Sunday, November 22, 2009

Away is okay

and go by isn't so much! I noticed that she would take the away inside flank but not the go by inside flank. I stood on top of the hill which meant she would need to use more gb's and there is fence up at the top I can stand up against. She ran all the way up that damn hill like three times to run behind me but on the fourth she thought about maybeeeeeee she didn't want to run all the way back up and then she took the inside flank. She only had energy to do it once more--it's a long way! I don't know if it's mean or not but it seems to work for her--appeal to her "oh my god, I can't run anymore" side. I always let her pick up her sheep afterwards as a reward.

We sorted sheep and Soda just LOVES working singles! She managed to pick off the one I needed and was all "NO YOU DON'T!" and pushed her through. I suck at sorting though. I get very singular minded. When you say but "Group A" here, that's what I do. I forget that they're animals and you sometimes have to come up with creative solutions.

Anyway, good works today!


Thursday, November 12, 2009

What is interesting about this picture?


Is it the massive amount of dirt?
The cute lambios?
The crappy focus?

No. Take your time, look and study.



Got it? Not yet?

Well, she is BETWEEN me and the sheep! She did two whole, complete, comfortable, non-ridiculously slow, correct inside flanks ON HER OWN. This was actually #3 and we stopped right after this because I was so pleased. She is finally and slowly getting it. We've been using crazy baby lambios and I've been vigilant about letting her have fun, too. I practiced penning a little bit because she so loves that. Her pupils dialate, her whole body gets wound and I just have 100% of my dog when she sees that pen. She just loves it. I've said it before but I think it's because she can see what needs to be done and how to do it easily. I refreshed her in the middle with some penning and I got more dog after that. So fun.

Oh, and Terry has a litter on the ground. I so want. I want I want I want I want I want.

Anyway, todays work was just what I needed. She did really well. :) Feel free to congratulate her in the comments.

Friday, November 6, 2009

I'm not entering any trials

until I get some kind of inside flank. I don't want to just rodeo through it, I want to try to place and I can't do that, ESPECIALLY on A course unless I can carefully tweak her movements and I can't do that w/o an inside flank.

We worked a little in the middle sized arena getting her to go between me and the sheep and we used some crazy lambios and I think, after a few minutes, she thought it was fun because when she moved them boy did they move! ZOOM!

So then we worked in the field and had her work way off me. I would ask for an inside flank to keep the sheep on an imaginary line and she turned and ran alllllllllllllllllllll the way back to be and around me in a reverse out run and I made her do that a couple of times and then she said "this is bullshit" and did an inside flank. Lots of praise and sheep moving! She did a couple of crappy inside flanks and we stopped with that. Progress! She was still visibly uncomfortable but obviously not uncomfortable enough to haul ass all the way back again.

She also picked off a single and worked her back to me. This was a rogue ewe in with the lambios. She said "I ain't takin this shit" and kept trying to leave and so I had Soda work her back to me. She really really really liked that. I know I shouldn't really let her "take the easy route" and just let her break off but she really enjoys it and doesn't take cheap shots and it's really important, especially for her, that I let her have fun to keep her keen. And also, I just like seeing her do something she enjoys and can do well. :D

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I don't wanna! *stomps feet*

This was Soda. More crap. I don't know if it was because of the cow incident or what but I got basically no work out of her. Just running out and then off.

I'm super frustrated! It's just more of the same ol' shit. I really am just going to have to stick with AKC stuff. She just can't take the pressure of even Novice. I was going to run another novice trial but the outrun is a bit bigger than the last one and we've been trying to work on it and ... nope. Not going to happen.

I really want another dog. Soda would be happy being a pet or every great once and while running some AKC stuff. Am I wrong to be so frustrated? We go from a good work to a really God-Awful-Waste-of-Money and it seems like these days, I get more crap than I get good. And on the other hand, even if I get another dog I still can't get to sheep more than once a week. I just simply can't afford it and no one in OC has sheep they'd let me use. I could probably do local sheep + fee or far away sheep w/gas + no fee but work.

I love this so much but the finite end is coming--I keep saying it but I can see it. I want to run a dog in the border collie nationals. That's my BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG goal. Reach for the stars and all that. I have to say it but I am still very proud of how far she's come but ... the journey is going to end soon and I don't know what I'm going to do.

On the + side, I may be able to get some ducks soon. That will be fun. Soda lervs poultry.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Soda the Cow Dog

We were out at the big field this week working on outruns. She's improved some. I know when you work a lot on driving the outruns turn to crap (or so I've heard) and that was pretty true of Soda. We tuned them up a bit and she ran a nice big outrun. She did bust out the patented "out crawl" at the top, but I figure with time comes confidence and she'll run eventually.

There are some cows and calves in pen out there and one of the calves can escape. He's actually a teenager, not a tiny thing. Anyway, he was out, being mischievous and checking out the sheep and the dogs and Soda was doing an outrun and not really minding him and then, he minded her and started chasing her! She was running and I was laughing soooo hard (he was more being mischievous and not so much I'M GOING TO KILL YOU) and calling her to me and she got about ten feet away from him, turned around to face him, and pinned her ears and went WOOOWOOOWWOOOOWOOOWOOOOWOOOOWOOO! (imagine a cross between a howl and a bark and that's what it sounds like, only really high pitched) and then she ran like hell again! It was an absolute hoot! When she was pretty out of the way she turned and barked at him again, only a few tough "Woof! Woof!" and I got the biggest kick out of it. It was pretty damn funny. She looked so put out afterwards. Not hurt, not upset, not scared, just annoyed.

Terry said she thought on the outrun that Soda was considering trying to work him but decided not to so maybe that's why he went after her. Pretty much though, if someone is inclined to go after a dog, they'll go after Soda. She kind of gives off that vibe. She's a weenie.

I wish I had it on video because it was really cute watching her try to stand up for herself.


PS. Lest you think I'm cruel, this whole thing took less than about 20 seconds and there wasn't a whole lot I could do about but encourage Soda to run like hell back to me, which she did.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Flankity Flank Flank Flank

Moar inside flanks!

I think Soda is ready for them now. We went into the little pen and set it up and she was soooo pathetic but by the end she was getting that it was "okay" to go between me and the sheep. She tried to run out of a pen a few times--mostly because she was trying to go behind me, I think and I told her no and just asked for the flank again. I was, without thinking, standing on the side with the gap under the fence initially but when I moved to where she couldn't go behind me, it was a lot easier. Eventually I was able to be on that side. She also tried to run out of the pen when she blew off the flank and went to gather the sheep, blowing off my verbal corrections and so I had really drive home the point. She didn't see the wire between the planks and ran into it. I'm going to be brutally honest, it was hilarious.

Also, I held The Soda Killer and had Soda bite her. She freaking LOVED that and the Soda Killer had a better attitude. I don't know why that damn sheep is always out when I'm working. She's a jerk.

I'm really glad I haven't entered any trials coming up. Our previous course A intermediate qualifications where a miracle and as I've said before NOT good stockmanship and I think part of that is a lack of an inside flank makes it very difficult to have any finesse. I don't know if it's not an "inside flank" at a certain distance but virtually any distance between me and the sheep is too much for the Soda. She's a sensitive soul. :) We'll be working on this some more but I was really pleased with her today.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Drilling: Not just for dentists

We spent a little time drilling this week on flanks--getting her to take them and getting her to do them correctly. It went really well. She tried to pout a few times (I'm just going to go wider and wider and wider and then run off) but calling her name pulls her in really well as does "go go go go go go go go go watch em!" She really started responding quickly to the flanks on the whistle.

I was really surprised that she lasted as long as she did. She did 9 minutes of drills (she got to move her sheep several times during this) then took a small break and then 6 more minutes of drills. Terry said she was really impressed.

Soda has come a long way in every way, but especially her "try". She is willing to put it all out on the line for me and I appreciate that. I get frustrated and stuff, but times like this, I always remember how far she's come. It makes me very proud!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

She's ALIVE!

I'm not dead. :) I promise.

We've been off for a couple of weeks. Lots of stuff going on.

Anyway, I had a lesson on Thursday and it went really really really well. Terry agreed that chores were a great idea so we set out to the pens and sort a crap ton of sheep. Little Soda used to not like pen work but I think I see a glimmer of "oh boy" in her eyes now when we go back there.

Terry has a sheep I affectionately call "the Soda Killer" and she, as her name implies, tries to kill Soda. So we're putting all the from the big arena to the middle arena and it was a FAIL. She had to send her dog in b/c poor Soda didn't have the power to push them through because the Soda Killer was at the back, eyeballing her and scaring her.

