Saturday, February 28, 2009

Portrait Fail

I wish I knew how to use all the fancy-schmancy controls on my camera. Thankfully the camera comes with a few idiot proof settings or I would be doomed - but I still can't seem to get the settings correct for taking pictures inside.

The dogs are beginning to hate the snowy & rainy days. This week was pretty dreary and Crazy Lady decided to torture them with the camera. Normally when the camera comes out, Beth hides behind the couch, Ranger puffs up like a parrot and Bonnie only has eyes for the string cheese I bribe them with.

Beth didn't bolt from the room like she did during the Border Collie Fashion Show. However she still managed to look like she was being tortured. I think the lure of string cheese overwhelmed her disdain for the camera.

This is the "We Are Abused" Family Portrait Series

I love this one - Ranger looks so... debonair. I could almost see him wearing as smoking jacket posing in a library. Bonnie looks hungry for the cheese I had in my hand.

Bonnie's pretty 'feed me more cheese' pose.

We were getting a little better with this shot (but the lighting still bites). Bonnie looks happy, Ranger is stuck in his Mr Serious pose, and Beth, is ...uhh..well, being Beth.

This one is my favorite - I just wish the lighting was better (or I knew what I was doing).

Next time I think I need to break out some nice Spring Fashions for the dogs to model. How about EASTER HATS!

For that I will have to whip out the beef jerkey & peel Beth off the ceiling.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"True Love" Photo Contest Winner

Wow! A picture our friend Vivian shot of John with her dog Eliott is one of the winners of Raising Addie's True Love Photo Contest.

(Click on picture below for larger image)

Vivian is 'Red Dog Photography' located in Grays Harbor County, WA. She shot this photo in Feb 2008. The same day we adopted Beth from her. Vivian has been instrumental in placing hundreds of border collies in their new homes through Pacific Northwest Border Collie Rescue. When she isn't busy with Border Collies she also volunteers a large amount of her time with PAWS. (She inspired me to begin fostering). She conveys her "True Love" of dogs through her amazing photography.

Thank you Raising Addie for your wonderful contest!

Please stop by Raising Addie and check out all the beautiful pictures that were submitted with the theme of "True Love".

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Another Sheep Weekend

Each weekend I spend at Fido's Farm just seems to get better and better.

It didn't start out the best. Since we have a long drive - I wait until I get there to put on my boots. I was standing at the tail gate putting them on and talking to John. While bending over trying to tuck my pants into my boots Beth suddenly decided to leap into the back of the vehicle. She jumped when I bent and her hard forehead hit me directly in the mouth. While checking her head to make sure she wasn't hurt I kept seeing blood! I couldn't find where she was bleeding & started to panic a bit. Then I realized it was coming out of my mouth. My lip was split open and my front tooth was chipped. *sigh* Our lesson was in a few minutes so I grabbed a tissue and went out into the field looking like a vampire who just guzzled a pint of blood.

The walk out to the field was peaceful. (I only had to stop a few times to spit blood). A lovely light white blanket of fog had settled into the valley. John was along to shoot some video. This will be one of his last weekends off from work for a long while. Some clips from the video he shot is below.

(YouTube had a glitch last night and my video was stuck in processing. I have deleted it and reloaded it - hopefully it is unstuck now! Sorry about that!)

Later in the morning John went to take a look at an electrical problem Chris is having in one of her outbuildings. While he was doing that I took Beth back up into the same field the lambs kept escaping last week. Chris had put up a new gate. (YEAH!) When we first got out there the lambs were stuck like glue to that gate again. I remembered something SheepKelpie told me HERE about walking up to the sheep. So I leashed Beth and together we walked down the narrow pathway to the gate, slowly and steadily circled around behind the sheep and lifted them quietly off the gate and drove them down the pathway out into the field.

Then I let them go back to the same spot. We did it again, and again. On the fourth time, I didn't leash Beth. She confidently walked right up to them and orderly scooped them up and drove them up the lane with me walking behind. It is so cool to see your dog have a light bulb moment.

I found that she is challenging me on just about everything. She refused to lie down. She would stop, but refused to drop. She was being very naughty. So we went back to 'sheep sandwich' and just some circling drills until she got it through her pretty little noggin' she wasn't getting the sheep without behaving. After that I set her up for a few longer outruns - which were very nice and ended it there.

