Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Broken Downs & Driving

Saturday we attended the WASH (Washington Association of Stockdog Handlers) Fun Day in Yelm, WA.  It was an opportunity to do some training in a trial scenario.  It was on the same field that was used for the Rocky Ewe Trial over Labor Day weekend.  Brynn had the same issue with her fetch and I was able to do work with her on it a bit.

Only after texting Dianne Deal and begging her for some advice - and threatening to employ the use of a nail gun to get Brynn to stay in one place.  Dianne graciously texted back her suggestions for correcting our problem, sans nail gun.  Her issues with the fetch are coming about from her nose up the sheep's butts and hurtling them down the field like a fart in a windstorm.  *shudder*    I needed to get a down at the top and not let her get up until her next move was correct. 

Since we have been working so hard on driving, her outrun, lift & fetch have gone to hell in a handbasket.  Since she was so 'sticky' in learning to drive I did not expect a 'down' from her driving, just a hitch in her step was fine - combined with constant flanking to keep her moving.

By doing that I broke her 'down'.   At the Fun Day on Saturday I resurrected the good ole rock bottle for a few well timed shakes at her when I said "lie down".  She was a tad bit startled by the noise.  After tossing it in her general direction one time - she finally took me seriously again and is downing when I ask.  Love how that works.  But it is still a work in process.

We have the Vashon Classic Sheepdog Trial   this weekend - I am hoping and praying Brynn's issue on the fetch will be slightly improved, at least so she doesn't bring me the sheep through the drive panels again.    Seriously I have no hopes for anything other than just the experience and time/miles on the trial field where she can gain confidence - and I can have the opportunity to help her succeed.

My goal for the weekend:  Remain Calm and focused on the best interest of my dog

All in all I am so happy with the progress we are making I could sh*t a rainbow.   I have a hard time watching my sheep because I am watching her and saying to myself   "Wow, look at that...she is so pretty."

 Her driving is coming right along

Her inside flanks are gorgeous!

Last year at this time I had no real idea what an inside flank was, let alone how important it was your dog could do it.

Brynn doesn't even blink an eye when I stop her anywhere around the sheep and begin to drive them one way or another. 

The difference between Brynn and Beth in this respect is night and day.    Beth cannot stand inside flanks & hates them with a passion.  I believe she would cheerfully eat my kneecap if it meant she never had to do one again.

Brynn doesn't question it, she just does what I ask...and loves every minute of it.

Most of the 'stickiness' Brynn showed driving has faded away.

Gradually she has grown in confidence and is moving the sheep further and further away & across the field.

I shot this with my longer lens, she is approx 50-75 yards away & listening to all my whistles.

Another obvious difference between Brynn and Beth - Brynn can feel the sheep's 'bubble' (sheep flight zone) and respects it.  Because she respects it, the sheep like her.  They are more settled, controlled and happy.  Brynn's pace is lovely (except on the fetch right now).   Beth on the other hand crashes into the sheep bubble and upsets the sheep - which causes them to run and freak out a bit.  I think Beth enjoys busting them up and putting them back together.  It is her 'candy'.  Brynn dislikes the disorder that comes from breaking them apart.

She easily and happily takes my flanks and 80% of the time I use my whistle now.   Even when I blow the wrong one.   Oops...I meant 'Come-Bye'.

There, that is better...

One thing that has been very helpful in helping Brynn develop confidence driving is to stand in the middle of the field and have her take the sheep around the fence-line.  First one direction, then another.  The sheep are happily moving, they feel safe with the fence, they don't wobble so much.  Brynn is walking in a nice steady pace behind them.  She has to flank at the corners and is really started feeling the draw & pressure.  It has been so cool to watch her begin to feel that - then come out to the side and hold it.  One of those goosebumps moments for sure. 

While going through these pictures I shot last week at Fido's I found this one.  Mind you, I had a camera stuck to my face while I blew her whistles.  I was trying to watch the sheep too.  Then I started to blow contradictory whistles.  Brynn stopped and looked at me...

Her foot in the air, patiently waiting for me to get it right.  I  lowered my camera and said "good girl" and blew the correct flank, which she then took.

She loves to work.

My gosh...somedays I feel like I am going to die from an overdose of satisfaction.

I love the partnership between us, there is nothing else like it in the world.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Herding with Hormones

This whole getting older thing sucks.  Seriously.  Sucks. 

My hair used to be a lovely mahogany.  Now it is a mix of drab brown, shocking white, brassy yellow and ugly.   Last year I decided to quit coloring my hair, because the amount of white in my hair reached a point that when my roots grew in I looked like a skunk. 

Brown Ends + White Roots = Skunk Stripe

Instead of just growing it out cold 'skunky', my colorist encouraged me to go lighter.  "Embrace the Gray" she said.   Mind you this was coming from a tall, thin,beautiful twenty-something blond with long beautiful hair. She recommended we highlight the areas of my hair that have the largest amount of white - in the whitest blond she could make. 