Anyway, we got them all into the middle arena and managed to get them into the holding pen area by ourselves. From there we started sorting into the little sorting pens. The sheep were being... sheep and didn't want to be sorted and I told Soda to "get up there" and holy cow she ran in and gripped the crap out of the Soda Killer! :D I was pretty proud. We'll see if next week the Soda Killer has a little respect.

We were sorting and I had Soda push a little bit and a Dorper Ewe got a little sass in her pants and jumped up and Soda was underneath her with her mouth open (lol) and then the ewes foot landed on Soda's hock. :( Soda was a big girl thoughand didn't cry out but rather went back to work with three legs! I pulled her out and saw it was decent little cut but she kept on working. It's all healed up now and she's fine. She was a bit sore that day, but kept on working.

We took a rest then went out and practiced driving some. Ughhh. Terry insists it's coming along and I think part of my problem is that it's not pretty like when the real border collies do it. But she's getting it done and I KNOW she has very finite limits but ... still. Also she will.not. take an inside flank. That is a huge bane. We have to get that to continue working on driving--otherwise it will take her 20 minutes to make a 2 foot adjustment because she has to run alllll the way behind me. I could be like 10 yards away and she still has to go all the way around. I'm just not a good enough handler to stop her every time before she overflanks and her stop isn't good enough for that to be enough anyway! This is our next project.

Terry says I need to get out there and just drill on her for inside flanks but that takes money I don't have. Lametimes. Anyone have a farm I can borrow? I can throw hay with the best of them!

Friday, August 28, 2009

After a couple of weeks layup

Due to sprained ankle (it still hurts) and Vegas fun we didn't have a lesson for two weeks. I went this week and it was the same ol' shit. Blegh. Still crappy.

I think next week I'm going to just do chores and easy stuff. She's afraid of being corrected so instead of trying something she does nothing.

I am frustrated.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Chiseling Away the drive. Didn't go out to the big chicken farm this week. Just out at my trainers. I worked some more on driving. It's sooooooo slow. She's MUCH more comfortable with the cross drive than with pushing sheep off me.

We worked really light sheep and there were draws in all directions, which was nice, so no matter which way we faced in the field, there was somewhere the sheep wanted to go so it helped out Soda tremendously.

Terry said it looks better and better but we're just chiseling away and she's so right. It is just chiseling a centimeter at a time at driving.

She took a couple of inside flanks all by her lonesome. That was neat. She refused to take an away--again. I don't know what it is about the away side. That used to be her go-to flank but now it's *weird* and sometimes she can't do it. Nutty dog.

Anyway, not a lot to report. I'm still frustrated as I'm a "I want it NOW" type of girl and this is just a huge hang-up but ... well, I'll just take Terry's word that we actually making progress.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Border Collie Fail

Another spectacularly frustrating lesson at the chicken farm! Today, at least she didn't try to dig in any holes. I set her up for an outrun and ... she ran off the field to the "spectators" and my friend --who she LOVES-- and got bopped on the head by my friend because she wouldn't leave her. Her face was priceless when she realized that Kelley wouldn't be helping her out!

Ugh. So, I went and nicely got her and had her fetch the sheep back out to the middle of the field and made her run some flanks around then just went and sat back down.

After a few minutes we tried some driving and that was abysmal. She was much better last week. Basically, she didn't even try.

So, I asked my instructor if I could just take her with some sheep and school on her with some flanks and some shorty-short outruns and she thought that was a great idea. I took her off to a corner of the field and got some decent work done. I did really push her to run and be quick and be keen. On the away side, she kept running out and and out and out and getting off contact and possibly trying to run off. I called her name (thanks, BC board for that little trick!) and she came in just enough to keep her on contact. That was very helpful.

Then we did a few outruns and I stopped her at like, 3 o'clock, kicked her out and reflanked her with a great deal of success. That went pretty well. I was setting up for another outrun and the sheep started to break for their friends out on the lower field. I ran after them, flanking Soda and getting her all amped and she made it to their heads and stopped them. She was very excited after that. She likes stopping escaping sheep and turning singles but she's not fast enough to do it most of the time!

We brought those sheep back to the trailer (with the other sheep that had joined us) and I *made* Soda walk them with me, rather than just letting them break back tot he trailer. She did a really excellent job of that and after a minute of me flanking her to cover, she got it and did it herself. Good girl!

Then, I held some sheep for another student on the lower field and she got all weird again and started displacement sniffing and not listening. So BIZARRE. Later, I set her up for an outrun and she pretty much ran right at the sheep. I stopped her, kicked her out and then she wouldn't complete it. I don't know why the lower field is so bad and the upper field is okay. It's the SAME DAMN FIELD! Same stuff, same cut, same chicken stench. So dumb.

I'm a little frustrated, if you can't tell. I don't know what her problem is and why this seems to be dragging out. Usually if she has a mental breakdown like she is she gets over it in a lesson or two but I am not seeing and bettering or abatement. I know I need a new dog soon--I keep seeing other students with well-bred collies and I'm thinking "Damnit. I want that."

On a positive note, so you don't think I'm totally shitting on Soda, she did a fantastic job of stopping runaway sheep and that really keened her up. And she paced herself on the fetch! w00t! Ohh, and Terry was teaching the more advanced students shedding so that was really good to watch! Sometimes, it's best to watch someone just learning how to do something because you really learn from their mistakes and you can see their progress.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

I can see the end

We went to the chicken ranch again this week. This time the plan was to work on driving b/c it was so damn hot out, outruns wouldn't be prudent.

I got Soda out of the car and walked her out to the field and she started critter hunting immediately. Now, this isn't displacement sniffing--she does that too, but it's a lot different. I told her to watch her sheep and she started digging! Then, I went near the sheep and gave her a directional command and .... no dice. She just put her tail up and started hopping around for bugs/critters.

Not cool.

So, I snatched her up, threw her (literally) in the car, shut the doors (don't worry--all the windows were down and the back window was up and it was under a big oak tree) and I sat where she couldn't see me while the next person worked. I was pretty furious.

Then I got her out and MAGIC Soda wanted to work now. Hmph. Big wonder.

No work = mom gets very angry and you have to sit by yourself in the stinky ol' car
Work = mom tells you good girl and you get to sit by mom.

Anyway, she actually worked pretty decent after that--for her.

During this whole thing, I think now I can see the end of progression creeping up. I think, within the next year, or year and half we're going to hit the ends of Soda's ability and I'm going to need a new dog.

I'm not being down on Soda, just realistic. I don't want to make her miserable trying to make her something she's not and I can see that we're pushing her now (not that that's bad) but I know that the point is coming where I can't push her anymore because there's nothing left to push.

For those that have had a dog peter out, how'd you know the end of progression was approaching?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Chernobyl-style melt down

On Thursday we went back out to the chicken-farm big field in the evening to get some "big field" practice in. 

Soda had an old-school, running-off-the-field, pouting, I-hate-my-mom meltdown of epic proportions. 

She got a correction for blowing off a stop and I was hard on her, I'll be honest. So then, after that she could no longer successfully complete an "away" outrun. She ran out then just ran out and out and out and started to go into a ditch and kept wanting to cross behind me to take the go-bye side because that was more comfortable. 

And so we stopped and came off the field. 

Then I went out and asked her again, only it was shorter and I walked really close to the sheep--baby style. Same thing. Walked off the field again with her. 

Last time, I walked out onto the field with her, set her up so it would be REALLY uncomfortable for her to take the go-bye, stood as close to the sheep as I could and sent her and squeeked "ah-weeeeeeeeeeee! go go go go go get em get em get em get em" the whole time and FINALLY she finished the flank. She ran up at the top too--I think 1/4 of the problem is she doesn't like the footing. It's plowed oat hay so it's prickly. 

Big ol' whiney baby but at least we ended on a positive note. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Whistles and The Big Field

Last week I started putting whistles on Soda. She likes them and I like blowing them. I have trouble blowing the stop--don't know why. But everything else comes out clear and consistent--thank you 6 years of playing of the flute! 

This Tuesday I went out to the big field to work on outruns. It is next to a chicken farm and the stench is so horrendous that my stomach did flip-flops when the wind changed. Seriously awful. I was super late so my trainer was working with her advanced students and I was in a sub-field working and I hear on the walkie-talkie: "Hey, you still have your sheep? Did they get mixed in with the cows yet?" 

Me: Uhh... Didn't know that was an option, but no. I still have them. 

