Thursday, March 26, 2009

Talking Trees. Enjoying The Simple Things, And Some Good Dog Work

For not having any work today, and not finding that out until Id actually gotten up early, showered, didn't get my regular quota of coffee, and then drove all the way to town before I found that out, it ended up still being a pretty cool day.
I hung out at work since I was there anyway for a bit, hoping the phone might ring, but knowing it wouldn't, who wants to get their dog groomed when its muddy and raining?? Must just be Me! And since I had Bear and Cain with me, I decided to go ahead and bathe (that's for you Julie! LOL) them, and I was glad I did! The dirt just ran off them! Cant imagine how they get so dirty!

Oh, yea,..... maybe I guess I can.

Anyway, I got back home, and loaded a bunch of junk and trash into the bed of the truck, took it to the trash dump, and by the time I was done there it was about time to pick up Kyle from school. He likes it when I can, it beats the hell out of the two hour bus ride home.
While we were headed home, Kyle said he would enjoy taking the dogs for a walk down at the Raven Rock Park. Its on the way home, so I thought what the hey! And then I thought Hey! Ive got Bear and Cain with me! I just washed them! Oh well, how dirty can they get at the end of a leash on groomed walking trails. Well, don't ask! They are worse than a couple of toddlers playing in the mud! The woods were muddy and the trails were slick, but we still enjoyed the walk, the boys just rode home in the back of the truck instead of their customary backseat.
While we were in the woods walking for a bit, we decided to stop and take a break for a few minuets. We found ourselves in the middle of a thick grove of trees, mostly pines. Poor Raven Rock Parks trees, have been ravaged over the years from fire, flooding and high winds, and there is a lot of dead fall and leaning trees. We'd been sitting there a few minuets when I heard a strange popping sound. Immediately, I accused Kyle of farting. He looked at me with shock and awe, and proceeded to let me know under no uncertain terms that it wasn't him. As we sat there listening a little longer, we realized that the sounds we were hearing were coming from the trees! The trees are very tall, and a lot of them are dead and dying, and the little bit of wind that was blowing, was making them sound off. Popping and creaking were only a few of the sounds we heard. The trees were making so many sounds, especially as the wind picked up, that we were able to start putting names to the sounds we were hearing. Some were akin to the sounds of the creaking of a rocking chair, others were like the eerie drawn out squeaking of a screen door like you'd hear in a scary movie, slowly opening. Maybe Ive got sheep on the brain, but I even heard one that sounded like the baaing of a lamb! By the time all the trees got going, we were hard pressed to put a finger on exactly what it all sounded like, and then it hit me. The trees sounded like the songs of the Humpback Whale! I wish Id have had a recorder with me, it was beautiful! Moans and groans, and high pitched squeals, clicks and wails. What a symphony! It was difficult for us to drag ourselves away. But alas, all good things must come to an end, and as the wind died down, so did the singing of the trees. Just think, had we not decided to take a break and simply kept on walking, we'd have never gotten to enjoy Mother Nature at her finest. Kinda made me feel sorry for all the runners we passed along the way, all going to fast to enjoy the little things.
When we got home, I got Bear and Cain out of the back of the truck, and Bear bounded out to the sheep pasture gate. All aglow in mud and muck from having way to much fun on our walk. He was ever so sweetly looking at me and you could just see the hope written all over his face. Could we,..... pleeeeeease go work the sheep???? Still retaining my jovial mood that the singing trees had embedded in me, how could I deny such an obvious and honest attempt at communication. Yes, I caved.
And glad to have! Ive been a bit concerned of late about Bear's and my relationship. He works fine for me, and he respects me, dare I say, in most respects I feel he loves me, but Ive had him since October, and I just wasn't feeling a strong bond between us yet. Well, to be more honest, its been seeming as if I liked, loved and appreciated him way more than he did me. He still retained a bit of an aloofness some times, and it bothered me. Of course, I'm use to the fawning and needy "I JUST LOVE YOU SOOOOO MUCH EVERY SECOND OF EVERY DAY!" personalities of Lexy and Chris, so I had just about put my worries on a shelf, and thought maybe that's just who Bear is.
Today, Bear and I found that bond. I cant say how, or why, and I couldn't begin to describe it. Its just a new feeling we shared. One of accomplishment, team work, and trust. A meeting of the minds. Alot closer to the oneness Ive enjoyed over the years with Lexy. It was, as Bear has a way of making me feel, liberating, and exhilarating, as well as consoling. Today, I KNOW my dog loves me. Today we broke through some invisible barrier, and I KNOW Bear wants to work for ME because he loves to work with and be with me. 3 words. Way to Cool!

