Sunday, January 31, 2010

Snug as a bug in a rug

Why does Scott do this? He has a comfortable bed that is sized just for him. But, he chooses to sometimes slumber in Lucky's Shih Tzu sized bed. Seriously Scott, why? Why? It can't be comfortable.

A couple weeks ago, I invited my friend Amy to come to Diane's farm with me and watch the dogs in action and try her own hand at handling a real working Border Collie. As I was explaining the basic rules and process of the farm, I surprised myself at how much I know about farm life. Here are some terms and things that I didn't know myself last year!

  • come by, away, that'll do and other terms
  • flake (of alfalfa). Honestly, I didn't know the difference between alfalfa, hay and straw a year ago
  • locker lamb
  • close all gates behind you
  • hair sheep
  • stock stick
  • banding
  • muck boots
  • do not let sheep mix if they are originally in different pastures
  • how to use a pitchfork
  • round pen
  • llamas are not really all that mean
  • gate sort

After working Mattie briefly (she just got out of the round pen and thus her pasture-sessions are pretty short for now), and then working Tam, and by a fluke, also working Kira-the-Hunn, Amy and I went into the field with Tess and Scott. Amy got to send Tess on a couple of come by outruns (Tess wouldn't take the "away" Amy was giving her!). I then showed Amy the basics of running a trial course with Tess and Scott (everything except the shed because I still keep doing that wrong!).

Now, Tess & Scott are THE perfect dogs for lessons and for beginner handlers to learn about working sheep. Tess & Scott are 11 and 10 years old, respectively, and have been trained very well to an Open level. They both can work any type of stock you ask them too - Tess is actually one of the greatest poultry-herders ever (ducks, geese, chickens!). These two dogs know more about sheep than me - heck, they know more than a lot of the other handlers I compete with! Getting to work with Tess and Scott is truly a priceless training opportunity and I am very fortunate I get to learn from them. One of the great things about working dogs like Tess and Scott is that you can screw up as handler and you won't totally mess up your dog. And, because they are slower, it makes it easier to learning correct timing. However, their solid training and history also means that Tess & Scott know they know more than I do about herding, and they use that to their advantage at all times. This is where handling a slower, older , trained, sassy dog is actually challenging; they will "cheat" more, they will 'push-back' if they don't agree with you, they will totally blow-you off and do their own thing if they don't feel like working that day. So, a handler of these types of dogs has to get a feel for how their dogs is feeling that day and guage the intensity of the commands and corrections they need accordingly.

I get what I want from these old geezers about 80% of the time now, I think anyway! A

Here are Amy and I workign 4 yearlings. Scott is in play right now, and we are going through a post-turn.

Turn is complete. Scott is running so fast, he's a blur.... well, I suppose that could be the small camera Jerill was using to take the photo that is giving him the blurry appearance. Scott and Tess are not the fastest dogs on the course anymore, but we all know the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, right?

After working the two old dogs, Amy and I went to help Jerill who was cleaning out one of the lambing stalls in preparation for the 4-5 ewes that were ready to blow with babies in the coming days. As we were pitching actual crap into a wagon, Amy said one of the funniest things ever...
"If I had known I was going to be shoveling shit today, I would have worn my soon-to-be-ex-husband's best clothes."

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