Sunday, August 2, 2009

What I Learned at Sheep Camp

It was an interesting week. Unfortunately, it is a week I am not sad to see go.

My poor husband is a brave man. He patiently listened to me cry every night. Complaining about the heat, the frustration, the pain of not knowing what I was doing wrong.

I tried to keep positive, every morning when I got up I tried to focus on all the positive things we were going to do and learn. But every day that passed I found I struggled to go...

I learned many things this last week.

Many things about my dogs, handling and livestock.

Many things about myself that make me sad.

Many things about other people which make me very sad.

I learned an amazing amount of information about livestock handling and behavior. That alone makes the week worth it.

I learned that Chris Soderstrom & Elsie Rhodes are fantastic instructors and just plain neat people.

I learned that I have grown in my appreciation for Karen Child. I think she is absolutely amazing. I admire her ability to instruct to every person, dog and skill level. She is also a truly nice person.

I have learned if frustrated or upset not only will I telegraph those feelings to my dog through my voice and my body language but ALSO the livestock. If you are upset, your dog is upset and your livestock is upset. For example: if you are yelling at your dog you are also yelling at the livestock and it makes everything icky.

I learned the importance of approaching every training session with a plan.

I learned about inside flanks, outside flanks, driving, gates, chutes, alleys. How to handle lambs differently than ewes.

I learned that if you are laying on the ground in a flock of 50 ewes and screaming - no one can hear you.

I learned that I never want to be a handler that micromanages everything. If you micromanage your dog's every move & action you do not give your dog an opportunity to think for themselves. You can try to micromanage your dog, but you cannot micromanage your livestock, and more often than not sheep are not going to fit into your plan.

I saw people this last week who micromanaged every single thing their dogs did. Micromanage them into nervous wrecks.

I never want to be that person.

I learned I never want to do something like this again.

I learned that a group of 20 women in 100+ degree heat are not fun to be around.

I learned that Bonnie will give me lie downs consistently when I am not freaked out, stressed out, grumpy, anxious and upset.

I learned that Beth doesn't want to be in the same field with me when I am freaked out, stressed out, grumpy, anxious and upset.

I learned that my deodorant does not function well in 100+ degree heat. Neither does anyone elses.

I learned that not all people treat their dogs like family members, rather like tools or extensions of their own ego.

I learned that many people only want to talk about their dog's pedigree and when they learn you have rescue's...then *poof* you are dismissed.

I learned that being nice and letting others go in front of you gets you screwed in a clinic situation unless the instructor watches the clock.

I learned that there are always the people who have to go first then monopolize the entire session for themselves and don't care that the person who was nice is getting screwed out of their time.

I learned at this sheep camp you will only work your dog 30 minutes a day. That is all. The rest of the time you get to sit in the blazing heat and worry about your other dogs locked in a horse stall all day long.

I learned that if you are assigned sheep chores, the members of your team will go out and start doing all the chores without telling you, just so they can work their dogs more - then have the audacity to be upset with you for not helping.

I learned that some people are still in high school and never left. I never was part of the 'in' group in high school. I hated high school and don't want to revisit the game playing and psychological warfare.

I dislike people who have 'inside jokes' and 'you had to be there' stories.

I learned that I can be difficult, grumpy and bitchy too and I am sure there is a very good reason why the last day no one wanted to talk to me. Heck I was afraid of me too.

There is a reason why I am a 'dog' person. I find that I get along with dogs much better than I do with most people.

Dogs are honest, pure, do not lie or talk behind your back.

I read in in a Jon Katz's book that he found a great many 'dog people' are emotionally damaged. I am sure that is the case with me.

I didn't do a very good job of keeping my head in a positive space did I?


sheepkelpie said...

I am amazed you stuck it out at all- with those temps. About the people dynamics, well, the heat brings out the worst in everyone. You have learned a dear lesson- that you have to find who you are, and what you really want out of this herding stuff. The pleasure you get, comes from just working your dog, and progressing. Not trying to keep up to some one else's plan, but your own. Model your dog and you like clay, and soon you will have an amazing result. You can't rush that sort of artwork. It has to come from the heart, and the soul, and it has to come at it's own speed.
About the micromanaging- I agree, I am so not doing that. It tends to annoy folks that see Lucy work, but she excels where those who micromanage can't- in figuring out how to solve a puzzle.
So, take heart. The week's over, and you can relax a bit, and then, go back on the field with your dogs, you heart and soul, and enjoy each and every moment of the journey.
Hugs to you.

Your exp reminds me of a clinic I went to last summer. Oh Lordy. Not what I expected, and not to be repeated ;)

Pamela, said...

I sympathize. I guess that those who love animals (and rescues!) more than humans will always be a little different than the rest of the world. But it does not matter, your dog will always love you, even when you have a bad day.
I like what shepkelpie had to say about modeling your dog, and with rescues it is a unique challenge. My dogs are like my artwork, you do not always get what you expect, but you get something unusual and just what you need.
-hugs- tomorrow is another training day....

The Thundering Herd said...

We are very impressed if you learned all of that in one week! Though it may not have been the experience you wanted, it could end up being a most valuable experience.

Emma Rose said...


I knew from the instant I met you what kind of person you are and I would trade all the pedigrees in the world for one friend like you. Forget about the others - they are not worth your thoughts. You and your dogs make an awesome team!

The Duchess

Lean said...

Wauww great story,never to old to learn.But one thing,the dogs love you.Your pictures shows this.
bye bye,Lean

Kimberly-MyPets said...

I'm so happy that I found your blog, because it's really made me think and articulate clearly about border collies, which we would like to adopt.

This weekend, we saw a border collie on a farm while house hunting and it brought home once again that we need to be very particular when we adopt, because we won't have the time to dedicate to their training (the way you so amazingly have) and we do want our new family member to be happy.

Looking forward to the next post. Good for you for sticking in there!!!

DeltaBluez Tess said...

Tess is my rescue and she says "BLAH" to those people who think papered dogs are only worthwhile!!

People lke to put other people down to make themselves look good. so when the folks were dissing you, are a better person. And that is why I like you as my friend

Paws on the Run said...

Sorry to hear that your week wasn't as fun as you'd hoped! I'm glad you learned lots though. Put the crap behind you and the lessons you learned into practice. Put your feet up, relax and cuddle your pups. You'll feel better in no time. Oh wait, you have border collies... grab ball, throw it a few hundred times, then put your feet up and relax!

Splash said...

I love your summary, it sounds like every agility seminar I have ever been at -- extreme highs and lows. I get so nervous that they won't like me, my dog, our teamwork, whatever! I just try to take a deep breath and tell myself it is not about them, it is about us.

Can you tell me more about sheep camp, though? I have my first BC, he is amazing! He's 9 months old today. Without sounding too much like a bragging mother, I think he would be very very good at herding. He practices on the Labs.

If you have time and feel like it, I would love to know more. You have my blog address on this comment so you know where to find me. Enjoy!

BCxFour said...

I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for each of your comments. The support means more than I can say.

Thank you!