While on break I had a wonderful chat with Dee & Jeff Morroni about learning how to 'drive'. Jeff gave me some excellent tips. He said that I need to spend time walking the pasture (along side a fence to start) with Beth parallel to me (on leash) and follow the sheep around. Then after a bit, off leash, gradually let her get further and further ahead. He said I should be doing this almost every time I work her. It is a nice way to break up your training sessions.

Today (Sunday) I took Beth back to Fido's and back to the same field we worked in yesterday. She was being a brat again. So we went back to basics. She was darting in on the sheep, once she even flossed her teeth. For the first time ever I threw my stick at her & I hollered "WHAT ARE YOU DOING! LIE DOWN". After that she stopped the darting around and ignoring me. I felt utterly terrible, but it was necessary.

It didn't slow her down at all. Why when John works her she moves slowly and deliberately, then when I am working her she zips around like her arse is on fire.

When she finally settled down a bit we worked circling drills (turning the clock as we went), a few outruns, triangle gathers and walking up to the sheep together like Jeff told me Saturday.

While walking behind the sheep with Beth I was concentrating on the sheep's heads and Beth, all the while not watching where my feet were going. Hitting the dirt with my chin took me by surprise. My lip didn't split open again but I did bite my tongue. Top it off I twisted my ankle in a hole - the worst part I broke my training stick in half on my way down. *sigh*

I limped my way back to "sheep central" for a break. There I had the pleasure of talking to a few wonderful women (Gael, Carol & Corrine) about dogs, herding, agility, whistles & various other things. Corinne is the agility instructor at Fido's. Her dog Tae (hope I spelled that right) is amazing. Tae's brother, Chili (Gael's dog) is equally impressive. I truly enjoyed watching them in the big field taking turns driving & fetching the sheep back and forth to each other, through panels etc. It was better than anything on TV. (Well, not better than drooling over Burn Notice but a close second).

Toward the end of the day it sunk into my brain what I am doing to cause Beth to cut in on the top of her outruns. I stopped using any verbal cue's and just sent her with my stick (correctly) like Karen told me. When she gave me what I wanted, then I gave it a name. I think it may be working.

Beth and I ended the weekend on a good note, back with the same 24 lambs we started with Saturday. A few nice outruns (with distractions) that were reasonably straight. One where she was being a complete brat & cut the top off completely then barreled into the flock from the side scattering them like a cluster bomb. However she did a very nice job cleaning up her mess with a beautiful 'look back' and brought them all to me in a straight line. All in all I was pleased.

I can't wait to go back on Wednesday, then Friday, and Saturday, and Sunday....

Friday, February 20, 2009

Crossing the Bridge

Charlie crossed the bridge this evening in our arms, he slipped peacefully away. We are all going to miss him tremendously.

Goodbye Charlie

How do you know?

Charlie is not doing well.

Something changed in him last night. Perhaps he is beginning his journey over the bridge on his own?

How do you know when it is time to end their fight for them? Maybe I should just let him go peacefully at home. Am I being selfish? How am I the one to judge that it is time for him to go?

We have an appointment with the vet this evening - this is the second one I have made in a week. The first I cancelled.

My heart is breaking...

Easy Chicken Chili Stew

I was inspired by Laura over at Crooks and Crazies. She has posted some wonderful healthy recipes. I wanted to share one of our favorites (I usually double this for our family of seven). There is nothing like coming home to warm stew cooking after a long cold day on the farm.

Easy Chicken Chili Stew

6 skinned boned chicken breast halves, cut into 1" pieces.
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T olive oil (I use non-sitck cooking spray and forgo the oil)

Cook together until tender, then add

2 - 14 oz cans of stewed tomatoes, undrained and chopped
1 - 15 oz can of pinto beans, drained
2/3 cups of picante sauce
1 t chili powder
1 t ground cumin
1/2 t salt

Bring to boil, cover and reduce heat, simmer 20 minutes. Ladle into bowls and top with the following optional toppings (depending on calories you wish to add)

Shredded cheddar cheese
Sour cream
Avacado wedge
Sliced Green Onions

I have adapted this to cook in my crock pot. Just dump everything in together and cook on low for 8 hours. If you prefer, brown the chicken first. The crock pot works, but the texture is the best if cooked on the stovetop.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ranger Goes Swimming

Hiya, it is Ranger 'member me? I am that Black and White Border Collie that lives with the Crazy Lady?

