Monday, November 11, 2013

Lack of Leadership

It's been a little less than a year since we lost Gracie.  Pearl was gone when Grace left us, so for several months, it was just Pogo and Jane, and they didn't really seem to need a leader.  Gracie was the dog who kept everyone in line and agreeable.  Pearl suffers a little from an affliction I like to call "I'm special."  So, we have some grumblings now and then.  I thought Jane would emerge as more of a leader than she has.  Pogo has always been the peacemaker.

I miss that bossy little dog.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

The First Trip To The Post

Our local group put on our first USBCHA sanctioned trial.  We are a small group, only one of whom has ever run open.  It felt like a great undertaking.  It didn't go quite as we'd hoped, but overall, I think it was a decent first effort.  We were very lucky to have an experienced trial secretary to handle the paperwork. That was a huge relief.

Setting up the course on Thursday.
In addtion to the pressure of putting on a trial, I chose this to be my first ProNovice trial, and my first trial with my young dog, Pearl.  She's a great dog and had a great season in the Nursery class with her trainer.  I was quite nervous. 
Pearl working today.  Our run at the trial didn't look anything like this!
Our run at the trial did not go as I would have liked and ended quite memorably thanks to the dogs who were sent to clean up our mess and one yearling ewe who just lost her mind.  But, we all lived and now Pearl and I have one trip to the post under our belts.

Range ewes arrive for the Open classes.
The weather was perfect.  It was a good weekend.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

You're Going To Reap Just What You Sow

You're Going To Reap Just What You Sow
You're Going To Reap Just What You Sow
You're Going To Reap Just What You Sow
You're Going To Reap Just What You Sow
RIP Lou Reed  (1942-2013)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Other Side Of The Fence

I'm sure that my neighbor's friend meant to be helpful.  They were standing there on the fence line, watching me work dogs, unbeknownst to me.  I finished up a short, quiet, happy work session with Jane.  I sent her to water, feeling really happy with what she had given me.  Happy with how quiet I had been, praising her for giving ground and for nice, open flanks.  Praising her for stopping.

Jane had tension in her as a puppy.  Adorable tension.
"Don't stop.  Show us some more!"  So, I sent her around the sheep and started walking to the fence, through the tall weeds, across the irrigation ditch.  Introductions were made.  The friend used to work her dogs on cattle.  While we are talking, Jane is sort of having her way with the sheep.  Nothing bad is happening, but she's just pushing them around and not taking the pressure off them.  I explain that I haven't been working her lately because of her not listening and our relationship issues.  I try to lie her down while talking across the fence, but being hidden by the trees and tall weeds, she doesn't see me, feel my pressure or take my commands.  I know she can hear me, but that doesn't always matter to Jane.

I like to sit on the floor with Jane and scratch her chest.
"You should say her name before you give her a command.  Do you use her name before you give her a command?"

"That dog isn't listening.  She needs more training."

Less tension after work.
Thankfully at that point, my neighbor said, "we won't keep you.  Nice to see you."  And Jane and I walked back to the water tank.  I'm sure her friend knows more than I do about working dogs and I'm sure she thought she was seeing things she could help fix.  But, she doesn't know where we've been and how far we've come.

Today was the second time I've worked Jane is several months.  I stopped working her because my expectations were unrealistic, my frustration level was at an all time high, I wasn't getting what I wanted and I lost my temper, yelled and felt pretty crappy whenever I did work her.  So, I am starting back to working her.  I've got a different set of expectations and goals and a new plan.  So far, I'm very happy with how it's going, not counting the getting blown off in front of my audience.
She is so happy when she's working and afterward.
Today was a reminder to not spend too much time looking over the fence at someone else's process and to stay focused on my own.  So, I guess my neighbor's friend was helpful.  Would that it were as easy as saying her name before giving her a command!

photo by Kimberly Munoz Photography

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Summer Is So OVER! Random thoughts and photos.

Summer is trying to hang on.  As I am every year, I am happy to send it packing.  I'm looking forward to fall this year.  The raking of leaves will be eternal.  The brush pile is ready to burn.  The tomato plant in the green house looks like it will give us some fall fruit.

