Wednesday, February 25, 2009
He Liberates Me.
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.
- ▼ February (5)