Today the weather was real pretty and WARM! So the Crazy Lady said "Wow, it is almost 60 degrees! Lets go to the river!".

When we first got there my sister Bonnie started barking like a freak at this little kid. So Crazy Lady took us down to the sand bar on the water to keep away from the people walking on the levee.

We shouldn't have gone with her, because Crazy Lady turned sadistic.

At first we had fun throwing the ball on the sand.

Sometimes it bounced in the water. That was okay cuz I like water.

Water is fun to shake off too, cuz we got Crazy Lady's camera wet. HA HA!

We kept begging her to throw the ball!

She wasn't throwing it fast enough

Then she accidentally threw the ball in the deep water. I dove in the water to get the ball back, cuz I am a good boy. Bonnie swam after me but she wimped out...what a loser.

Crazy Lady is stupid. She said I was a "GOOD BOY" then threw the ball in there AGAIN! What is wrong with this woman? Did I mention the water is COLD? It is fed by a glacier for doG's sake!

She threw the ball in there over and over again and I HAD to swim out and get it.

Bonnie kept following me and tried to bite my ears when I was swimming too.

She is like a bad cold, I cant shake off!

She made me drop the ball too!

Next time she does that I am gonna dunk the brat. Bonnie just laughs at me and runs away. She sucks...

Bonnie was REALLY annoying

After a while I couldn't feel my poor cold toes. If I would have had all of my 'boy parts' they would have been blue too! Speaking of cold, I have one now thanks to the cold water - gosh I hope Crazy Lady feels guilty. I think I am going to sneeze on her pillow tonight. HA!

I don't know what is wrong with Beth. She doesn't seem to feel cold.

When that ball is out - she is like, you know, INSANE!

Crazy Lady took us home and got us all cleaned up. We are are all tuckered out now, but I am still cold. I think I will be cold forever.

Evil Crazy Lady should go lay her butt in that river and see how it feels. Next time I am gonna push her in. HA HA!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sunday Lesson with Karen Child

I love weekends like we just had. There is nothing better than spending the day with the man you love (yeah he is a keeper, even when he is annoying me) and the dogs you adore.

To wrap up three solid days of lessons we closed with Karen Child on Sunday afternoon. While John has had several lessons with Karen, this was my first working Beth.

I cannot say enough about her. She is an incredible instructor! I love the way she can correct you without making you feel like a doofus. She stuffed my brain so full of information I cannot possibly retain it all. Which is why it is especially helpful to have these lessons on video so I can watch them again and again before going out to practice.

For me, the videos are more effective than notes and I can clearly see what I am missing when on the field. For example. I am forgetting to use the "that'll do" instead I am saying "come". I need to work on that.

Here are a few of the rainy highlights.

Karen discussed having John in the field with me while I am working Beth. She said it won't be a good idea. It is like changing dance partners in the middle of the dance. Poor Beth will wonder who she is dancing with. When I am practicing John needs to stay out of the field. She also said that for now I need to be the one working her. She shouldn't be bounced back and forth between us until John can work her regularly again.

Beth looks wonderful. It is all due to John's hard work and devotion in training her.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lost Sheep - Part Two

Saturday we had another lesson with Chris. Since John didn't have to work he wanted to come along. We previously made the decision that I was going to work Beth the next several months due to his upcoming overtime schedule.

It has been a hard for him to let go. I don't blame him, he started Beth and brought her this far. Putting Beth on a training hiatus now wouldn't be fair to her. My taking Beth for now is good for Beth and also good for me. Since I have gotten up to speed with Rosie (Chris's Kelpie) I am now at a point now that I can move forward with Beth. When John can work her again he will be able to step right in with a little catching up. It is a win-win situation.

During the lesson John trailed behind Chris and me. It was a little confusing for Beth to have three people out there and a few times she just plopped her butt down in the grass and quit working.

We were working in the same field I lost the lambs in on Friday. During our lesson Chris made sure we had all six lambs. When we wrapped up our lesson she said clearly "Keep working the lambs, but if they go up to the same place they escaped yesterday - just walk away and don't try to get them out - they will eventually come back down. We haven't had a chance to get that fence fixed yet".