So, needless to stay we stayed WAY away from the cow pens, lest they get mixed up! 

Soda did alright. I pushed her out on top and she got her panties all in a bunch about the whole thing but I made her keep working anyway and I'll be damned if she wasn't deeper at the top.She did run off once and go in the ditch (critter hunting) and I nearly had a panic attack. I don't know this field/area so I had no idea how deep it was, how far it went or what was in it. But I walked over and called her out and she had that "Oh shit." look on her face when she realized that I was really ready to murder her. Otherwise, it was all okay. She was pretty fast too, even though this was a "weird new field". 

That's pretty much it. Two pretty boring sheep dog lessons. Gonna work on driving some more. Yay. That's like pulling teeth somedays. I just want to go and kick Soda in the butt to make her move. But I don't. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Bye Baby


No more lonely cold nights or hearing that I'm bad
No more growling belly from the meals I never had.
No more scorching sunshine with a water bowl that's dry. 

No more complaining neighbors about the noise when I cry.
No more hearing "shut up", "get down" or "get out of here"!
No more feeling disliked, only peace is in the air. 

Euthanasia is a blessing, though some still can't see 

Why I was ever born If I weren't meant to be. 

My last day of living was the best I ever had. 

Someone held me very close, I could see she was very sad.
I kissed the lady's face, and she hugged me as she cried.
I wagged my tail to thank her, then I closed my eyes and died.

--Don't know who wrote it. Been there, anyway. 

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Novice Trial, Part Deux

We ran again today and did well. The outrun was... abysmal... again. She ran up, then slowed and started to cut in. I kicked her out and she was even slower then and needed a few redirects. I knew that if I kicked her out she would slow down but if I didn't, she was pretty much going to run up the middle-- and here the dog needs to be as wide as possible (it's a narrow field) because otherwise they would have booked back up to their holding area. If I encouraged her along, she would have sped up the middle... I didn't really know how to handle that so I let her continue her out-walk and was able to grab control of the sheep. At least I know that I need to work on confidence at a distance in new areas, fo' sho!

BUt everything else was nice. We got a score of 60 and that landed us 4th place. I am pretty happy with that. On the lift the sheep split and one went and sat with the set out person. I waited for a couple of seconds to see if they would reclump ... they didn't. So I asked Soda to "get back!" and she did and went back and gathered the single (there may or may not have been a well placed shove by the set out person ) and continued on the fetch.

all in all, I was pretty pleased.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Our very first USBCHA trial.

Soda and I ran in our very first USBCHA trial today. We ran "novice/novice" (well, they called it "ranch" but same thing in this case apparently). I was nervous and this was a big deal for me. I never, ever ever thought we'd be running border collie trials. Ever.

We finished the course and got an okay score of 56. I think that put us at like, 6th or 7th place. The outrun was as abysmal as I thought it might be. Soda just had zero (actually negative because she sucked it out of me, lol!) confidence and I had to redirect/encourage her 3-4 times (!!). It's just a new field thing. I REALLY have to start getting out to new places. The sheep did not, early in the day, break for the exhaust so we lucked out there. Later was a totally different story.

The lift was as abysmal as the outrun. She was nervous and did some displacement sniffing (!!) and sort of fetched the sheep to the set out person (that's okay though. She's not used to that). So I encouraged her and she moved them right along. I do not remember the fetch, haha, other than it was offline--of course. We didn't manage to make it around the post but the judge was kind and I heard her say "It's okay, just go" because we were struggling. I like it when judges help the noobs.

Our fetch through the drive panels was nice and I'll be danged if Soda didn't actually rate her stock. I nearly died when she sat on her own to take the pressure off. That part was really quite nice. The pen was nice too and Soda really showed her stuff to help put a sheep in the pen. I think she enjoys penning because she can clearly understand the goal (sheep go in here). She always gets a little more eye and a little more style around the pen. That's nice.

All in all, I am extremely proud of the Soda-monster. She really gave it all she had and she may have had no confidence, but she did as I asked anyway and that's all I can ask for. I was so proud that she tried so hard. I really was. She is such a good dog--I just love her to bits. I keep saying it but, you really don't understand how far she has come and how she has learned to show heart and respect for me and trust that I am not asking her for something too much... well, it's amazing. Makes me all weepy eyed. (don't make fun!!!)

Okay-- so I got to watch Open and that was fun. I think the run I remember most was Bob Dias and... shoot, I forgot his dog's name but it was the epitome of control and calm work. I loved it--the cross drive was a beautiful thing.

The venue was different too. It's at a festival so there is the "general public" there. They watch and enjoy and ask questions. That was neat. Lots of kids wanting to pet the dogs--I'm not so much a kid person, but Soda likes them well enough. There was also an announcer, Joe (I didn't get his last name) who gave play by plays and explained things to the public and he was very entertaining. He was also very kind after my run and was very sure to tell me "great job". Herding folks are always so nice.

It was a great experience. I am excited for tommorrow, sort of. The sheep are now VERY wise to the exhaust area and I'm sure will be making some mad dashes. I'll report tomorrow on how it goes.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I am a "seeing" learner

Worked on holding the line today. Terry finally came out with her dog and had me stand next to her and then did a nice OLF for me to see, while holding the line.


I have it in my mind that the dog should be directly behind the sheep (I think this is a common noob thing) but they don't have to be and I need to be reading the pressure and having my dog hold against the pressure to keep the line straight. It was so helpful to see this.

I worked a few times having Soda hold the line. I had a some issues with me over flanking her to they turned off line but I was pretty proud of myself that I realized that was the problem. :P

I got all over her-hard- for blowing off stops and she was doing better. I am just going to have to keep at it to keep them consistent. Her favorite *favorite* thing is to blow off the stop, go to the head, and turn the sheep around. FUN!

I also did some chore work--including sorting sheep! I have to brag on myself here (and don't laugh at me!) I was able to pull out 3 light Katadhin sheep from about 15 other sheep. I have finally figured out that you don't have to get it 100% the first time--sometimes it's easier to pull out too many and then put away the ones you don't want.

It was a really good, long lesson that was very productive. Soda is really starting to get "pen" work. OH, also I was able to get her out of the pen without having to go in the pen. yay!!

Sunday, June 14, 2009



Soda's stop is something I regularly struggle with. She hates to stop and if I don't enforce a blown off stop every.single.time then she basically just stops stopping. Additionally, her stop isn't a down (I know, what kind of border collie doesn't lay down?) -- she sits, like a loose eyed dog.

We were working on big outruns and her fetches, as I've long known, are too fast and too chasey. She doesn't rate stock well so I have to stop her and I swear to god, I nearly murdered her on Thursday. It went something like this

Outrun : Fantabulous
Lift (with a stop at the top that she took just fine)--beautiful

Fetch: RUN LIKE HELL, no real control, WHEE!

"Lie down!"

<--I start leaving the post to go enforce the down


I really need to recue the down and reteach it. I think that's my big problem. I hope a whistle will help but I think I 'm going to reteach it on another cue.

I say "lie down"... I wonder if "LAY down" is different enough...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Running and Running and Running

Outruns outruns outruns!

We worked on outruns again today. I enjoy working on them because Soda enjoys it. We had her run up the hill today and she was pretty successful. She ran out on the go-by a bit hesitant again but after 2 or so runs was doing pretty well.

We switched it up to the away side and that was a bit of a mess. At first she wouldn't run out at all. She started critter hunting (GRRRR). So, to help her, I left her at the post and walked about 15 feet out and cued her from there. That was successful. She sliced the top off really bad, but I was just glad she ran out so I let it slide. The next time I stood at the post and had her run out, preparing to correct her for slicing in but that didn't work out too well--she didn't really take the correction and just sliced it anyway!

SO then I walked up to the top, where she was slicing so I could push her out. It sort of worked. When she took off she wanted to run wide so she left outside the fence and couldn't get back in. I told her to get in there and she ran straight into the fence and went head over heels over the fence and then came and lifted the sheep! It was pretty hilarious.

I think next week I'm going to lay her down where she is slicing, kick her out, then recue her.

I also talked to Terry about her hesitancy at Llano on the field and she agreed that Soda just needs to get out to more fields.

