Wednesday, February 25, 2009
OK, So now that you all know about my little closet dog Hank, let me tell you about Bear Da Bomb.
Bear is instilling confidence in me more and more every time I work him. A little role reversal never hurt I reckon, though I feel it should be me instilling confidence in him, I'm not arguing at this point, we are both OK with the arrangement. He works sheep, and I let him. Its a wonderful union. I don't tell him what to do, and he just does what I need. Bear is a point and shoot dog. You point him at the task, and he shoots out and gets the job done. No arguing, no commanding, no confusion, no worries. And that's just for me. As far as the sheep go, Bear is very much in command of his sheep, covering them all every second, it is a very exciting and satisfying thing to watch as he doesn't bully them, or hustle them around, he simply, calmly and gently moves them where they need to be, nice and easy, seemingly effortless. I know the sheep appreciate him, as they don't give him any guff and move anywhere he puts them, happily and easily. Like I said, it is like watching a ballet.
I want to give you an example of why I admire this dog so much.
Today, I got a wild hair to go work the dogs.It was a nice day, the sun was shining, and we had a nice light cool breeze. Perfect weather for working as not to over heat or tire anyone needlessly. I have 2 maybe 3 more sheep to lamb, one seasoned ewe and 2 first timers. Last week I had let all the sheep out onto the pasture together, lambs and moms, to mix and mingle with the rest of the rams and wethers. Everyone is getting along famously, and so I have left them there as it appears that the expecting ewes wont be dropping lambs anytime soon. So my little herd including the six, 2 week old lambs total a whooping 17 in numbers. Not a lot of sheep, but a motley crew non the less. Ewes with young lambs, expecting mothers, rams, and yearling wethers. All with their own little set of quirks and rules on how and why they should be worked a particular way, if at all, and not everyone in agreement as to how that should be.
I took Bear out first, I thought I wanted to separate the ewes and lambs and the pregnant ewes from the rams and wethers and put them into the nursery pen as to not upset the ewes, and just work the rams and wethers. I trust Bear to be sensible and kind to his stock, so I had no worries that he would try to grab a scared or slow and uncertain lamb while he was gathering them to put them in the nursery pen, or that he would run up on them so hard and fast that the lambs would get run over by scattering fleeing for their lives sheep.
So, I send Bear to the away side and he flanks out nicely for about a 200 yard outrun. Hmmm. That looked nice. He made contact with the sheep at a beautiful 12o'clock balance point from where I stood, A wee bit tight/sliced at the top, but it still looked nice and he was able to make it work without scattering sheep, and the power breaks and power steering came to life. Might as well have been cruise control. He lifts the sheep and carefully and deliberately fetches them up to me. Poetry. I am mesmerized while watching, and sheep are at my feet sooner than I want them there. I wanted so much to keep watching him doing what he loves doing with such ease and care for his charges. Not a lamb was stepped on or knocked down, left behind or scared. No one broke off or away, and they didn't separate into two bunches. Now, I know a lot of folks would say, yea, that's the way its suppose to be, its suppose to happen that way, and I agree. When you are using a seasoned dog perhaps, but Bear is a 20 month old pup that has never worked lambs, much less ewes with lambs, and is what would be considered simply a started dog.
So, he has brought the sheep to me and without a word from me, plants himself in a down a respectable distance, far enough away not to put to much pressure on the sheep, but close enough for them to know he is there, and waits to see what I need for him to do next. His expression is one of delight and interest, self satisfaction without a drop of ego.
As I stood there among my sheep, looking at Bear, I decided he had done such a nice job with them, that I would not separate them out, but would instead, do some driving work with him with them all. I flanked him around and then called him to my side. I positioned myself ahead and to his side, the sheep, dog and myself forming a triangle as my friend Julie had shown me to do. I asked him to walk up, and we started to drive across the field. Id flank him at the bottom and we'd drive back to the top. We did this several times, and even did a short cross drive, and it didn't take either of us long to figure out that this was boring, and that there really wasn't enough room to do anything of import. Bear seems to learn more and faster when it is real work that we are doing, and not just idle wandering. He likes goals, he likes to feel that he has accomplished some thing. I do too.
Standing at the top of my field, I was looking around, trying to figure out how I could make this more of a learning experience, a pleasure, and fun for both of us. My eyes fell on the pasture gate, closed and locked. Looking like a forbidding portal to the unknown....