After the wonderful work Bear and I had, I though we just might be on a roll, so I then got Chris out and took her for a spin. Sunday during lessons, Robin had given me a few more tools for my tool box and they are working well for Chris and I, and so we had a lovely work, and she did some very beautiful 250 yard outruns for me. Ive NEVER trusted Chris to outrun that far without me between her and the sheep. I think I may just start. Her lifts and fetches were still a bit to fast, ( we'd be screwed coming down the hill at Soldier Hollow fetching like that! LOL) and she really needs to learn to pace herself a little better but that wasn't what I had set out today to work on, so I didn't push that to much. I am very pleased that we appear to be back making progress again. One day this good little dog and I are going to get all our ducks together in a row, and then its gonna be watch out people cause Chris is gonna stir things up!

The day wouldn't have been complete leaving Hank in the kennel, and he and Julie did a nice job in the round pen on Sunday so I thought Id try my hand seeing what he retained from his work with Julie. The round pen is one thing, but here I have to work in a 2 1/2 acre field, and ya really gotta set things up and be on your game with Hank as he can be a bit rowdy. Again, it was lovely. He is circling and changing his sides, and fetching nicely. Oh! And stopping! Not only is he stopping, but laying down! He is finally getting it, and at 11 months, that's all I ask. He was very pleased with himself, and I don't blame him. Still, I'm not going to work him much, maybe a couple times a month for now. He is still quite immature, and goofy. He hasn't grown into his rather large body yet, and grace escapes him. But I give him an A for effort and team work.

So even though the day started out not to be looking so great, it sure did shape up into one hell of a good time! Just wish I could have gotten paid for all that fun, but in a way, depending on how ya look at it, maybe I did!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Scuba Dog. Could someone please pass the snorkle!

Cause this dog is stressing me out! I dont know if this is a sign of intelligence at work here, or just plain stupidity on the dogs part, but Chris started diving about a year ago and it is driving me bonkers!
I wouldnt mind it as much, if she just dunked her head and then came up, Ive had dogs that did that.

But she has now learned how to hold her breath!

And can and will litterally dive under the water in one place, and resurface in a completly new spot, 5 or 6 feet from where she started!

She loves the water,and keeping her out of it would be like a death sentence, of course continuing to allow her accsess could result in the same! How she deduced that there were sticks (and she loooooves her some sticks!) under the water, is beyond me.(Course Chris isnt happy with just a little stick to carry around, she has greater aspirations.)

So what does one do with a diving dog? Time out only works for so long.

Do I take video and send it to Americas funniest videos? Send it to Letterman for an episode of Stupid Pet Tricks? The worst part is, that Hank has been watching her, and ever so slowly but surely, he is now starting to dunk is head and face under the water searching for the divine prize too! (and once he has located his prize, it is clear no one will be stealing it from him)

Eventually, I can just see the two of them together performing some weird under water doggie duet ballet of sorts. Grrrrrr.
Her under water follies have gotten me several times in a state of panic to the point of me standing at the waters edge shucking off my shoes and getting ready to dive into the muddy depths after her. Already Ive been to the point of wading in and slapping the water repeatedly calling frantically for her, only for her to resurface with a mouthful of weeds that she proudly prances back to shore with to sort through. Always with that "Whats your problem??" look on her face.