Good lesson--Soda worked super hard!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Trial from Hell

Soda and I ran in a trial this weekend. Didn't go real well. We ran both A and B course. On Saturday I qualified and got 2nd in A course and was actually pretty happy with the run. I didn't qualify in B course on Saturday. I had to retire. Soda showed a real lack of confidence on the new field and I didn't do a good job of handling the wiley sheep. They REALLY REALLY wanted to run back to set out on the top half of the course and on the bottom half of the course they wanted to run to exhaust! Soda is not a natural cover-er so I needed to handle it better. On the fetch they actually tried to break behind her to run back to set out so even though Soda was being pushy, I couldn't lay her down or they'd have broken back to set-out. Also, on B course I had a raging migraine and had taken 3 excedrin migraines and was not feeling well. Our fetch looked like a small series of "S"'s.

On Sunday we qualified in B course and took third place but didn't qualify in A course. I probably should have qualified in A the day went horribly awry.

Let me tell you about Sunday--it pretty much ruined my whole weekend. About 1/4 of the way through the day my back started to hurt. Bad. My lower back, my kidneys to be specific. And it burned to pee. (TMI, I know). Then about 1/2 way through the day I started to be in excruiating pain and spent a good part of the afternoon laying down and crying in the car. I called the nurse hotline and she advised me to get into the doctor that day.

I waited it out and tried to run. The sheep were nuts and my head wasn't there and neither was Soda's. I retired. I may have been able to qualify but it wasn't good stocksmanship.

Then the true ordeal began. I drove to a 24 hour urgent care in Lancaster. I got there at 4 in the afternoon. I left at 10 at night. Six freaking hours of pain and vomiting. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention: I was queasy all day. At about 4:45 they "checked me in" with vitals and I had to pee in a cup. When they finally called me back to the exam room it was 9:30 and they hadn't run the urine yet. No, I'm not kidding. I vomited again in the exam room. I have a kidney infection. It hurts so bad. I've never even had a bladder infection but I wouldn't wish this on anyone. It hurts and you just can't get comfortable.

By the time they got done examining me the freaking pharmacy had closed. So basically I spent 6 hours in a waiting room with Soda sitting in the car the whole time for nothing. I could have waited until Monday.

I got home at 1 AM because I was so exhausted I had to pull over and nap. The whole thing was awful and I was uncomfortable all weekend. But on a positive note, Soda finished her started B title. :) She's Soda-Pop HSAs, HSBs, HRDIs yay!

I have decided not to run at Porterville N/N. Soda's lack of confidence showed me that she's not ready for that yet and that's just too far for me to drive for a dog who's not ready yet. She's doing the outruns on her home field but needs more practice in other places. We also need to work with VERY strong draws and very light sheep. Again, I really appreciate not qualifiying because it so eloquently demonstrates what I need to work on.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Just a boring ol' lesson!

Pretty much just the usual. We worked on driving. BLEGH. It's so slow going. The impatient part of me (that's like 98% of me) says NOW NOW NOW NOW!

Patience is a virtue. I must remember that.

She did drive further than ever before so that's good. Not having inside flanks is a problem--it's takes FOREVER for her to swing around me to get to the sheep. Well, I almost forgot--she did take two inside flanks on Thursday. I was really surprised. It's just another one of those "things".

I did have to get on her about her stop. She totally blew me off on the fetch and was just basically chasing the sheep. Not cool. It's just something I find we have to frequently revisit to make sure she understands that stop really does mean stop.

My plan is to start her on whistles this Wednesday. I'm really anxious to see how she takes to it because she gets really excited when she hears other people blowing them.

I have a trial this weekend up in Llano. I hope we do well. I feel confident about the "B" course but am still shaky on "A" course. We'll see.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

6 things

I've been tagged by Laura at Don't expect anything deep, folks. And if you are expecting something deep, then you probably don't know me too well! :D

6 things that I appreciate that may, to someone else, seem unimportant, but to me are precious:

1.) My job. How lucky I am to have it, and to love it and to have found it.
2.) A nearly overripe bannana. Everything about them is perfect--the smell, the taste, the texture. mmm....
3.) The internet. How did people find anything before the internet??
4.) Doc Bronners Peppermint soap. It's perfect stuff.
5.) A brand new razor. I have some mighty leg hair so it's always a joy when I bust out a new blade.
6.) Cats. I just like cats and think they're hilarious.

Lemme tag a couple of folks: (I think everyone else on my list has been tagged!)

Cousin Hollie:

Sunday, May 24, 2009

How I got into this whole sheepdog thing

It started with my coworker, S. She said, "paige, hey, so I went sheepherding with my dog" and I couldn't believe it! In Orange County, no less. She had seen it on "The Dog Whisperer". She said I should take LT and I did. LT ... well, I thought she was amazing. Now I know it was just a bunch of chasing--but still. LT has a ton of prey drive. So I took lessons for a little while at one place and then I realized that I wasn't actually learning anything. I looked around and found my current trainer. We worked together for awhile and LT had tons of prey drive but not so much "listen to mom" drive and when we put rules on the game, she didn't want to play.

I cried.

But I was hooked. This was something that suited me and I really enjoyed it. If I can't have a horse, this is the next best thing.

So I made up my mind and kept my eye out for a border collie--casually, of course.

And Soda fell in my lap.

Let me just say, all the years I've been at the shelter and we've had like, 3 possibly purebred border collies. One only had one eye and that was many years ago, and one was a complete spaz and then there was Soda. Relinquished by her owner and she came at just the right time.

I took her out to my trainers to see if she would be interested in sheep at all and at first she just stood there. I just stood there, in the deep mud and drizzle and waited. And waited. And she was scared of the sheep. Then my trainer brought in one of her dogs to let Soda watch and I will never forget this for the rest of my life:

Soda's eyes lit up, and I read her mind. It was "I DIDN'T KNOW YOU COULD DO THAT!" and that was all it took. She wasn't the keenest dog in the world but she definitely thought it was fun. She barked and ran around and put all the sheep in a corner and barked and then she circled them with her tail down and I thought "okay--we'll give this a go".

I had to move out of my situation and change a lot of things but it's been an awesome series of "oh, hey!".

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The foster puppies

I have two 5 week old foster puppies. They're pits and they are so. freaking. cute. They're with me to get some more socialization and learn how to be good dogs. :) Would you like to see some anerable pictures?




The foster kitten is in with them--Daniel in the Lions Den, so to speak. :) Also, you can see pee on the blanket. That's what 5 week old puppies are good for. Peeing on everything.



So, a quick animal count: 3 adult dogs, 2 adult cats, 2 foster kittens, 2 foster puppies. My house is a zoo.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Getting ready for more trials.

I have three trials coming up in the next month or so. The last weekend of May I have an AKC trial (shut up!) and then in the middle of June I have a novice trial and at the end of June another novice trial. I am really excited/nervous/proud/elated about the novice trials. I cannot believe we're even able to run in novice. Most border collie folks don't even bother with novice but it's been an amazing, long, hard-fought journey for Soda (and me!)

Well, we had a helluva lesson on Thursday. I worked more on driving and Terry said I need to make things happen and not just let them happen and react. She's right--I do do that a lot. She also said Soda was being fidgety and I need to stop her more. I'm not quite sure I saw what she was talking about but I did clean things up a bit.

Then I worked on more big outruns. The go-by was great but away got kind of messy because of the fence. She wanted to swing out wider but couldn't and that made her slow. We're going to try to get out into a bigger field here pretty soon. I also overworked her. That was stupid of me and I knew I was pushing it. Lesson learned. She didn't get overheated or anything but I could tell that her little brain was just done.

OH, and then I had my stupid, idiotic handling moment: I was telling her "AWAY! AWAY! AWAY!" to get her to cover the draw and then I realize that she is/and needs to be on the go-by side just as my trainer goes "uh, it's GO BY".

SO DUMB. My poor dog--it's a wonder that she doesn't just bite me.

We worked for pretty much a solid hour with only a couple of small breaks. It was really hard for her.

Next week, I want to work the away again and then I want to change the picture and have her run up the hill for the sheep. I think she'll be able to do it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Shelter folk have waited a long time for this woman to be put away. I have a vested interest: My dog Cash was from this woman. She was his "foster mom"...

"On Monday, having deliberated for less than a day, the jury in the Cindy Bemis/ Cynthia Trapani trial returned a verdict of GUILTY on all charges ( 14 counts of animal cruelty for Bemis/ 6 counts for Trapani ) and Judge Kenneth Twissleman, ordered both directly to jail, denying all efforts on part of the defense to keep them out on bail until the sentencing June 17th.

Although this is the news we have all been waiting for, the direct result of this victory is that more than 200 dogs have been left behind on the Mojave compound, with a care taker who can barely take care of himself. Just as had been thought all along, Bemis and Trapani, have been collecting more animals while awaiting trial, most of which are unaltered. Those animals now need help. Animal control would prefer not to get involved. The rescue community, led by LCA, are trying to move the dogs out as quickly as possible.