After the lesson and resting a bit John and I took Beth out for some more practice. I was glad to have John with me because I could use his guidance. We had a wee bit of a power struggle in the field (okay, not a 'wee' power struggle - this was of epic proportions manifesting itself in a passive/aggressive escalation of irritation).

John kept barking commands at Beth and correcting me when I was holding the stick and working her. At first I was sympathetic to how he felt (he had already admitted to me that he wished he could keep working her). I knew this was hard on him. I used mental imagery to keep calm. I fantasized about beating him over the head with the stick which helped me refrain from screaming at him to shut the h*ll up.

Soon, the lambs made their way back up to the top of the field. Dangerous territory. I turned tail and walked back to John at the gate (where I banished him) and said "I am stopping, if I put any pressure on the lambs at that gate they will escape again, like they did yesterday"

John said "Let me take Beth, I can get them out".

I said..."Not a good idea, Chris said not to".

John didn't listen...

I stayed at the bottom of the field, shaking my head and taking pictures. The chance to photograph a "I Told You So" moment doesn't come around to often.

John and Beth are walked up to the top of the field where the lambs were gathered at the gate.

Just over the hill is a small draw with a creek and a 'land-bridge' leading to the broken gate (leaving a three food gap if they push it). The other side of the gate is a field full of the ewes. The dog needs to know how to carefully get between the lambs and the broken gate and bring them down the narrow path back into the field. This is beyond Beth right now.

John is setting Beth up for an outrun down the path to the gate.

John's turn at the 'walk of shame'

They escaped

"Hey, John...are you missing some sheep?"

I made John tell Chris. Chris didn't smack John. I think she felt sorry for him since his wife was wiping tears from her eyes from laughing so hard.

On the drive home I mentioned I had excellent material for my next blog post. He said if I posted any mention of this to my blog I was going to regret it.

If you don't hear from me again - I am taking lessons from the Big Hat in the sky.

Happy has a new Home!

Happy's new family picked him up today!

Happy will be living with a wonderful family & a gorgeous black and white Aussie named Tanner. They were the perfect fit. Happy and Tanner clicked instantly. Oddly enough they are a matched set. One with a tail, the other without.

We are going to miss him...Bye bye Mr. Happy Bear.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Lost Sheep

Today we lost our sheep. The little buggers found the hole in the fence near the gate and escaped to the big field. I could hear them laughing at us as they ran away. Wooley idiots.

We started out our lesson with Chris with six lambs. Three disappeared at the beginning of the lesson (jumped the creek). We didn't have time to get more separated from the larger flock. So we worked with the three that were left.

When Chris left us to work on our own we did pretty good. But we just didn't seem to be clicking. Beth was off her game and I seemed to have forgotten how to walk. It went down hill after I fell arse over teakettle in the mud.

After a quick bathroom break in the barn we went back out - and the stinking lambs were up against the gate again - trying to get through to the larger flock. Beth very carefully lifted them out to the center of the field. But they kept heading back. It was fascinating to watch her work through this in her mind. These lambs were really challenging her. Facing her, stomping their feet. One of the braver lambs charged at her several times. She held her ground and very slowly and firmly put pressure on them. She was using her noggin. Then when things just got a wee bit complicated the darn stupid lambs found the hole next to the gate and whooosh....they were gone.

Beth shot through the same gap and tried to get ahead of them in the field before they got to the larger flock. I bellowed "lie down" I could see her sigh, then she gave me a guilty look. I patted my leg and said "that'll do" & gave her some lovin' .

Then we walked the path of shame out of the field.

Tomorrow morning we have another lesson with Chris. Sunday we have a lesson with Karen Child. Perhaps by the time Monday morning rolls around we might actually have our act together.

Anything is an improvement over today...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Charlie & Ranger

This is Charlie O'Chicken the Third, our 18 y/o cat.

We adopted Charlie 16 years ago after finding him at a garage sale for free. He was stuffed in a cat carrier with his litter box, food and toys in a heap next to him.

He was a very tubby kitty when we brought him home. He was a big boy - 21 lbs. He loved his food.