Ive yet to see her push her limits and come up gulping, but really, how long can she hold her breath? Maybe she isnt holding her breath so long, as it is the sight of my dog dissapprearing under the water that makes me feel as if it takes forever for her to come back up, but its definitly not some thing I appreciate her doing.
Oh, we have stopped throwing things in the water for her to retrieve, but she seems to perfer to find her own stuff anyway, and any opportunity to dive she will take, so just being near the water is enough for her. No encouragemnet is needed. Goofy girl!

So we are now heading back into the spring and eventually summer, where playing in the pond to cool off will soon be an absolute must, and Im thinking Chris needs a set of water wings or a life vest, or at least one of those blow up butt donuts hanging around her neck, to discourage her from continuing her communte with the fishes before she becomes just another soul in Davey Jone's locker! Watching her over the last year perfect her diving skills and breath holding techniques, still gives me pause to wonder, does she really have a sense of self preservation? Does she know her limitations? (cause to me it seems she stays under there longer and longer each time) Do other dogs do this kind of thing? Or is Chris just some weird freak of nature, (it wouldnt be the first time Ive accused her of that one!) And how weird would it be trying to explain to folks the next time I took her on a swimming date with her friends and their owners, "No, Chris is an excellent swimmer, she doesnt need the donut to save her from drowning, she needs it to save her from Drowning Herself!"

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A prime example of the Ramblings of 1Sheep Dog Gal

Here is an excerpt from Bill Berhow taken from the book Top Trainers Talk about Starting a Sheepdog. I have had this book for quite awhile now, but have never gotten into it enough to read it cover to cover. It sits in my bathroom, and I pick it up from time to time while I'm in there and.....have a minuet to spare. I know, TMI! LOL.
Anyway, this really hit home for me, as Chris and I really struggle to keep our heads together when confronted with sheep. She/we have made progress, no doubt, but we still struggle with having the correct mindset when sheep are in the picture.

"If I see a dog that looses its head easily, that tells me I have to be very careful in the way I approach it. I don't want to put it in over its head or get it into the habit of working over its head. If dogs get into a pattern of working when their minds are chaotic, that can be a problem that's difficult to get rid of. But I also don't want to keep the dog from that chaos by control. I want to put them in situations that allow them to get over it on their own. If I'm controlling the chaos, that chaos is still in the dog- all its going to know is how to stop or go right or go left when it is told, but its not going to know how to settle its own mind, unless its learned to do that, and that's not some thing I can teach it to do- the sheep have to teach them that, and its probably one of the harder things to get through to them."

(There are no doubt and number of you reading this that are saying to yourselves: "That's what Ive been trying to tell you all along!" While banging your head on the desk! I know. But some how, this little paragraph, just sunk it all in for me.)

