kennel, and I have to say, at this point, I am very grateful that everyone understood the gravity of this situation, and didn't choose this opportunity to test my authority. As it turned out, the horses were a bit unsure about actually leaving the property, and decided about the time they hit the end of the driveway, that they'd rather not run blindly into the unknown, and turned on a dime, back towards the house and yard. Now, instead of Hank chasing the horses, he has 2 horses running head on straight towards him on a seemingly collision course. Talk about shattering a puppy's confidence! Can we say tucked tail and horrified expression with mouth agape frantically looking for a place to run silently screaming "HELP LEASH LADY!!!" While stopping all forward motion and standing in disbelief. It was at this moment that I took the opportunity to look like the hero in my pups eyes. I ran out in front of the horses to counter their direction, and scooped up Hank in the process. The horses changed direction as I had supposed they would, and settled in over in the side yard. It wasn't till then, as I sat on the ground with a puppy in my lap, that I realized I was shaking like a leaf. Hank was grateful for my timely save, and I broke out into hysterical laughter while Hank tail wagging to beat the band, and tongue frantically licking my face, in his own doggie fashion laughed gratefully right along with me. Once my face had been thoroughly washed, and I realized Hank was no worse for the scare, I promptly deposited him in the kennel with the others and proceeded to figure out what to do next. My horses are as gentle as a lamb, but they are no dummies either. Freedom isn't some thing they experience everyday, and it is rather a pleasing notion for them, to stay that way. They are NOT the type of horses to stand and wait for you to walk up to them with halter and lead rope in hand to be caught and corralled. Granted, their pasture consists of 5 acres of grass and woods and their own personal pond, but still, it is all enclosed behind electric fencing and this my friends is REAL freedom! So, we stand across the yard eye balling each other trying each in our own way to figure out what the other is going to do next. One thing Ive learned about horses throughout the years, is that the best way to get a horse to come toward you, is to ignore them and pretend you are very interested in some thing just there in front of you on the ground. Their curious nature cant stand not knowing, and they have to come closer to investigate. As I turn my attention from them, and start to scour my immediate area,low and behold, thanks to my son, the grain bucket, has not been returned to the tack shed where it belongs, but is instead, laying just in front of the tack shed. Yes, the coveted Blue Bucket! The one every horse and sheep on the place KNOWS, yields the grains and goodies. I say in a louder than normal voice to any horse that might be listening, "Ah! Look what I found! The Blue bucket!" And lift it high and shake it just for good measure for all to see. Heads popped up from all over the place. The horses take a few tentative steps towards me necks outstretched, sheep come running up the pasture at break neck speed, and with a flourish, I throw open the tack shed door to reveal the sweet smells of what lies therein. As I step back out of the tack shed with the Blue Bucket filled with sweet feed all sheep and horse eyes are on me. Well, this has been a lovely turn about. "So, you ladies want some of this??" I ask as I shake the bucket to show them that yes, there is in fact yummy grain to be had if you'll simply just walk this this way. At that point, I know Ive got em. Confidently, I stride to the sheep pasture gate, without even looking back to see if said mares are behind me, I know the way to their brain is through grain. Its unfortunate at this point however, as I reach the gate, that I realize that I probably shouldn't have made such a grand production of having a Blue Bucket full of grain, as I now have a dozen sheep clamoring at the gate for first dibs at the coveted "Blue Bucket O grain." What does a girl do at this point, when you have horses very much wanting to stick their heads in the bucket, and breathing down the back of your neck, are pushed up against the gate, and on just the other side of said gate are a dozen excited and hungry for grain sheep? Well, I'll tell ya! I stick my hand in the Bucket O Grain, give the horses each a nibble to keep them interested while I squeeze through the gate to avoid any sheep getting out, as I walk across the field, Ive no doubt the sheep will follow the bucket, I deposit some of the grain out on the ground to hold the sheep, and return to the horses, open the gate, offer them the contents of the Bucket O Grain, if again they will just walk this way. Such compliant creatures horses can be when they think they will get a handful of sweet feed. And like the good equines that I know in my heart that they are, they both waltz into the sheep pasture with expectant looks shouldering each other and vieing for position to be the first to get their nose in the Bucket O Grain. As I dumped out the remaining grain for the horses, I take a moment to stand there and start to regain that wonderful feeling that all is well, and right once again in my little world. As I am reveling in my own self inflicted pride at having gotten under control what could have been a really disastrous morning, and taking a well earned moment to heave a large sigh of relief, I am poked in the butt by a Big White Dog. It is Bruin, my LGD. He is looking at