Secretly, Ive always wanted to throw that gate wide open and have me and my dog take those sheep for a walkabout around the property. In my mind, numerous times I have visualized us meandering across the front yard, down the dirt road to my neighbors chicken houses, into their pasture, thru, to, and across the back yard, down thru the horse pasture, and ending up at the end of the drive way, only to flank my dog around and bring them back home and back in through that wide open gate.
I got a little giddy inside at the thought, should I? Could we???
A friends words came at that moment of indecision clearly into my mind. "Well!" she'd say, "Ya never know until you try!" Words to live by?? I don't know, but in my mind at that moment, I could hear her voice, and it almost sounded like a dare.
I approached the gate cautiously, and my hands ran the length of its top. It felt hard and cold, unyielding. Its bright red color screamed not the words caution at me, but instead a resonating STOP!! And then, like an echo, stop,stopstopstop.....
I clung to its coldness a moment longer. My mind felt as though it was racing so fast that I couldn't slow it down enough to concentrate on a single lone thought, and before I could give myself more time to sort it all out, again I heard in my mind, "ya never know until you try!" and it was starting to sound less like a simple dare, taunting me and harping like, and more like an "I double Dog Dare You!".
I looked over at Bear, who was still holding sheep now against the fence, and before either of us had any real plan of action, or even knew what was going to happen next, my fingers found the latch and freed the gate to glide effortlessly wide open. I watched as it floated away, slowly gaining momentum as it swung further and further away from me past the point of no return so I could no longer just reach out and stop its progress. As it came to a stop, it bounced just a little from the tension, it looked as if it were giggling at me.
A moment passed, I started to feel woozy, standing there, the only obstacle between a wide open gate to the unknown and my dog and sheep, and then I remembered to breath.
Again I looked over at Bear, and though he remained calm in his position, he looked rather shocked and questioning. All the sheep were looking towards the place where there once was a gate, ears forward and shifting nervously.
I had to laugh at this moment, not at the dog or the sheep, or even at myself, but at a moment from my past when I witnessed an old friend who was having problems with her boyfriend at the time. He was a jealous sort, and didn't like it when Id invite her out for an evening of fun and bar hopping. One night, Id come to pick her up, and he was there and not wanting her to go. She aimed to set him straight right then and there, and as he started to take his stand and not let her go, she briskly walked over to their front door, and with a flourish, dramatically threw it open and loudly exclaimed, "this is a door, I can come in it, and I can go out of it, see, In" and she'd hop a little further into the house, and then she said, "and out! " and she'd hop, curly red hair bouncing behind her, landing just outside the door onto the front porch. "In!" she'd say again, "and out!" sounding a little like an aerobics instructor, and again she'd do her little jig in and out of the door. This went on for several minuets, leaving her BF shocked and speechless. Both her BF and I stood there watching this little scene, him in utter amazement, me about to bust a gut and trying not to. ( I think she'd already had a few drinks before Id gotten there)
So there I stood, at the threshold of that gate thinking of Scarlett and her hopping in and out that door, and thinking the same thing about myself. I can come in, and I can go out. I recreated her little jig as I hopped in and out myself just just to see how it felt. One word. Empowering!
As I stood just outside of the pasture, I had my options wide open. I could go back in, or I could continue out....
I flanked my dog behind the sheep and asked him to fetch them to me. I was thrilled and scared to death all at the same time. But a million what ifs shattered and disintegrated as soon as the sheep passed the threshold to the out side world that was no longer the safe confines of our safe and secure pasture. The sheep were visibly nervous, I was almost vibrating from shaking, Bear, held it all together. I kept backing up and Bear kept bringing me the sheep, and the sheep kept coming.
At this point, I have to be honest, and tell you, that I didn't exactly realize my dream today of wandering all over the neighborhood with my sheep and my dog, but we did manage to graze the front yard for a bit, and make it around the house to the back yard, and out behind the shop, back out to the front yard and then back into the pasture. All in all, the longest most exciting 40 minuets Ive had since I cant remember when. What an adrenalin rush. My property is not fenced, anything could have happened, sheep could have ended up God knows where. I could have suffocated from holding my breath,and I wonder just how healthy is it to listen to those little voices inside my head.