Outside about 60 dogs are kenneled and another 100 or so roam free. They have formed packs and have areas they reside in, almost like gangs in a prison. Those packs consist mainly of Shepherd and Black Lab x packs, most of which are young dogs. There are pregnant dogs and dogs full of milk without puppies. Dogs who have made underground dens. Some seniors that need help. Some skin conditions but surprisingly, overall the dogs appear to be relatively healthy. The biggest problem will be the socializing of the dogs that have been living a feral life but the ones we are focused on right now are the dogs that can easily be placed or are in need of medical care. The majority of dogs are friendly.

The smell is what hits you first. The ammonia is so strong it makes you retch. The floors are torn up and every surface is covered and smeared with feces. Inside the house is where the smaller dogs and favorites are kept, including 10 cats. A lot of these dogs have probably never been outside. "





My shelter is going to be taking a few of these poor souls.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Unintended Side Effects

One of the unintended side effects of learning to be a sheepdog is that Soda will now, happily and readily, go under things. Anything. She'll also squeeze through fences. She would never dream of doing this 6 months ago.

I've asked Soda to go under a panel to get sheep; I've had her go through very narrow chutes after sheep; I've had her sit under a trailer because it was cool. All of this has led to a dog that will now happily go under anything to get something.

We were walking outside the my trainer's property during the trial so Soda could potty and get a little exercise and she saw an opening in the fence slipped through the tiniest of holes, for no reason other than it was there. She stopped right away and looked at me like "HEY! That was fuN!" I had to lure her back out because through the fence she was on the property and I didn't want her taking off to "help" with anyone's run.

Anyway, it's just one of those unintended side effects!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ran in another trial today

We ran in another HRD trial and did well. We got third place, yay! We had a meltdown in the take pen--which is something we've been having trouble with lately. It's kind of weird. I am sure it's something I'm doing wrong and I suspect it has something to do with timing.

Anyway, the rest of the run was really smooth and clean. It's amazing what one month of training will do!

After my class, I was bored and the tests were running and my trainer was going to have a mini-party at her place afterwards so I wanted to stick around. I told Terry that at the next trial I wanted to work set-out. She told me to go work with Chet, who had been doing set out all day. Chet was really nice and coached me through it and let Soda work. That was a lot of fun and a lot of work for Ms. Soda. His dog was spent. He'd been doing it alone all day! He had me get Soda into a pen and sort sheep and I have to say, that is NOT our strong suit. Soda frequently just looks confused at the back of a packed pen. She'll go in perfect and "scrape" the sheep off the fences then push them to the door but if they don't go out she just stands there looking kind of googly eyed. I got her moving a bit today and that was good.

Soda drove the sheep AWAY from me for about 15 feet with very little hesitation! It was towards a strong draw (hay) but the sheep weren't in a hurry to get there. I was really proud of her. That is so huge for my little girl.

Anyway, some non-working pikters:

The Soda Monster:

This is a really cool Aussie. She's working bred and really fine boned. Very nice dog. She's trying to steal some treats, LOL.

This is the world's fastest sheltie:

This is Zula, my trainer's up and comer. I LOVE this dog. Love the way she works. She hates being tied though. It's funny--she just pouts all day.

Bermuda Triangle of Black and White:

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Just plugging right along

We plugged right along at driving today. I see little improvements every time. It is slow though!

We put the sheep out at like, 50 yards away and sent Soda out and stopped her about 1/2 way, then asked her to walk up. It was MUCH better than the last time we tried this. She does look at me a lot, which Terry says is normal. That made me feel much better! Soda almost took an inside flank today and that was pretty impressive. I say almost because I stopped her before it truly became an inside flank but that was something that before she would have had a lot of trouble with.

All in all, I think I need to remember patience, remember that this is a learning process for both of us and I should stop being so covetous of the well-bred border collies for whom this is so much less difficult! I'm not poo-pooing Soda, but there is a big difference! I am daily proud of how much Soda has improved and how much heart she has.

We're running in another HRD trial this weekend for funzies. That will finish the title for me. Fun stuff.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The big kid outruns

We worked on novice level outruns today. 100 yards. It was a bit ugly at first. We tried it with the sheep on top of a hill but I think that + further than she run out before was too much. So, we put the sheep at the bottom of the hill so we took one diffiult part out of the equation. It was much easier for her this way. She tried to cross over, but she did it very early on (like two steps out from me) so it was easy to correct her. Then, everything went pretty well. She needed some help with confidence out at the top (a redirect). The first few outruns were like out-trots but as her confidence grew she ran faster. I was pretty proud of her. Oh, also, I watched her watch the lead sheep to cover and help cover the draw. That's a really big step for her.

I wish I had access to sheep more than 30 minutes once a week. There are so many things I want to work on. Like today, all we had time for was outruns--not really any driving or anything. I just think Soda could be so much more with more practice.

Anyone have sheep and need an indentured servant? I can throw hay with the best of them and my poo scooping skills are unparralled. Annnnd you need to live near Orange County, CA.

OR, are there any extremely wealthy men who really like chubby red-heads and want to buy me a ranch and don't mind the fact that I have a boyfriend?


Really? No?

well... I'll make do, I suppose.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Soda's new "thing"

... is snuggling with me on "my" chair. It's adorable. I love it. Just love it. Neither of my other dogs are snugglers and if Soda is trolling around, looking lonely, I can call her up and she just wedges herself into the chair and goes to sleep and snuggles with me.

Warms the cockles of my heart.


Not a lot went on at the last lesson-- pretty much just same ol' same ol'. We worked on driving and she did a really nice job. I was pleasantly surprised. We'll keep on truckin!

We kind of started working on inside flanks and that was just pathetic. I do not want to work on that. She hates it and it makes me hate it. She just looks constipated or something when she's trying to "squeeze" between me and the sheep. Even calling her to me is a freaking chore. She's so sensitive to the pressure--and yet, still likes to run them over me. Can't have my cake and eat it to, can I?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Some pictures from the Trial

Day Two!

Today was day two and we did okay for ourselves. First of all, after what can only be described as a disaster of an intermediate A course we somehow magically qualified AND placed fifth--wtf? I'll take it but I wasn't very proud of the run. We had ANOTHER melt down at the "z" chute and didn't make it through. So I attempted it once or twice again and then said "SCREW IT!" just moved on. Then we had a total meltdown on the assisted cross drive and it turned into a fetch. That was just embarrassing. I will say, our hold off the gate was FANTASTIC and she held it like a champ. The judge said I did a nice job of handling. Thanks! I felt like an ass and just started having diarrhea of the mouth and issuing commands like crazy. "Away LIEDOWN GoBYE LIEDOWN wait, liedown, walk up walk up , away, what? Wait. What?" LOL i guess it wasn't that bad then!

On B course we did well again but the fetch turned sour and knocked a gogillion points off. It was offline the whole way (apparently--I need to start reading lines) and then the sheep broke at the end for the exhaust. Soda recovered them nicely but the damage was done. I talked to Terry afterwards and she said I need more coffee in the morning and aparently everyone but me was seeing they were about to break. I must confess I wasn't watching the sheep. Classic NOOB.

The outrun was fantastic (no points off!) and the lift was good. I got one point off b/c one sheep didn't lift right away BUT my trainer was doing set out at the top and was watching. She said she got worried when the sheep didn't lift and not only that but I guess she has a reputation for putting wimpy dogs in their place. The ewe lowered her head and pinned her ears at Soda (I didn't see the ear pinning part). Terry said she thought the ewe was going to chase her and try to pound her but I told Soda to "get up there!"--that is her "don't take no BS from no one and bite if you need to" command-- and she did and the ewe turned and joined her buddies a few feet away and gave me no more trouble. Soda didn't need to grip, which was good because AKC gets all weird about it. I am glad for all those confidence building sessions in a packed pen saying "GET UP THERE!" because that gets Soda going EVERY TIME without fail. Terry was impressed with Soda and so was I, especially after she told me the ewe was being a turd!

We executed a very nice pen with a great hold off of it (yay!) but when it came to pull them out of the pen -in B course you pen, then unpen and take them over for a hold-- Soda, who NEVER wants chase, not even when she first started on stock, decided that today was the day and she was going to chase someone. I wonder if it was the sassy ewe who maybe gave her a look and tried to break for it. It happened really quickly so I didn't get a real good luck at what caused it. A quick "HEY YOU GET OUT OF THAT" fixed it but I was like "really?? REALLY?? TODAY???"