Pearl The Sweet is blowing out the last of her old coat and getting ready for a new one.  Our dog doc had to dig a broken off goat head out of one of her paws last week.  While it was a little embarrassing to not have been able to find it myself, it was a great relief to have such a simple fix.  My imagination can be quite dramatic when left to its own imagings.  

Jane is adjusting to being just "my dog" pretty well.  She doesn't seem to miss working sheep and she rarely even looks at them any more.  She helped me pull weeds all day yesterday and is asleep at my feet right now.  She seems to be very content and she never gets in trouble.  I used to get so mad at her when we worked sheep together.  So, now, we just hang out and do chores and play ball and it's very good.

See?  There goes summer.

Five minutes of rain is better than no rain.  And, better than five days of rain.

I wonder how many pictures I have that are exactly like this one.  And I keep taking them.  This day was after working at a friend's place.  We worked on driving, my nemesis.  I revert to voice commands because they come more quickly, yet, my timing is still off.  But, it was a very good work session.  Pearl's reward is a dip in the tank.  My reward is the sight of my satisfied dog.

Are they trying to spell something?

Pearl in her work boots.  I've been trying to graze the sheep in different parts of the pasture and other parts of the property.  The back area is fenced on three sides and hosts thousands and thousands of goat heads, so when I have her back there, she wears her boots.  This morning, things were going ok, until they weren't.  It's a small area and there are lots of sources of pressure for both dog and sheep. 

I'm not sure what happened, but sheep started running then broke into two groups of three.  Three turned back to their pen and three disappeared behind the hay shed, headed for the road.  We got the first three in their pen, then, while trying not to panic and being thankful we live on a very quiet road, Pearl and I headed out front.  We found the second three on the road, in front of our neighbors driveway across the street.  Pearl was pushing hard and I was pulling hard.  I got her around two of them and go them headed back to our driveway.  Then she was between the pair and the single not sure what to do.  Finally, I got her lying down and the single raced back to her friends.  Then they all made a mad dash back to the sheep pen with Pearl in hot pursuit, she oblivious to me.  When I finally arrived, she had everyone held in a corner.  I had to convince them to use a gate they hadn't used before, but eventually, the six were reunited in the pasture.  As I turned my back and was getting all the gates chained, Pearl, now completely out of her head and out of gas, reminded me that there is one gate she can slide through and off she went to gather them again.

Finally, she came off the sheep and I got her in a water tank to cool off.  We took a break while I iced the giant bruise that happened before any of this started.  Then we went back out to make sure her ears were working and she could indeed stop.  The sheep are not happy with us and have been glaring at us all day from the far corner of the pasture.

It's not even noon yet.

Monday, September 09, 2013


I've had my Pearl dog back from her trainer for about six weeks now.  We have sheep at home and a small, 1.7 acre field in which to practice.  I have a friend who lives about 45 minutes away and I've gone to her place to work Pearl a few times.  I'm just taking things slowly to establish a working relationship with Pearl and to learn her style and what to expect from her.  Things are going ok, but I sure don't get the crisp, neat work from her that her trainer gets.  There are days when I get the quick stops and nice flanks, but there are also days when things aren't too pretty and I am often left scratching my head trying to figure out what went wrong.

This past weekend was a perfect opportunity to get some input.  Our local sheepdog club brought Pearl's trainer to our area for a weekend of lessons.  There was one Open handler who participated, but everyone else was either a Pro-Novice handler or Nov-Nov and even Pre-Nov people who have been working for years with an arena trainer but wish to move to Border Collie trialing.

My three big take away lessons are:
  • Clean up the whistles.
  • Enforce the stops.
  • Don't fight with Pearl.
It seems pretty simple, right?  Simple perhaps, but not necessarily easy.

These are things I've been told before, but today I'm a little further down the road than I have been before, so I'm a little more ready to hear them.  In addition to being told to do these things, this weekend I was able to see and feel the difference when things were going well and when things weren't. 