So, lets break this down.
Chris looses her head easily.
Because to many times as a young dog, and even now I think, Ive put her in way over her head.
Was I careful?
Did I control the chaos?
Yes. (to the best of my ability)
Has it been hard to teach her to settle her mind?
Is it one of the harder things to get through to her.
I strongly concur.
Has she gotten into a pattern of working when her mind is chaotic?
Um, yea.
Can I/we break this pattern?
This is a question I have been struggling a lot with recently, and I am still unsure as to how I feel about continuing the struggle. For Chris AND for myself. Some times I wonder, should we continue? When is enough, enough? When do you finally say she knows enough to get a job done. There are certainly situations where I would use another dog other than Chris, but there are a majority of the times I will grab her first for a job. If she were my only dog, would I keep going with her? Or, is having other dogs that can do a task I'm unwilling to completely trust her with allowing me to become lazy with her training?
Being sick and inactive this last week hasn't been a good thing for me. It gives me to much time to sit around and think, dwell on things. ( its also given me more time in the bathroom to read) I look at my dogs, and I think about them. How are we progressing? Are we progressing? Should I expect more progress, or are we at a stalemate?
I have been able to bring myself to the conclusion, that Chris and I will never make it onto a trial Field, and that is a sad conclusion to have to settle on. She could be so much more with a different handler. She has the makings of a great dog. It has been brought to my attention, that there are others that could get her around a course, and even be competitive and successful, but it will never be she and I together that get to enjoy that thrill. Id always had such high hope for Chris and I. Alas, I created to many problems early on, that for her and I seem insurmountable. Do those points make her any less in my eyes. Hell NO! It just means that at some point, I have to look at my training goals, and perhaps change some of the reasons I am training with her.
She really deserved more in the way of a better more intuitive trainer. One that was more learnered in the ways of handling, and I really loved this description of her that was noted by a friend as a; "classic, hard, pushy farm bitch. A dog that can start working right out of the box and is useful in a variety of situations with no fuss." Yep, that would be my Chris, fits her to a Tee. But that is not the type of dog, best suited to my handling abilities and temperament. Chris is what we would call in horses, "bred hot." I got an Arab when what I needed was a draught horse. I started putting to much to soon on Chis as a consequence of her ability to start working "right out of the box" I saw all that raw talent and natural ability as a 4 month old pup and couldn't wait to get going with it, and didn't nurture it, but instead, put her in way over her head countless times. And so for that, I have a dog that's mind when on sheep, tends to run to the chaotic side, which in turn, then turns my mind to mush. Makes me want to control, stop the action, instead of help her through it and go on.
Chris and I have been working on our issues for a little over a solid year now. I have sank a considerable amount of time, energy and money into it. We have come so far from where we started. Due in large part to a couple of very good friends who can see Chris's strengths and potential and my weaknesses and they have faith in my good little dog. I have learned a little about faith throughout this process, and I will now put her in working situations that a year ago Id have never even entertained the thought of. But still, there are those times I will take Lex or even and especially Bear over Chris to do a job, simply because I know how the outcome would be if I put her in a particular type of situation. I do not begrudge the time, energy or money I have spent in working with Chris, I adore this little dog, and take great pride in her, and really enjoy working with her, in most situations, and in fact, am willing to contribute even more. But when we have reached a stalemate, and progression seems to be at a stand still, when do you say that good is good enough?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Outdoor Concert (What?! Does no one appreciate Star Quality anymore?)

OK, so yesterday, I was rained and snowed in, and so to further ignore house work, I brought out my guitar and played for a bit.

The dogs were all in their crates except Andy and Cain but they seemed to have even disappeared once I got rolling good to the tune of Rocky Mountain High. I should have suspected some thing right then. I just figured they didnt appreciate good ole Folk music. So today, it was a wonderful day to get some pics of the dogs and sheep outside, and I was feeling so poorly for the sheep and horses having to have to spend all their time out in the cold and rain and snow the past few days that I decided it would be nice to entertain them for a bit. So, I brought back out my guitar, and put on an Outdoor Concert for them. I really thought they would have appreciated it more, but the pictures prove otherwise. See if I feel sorry for them again.
Bear says; "Come on you guys, if I have to listen to it so do you"

"Are you serious Lady??"

Get outta my way!! Head for the hills! She's gonna sing at us again!!

Hey wait a second guys! Im just getting warmed up.

Where are you guys going??

Ungrateful Dogs!

How far are they gonna run??

I Wonder if they're coming back??

Hey guys! Wait for meeeeeee!!

I think I've lost them.

Yep, I dont think they're coming back.

This outta get em back. My stellar impression of a C/W Star! Hey guys, Look back! LOOK BACK!

Well, theres the sheep and horses left. At least I can play for a captive audience.


I cant believe Your going to interupt my meal for this??!!

Who Us??!!

Move along son, we gotta get away from her before she starts singing again...Bhaaaaad

Come along Lambies, thats not a bucket of grain she has in her hands.

Akkkk! Hide us from the noise!!

Does this send any messages??? (look close, he's sticking his tongue out!) The *#%@!

Hey Wait!! Dont YOU guys leave me too!

I give up! Grrrrrrr

Ho hmmmm, I wonder if American Idol will have me....