Charlie is the most social cat I have ever met. He never has been one to hide when people come over. He is right there in the middle of the mix, hanging out and meowing at everyone to pet him. Someone told us a while back that Charlie was a dog masquerading as a cat. Purrfect description

Charlie has cancer - gastrointestinal leiomyosarcoma. A cancerous tumor growing on his intestine. When the vet diagnosed him months ago he said that Charlie didn't have long to live, maybe 3-4 weeks. That was 8 months ago. We have watched him slowly deteriorate, and it has been heart breaking. My once thick & sturdy cat is now emaciated and weak. Through it all he has maintained his normal sweet attitude & continued to be social.

Two weeks ago I thought it was time - he became incontinent, listless, and tipping over when he was walking. I talked to the kids and prepared them and planned on taking Charlie to the vet the next day if he got any worse.

The next morning Charlie was sitting at his food bowl howling at me to feed him. He looked better. Since then he has been gaining weight. But the mass in his tummy has been growing harder and larger. He is still a bit tippy when he walks, and he does occasionally leave a puddle or two behind but he is doing much better. Given this sudden change I can't help but wonder - is this the improvement before the decline? Every day I this the day? How do you determine what "quality of life" is? He wants to eat (constantly) and drinks. He still wants to sit on your lap and be snuggled and he still hangs out with the dogs.

Ranger knows there is something wrong ...

If Charlie lays on the 'dog' bed - Ranger lays down next to him ever so gently. Charlie purrs so loudly you can hear it across the room.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Packworks & Tuna Brownies

My mind is just whirling from the weekend we had. Saturday we spent the entire day with Bonnie at Packworks for a Border Collie Seminar sponsored by our rescue organization. WOW! I am planning on posting a summary as soon as I can organize my thoughts. My brain is mush right now. If you are curious about Packworks in the meantime you can read their 'tech-lite' website here

Since I don't have anything of value to share - here is my favorite doggie training treat recipe.

We cannot live without these - they are perfect for just about any training situation. Ranger is sensitive to wheat & many treats contain wheat. The ones that do not are high in calories and high in price. So we make our own! Bonus - They are light enough to show up on just about any surface (i.e. grass, dirt, sawdust, artificial turf, rubberized flooring) and the dogs LOVE them!

Warning: Your house will REEK like tuna when these are in the oven. Suggestion: maybe toss a tuna casserole in the oven for dinner - you might as well go for the whole tuna experience.


Preheat oven to 250F

Drain 4 regular (5 or 6 oz) or two large cans of tuna and pour into mixing bowl
Mix in 4 eggs-include the crushed shells if you want more calcium.
Mix in 3 cup oat or rice four
Add 1 T garlic powder

Blend well, form into doughy ball. Divide into half. Spread each half about 1/4 inch thick on big greased cookie sheet. Bake about 25- 30 minutes or until golden. Cut into tiny squares before they get too cool (I use the rolling pizza slicer). Since they are made without preservatives and they contain moisture they must be refrigerated. Store in zip lock baggies in fridge or freezer.

Bone appetite!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Descent into Obsession

I think I am riding the slippery slope from hobby herder to obsessed herder. Yes, I have succumbed to the magical pairing of handler and dog. I wake up at night muttering "away", "go-by". I don't count sheep - rather I see them dashing through the field being trailed by little black dog.

Since Bonnie is still to young to train seriously I have been laying awake at night plotting ways to steal Beth from John. Perhaps getting rid of him entirely - so I can have her all to myself. Maybe that is going to far. I wonder if I would get Beth in a divorce? Hmmm...that is a possibility. On second thought, I wouldn't be able to afford the cost of the classes without his income. *sigh* That means I need to encourage him to work MORE overtime! Yeeehaaa! That'll do it!

Given this obsession I am heading down to Fido's Farm for more practice this afternoon and tomorrow. We won't be able to go Saturday, since we have a fantastic class through PNW Border Collie Rescue we are attending at Packworks

I finally got the video put together of me working with Beth last week. As you can see we are still beginning but things are starting to come together. She is much further ahead than me and we are working on our communcation. We had a few wobbly moments but in general they turned out okay. I would love to hear what you think of it...and any suggestions on things I may be missing or need to focus on.

And finally, just for Sheepkelpie over at I Love Lucy & Friends I put together a video of one of my first lessons with Chris Soderstrom and her Kelpie Rosie from December. (Due to the snow storms we were in the arena working).