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!