Monday, February 23, 2009
This is Hank. Hank is 10 months old. Hank is a goof ball, he is goofy. He is fun, and funny, happy, playful, joyful, out of control, attentive and just darn sweet. He isn't the sharpest tool in the shed, but dammit he tries. Hank had always been a bit of a thorn in my side. His presence came about because of faulty judgement on my part, and Ive never really been able to, until recently, completely forgive him for being born.
But, in his favor, I have to say, he has tried very hard to make his presence in my house hold, and in my life, not only noticed, but enjoyable. As a pup, Hank was a model puppy. Only chewing on the things he was suppose to, crate training and house breaking quickly and easily, listening and learning and trying his earnest to be a good puppy. He and his sister Rose at 4 months old both came down with Parvo at the same time, and sadly, I had secretly hoped that if one had to die, that it would have been him, as Rose was absolutely my heart from the day she was born. As it turned out Rose passed away, leaving me heart broken and left with this gangly, goofy, ugly, (yes, Hank is ugly, just ask anyone that has seen him) puppy, that I harbored ill will towards for being the strong one and living. It has taken me quite awhile to come to terms with the fact that I have a Hank. Longer even more so, to figure out what to do with this Hank.
Especially, since Id never really put the time and effort into him as a pup after Rose died that I would normally put into a pup of mine, so his manners and training, have been.....lacking. Still, that hasn't stopped him from continuing to try to win me over. He is if nothing else, persistent. I wonder some times if he's ever felt how differently I felt towards him as opposed to how I felt and treated the other dogs. It could have been the very reason he has tried so hard to prove to me that he was just as worthy as everyone else for my love, attention and affections. Hank's biggest drawback, is that he isn't a squeaky wheel. He doesn't try to vie for attention, he isn't needy and constantly looking for approval, or affection. He is happy as long as he can be in the same room with me to just play by himself, and while away the time. Now Hank still has many qualities that are well known to be collie traits, in that if I get up, he will eagerly and uninvited follow, always hoping to be a part of the action, but not one to sulk if he isn't invited. In short, what I am finding out about Hank recently, now that I can no longer ignore his ......"exuberant presence," and have had to start to really pay attention to, is that Hank is happy just to be alive every second of every day, and if I ever had a time in my life where I could take a lesson from a dog, Hank would be a most excellent teacher. He takes his lumps and knocks and doesn't let them get him down. He has this whats next attitude, that is hard to ignore. The happiness and forgiving nature that he brings with him everywhere he goes, is phenomenal, and I have to chastise myself daily for not allowing him into my heart earlier. But, the wonderful thing about Hank is that He doesn't hold a grudge. He is happy for any thing that comes his way. I wouldn't even venture to say he acts grateful, as he doesn't appear to have missed anything to be grateful for, so I'm the one trying to make up for lost time, and harboring guilty feelings. Ive never neglected Hank, he has always been well cared for and has had the same routines and freedoms as the other dogs, except that I was emotionally not as there for him as I have been the other dogs. It hasn't appeared to have scared him in the least. I couldn't fault the dog for anything, and in fact, can only find fault in myself for not spending more time nurturing and getting to know such a wonderful soul. Hank has an ability that I have recently found to be intriguing, as well as rather disturbing. He will look you straight in the eye, and hold you there and try to look straight into you heart, mind and soul, and study what he finds and sees. It appears, that He is constantly searching out what it is you want from him that will make you happy. Gone when he does this is the goofy puppy look, and the ADHD attention span and he is very earnest, serious, and unflappable in his quest. In the times that he has done this with me, it is always me that breaks the eye contact first, as I become quite uncomfortable with his scrutiny, though I wish I could hold his eye longer, and see how long it takes before he breaks the spell. What he takes from these stare fests that seem to come more regularly with each passing day, I do not know. As, soon as they are over, he is back to being his goofy happy self again, and appears to carry no baggage from it. I have a feeling though, that with Hank there is more there than meets the "eye."