I went from redhead to blond over night.  I freaked out a smidge.  Scared the hell out of myself in the mirror a few times until I accepted that my hair is hideous.

Now with the gray has come this kinky, curly, FRIZZ!  What is up with that?  (I won't mention anything about the kinky hairs that grow in unmentionable places).  Really, what is this?  Some kind of karmic joke? 

I don't have bad hair days.  I have bad hair YEARS!  Now I get to face the rest of my life with frizzy, frumpy, white hair.  Gee, thanks G_d. 

We are rewarded for carrying and birthing our babies, furthering our species....by this?  Just further proof that G_d is a man.  Really.  Think about it.  What other explanation is there? 

My doctor told me last year that I am in early onset menopause and it sucks the giant succubus.  Combined with the gray hair I now have raging hormones from menopause hell. 

This afternoon I went to Fido's with Cindy where we worked in the big field.  She was on one end of the field.  I was on the other.

We were holding the sheep for each other and trading outruns.   Brynn was beautiful.  Just beautiful.  But when it was Beth's turn, things took a dramatic turn for the worse. 

Every single lift, she left a sheep behind.  Ever. Single. Time.  

I tried to help her, but she was blowing me off. 

I started fuming. 

I blamed the damn sheep. 

I blamed the grass. 

I blamed Cindy's dog. 

I blamed the sky. 

I blamed Mercury in retrograde. 

I blamed Beth for putting too much pressure in one spot.  

Then I blamed me.

Then the reality hit me.

I couldnt actually SEE what was happening down the field.  Because it was a big BLUR!  Not only am I turning completely gray, I am fatter than I have been in my life and now I am going blind! 


I walked out of the field.  Stood at the gate for a few minutes and talked to myself.  "None of this really matters", "Help my dog", "It is, what it is.", "In the big scheme of things this is a mere hiccup."  All the self talk I have been learning over the past year - yeah, it didn't work. 

I took big gasps of calming breaths.  I thought I was calm...then turned around and tried to look at Cindy working her dog in the field...

...and I immediately burst into tears.  Not just tears, mind you.  Great big hulking sobs.  I COULDN'T SEE THEM!

I am old, ugly, fat, and BLIND!  *SOB(Insert self pity here)

WTF? (insert self pity & anger)

Why was I crying?  Seriously?  Crying?  GAH !  (insert RAGE)

I waddled up to the car, for some distance. (back to self pity)

When I calmed down I came back to the field, walked over to Brynn, stuffed my face into her neck and took a deep breath.  She turned around and licked my forehead - then yanked away because I was blocking her view of the sheep.. 

One thing always puts things into perspective - looking into the eyes of a dog. 

So, go to hell hormones.  I got dogs that love me even if I am a blind white haired weeping bitch of death. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Shattered Peace

I realized yesterday when I was trying to take a nap that there was no room for me on the bed. 

While laying on my side, trying to get comfy, I was being simultaneously squished by four border collies. 

Ranger was wedged up against my backside. 
Bonnie was laying over my feet.
Beth was snuggled in front of me, her head schmooshed under my chin, my arm wrapped around her like a teddy bear. 
Brynn was down toward my knees, laying on her back...all four legs in the air...her typical pose. 

I was content.  Comfortable.  Really happy that all four of them got their Frontline application last week, and VERY pleased they are all on a raw diet.  Since they have been eating raw - no one emits the green cloud of doom much anymore. 

No kids in the house.  Husband fishing at the river.  No one to bother me. 

Ahhhh so Peaceful.  

As I was drifting off to sleep our blissful interlude was violently shattered.   My poor fractured inner child was clinging from the ceiling in utter terror. 

I refer to it as Post Traumatic Missionary Disorder
Post Traumatic Missionary Disorder: is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to an event brought on by Missionaries ringing your doorbell while sleeping on a bed with four dogs.  This event involves the threat of death to oneself from shock or to someone else (missionary).  This event overwhelms the individual's ability to cope and manifests in shaking, sudden urges to run missionaries over with vehicles, hysterical swearing episodes, door slamming, and later hanging nasty notes on the door threatening Missionaries with premature visits to whatever deity they are proselyting.  
I was more awake than I ever want to be again.  It reminded me of the my first day in USAF Basic Training when the T.I. flipped my mattress upside down while I was still in it - sound asleep.

It was an abrupt, horrifying blast of distress. 

I love dogs, but I vehemently dislike barking. 

Especially this one's bark

Bonnie is 1/4 Aussie.  She works like a border collie but barks like a deranged psychotic Aussie (no offense to Aussie folk). The high pitched wail from a jet engine turbine is quieter and more comforting.  Bonnie is my nails on the chalkboard barker. 

