Monday, March 24, 2008

Strange field, strange sheep

This weekend I trekked the 4 hours driving EACH WAY it took to go and see where we are going to host the Kevin Howell clinic in June. I really wanted to see the place, and get a feel for how best to set it up. We arrived (Lucy, Kylie and I) and met Rich Seaman- what a nice guy :) Anyway, I got to watch a couple of lessons, and then, the highlight of the day- a couple of Kelpies showed up. Both were imported from Noonbarra- a male and a female. The male was a real standout in the sheep work department. He was absolutely wonderful to watch. He had VERY nice pace on his fetch, good outruns, and was very biddable. It was a real joy to see. I predict under Rich's tutelage, this dog will be competitive in open usbcha trials. I also got to work Lucy. Lucy was a bit high- picture taking a thoroughbred out to the track, after a couple of days off... Well, that was Lucy. Lucy had to pull off the fence, which is something she has done well at home, but not away, so she was full on and jiggered up the sheep. After that, I had to keep Lucy well off, to calm them. Once we established the rules, then everything went better. Lucy just tries her heart out for me. It was a very good experience, for her to be on these strange sheep, and see that I will require her minding her p's and q's, even in strange places. Probably many folks would be further along than Lucy and I, but in our defense, it is both of ours first experience, and we are learning together.
Rich showed me his very nice flock of sheep and their lambs (I love lambs), and I got to check out where I will be hanging my hat during the Kevin Howell clinic. Nice little camper- will be great to be right at the site. Time is flying now, only 10 weeks until Kevin and Kay arrive- YEAH!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

My little girl grows up

Last weekend Lucy and I were invited to work at another farm on sheep Lucy has never seen before. On the drive up to the farm, I was a bit worried about the whole thing. See, as a young dog- just over a year old, I had Lucy on some sheep I bought, and Lucy being young and pushy, pushed hard on them, and they took exception, and one in particular faced and went at Lucy. It well, freaked me out, and Lucy too, was a bit hesitant to work sheep after that - but only for a few minutes. I sold those sheep ;) I was told by numerous experienced folks that I should not be working such a young dog on sheep like that, and no, it was not my dog's weakness, it was her inexperience. Dogs gain confidence by experience on sheep, and as they age, generally. So, anyway, you see why I might have been worried about her- even though we had been on other sheep since then, but they were very light. These were the infamous Scottish Blackface sheep. These sheep are pretty feral- easy keepers I am told, but not so easily moved off a dog, and they have nice horns to boot- I should know, I got my leg broken by a Scottie- but that's another story. Anyhow, we walk in the field, and I send Lucy. When I sent her that first time, I knew by the look in her eye, that she thought this would be FUN, you know, like the other light sheep we work. I wished I could have told her that she had to mind her p's and q's out there, and look tough to these sheep. But, alas, I am not Dr. Dolittle, and I can't talk to animals... Anyway, Lucy got to the top and boom it looked like Braveheart out there, Lucy was Irish, and the sheep were the Scotts- how fitting.. All you saw were the sheep's rear ends, all lined up, facing Lucy off. They did not know who this dog was, and they simply weren't running, just for the likes of HER. I started up the field, to help my dog. I spied her take a quick look at me, and then boom, she got them going. I don't know how, but she made some movements- a grip? Who knows, but in her glee to get them moving, she circled them- DOY! Lucy- that does NOT inspire confidence in these sheep! So, we worked on some wearing and small fetches, and Lucy was clearly in her element. Truly. These sheep also had a very strong draw- their friends were in a pen off the field. Twice they ran hell bent for leather to that area. The first time, Lucy stopped all but one. That single ewe made it to the fence. Lucy was able to bring her back to me. Now, this may not seem like a big deal, but, if you looked closely, you saw that she not only brought that sheep back off the fence to me, but moved that single right past the other sheep- that sheep wanted to go with her sisters. Nope, nada, no way- Lucy brought that sheep right to my feet. Now, THAT was impressive.
The second time the sheep took off for the exhaust, they had all made it to the fence, and spread out. Lucy had to collect them, and then, once in a group, they all faced her. Again with the Braveheart... I didn't see what happened, but man, she just turned them, and brought them to me. I was singing Pat Benetar's "Hit me with your best shot" when we walked off the field. Was Lucy's work spot on?- no, not really. But, she proved to me that day, that she was up to the task of sheep who just maybe might take her on. She was taking no guff. PERIOD. Yes, she has grown up, and I am as proud as I could be.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Sad News

