Monday, January 19, 2009

The Hard Lessons

The first hard lesson a person like me learns, is that when you have your dog entered in a 3 day clinic, and things are going well, don't change anything about their routine on the second day, or they may not make it to the third. Which is exactly what I did to Bear on Saturday night when I gave him a portion of raw meat on a bone, and he ended up suffering from some very unpleasant.....gastronal intestinal....problems? In the form of some very runny poop. Can we say raging squirts? I wont go into detail, but it wasn't pretty, and I didn't want to bring a dog that was feeling...under the weather back into the stress levels that having some raw meat coupled with the clinic may or may not have contributed to and put Bears system under such duress. Bears work on Saturday how ever was pretty darn good, and the general consensus was, that there wasn't anything wrong with him except the name on the collar. Jack told me that since some one else had just given me the dog, he thought I should pay it forward and give the dog on to him. I thought that was a very nice compliment. Some of the gals that were there were getting some really nice photos while the dogs were working and captured some beautiful shots of Bear that they gave to me on Sunday. A few are definitely blow up and frame for your wall worthy, and I think that's just what I'll be doing. I know physically seeing the dogs in motion is always striking, exhilarating to see, but capturing moments on film where you can see in the moment that shot was taken what is going on in that dogs mind, what the dog is thinking and tell a story, are priceless. If I can get my scanner hooked up, I'll post them here. That's a big "IF" as I am not very technically intuitive. Maybe Kyle will hook it up for me. He really is good for some things.
So since Bear was a bit incapacitated on Sunday, I left him home and brought Chris instead. For those of you who follow this blog, you'll be happy to know, that she was crated for the entire time, and no harm came to my truck this go round. I have to mention though, that while Bear was loose in my truck on Friday, we were all walking out to the pasture, and past where we were all parked, and from the parking area we all heard a quick toot from the horn of my truck, and of course, had to laugh,thinking Bear had learned this trick from Chris. It is my good fortune, he didn't pursue the use of the horn, and Id like to think he just gave it a quick honk just to remind me he was there. He is by far the more reserved, polite and collected of the two, and knows how to temper himself much more so than Chris, who is all about herself and her needs, and has a pretty low level of patience when it comes to what she wants.
Lesson number two, that's a hard one. It will put you through the gamut of emotions, from angry to sad, it will riddle you with guilt, make you question your abilities and knowledge, and have you thinking that "A" you don't deserve this dog, "B" you don't need this dog, "C" you should sell this dog to some one that has the ability to handle such a hot dog, and then down to "D" which says a person like myself who has over 25 years invested in dogs and handling dogs and training them, may know a lot about dogs and training, but knows absolutely nothing about how to train this particular type of dog for this type of work. Again, I lost my temper with Chris, and it was ugly. Mind you, she worked relatively nice out on the field for Jack and I, but she was still getting into positions where she was trying to take some cheap shots and loosing her brain, and I thought it best after the clinic for her to go back to the round pen, for a little schooling. Bad idea.
In doing so, I probably set us back the whole year we have spent trying to eliminate that land shark behavior and I am having a difficult time ever thinking that she and I will ever be the team that Id always hoped we could be. Our temperaments are to much alike in some respects and we seem to feed off each other, and that is not a good combination. I get amped up, she gets amped up, and things go to hell in a hand basket real quick. This dog is an expert at reading me more so than any dog Ive ever had outside of Cain, and I cant hide how I'm feeling from her no matter how I go about it. I have put some serious thought this weekend into selling her, and have gone so far as to suggest just that. But in retrospect, and having confidence in a friends advise, no matter how much it hurt to have to hear it, have decided to wait and give myself a "cooling down" period. As Long as Chris is willing and trying, and hasn't given upon me, its the least I can do for such a wonderful little dog whom outside of that one little seemingly insurmountable problem, I adore with all my heart and soul. Though some part of me still knows and feels that she would benefit from having a trainer that doesn't take things so personally, and that can whole heartily trust her. Obama is right, it is time for Change. I know Chris is a good working dog, but I cant "make her" better, I have to "make myself" better first before she can have the chance to become better. So here we go again, wish me luck.
Outside of the earth shattering disappointment, and shame at putting my dog through that ugly incident, the clinic itself, was great. Lots of good dog work, and I saw much improvement from day to day in each dog. Some even made it out of the round pen and on to the big field, and that is pretty cool. Henry Kuykendal made it out Saturday and Sunday to observe, and I finally got to meet him and Gwen I think her name was. They are very pleasant folks to talk with and I secured an invitation from Henry to come out this summer and help make apple butter at his place. Yea! I love apple butter and as Henry said,its an old family recipe, and better than anything you could ever buy in a store. It wasn't quite as cold on Sunday as it had been Friday and Saturday, but it wasn't warmer by much, we even had a bit of snow fall. But, I had resigned myself to the fact that by Monday I was pretty sure Id be able to feel my toes again, and just decided to quit worrying about the cold and enjoy the moment. And enjoy it I did. I got to spend time with sheep and sheep dogs of all different calibers, breeding and levels of training, hang out with friends, meet new friends, and although there towards the end when I took Chris out into the round pen,it may have appeared that I hadn't learned a damn thing, I certainly did. Some times though, the hardest lessons you learn, are the ones you teach yourself, especially, when you have a friend who is no afraid to school and remind you on your shortcomings.


Dancing shepherdess said...

We get the dogs we need. That's what I have been told. We learn nothing by the "easy" dogs. It's those harder dogs who teach us that we haven't all the answers, that we need to look to them for guidance. You had a small blip this weekend- it's done, it's over. From here on out it's about the future. When I have had a bad training session, I completely and utterly erase it from my memory banks. That's the only way you get past it, and move forward on what was, and will still be a positive, fruitful future.

Robin French said...

Hey girl, don't sweat it too much. You've come a long way with Chris and you'll still learn lots from her. I've been where you are with my Gael, believe me! I didn't see where Chris had removed any sheep body parts (Gael liked to rip ears off). Being stubborn is a good quality in a trainer if you can aim it the right way. ;-)

BTW, that was Henry and LouAnne. Kent is Henry's son and Gwen is his wife. Kinda confusing.

Laura said...

It sounds like you've learned a tough lesson this past weekend, Darci. But you've gained knowledge in that, and I'm willing to bet you'll handle things differently next time. That's how we grow as trainers (and as people). Embrace the lessons you learned but then move on. I look forward to reading more about how you and Chris progress.

Anonymous said...

Oh Darci it only helps you get stronger and a better dog trainer. I understand where you are coming from, I have been there with both horses and dogs!!

Loretta Mueller said...

I am with everyone else...don't worry too much about it...things will get put in place. I too started off with a pushy little bugger (Zip) and we really learned a lot together--there where times I wanted to kill her and I am sure ten times as many she wanted to kill me...but we got through it :)

And I wouldn't have it any other way....NOW that I look back on it that is! LOL

Darci said...

Thanks you guys. All of you. Those that emailed and those that provided a shoulder and advise. Your support and understanding is indicitive of why I love stockdogs and the people in the stockdog community. We are all family in the end, no matter how many miles separate us or even the fact that some of us have never even met. Bound by our love for the stock, the life and the wonderful dogs that not only move our stock, but move us in a way no other dog can. Your support is graciously appreciated, and I am once again humbled by the outpouring of kindness and understanding.