Anyway, the rest of the run went really well and we got third place. Yay!


Saturday, April 25, 2009

First Place!

I am so proud of Soda I could explode! We took first place B course started. It was beautiful! Her outrun was best of the day and her lift was smooth and her fetch was awesome--balanced and nice and not too fast.

The pen was a mess though, ! That was mostly my fault but I do have blame Soda a bit for not holding them off --she was in the perfect position but then got all weird about the pressure and fetched them before I could stop her. Then, I tried to set it up again and that didn't work out very well. So I just opened the gate and let them in. The judge, who's post was right by the pen, said, while I was struggling to set it up again "you know you're supposed to pen them in the pen, right?" and I almost died laughing and took that as a hint to just put the damn sheep in the pen anyway I could.

So, that earned us first place in the class! Then we ended up with High In Trial for all of the B course levels. Yay! This was the first trial I've been to where they've split the HIT's between A and B so I was surprised but pleased b/c that meant I won, !

We didn't qualify on A course intermediate though. We had an old problem rear it's ugly head and I *know* how to handle it and I didn't. I panicked and it all went to hell in a handbasket. So, I lost a gogillion points on the "z" chute and NQ'd b/c of that. If I hadn't NQ'd I would have taken 2nd place in that place and probably overall HIT.

I have to gush for a moment about my Soda-Pop: She has tremendous heart and tremendous will. She was a mess of a dog when I got her--not that social, neurotic, not self assured, barely knew sit, confused about leadership and she has blossomed into a real dog. She runs up to people to say hello, she carries herself with an air of dignity (most of the time!) and she is a mostly obedient dog--just enough naughty to be funny! She has turned into more of a border collie than I ever, EVER dreamed of. I had no expectations, really, with her. I just hoped for the best and she's giving me all she can. She couldn't work for more than 2 minutes when I got her, she didn't know how to think and so much as an "eh eh!" would send her running off the field. Now I can push her, drill on her, have expectations, watch her think and most importantly try to do the right thing. She may not always choose the right option but I know that she's trying and that's what matters to me. She looks to me for guidance now, knowing that I will help her however I can and she wants to be my partner.

Soda, you are the world's BEST worst sheepdog ever. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving everything you have and for being willing and able to change for the better. The last six months of our 1 year journey together have really been something. You have turned on, and turned up and stepped up to the plate. Not all dogs can and will and you did. You pull everyday on your meager instinctual resources to try the best you can and I see it everyday and you showed me today what all our hard work is for.

It may just be an AKC trial, but it was a beautiful run and I know how much work we put into running "just" this AKC trial and how hard you tried and more importantly, I know where you have come from.

I really am so proud of my little ragedy sheep dog. Soda, I can't wait to see what other surprises you pull out.



and me and Soda--I don't know why I'm leaning back. I look silly. :)


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Holding the Line

This was a mess today! We did a novice level outrun (100 yards or so) and it was beeeeeeeaaaaauuuuttttiiiiiifffffuuuuuullll but the fetch was... horrible! Soda has a hard time holding the line and she isn't naturally good at covering and these sheep wanted desperately to be somewhere else. They were pretty flighty sheep.

I ended up with 2 sets of two sheep each and a confused looking border collie standing on the far the side of the field. I had to laugh.

I talked to my trainer about teaching Soda to hold and line and she said she would never trust a dog like Soda to hold the line on her own because she's so loose eyed but that she can be taught to help hold the line and the rest I would need to handle. That's okay with me! Hopefully that will make me a better handler. So that's another training goal:

6.) Help Soda learn to keep straight lines and work on my own handling to help her with this
You know what I want? A dog that drives more naturally. It's such a struggle for Soda and I know we'll make progress but this is the most difficult thing we've done so far and I have a feeling it's going to be the ultimate limit to her abilities. I'm not giving up, I'm willing to work and work and work but it'd be nice to not have to fight so hard!


PS. wish us luck on our trial saturday! :)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Training Goals

So I have a trial coming up this weekend that I've been working on for a while. So, once this is done, I need to have new goals!

1.) Whistles
2.) Run in a novice trial in June (I hope)
3.) Work in different locations (this may be difficult, but I'd really like to try)
4.) Lengthen and Strengthen the drive!!
5.) Get to different clinics (super hard but I hope to!)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Some not-so-crappy videos

Well, these aren't fantastic but they beat the heck out of the cell phone ones, I tell you what!

Okay, these are both away-to-me outruns. I couldn't tell you how far off if I tried. I am spatially challenged. More than 20 feet--I'll go with that. I focused on away because of the issues we had last week. We weren't in exactly the same area but close. Anyway, you can see the fence posts in this video. There isn't fence on a good portion of them and it's good for her to go out of the posts to stay wide enough but that's when she started critter hunting. Anyway, we were further up so the fence started back up again so I couldn't push her out or she wouldn't have been able to get back in to move the sheep.

She should be deeper/wider at the top--looks like she lifts at 1 or 2 o'clock. In one video, you can hear a bit of panic in my voice. I wasn't really paying attention (videoing and stock dogging is hard!) and realized that Soda was running the sheep right at me with a deranged look in her eyes. She LOVES to push the sheep over me. And, I talk too much.

Friday, April 10, 2009

When it all falls into place

I had one of those great, every-great-once-in-awhile lessons on Thursday that had me beaming all day long.

We've been working so hard on driving and on this day, Soda wore her big girl pants and really showed me that she could do it. She really just listened and paid attention and trusted me and it was a beautiful thing. It wasn't a far drive but it's start. We drove to one chute, through the chute and to another chute and through that chute and she even did alright on the assisted cross-drive. This was all in an arena. I was just beaming! I also got one of those rare compliments from my trainer and it just made my day!

We also worked on outruns and she LOVES that so it's always easy to work on. She ran farther than she's run before and was actually running pretty wide. She needs to be pushed out at the top so we'll be shortening it up and pushing her out but she has all the toys and she's keen enough now (as opposed to 6 months ago) that I can push pretty hard without her shutting down. She understands that she's not in trouble, she just needs to fix it. We had a small breakdown on her outruns on the away side, though. She ran out, out of the pasture to get nice and wide (you'd have to see the set up to really know what I'm talking about...) and outside of the fence line is a lot of bushy tall grass and when she was coming in at the top for the lift she stopped and started critter hunting!!! Rage flew through my veins, LOL. I yelled and hollered and went up and got her then worked on wee tiny outruns and flanks through the tall grass. I then pulled her back for a longer but not as long as at first outrun and ran with her, verbally encouraging her to move through the grass. Then we ran the long outrun again and she slowed down at the top in the grass but didn't stop. I am sure we'll see this again, but we can work through it. The go by was fine.

I was really proud though, that she knew she needed to be out of the pasture to be wide enough. I felt very encouraged.

So, also, we were doing something or other with the sheep and she was fetching them to me and she paced herself. I almost died when I saw her wait and slowdown to not run them over me (which she LOVES doing). She's been getting doing that more lately. (She got lots of good girls). I experimented also with giving her an "easy" and that worked... I'll have to be consistent with it.

And lastly, I was setting out sheep for another student and that dog sliced her outrun badly and the sheep ran off the field, towards the other sheep (to be with their buds, natch) and I flanked Soda out to stop them (I was about 15 feet away) and then asked her to walk up on them to push them back out into the field and she did. Not only that, but one sheep didn't immediatley turn so I encouraged her without me moving and she kept walking up on her and the ewe turned and went back into the field. I had Soda drive them back out to their hay pile. I almost passed out and died when she walked up on that ewe and didn't back down. Now, let me say, the ewe wasn't being particularly stubborn or aggressive but also didn't turn right away and before, that was all it took to get Soda to back down but she's so much more confident now! I can see in her eyes when I ask her to walk up that she really enjoys it and ... I'm probably anthropomorphizing a lot, so stop reading right now if that sort of thing bothers you... but she seems to like the opportunity to be really bossy and pushy, and hard. She's starting to jump at the chance to put a sheep in their place. A while back, we were loading some sheep into a trailer, practicing for an HRD course and one ewe wouldn't load up and Soda did not back down. She stayed after her, gripped her nose--she still couldn't do it, so I called her off and praised her but she wasn't ready to quit. I wonder what she'd do now with real big britches that she's gotten from driving.

She's quite a different dog from the one I brought out to Terry's that was scared of the sheep and wouldn't work for more than 2 minutes! We have setbacks but really, seriously, every week I'm so impressed by her trying and how far she's come. Really.