me as if to say WTF!! "Who! And What? is this you have brought onto my pasture!??" "This simply wont do Lady! They don't belong here!" As Bruin strides over to the horses tail curled up over his back and head held high to investigate the newcomers I'm thinking this might not be a good thing. So, as I am still planning on heading to work this morning and don't have time to watch this meeting play out, I gather up Bruin and take him off the pasture much to his consternation, and lock him in a kennel. Luckily, I put him in this kennel almost nightly when I work dogs, so he doesn't interfere with the training, (after all in his mind they are HIS Sheep and no one should be chasing them around, its his job to see to it that those kinds of things just don't happen and he takes his job very seriously) so he is compliant and settles in quickly. I put his friend Andy in with him for company, and again, all seems well. But not for long. As I am standing there with my hands on my hips surveying the situation, and thinking again that all is well. The grain is quickly disappearing and everyone is starting to take notice of their new pasture mates. I really never thought Id ever see the day that this would happen, as Jack my ram, was raised with the horses and has had a running love affair with my Morgan mare since he was a lamb, but all the sudden, he looks up and shakes his head in disbelief and takes a running charge at the mare! As he is almost upon her, he stands and rams her in the stomach with his head! Now its my turn, and the mares, to stand and stare in disbelief! As if the first head butt wasn't enough to show his displeasure with having horses in his pasture, he again, stands and head butts the mare in the stomach. At this, the mare has had about enough, and as Jack lands his next blow, he ends up underneath the mare. Being the calm and good natured gal that she is, she tries to simply step away and over the crazy ram, barley avoiding stepping on him and breaking his leg in the process. Holy shit! Is this morning ever going to have a happy ending so I can get to work!!?? So, now as the mare is trying to avoid Jack, and trys to keep away from him by running away from him, he continues to pursue her. Bringing with him the entire flock, and CoCo the other mare now sees Julie the Morgan mare running, and kicks up her heels to join in the race. Now WTF do I do!? I cant put the horses back in their pasture, as its obvious they have found a way out, seeing as they were standing in my front yard this morning, and I don't have time to walk the fence line and fix where ever it is they have gotten out, I know from experience I cant put Jack in the catch pen, as he will just jump the fence to get back with the ewes, and I cant put them all in the catch pen, because there isn't enough feed in there for them all. I simply throw up my hands in disgust and say work it out, what will be will be, and climb in my truck, turning my back on the whole thing and drive to work.
So, after a long day of work and worrying about whats happening back at home, I finally get back home and all looks well. Apparently they got things worked out, as everyone, sheep and horses alike are heads down apparently unscathed happily munching away in a contented and relaxed fashion. And me, now laughing at myself thinking all that worry for nothing. Until......I look over the pasture doing a head count to see that no one has been injured in the mornings unsupervised races, and my eyes fall upon my newly erected panels that I risked life and limb and waged war on the wasps to gain access to the lumber for, to see them laying in pieces scattered on the ground. I drop my chin to my chest in despair, and for a fleeting moment, I think what would it be like to not have these animals to have to contend with each day. What would it be like to not have to brave the weather at all hours of the day and night to care for them. Not have to worry about the rising costs of feed and availability, or lack there of it, and maybe just grow corn instead on those pastures that they are living on. I slink into the house and sit down with my head in my hands. What would it be like I think again to myself?? As if on cue, Lex runs into the room and places her head in my lap and looks up at me with such devotion and that "Got Sheep!?" look in her eyes, and I know what it would be like. It would be like a death sentence, is there life after sheep and sheepdogs?? Her look, at that very low moment for me, told me all I needed to know, and that is, that I really don't want to know the answer to that question. So, I pick my feeling sorry for my ass self up off the couch, tell Lex, come on girl, we got some panels to fix and a DH to kick in the ass and walk back into the world of stock and stock dogs, that I know I never want to live without.

2 comments:

sheepkelpie said...

Has to be one of the best blog entries I have read. I think the title should be: For the wont of a fence, the animals were lost- temporarily; an essay on man's laziness.

1sheepdoggal said...

Ha! Thanks. The DH however, could be designated his own blog filled with entries on how loath he can be these days when it comes to fence work. His alergies to the tractor have gotten worse as well, and I havent found a pill at the drugstore that will counteract that little problem either. But, as soon as he was able to pull my boot outta his backside yesterday, the fence did in fact get fixed, the tree chain sawed down, the tractor was brought out and the bush hog and weedeater were put into effect. And for the moment, all is well again in my little world.