Hank has been to sheep now a number of times, and while turned on and wanting to work, Ive seen nothing really stand out about him. He is rather up right, and has a loose eye, is always wide and because of his long legs and gangly body, he appears to be clumsy and rather clown like in his movements. But he is still quite young and that could change to some degree. Still, I have a hard time not laughing at him. Which he doesn't seem to mind and appears to take as a compliment, or that I some how am appreciating what I'm seeing as when I laugh, that's when he seems to try even harder. But, all things aside, it looks at the moment, as if he has some thing to offer, some thing to work with, so we will roll with it, until, he tells me otherwise. So, this is my Hank. My dark horse, my long shot, my closet dog, who no longer wishes to just exist among the other dogs, but who is determined to over come any obstacle I put in his path, who is no longer content with being last on my list, who is putting his paw in the game, and coming out a winner. What he has offered me I can no longer refuse or resist. And that is the heart and soul of a good and honest dog. Welcome to the fold Hank, I think we are destine to play out the hand that has been dealt us, and with your unfaltering willingness and eager persona, we just might make one hell of a team, and you can keep teaching me how to become more human while humbly continuing to take on the appearance of a doG.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Well, while lambing is momentarily over for now, I still have several more to lamb but they will not be delivering for another month or so, I have finally found time to get some rest and catch up on some fun stuff. Mainly my idea of fun, is working dogs, but yesterday it was horse back riding. Kyle has been on my case for awhile, wanting to go riding. While I was really loath to go down ( ha! Go down, its like a 60 foot walk from my front door to their pasture gate!) and catch the mares, haul out saddles and tack, groom and then spend 3 or 4 hours in the saddle when I could have been working dogs instead, I finally gave in under the condition that he help round up and catch the horses, and haul out the saddles from the tack shed and clean them up and groom the horses. Lucky for him, the horses were in a compliant mood yesterday and were easily caught with the aide of the coveted blue bucket O grain.
The horses looked good, nice and fat and woolie, and soooo out of shape. Their feet looked decent, so I didn't feel any sudden compulsions to get out the nippers. My back is thanking me for that I'm sure. He was quite the trooper, very uncharacteristic of himself, scurrying around getting things done,and going the extra mile to make sure all was in ready before he came and told me he was ready. He really wanted to ride, and no amount of extra work was going to deter him, darn it! What started out as what I grudgingly felt was a sacrifice of my time and energy, taking him riding, actually turned out to be quite an entertaining and eye opening day. Its been awhile since he and I had done anything we mutually enjoyed together, and Id forgotten what a character my son really is! At 2 months shy of being 14 yrs old, he is less of a child these days,and more like a real person! Imagine my surprise! I hadn't laughed so hard in quite some time. He has a quick wit and a hell of a sense of humor, and I have some how been missing that while being caught up in so many other aspects of life and work. The grown up world, the bill paying, grocery buying, trying to make ends meet world,that boys his age aren't exactly included in. We talked and joked, and it was nice to find out all the things going on in his life and his mind, that we barley bother to talk about at home. What a kid! I am surprised at the things he is aware of, and has such a firm grasp of mentally, be it his views on politics, gas prices, (or do those go hand in hand?) school, goals, money, lots of things that I didn't think he even thought about. Mainly because he keeps his nose stuck in front of a TV. book or video game most of the time. I'm wondering where my little boy went, especially when faced with the young man I spent the day with yesterday. His brother Linzy and his sister Tammi are 29 and 26 yrs old, so Ive had years of them being grown ups so it isn't such a shock when one calls me up with grown up problems or complaints. I'm use to it by now. But Kyle has always been the baby, the last one, the youngest. It was always the goal to get the kids grown, and yes, gone, moved out and ready to start a life of their own, but time seems to have slipped up way to quickly for me with Kyle. Just a minuet ago he was a child, and now, he is teetering some where between being an adolescent, and having to have "the talk"! There was discussion about getting a drivers license, and year books and prom dates! The economy, rising prices of feed and hay, you name it, topics just rolled off our tongues, and discussions, intelligent discussions were had. I'm still reeling. After everyone had gone to bed last night, I had time to sit back and be alone to reflect and think. Regroup the image of who and what my son was and now is. It is a startling contrast to what I started the day out thinking, as well as a severe wake up call for me. Somewhere, sometime, somehow, I blinked and missed it. That transformation that turned him into some thing, some one more than I thought he was. I cant remember this happening with his brother and sister. I was never shocked at their maturity, maybe because I expected it, and wanted it, and deep down, maybe I'm not sure I am looking forward to an empty nest, and so have subconsciously put off thinking it would happen as long as I still had Kyle home with me. But the stark realization that we have more years behind us than we have in front of us before he fledges from the nest, well...has caught me unaware. Through this however, I have come to the realization, that I need to spend more time with my son. We need to talk more, and on a different level than "clean your room," and, "because I'm mom and I said so!" Of course, I still need to parent, but its going to have to go to a whole new level. Is it any wonder he has become so frustrated with me, accusing me of treating him like a child all the time. I have been! Which also brings me to wondering if I have been holding him back from life experiences. Sheltering him to much, not allowing him some of the freedoms he claims his friends have. After successfully fledging two already, you'd think I kinda had the hang of things by now.