Question for any sheepdog folks that care to answer: Does driving tend to bring out more eye in your dog? Soda's pretty loose eyed but lately I've noticed her utilizing more eye on sheep... coincidence or related?

Sort of sad news: My trainer is selling one of her dogs -- he's my favorite, personality wise, anyway. I wouldn't hesitate to buy him if I had the room. He's such a joy to be around! He's a good worker, but I can see his faults but he'd be a great dog for a beginner like me.


Tuesday was shearing day and that's always great fun. I love learning about livestock handling and care so I always appreciate the opportunity to learn and watch and help with basic husbandry. My pants got so dirty with lanolin/dirt mixture that one washing on extended cycle didn't get them clean! I'm going to have to rewash them.

I got to see my trainers young dog in action and I like her mom, and I've liked her working but I really got to see her really show her stuff. What grace under pressure! She was steady and calm but strong and forceful. I was really impressed!

Whew! LONG post!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

What does pressure feel like?

I was pondering this today:

What does pressure that the dog feels feel like? I wonder if it's like talking to a close talker and the only thing you can think of is how to get away from them. I also wonder what makes a dog much more sensitive to pressure than others? Actually, I just assume it's genetics. Like me, I get VERY uncomfortable if people I don't know are too close or god forbid, touch me and Soda gets all sticky on a chicken...

Oh, Soda said she was thinking about it too:

Wait, driving means I need to HANDLE my dog!

We're trucking along with driving and Soda did really well today. :) She's really "getting" it, I think. I want to get a "there" on her because if I down her, she gets super sticky and it's hard to get her up again but if she doesn't actually lay down but stands, then she's much easier to get moving.

I think it would be helpful. I've been trying--I say ThereLieDownWalkUp. Usually the she doesn't lie down because the walk-up comes right on the heels of it (I say it just like it's written) but she does pause and that's all I need. Probably not the right way to do it but... it's working for us.

I realized today, fully, what a terrible handler I am! I know it comes with time and practice but whew... I can't help but get frustrated with myself. I realized when I'm driving that I have to really do a lot of handling and there's a lot more finesse. I am not known for finesse. I hope that I get better and don't stay terrible. I tend to be good at reading animal body language so I hope I'm able to pick it more as I go along and start feeling what finesse is all about. I mean, I'm not even driving that far-- just little bits here and there.

We had another run in with the Corner of Death(tm). I do not know what it is that makes her think that she cannot work there but I'll be danged if she can't! So, after I found her and got her out of the pasture I took her by her collar and tossed her on her away side, just beyond the worst part of the Corner of Death(tm). I gave her encouragement the whooole way and just had her go in circles on the away. On the CoD(tm) side she started to drift off and go off contact (and into the grass and ditch) so I grabbed the sheep and said "GET YOUR SHEEP!" (which gets her riled up no matter what). She tried to flip to the go by, so I blocked her and gave her the away cue again and trilled her along and ... IT WORKED!! We did that a couple of times and she was more okay taking the away flank in the CoD(tm). She didn't love it, but I was able to send her out on the away and she was a little too wide but it's better than running off.

Anyway, it was a good lesson and fun times were had by all.

And now, for some Lambios!


Very Sleepy Babeh Lambio.

The Rare Oreo Lambio

Does this tail make my butt look big?

Hello. I'm Captain Adorable.

Go. Away.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Not Wearing her Thinking Cap

Soda did not come to school today with her thinking cap on. She just was all woogy and off and not listening and running off and not coming (a recurrent problem) when called.

It started when we were grazing the sheep behind the arena and that is in The Corner Of Death(tm) where commands cannot be followed and work cannot be done, according to Soda. So, we're back there, and she wanders off critter hunting and the sheep get in the road and despite my panicked calls, she did not come and I had to get the sheep myself. Then I went and got her and made her follow me around for a few minutes and then we just sat. Or I thought we were just sitting. Soda wandered off when I wasn't paying attention, critter hunting again and the sheep wandered into the pasture and I had to get all angry to get her to listen and get the sheep out of the field. Grrr...

Actually, even before The Corner of Death(tm) started when we were sorting off some sheep and the sheep didn't want to go back in the arena (can't blame them, really) and Soda just stood there, googly eyed and looking like "huh. well look at this. What do I do mom? Just stand here? okay.... what? walk up? what? get up there? what? okay. I'll just stand here..." So embarrassed, my trainer sent her to push the sheep in because Soda was taking so GD long.

We put most of the sheep away and started working on outruns and she just wasn't there. On the last couple she wouldn't take the flank. She would take off, nice and square and then bend backwards, away from the sheep and into the pasture. I didn't let her get in there and then just called it a day. It was frustrating for me and her.

On a positive note: Soda has progressed to the point where I can tell when she's thinking and when she's not and I'm actually proud of that.

On the non-dog training but still sheep note: I helped my trainer massage an ewe's bag to help unclog her ducts and it was really cool! I love doing stuff like that. It helps prepare me for day I have my own sheep.

And now, some sheepictures. I particularly like the one where Soda is sitting under the trailer, looking like a Real Ranch Dog(tm).






Monday, March 23, 2009

Some outruns!

We worked a bit on outruns on my last lesson. I lerv working on outruns because Soda loves it and so it's easier. We got her leaving straight out from my side and she was really rocking it. I started pushing her out and she was running nice and wide. I do think we need to shorten it up a bit and push her out at the top, but that's normal.

I've been internetless for a week (HORRIBLE) so these are just the bare details that I remember, but you get the idea! :)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Trial Pictures

Some pictures of Soda and I at the trial. I'm wearing YELLOW! for easy identification. :)

No More Fetch

More Driving.

Driving Driving Driving Driving. That's all I can think about these days!

It's still slow going but we made some progress today. We started out in the arena and did alright and moved to the green green field and did better. She just doesn't like the arena much. I really got after her for blowing off her flanks and that made quite an impression on her. I don't think she'll be making her own choices anymore.

So the new plan of action is no fetching. Or at least, as little as possible. The idea is to make driving the only way she gets to move sheep so it gets reinforced more often and she doesn't get to rely so much on fetching. This, of course, means a lot more work for me now because I'm going to have to go behind the sheep and walk with Soda rather than being lazy and making her bring them to me. I think, in the short time we worked today, we saw an improvement and more fluidity. I was really proud of her. We used some natural draws to help Soda push them along and that helped but when the sheep really started to go for it I could she would panic about losing her sheep and that was difficult to reconcile, especially on our "no fetching plan". I would try to flank her out enough to stop them, but not enough to fetch them and then reposition myself and then start the exercise again, but when we would do that, we'd lose the draw. Like I said, very hard to reconile.

I rounded up the moms and babies that were out grazing and Soda was pretty good with them but she looked at one of the little babies and I could see her thinking "WTF is that??" and I had to remind her that we weren't going to be sniffing little baby sheep and possibly trying to pounce on them. (She had *that* look until I gently reminded her to mind the rest of the flock).

I'll tell you what, lambs may be the cutest things in the universe. For real. I picked up my favorite (I named her Sally) and carried her around for a minute, Paris Hilton-style. Shut up. I know, but they're soooooo cute!

On a non-sheep related note:

I love the drive down to Escondido. I really do. It's so beautiful. A lot of people don't realize how beautiful California is. I suspect most people think of that shithole Los Angeles as the typical California but it's not. Really. CA has some stunning natural beauty and has tried really hard to preserve a lot it and I respect that. The drive to weekly lesson takes me down the 5 freeway which is on the coast. I can see the ocean for 3/4 of the drive. It also takes me past Camp Pendleton, which is the largest Marine base in the US. Anyway, a lot of the time, you get to see the military doing practice exercises out on the water and it's so cool. There are helicopters flying around doing lifts and drops, there are tankers out in the water and land vehicles (including tanks!) all around. It's really neat.

I stopped at a view point off the freeway today, hoping to get some good pictures of the military stuff but they weren't doing anything. I was a bit bummed but I did get to see the world's fatest and tamest ground squirrels begging for food. It was a riot. For one thing, they were less than 5 feet away from my dog and didn't seem to care at all. There was some big burly trucker dude feeding them and they would come to his feet and stand up and beg (I'm not kidding, folks!) and he would set the food down and they take it and race off and come back and beg at his feet again. It was adorable. They were all super fat too.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Trial

Soda and I ran really well. :) We qualified but didn't place and that's okay. She got pushy (again!) on the fetch so we were kind of wobbly but we did everything else pretty well. Oh, also, when we were pulling the sheep from the pen Soda somehow managed to split the sheep into two groups and that cost us a few points. We were really trucking along and we finished the course in 7 minutes and 7 seconds. My trainer who was doing set-out laughed and said it only took us like 3 minutes because we were so dang speedy.