Over the course of the weekend, I had four work sessions.  The second went really well and I was comfortable, had a sense of hope and of confidence.  The other three sessions did not go so well.  But that was ok.  I had ample opportunity to see where my poor whistles and my poor timing were causing problems.

I now have more of a sense of purpose and direction in how I will proceed with my work with Pearl.  Things are unfolding as they should. 

Monday, August 05, 2013

Oh, Hello. You're still here?

I haven't posted a blog entry since April, 2013.  Two things come to mind.  1) Facebook.  2) Not really doing much or having much to say.  Which, if you are friends with me on Facebook, you will know that is not true.  Yes, things have been up in the air since last September.  Yes, things have been better and better.

Things are pretty darn good now.  I have my four Lakenvelder hens.  I love to watch their antics.  On hot days, I take them a bowl full of ice cubes and throw some treats over the top and watch them cool their feet and eat organic produce and disgusting dried meal worms.  These are some happy hens!  One day, I will have the courage to let them out of their pen and begin the free-range experience.  I just want them laying in the nest boxes, not in random trees and sheep pens.

Remember our girl, Pearl?  She went away to a trainer when I had extremely limited access to sheep and had no idea where my life was going.  She had a great time with her trainer, got qualified for the National Sheepdog Nursery Finals, made an impression and finally came home.

We are thrilled to have Pearl back home again, and even more thrilled to have our own sheep at our house.  We can slip out any number of times each day to practice a few things.  We are using this new opportunity to get to know each other and for me to learn her whistles and for the sheep to get to know us.

We are back on track, as much as we ever were on track.  We have our own, if small, field.  We have our own sheep.  We have daily chores. We have a 20-something houseguest for two months. . .and he seems great.  I have a relative to get to know and reconnect with my favorite aunt, from when I was a kid.

Life styles, routines and values are being re-worked.  It's good.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Nice Day For A Hike

Today, some friends invited Pogo, Jane and me out for a hike.  We met up at their house.  Isn't it nice to be able to just take your dogs to a friend's house, where they have never been to hang out with dogs they have never met, and everyone can just hang out together with no issues?  Yes, it is!  I think someone likes diet pepsi!

We drove out to the start of the hike.  It looked like a serious hike.  That house in the background was the closest we saw to any established dwelling.

I think Jane and Katy did at least 10-12 miles.  Missy was somewhere in the middle and Pogo and Tess stayed pretty close to us.

Pogo flushed a jack rabbit and spent some time searching for it.  Thankfully, it did not lead her over a cliff!

On the way back to the cars.  What a beautiful day!  The dogs are thanking me for the outing by lying perfectly still for several hours.

Friday, April 19, 2013

A Good Day

We went over to work dogs with some friends in California today.  Last year, we attended a trial on this field and it kicked our ass.  I've been wanting to go back and try it again for some time now, and today was the perfect opportunity.  Lovely weather, if a little hot for the dogs; friendly folks who just want people to come out and enjoy the farm and the sheep and work dogs.  They had different sheep than we had at the trial last year, but the field is still full of tricks and draws.  We don't get to work on rolling hills with tall grass very often, so this was a great day of challenges for Jane and me.

Jane pushing on those heavy lambs and unhappy ewe.
Our first set of sheep were pretty nice.  We're just working on pace at the drive, getting Jane and me more comfortable with it.  She did some overflanking and gottagettotheheads reactingtoPRESSURE stuff, but we got some things done.

Our second groups was a bunch of lambs and one ewe with her lamb.  They warned me before that one would turn on a dog. . .not try to attack the dog, but would test a dog.  When I was setting up to send her, the sheep started up and over a hill toward the draw.  I sent away, whenever Jane is worried about sheep escaping, she goes come-bye, no matter what.  Some day, I will either learn that or fix it.  She crossed over, went down behind the hill where I could no longer see her or the sheep.  I didn't hear anything bad happening, so I shut up and gave her a few seconds.