I think Kyle knew this day was coming. I think he had a plan, and that is why he has been so relentless in trying to get me to spend a day a horse back with him. He knows how I am when I ride. I'm relaxed and open, friendly and happy when up on a horse, and things don't anger me as easily. I'm in a zen place when riding, and he has witnessed this phenomenon and so decided this would be the best place to spring the facts on me. Do I think he is this clever? Well,... after yesterday, yes I do think he is, and from now on, I'm going to have to pay a lot closer attention to him, before I blink again, and its graduation day!
Monday, February 9, 2009
OK. So I promised Mom Id catch up my blog seeing as Ive been a bit slack in writing recently. So what have we been up to here at That'll Do Farm? Lambing! So far I have 6 little darlings on the ground, all twin sets, though I'll never figure out why we call them twins, as most don't look any thing like each other, but for the sake of proper terminology, that's what I'll go with.
I have a couple of more ewes that need to lamb, but so far everyone has had nice healthy lambs, easily birthed, and no problems. I like that! So far I seem to have chosen rightly in my decisions as to whom stays and goes to make my life easier in the lambing and good mothering skills department.
Bruin (the Great White LGD) has done a wonderful job his first year with new born lambs and hasn't made squeaky toys of anyone.
I still keep a weather eye on him, but so far so good. He apparently is learning his job well. The sad part of this years lambing so far is, that all the lambs are ram lambs! I was really hoping to get more ewe lambs this year, as I am trying to build back up the herd, as Id sold so many the year we had the drought, and would like to increase my numbers of breeding ewes. Although I already have a wonderful ram in Jack, I am seriously considering keeping 2 particular individuals intact, and keeping them. Which means I wont be banding lambs again this year, and will choose to allow them to grow a bit more and watch their personalities and to some degree their characteristics before making any lasting decisions. Maybe this year I will have gotten the hang of the burdizzo.
On the dog working/training front, everyone is doing great. I took Chris, Bear, and Hank out to JP"s yesterday and I have to say, I'm very pleased with their progress and especially with Hank. For such a young dog, he was showing some nice things out there yesterday. I asked Julie to work him so I could see how we had been doing with what he has learned working at home. Its hard some times when training, to see what is going on, (especially with Hank) and it was nice to see he is settling into doing a little work, and actually learning the ropes. Paying attention, thinking, and starting to read his sheep.
I took Bear out on the big fields,and we worked on driving with him. He seems to be taking to it like a fish to water, which Id really had no doubt he would, and walks straight on to his sheep and has plenty of power and push. He wasn't squaring off his flanks like like he normally does, so Im not quite sure whats up with that. I'm wondering if he hasn't gotten so use to me using terms like way back and come out, as commands for squaring his flanks,and if I don't use that command, he just simply flanks. He is still a bit one sided, and this week since the weather is suppose to be so nice, I can see there are a few things we will be working on before our next lesson with Robin. Other than that, Bear is a fine young dog, and I can see that he will make a nice trial dog. Already he is proving to be a wonderful chore dog around the house, he is very sensible and always reading his sheep and thinking.