Many folks probably don't know that I also have non- Kelpies in my home. One non-Kelpie is my Boxer named Tucker. Tucker is a fawn/white Boxer, who has always been a wonderful friend and protector. Really, he lives to just be my dog. I love him. My sister had his mother, and together we whelped his litter. He was never destined for the show ring, but what a handsome boy, and top temperament he has. Tucker is getting up there in age, so slowing down a bit, maybe losing a little hearing, but all normal older dog stuff. Well, a few weeks ago, while checking his ear (it sometimes bothers him), I felt a large lymph gland on the right side of his neck. I immediately got very upset. I knew what this meant- well, odds were, anyway, that is was the dreaded Lymphoma. See, Boxers are known for being predisposed to cancers. At first, I was afraid to bring him to the vet- I could not hear that word. But, I did. I brought him that night, and they took an aspirate of the gland and sent it in for pathology. I didn't hear for a long time, and when I finally called the vet (tired of waiting), I was told that basically, the results were what we in the biz, call "equivocal", meaning the results showed that this could be lymphoma, or not. So, the sample was sent back out to have another pathologist take a look. Results came back probable Lymphoma. I learned that on Saturday. I was upset, so I couldn't talk much when the vet was telling me. I remember him saying that we need to consider his age when we talk about treatment plans. I told the vet I wanted to do some research, and that's what I am doing. Tucker has been drinking more, and is not so settled lately- he gets up a lot and drinks, and lays down. He also is gagging a bit. It has been very hard for me, because he is one just wonderful dog. I will call the vet practice today, and ask to speak with one of the vets I am more comfortable with, as this new vet does not inspire confidence. Please, if you can, send some healing thoughts, and love Tucker's way.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Which did she chose?

I worked Lucy yesterday. We need to get back into more regular work, now that the ground is workable and the weather not too cold. To give a bit of background, what I have been doing with the dogs when we can't work sheep, is to chase geese off the golf courses. Lucy loves this work, and I too, love being outside. I believe my happiest days were when I worked outside for a living... But, I digress.... Lucy's goose work is spot on, and she is carrying over her sheep working mental processes onto the geese- on that note, the other day there was a large swan in the pond. Lucy spotted the swan, and ran all the way around the pond to get to balance with this swan, who looked very non-plussed. Lucy came to balance, standing on a brick wall that encloses a culvert, and as the swan turned it's body, she counter balanced to me, but enough of that for now..

Anyway, as I was saying, I worked Lucy. As we walked into the field, there were about 50-60 geese, all spread out. The sheep were in the back left hand corner. Hmmm, I thought, what will she do? This is truly a conundrum, or is it? So, I set her up, and sent her come by. It was tighter there- as in the sheep were near that fence, but I believe at this point, I need to challenge the little lass, where I can. She took off like a bullet and headed for the sheep. She came up behind them, and brought them to me, with nary a look at the geese, who we honking and fussing to all get out. This was very cool. Lucy has made her decision what she really is in this world, and although she loves her goose control, and is quite amazing at it; sheep herding is her real gig.

We continued to work, and I got some video, although I look like a giant blue and white m and m, and lots of the video is of me, there was some stuff on there that looked quite good by Lucy. We have a long way to go, but I've no doubt we will get there.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Mud, sheep, and Lucy

Finally, it looks like winter has loosened it's death grip in our area. For this, I am eternally grateful. Of course now, my back yard is an absolute mud pit- and DEEP mud at that. I have never seen it quite like this. Dogs get mud up to their stop pads just walking in it. Even up on the hill, they are still sinking in. Forget me walking out there (I wish), it is true Muck Boot (tm) terrain. Dogs' feet are all washed upon coming in from the backyard, and when they really play out there, it is a full monty wash.
Sheep. Well, we hadn't worked any in several weeks- the weather just would not allow it- too icy, crusty, or snowy to do so. When I walked into the field, I decided I would challenge Lucy; see if she remembered her p's and q's, and I stayed at the fence and sent her a long way- I am a bad judge of distance, but I would say a couple hundred yards at least. She kept clean on her outrun, came in decently, and on the fetch, gave me the down I requested. I was very happy. My girl is growing up. Jan Lowing of Karmala Kelpies, a well known Kelpie stud in Australia, told me that Kelpies are just getting their chaps when they hit about 2, well, lo and behold, she was right! It is the scourge of newbies to discount what people who have forgotten more about things then I know, to ignore it, because you don't see it for yourself. Well, yesterday gave me a resounding education- to listen to my elders. They know! So, thanks Jan. I promise to listen from now on! The highlight of the day however, came when I had taken a break with my friend, and the sheep had drifted off. There we stood, chatting. Usually I have to remind Lucy to lie down, and it is a bit of a battle. Well, not so yesterday. Lucy lay down at my feet, focused by calm, and ready, but relaxed. You know, like you see in experienced dogs at the post, or waiting for the next command. Lucy repeated this a few times, in different areas, and I was over the moon. My girls is growing up, and she's a beaut. I have no idea where we will end up on this journey of ours, but as they say, the fun is not the destination, it's getting there.