Pretty soon, I saw a bunch of sheep heads pop up, so I knew where Jane was and she was right.  Then, slowly (a miracle. . .slowly), the heads turned toward me, and then they started coming toward me.  We had six sheep, mostly lambs, so they were not coming straight and trying to scatter, but, she had them and she was bringing them.  I tried to help with a whistle or two, but Jane moved before I could ask her to.  About half way to me (short, maybe 150 yard gather), one little squirty lamb split off and tried to get back to set out.  Jane took off and caught it, although, it did a sommersault in the process. . .I was watching  the lamb, so I don't know what Jane did, but the lamb came back to the group, which was settling around my feet, and Jane was convinced she had lost it.

If there is one thing Jane hates, it is to loose her sheep.  She was sure she lost it, so she spent a few frantic moments looking for it, unable to hear me.  I counted and I had six.  I called to the sidelines to be sure we hadn't lost one; we hadn't.  I got Jane back on board, but for the rest of the work, she was looking out of the corner of her eye for the lost one.

Jane usually has an opinion on how the other dog is working.
That tan ewe turned on Jane and while she didn't make a move toward her, she wasn't going to move without a fight.  This was great practice for us. . .we have very rarely encountered a ewe that will turn on Jane, and for all of Jane's impulsiveness and for all the trouble I have stopping her, she is usually really good in this situation.  She kept her cool, never got cross with the ewe, and backed her up for a long ways.  There were times when the ewe would turn and walk, then she would turn back and test Jane again.  A few times, Jane wanted to flank to get away from the pressure, but I got her back and in the pressure.

It wasn't my plan to work through these challenges today, but I was really happy with how it went.  Jane showed me some things.  The sheep showed me some things.  The field is so nice, as are the people.  We will go back.

Singe keeps a careful eye on things.

Monday, April 08, 2013

It's Clinic Season

The dogs had a good romp in this huge alfalfa field.
I attended a sheepdog training clinic in Idaho over the weekend.  I didn't have a dog to put in the clinic, but it was a good excuse to get away for a weekend, visit some friends, work dogs and help out.  And visit my puppy, Pearl and see the progress she is making with her trainer.

Pearl relaxes after a good work.
Pearl was very happy to see me, and she was happy to see Jane and Pogo.  But she doesn't take her eyes off her sheep, or the possibility of sheep for very long!  She is coming right along and I am seeing great changes in her work.  Looking forward to her first Nursery pretty soon!

Jane setting sheep for the clinic participants.
Jane and I had the opportunity to set sheep on a hill, which was a great experience for both of us.  It's been a year and a half to two years since Jane has worked this hill, or even been on this property, but she remembered exactly where the sheep were last time she was here.  Our setting wasn't great, or even very good, but it was ok, at first.  It sure did make my heart sing to watch my dog covering ground up and down that hill, feeling the range ewes and working some of the time in an area with a great deal of pressure.  She, not always, but some times even took direction from me.

Throughout this weekend, I saw things in Jane's work that tell me we are still coming together.  We are not as good as we're going to get; we are continuing to improve as a team.  Small things, that others would not notice.

Participants had a chance to work on some nice rolling hills.
The clinic was interesting.  As always, the people watching is something I enjoy.  As I watched, I wondered about each person, why they were there, what did they hope to accomplish during the weekend.  Are they looking for a magic wand to wave over their dog?  Are they hoping to have a nice weekend socializing?  Are they open to hearing observations from the experienced handlers?  Are they a working stockman, looking for ideas to improve their handling of their livestock?  Are they new to this pursuit and hope to learn everything they possibly can from each person with whom they talk?  Are they there, perhaps not to learn, but to show off?

Over the years, I have attended clinics and lessons put on by big name trainers/handlers in multiple dog sports.  I think each event has some or all of each of those type of attendees.

Shedding practice.
I didn't truly audit the clinic, as I stayed with only one of the trainers and didn't split my time equally between the two, as the clinic participants did.  My goals for the weekend were partly social, partly to learn something new (and Jane and I have a great new exercise to practice!) and partly to help out. . .plus, Saturday was homemade Basque beans and Basque bread at Lavon's house, so I was definitely down for that!

Quick trip to the store.  Just the essentials.