It was a HUGE class with over 20 dogs and it took for.ever! The class started at 10 ish and ended at 4:30!! Couldn't believe it.

I made a contact with a woman who lives in Orange County and has her own sheep and was amenable to letting me use them at some point so I'm really excited about that! It will interesting to see what Soda develops into with more consistent sheep exposure.

Anyway, good times were had by all.

Friday, March 6, 2009

A couple of crappy videos.

I got a couple of videos from my cell phone of Soda and I grazing the other day. I was also using this opportunity to work on outruns and going wide around ALL the sheep.

Getting Ready for a Trial!

Well, we're all ready for the HRD trial coming up this Sunday. I'm pretty excited. I think we're going to do pretty well and trials are a lot of fun.

We worked some more on driving and I am soooo sick of saying "Get 'em" 1.2 gogillion times before she unsticks herself. I've noticed that she gets really sticky on her down (actually a sit) and it's alot easier to say "there, walkup" rather than "lie down, walkup".

We put her in a packed pen and let her push and she could and would but did get stuck a couple of time, but was also pretty happy to get in there and boss some sheep around.

I'm getting more control over the driving and more control over her flanks. We're going to really start enforcing that she take the correct flank now and not have second guess me as often as she does.

We grazed some sheep again and that's just always a lot of fun. I got some pictures.

I'll have to jack with it later. I'm too lazy to re-resize them.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Grazing the sheep

We've a crap-ton of rain lately and as a result my trainer's field is beautiful, lush and green. Unfortunately, her property is only partially fenced in so if she lets her sheep out to graze someone has to watch them and keep them off the neighbors property and after my main lesson, Soda and I did that for a few hours.

It was so good for Soda! It allowed us, in a practical application, to work on wide, sweeping outruns or patience if I used her to block off forbidden zones. At first she was unsure about sweeping out so wide and so far and was slow but once she got the idea and the hang of it, she was really zooming along.

We did have some problems with the corner of death as I have come to call it. For some reason, only known to Soda, she absolutely cannot work in this corner. She gets all weird, starts displacement sniffing, won't come, won't take flanks or do anything. She just gets down in the ditch and sniffs her way down the ditch until she's about 20 yards away and when I go over and get her, she looks at me like "it's so scary over here!!" I have to go over and physically help her and block her off from just wandering off.

I found that if I go over and stand with her she can do it but I don't know why when I give the commands from a distance it just blows her mind. Note: It only blows her mind in this one corner. I guess it's just another project to work on!

I was sorting sheep for my trainer and her gate is thin and aluminum and has big spaces. Anyway, as I was sorting the gate got stepped on or something and popped up and hit me right in the funny bone. Seriously, I don't think I've ever been in more pain!! My stomach turned, I saw a bright white and got dizzy. My whole forearm went numb, I couldn't for about 2 hours feel my middle, ring and pinkie fingers. I still can't move my arm up to touch my face without white-hot searing pain jetting up. It's awful! I never thought a damn funny bone could hurt so bad.

I got some crap videos on my cell phone of Soda. I think I'll wait 'till next week to post some good videos though. I'll take my camera next time.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

You know what I'd love to do?

I'd love to start a reputable, clean, non-hoardy, non-scarey /gross cat rescue/sanctuary.

I think my purpose in the sheltering world is to be a cat advocate. I feel strongly that that's where my true passion is and where my skills belong. Dogs in the sheltering world are making tremendous strides in their treatment and their euth numbers but cats still suffer terribly from ignorance and mass euthanasias. I think it's somewhere like 75% of cats entering shelters never leave.

I'd have mostly communal living, but cages for cats that don't get along with other cats. I'd mostly pull cats from shelters. I'd spay pregnant females. I'd also like to have spay/neuter clinics for cats only. I'd like to consult with shelters on making their facilities more cat friendly. I would avoid taking owner surrender cats. I would have reasonable adoption fees. I would be available to give out behavior advice. I'd have kitten socialization classes. I would have set population numbers and not go over that. I'd be wise about who could be saved and who couldn't. I would try to save as many older cats as possible with the realization that they are less adoptable.

This is filed in the life-goals section.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Driving in the mud

Good thing my dog has four-leg drive. Har-har-har.

Anyway, we did a little bit of gate-sorting and that was actually a good lesson because the sheep didn't want to go through the gate and kept breaking and running so I worked on Soda to make her cover--which she doesn't always do on her own. It was a good lesson and I am impressed at her growing work ethic. When we first started we literally couldn't work for more than 2 minutes or she'd totally shut down. Now she can go a good long time and she always wants to come back for more. She was a total border collie today and squeezed herself under the gate to get to the sheep! She's never been that keen to work before, so Iwas pretty excited.

Then we went into the big field and worked on driving. It wasn't going very well at all so I had my trainer come and give me a hand and I wasn't starting Soda from far enough away. When she was waaay further out, she didn't have as much of a problem getting stuck. Terry made the comment to me: "She sure doesn't like that pressure does she?" and she's right--she absolutely is very sensitive to pressure and really doesn't like getting into it. You'd think then, that she wouldn't be so dang pushy when she's just fetching to me... eh, go figure!

Anyway, with the distance we made some more headway. When I was working on my own I think I was over flanking Soda and she kept accidently lifting the sheep. I think I need to stop her at 4 or 5 o'clock, rather than 3. (the away side)

I asked Terry about doing AKC intermediate in April and she said absolutely and ... Novice/Novice! She wants to get more driving down and then start really working on outruns. I was so excited to hear about doing a novice trial, lol. I hope that we can pull it off! That's an incredibly big deal for Soda and I. I honestly, honestly, honestly never thought we'd ever make it to Novice. I wasn't even sure if we'd be able to drive and... well, we've just come so far!

Soda's flanks are looking really good and she was staying nice and wide and going out 180 degrees from my side, thusly starting the flank wide.

All in all, a great lesson!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Work's been kind of lame lately. My coworker left so I've had to take over his duties as well. Trouble is, in his section there tends to be a lot of drama and I'm just not that interested in mediating it. I just want to say "I don't care. I could literally care less... deal with your own shit". But I can't, so I don't. Instead I nod and smile and try to filter out the dumb stuff from the stuff I need address (most of it is dumb shit).

Have you ever done something at work and it just sticks with you and makes you hate yourself a little? I have this one incident keep coming up and I hate it. I hate that it happened, I hate that I was a part of it, I hate how it broke my heart. I don't know if it'll ever leave my head. I try to tell myself it was unavoidable and it was the right thing to do, and it was, objectively and truly, but... I just wish it hadn't been me there.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Driving, Pressue and chutes, oh my!

We've started working on driving. It's been really slow going, but going. I'm really proud at how she's coming along. She now starting to push with ease and we're just trying to get everything going quickly and going straight. I've found it most helpful to have a goal in mind and try to push the sheep there and it seems to help Soda too when she can understand where we're going.

I still have trouble with her blowing off her stops--I suspect I'll always struggle with that. It's frustrating.

This last lesson I had a major break through with her crowding the sheep up on me. We've always had trouble with her pushing the sheep up past me and just not reading her sheep. So she was RIGHT behind me, crowding the sheep and I just whiped around gave her a small whack on her chest with the stick and told her to get out. Then I walked off a bit and asked her to walk up on the sheep (to bring them to me) and she did and then..... she stopped. On her own. So she wouldn't push the sheep past me. I watched her watch the sheep and slow her pace on her own. Couldn't believe it. The little turd knew what she was doing but even better, she at least kind of knows how to read her sheep.

We've also been working on getting her to push sheep through a 40' chute and that's been a lot of fun. At first she kept going to the heads of the sheep but with some big pressure from me she finally started pushing the sheep through through the chute-though it was a little wild and hairy! Refinement will come.

We have a trial coming up that I'm nervous/excited about--I hope she continues feeling her sheep and not putting so much pressure on them and we'll qualify fo' sho.


If you've stumbled upon this by accident: Soda is my 4 y/o border collie. I've had her for a little over a year. She's orginally from a puppy mill--I got her at a shelter. She's a wannabe stockdog with not a lot of talent and I'm a wannabe stockdog handler with not alot of talent! We compete in arena trials for fun. I hope one day to get a proper working bred border collie but untill then Soda and I continue to work and bond and love every minute!