Chris, oh my little Chris. She is always making me think. I asked Julie to work her yesterday in the round pen, as our last session in the round pen was such a disaster. Chris and I do great in a larger area, but working in tight spots with her, has become a source of contention between the two of us. I am slowly coming to the realization, that Chris and I may never be ones that are able to work up close together, and be reliable to keep a cool head. Some dogs can, and some dogs cant. She did pretty darn good for Julie, and they worked through a few problems quite nicely, though I had a bit of a problem keeping myself quiet when I would see her (Chris) start to do some thing stupid, ( I can be such a back seat handler!) and was grateful for Laura's conversation to divert me. In between working dogs, we went out to lunch, and came back and Laura and I helped Julie vaccinate and worm a bunch of sheep. Pip was designated chore dog for that, and made life very easy for us. He is such a fun dog to be around. So full of expression, and his expressions while working are hilarious! He just has so much fun. On the drive home, I was happy to see that all the dogs were exhausted, which is a state I rarely get to see Hank in, it was rather refreshing. Things we will be working on with the dogs this week, are getting Chris to come straight in when called, driving with Bear, and continuing to get him going better on his away side, and getting a actual down on Hank. Right now he has a standing stop, but needs to learn to lie down. I think he can handle that. All in all I was very proud of my dogs, they really are coming along well, and because of that, we are all building confidence together.
Work at the shop is finally starting to pick back up some, and I actually worked a whole 4 days this week!
That, is a good thing, as I was really starting to freak out about it. Course I have been in the biz long enough to know, that it is a seasonal job, and that the months of January and February are always the slowest, and the recession sure hasn't helped any. Seeing as pretty soon, I'm going to be having 3 dogs for lessons, my clients had better get on the ball, and start getting their butts back in more regular. Looks like I may have to figure out another incentive program to get them to keep coming back. The last one was getting the 6th groom 1/2 price, if they got the first 5 grooms within a specified amount of time. It worked well, and I may implement it again, along with some 3.00 dollar off coupons. They really love those! I'm not a big fan of them, but what ever works at this point to get them to come back in before the dogs are a big walking matt, and I have to shave everything that walks in. I really hate doing that, it doesn't take much talent to shave a dog, nor, does shaving them all make me look like a very good groomer. I much prefer having some thing to work with other than a pelt.
On the downside, yesterday on my way home from JP's I forgot that I needed to pick up coffee, and so had to drink instant coffee today. OMG! LIKE YUCK!!!! I really am not liking the fact that I am so addicted to my morning coffee, that I would stoop to the level of drinking instant and forsake my taste buds to such nastiness just to get my fix! So now, I'm off to the store, cause this shit just ain't gettin it!
Monday, February 2, 2009
Well, finally! The ewes have decided to let go of their little bundles of joy....well one so far has, but its a start. It looks as though others will now follow. Im hoping for spontanious jealousy happening. The other ewes are very interesred in the 2 new comers, and appear to very much so covet them, so perhaps they will go ahead and release their little bundles as well, so they can have some cute little lambies to snuggle with, as the new mom is telling them to leave hers alone, and go get your own! Sadly for me, both of them are ram lambs, which means they wont be sticking around here for long, and will no doubt, either go on to sire lambs of their own on some one elses farm, or will be freezer or BBQ bound. They are darling at this age, and Im sure they will continue to bring me joy watching them grow and play for some time to come. Anticipating lambs is always an exciting time for me. I love the whole process, from watching the ram court his harem, to watching the ewes bellies grow,and then the ultimate event, the birth of the lambs. I try very hard to be on hand and oversee all the births, even though my ewes are not new to lambing now, and are good easy lambers and great mothers, so dont really need any intervention, much less an audience, (and they'd much perfer it Im sure, if Id just keep my butt in the house and leave them to it) But I have lost a ewe here and there over the years to not being there, and my herd is so small in comparison to years ago, that I can do it without much effort, and a little loss of sleep some nights is a small price to pay to know that my ewes are OK. So, without further ado, let me introduce you to my newest additions. I havent named them, as I would then get to attached to them, and end up hanging on to lambs I really dont need. It is my intention to only keep ewe lambs, and only of a specific type and color. But I digress...please enjoy the the newest additions to the flock. Born @ 4:44pm 2-2-09 and 5:27pm 2-2-09 (side note, they seem to be right on schedual, as last year some of out first lambs were born on my oldest son Linzy's Birthday, a little red headed lamb, just like my son who is also a red head too, so making it easy for me to remember which lamb, and what day it was born! How convienient!)
Kyle is as bad as me, wanting to be there with the ewes and lambs and thinks nothing of settling in on the lambing shed floor for a little interaction with the family.
Getting their land legs
Can we say Awwww...
Psst, Mom, I gotta say, theres a lot more room out here.
Kyle thinks lambs are better than puppies
Ok. So I did name this one.I call him Whitie.
- ▼ February (5)