In two weeks, I will audit another clinic, by one of my favorite clinicians.  This will be the third time I have attended this clinic, with this clinician, put on by this group.  It will be interesting to see how much each of the participants has improved or changed based on past attendance and a year to work on it.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Our Feb. '13 Napa Trip

We had a quick trip to Napa a few weeks ago.  Our first trip to Napa, in fact.  With only two dogs now at home, it was easy to make short notice boarding arrangements at our favorite kennel, K9 BnB.

We checked into our hotel in mid-afternoon on Friday.  Our hostess offered two suggestions for tastings that we might hit close-by before dinner, both in the Carneros appellation.  The first was her favorite and mine, Artesa.  I fell in love with this place, their wines, and our pourer, Jesus.  I'm pretty sure we spent the most money there, as we spent in any one location the rest of the weekend.  Club members, now.


The view from the tasting room at Artesa

Our next stop was the beautiful and sustainable, solar powered tasting room of Cuvaison.  I think I could sit on their patio and drink wine all day long!  I didn't love their wines, although very uncharacteristic of me, I did love their Espiritu dessert wine.  Chris liked their lightly oaked Chard. . .I prefer big, bold, buttery Chardonnays.
After two tastings, we found our way to downtown Napa and a little locals place called The Pearl.  We have been missing our Pearl dog, who is away with a trainer, so this was a happy reminder of her.  Wonderful food, great service, friendly, casual atmosphere!

The Pearl Restaurant
Here's where my photography and our trip had a slight parting of ways.  We contracted Beau Wine Tours to show us the way on Saturday, with a small group tour.  Whether the mistake was mine or theirs or both (likely), I was worried on Friday evening when I hadn't gotten a confirmation call from the driver.  So, I called them, catching their CSR as she was just about to leave for the evening.  They had me booked for March 16, instead of February 16.  She said, Let me call you back in 10 minutes.  In less than that time, she called me back and said, here's what we are going to do for you:  private tour, no upcharge, driver will pick you up at 11am, what would you like for lunch?

That, my friends, is the way to go to tour and taste Napa!  No worries about finding wineries, no worries about how much who is drinking, no parking hassles.  Just perfect.  Beau Wine Tours has a faithful customer in me, from now on!  First stop, Domaine Carneros.

Domaine Carneros
 I could probably never leave the Carneros appellation and be perfectly fine.  Tasted bubbly that I could drink all day long, and Pinots that I absolutely loved! Pinot Noir is not my favorite, but this was a weekend to fall in love with new (to me) varieties.

Here is where the photos stopped. . .we then went to Jessup Cellars in Yountville.  LOVED the chardonnay they were releasing to members that day.  Yes, we bought some.  Like every place we stopped the service was great, the pourers were fantastic, and all of our fellow wine tasters were so fun!

Next was up the mountain to Nichelini Winery.  Great story.  Great pourers.  Great building. . .the original family homestead.  Fourth or fifth generation Italian wine family.  The youngest daughter is the wine maker.  Bought their Cab.

Saturday evening, we went to Grace's Table for dinner.  Noiser and more crowded than The Pearl, it still had the endearment of having one of our (late) dogs' names in the name of the place.  And, the food was amazing!

Sunday morning, we went to French Blue in St. Helena for breakfast.  I think I could live inside that restaurant!  I did not want to leave, but we had one more impressive stop to make before we left the region for home:  Castello di Amorosa.  I can't do the place justice with just a few words, so visit their website and then go visit the castle in person!  And try the Cab!  Wonderful, all the way around.   A perfect end to a remarkable and memorable weekend.

Castello di Amorosa: Armory

Castello di Amorosa: French Oak barrels, used only twice

Castello di Amorosa: Underground cellaring

Castello di Amorosa: Underground cellaring

Castello di Amorosa: Armory

Castello di Amorosa:  obouiltte
Castello di Amorosa:  Sprinkler system, in case the brick bursts into flame
Castello di Amorosa: Tasting Room

Castello di Amorosa: Free Range Sheep

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Kriskella's SunTrip T'First Base MX MXJ NF

06/12/1999 - 01/26/2013

Rest well, Gracie.  Thanks for everything.