We all hate it. 

But we love her still the same, even when you to want to shove icepicks in your ears.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rambling Nostalgia

I miss my kids when they were little.    Toddlers are so inquisitive.  Life was new, joyful and rotated around their meal & nap schedule. 

So many things about the dogs remind me of my children when they were young.  Many people say that a border collie has the intelligence of a 5 y/o child.  I believe that along with intelligence they perhaps have  more common sense than the typical teenager.  Just sayin'.

Case in point:   When was the last time you saw a border collie set a bottle of gasoline on fire in your drive way?  Jump out of the window with a wet bed sheet as a parachute?  Get their head stuck in a heating vent?   Wash their privates with rubbing alcohol?

I rest my case. 

I look at my kid's baby pictures and miss the innocence of youth.  I miss nap time.  I miss car seats & strollers where I could strap them in and they couldn't escape without help.  I miss putting them to bed at night and know that they were not going to sneak out the window only to be brought home by the local police at 2 am.

My dogs remind me of children sometimes - without the police involvement.

Brynn just brought me her bone.  She gently placed it into my lap.  Then sat back, wagging her tail while I oooohed and awwwed over her bone.  She was delighted that I had it.

She started this behavior when she was a puppy.  She will bring me a toy, bone or sock.  Tuck it into the spot next to me in the chair, or drop it on my lap.  If I try to give it back to her she is disappointed I did not keep her treasure.

I remember when my youngest son would bring me pieces from his treasured 'Thomas the Tank Engine' train set.  He would hand it to me and smile then say "Mommy,  you can play with this for a while."   Most of the time I would make a big deal out of his 'gift'.  I would watch him  blossom in happiness.

Other times I would thank him then hand it back and tell him I was too busy.  I didn't recognize the value of the gift he was giving me.  I was too busy. Either sewing, cooking, watching TV or some other thing that wasn't going to matter in 20 years.

I really miss those moments especially when that same little boy is standing in front of me trying to manipulate me out of the contents of my wallet.

I wish I could have raised and trained a dog or two before I had kids - with the training techniques I have learned over the past year.    I wonder how much better of a parent I would have been?

Beth and the Magical Wonder Tongue

You have all seen Beth's ridiculously large ears. 

For such a petite little dog, her ears represent approximately 40% of her body surface area.  Okay, perhaps that is a slight exaggeration.  I am prone to exaggerate, please excuse me...I have a severe traumatic brain injury from a collision with the pantry door this afternoon.  

What was I saying?  Oh yes.  Beth's unusual body proportions.  

Look at those ears, seriously.  No wonder she flies them at half-mast - if a stiff wind came up we would be searching for her off the coast of Japan.

But those ears just make me want to schmoosh her little face and kiss it all over - until she squirms away "woo, woo"'s at me then nails me in the noggin with a tennis ball. 

Something else Beth has been blessed with is an extraordinarily long tongue.  We never have to worry about heat intolerance in Beth.  She just lets that tongue flop around for a few moments and poof...she is cool.  

Who wouldn't be?  It represents the remaining 60% of her body surface area.  (Alright fine... that may have been another slight exaggeration.) 

One of my friends called her tongue "Outstanding".  

Seriously how is that even possible?  You would think if she stuck it out any further she would suddenly turn inside out.

Beth and the Magical Wonder Tongue.  

It is amazing she doesn't trip over it while working.  

The way she can contort it as it hangs out of her mouth leaves me speechless.  

Almost makes my tongue hurt.  

Yes, it is a heroic tongue. 

Maybe I should measure it?  Where do you start measuring?  The tip of the tongue or the back?  Will it make her gag?  Nah, she might bite me with her few remaining teeth. 

She reminds me of someone.....let me think.  

Yes!  I have it! 

I see a resemblance.  But Beth's smile is so much sweeter.  

Ah ha!  Beth's Halloween Costume for this year!  

I wonder how she will feel about the white face paint?  Think she will lick it off? 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Letters From My Children

When John and I were married we brought five children together under one roof.    The three oldest are mine from my previous marriage.  The two youngest are his.  Now we are a blended family and torture them all equally.  No one escaped the daily dysfunction of our household. 

This is the only relatively normal picture I have with all of them together.  Typically one of them has another in a head lock, or they are blurry from swearing at each other.  This was shot last year - after we were on vacation for a week.  They were all too sunburnt and sore to smack or punch each other.  
 Picture shot last year at Long Beach, WA

Left to Right:  Amy 23,  Zach 17, Evan 15 and Grace 12, Jacob 19

With three teenage boys we have seen our share of trauma. 

With so many kids in the house we started communicating through notes.  For many years the notes were left on a chalkboard, then we moved to a dry erase board on the fridge.  Lately they have taken to leaving notes on paper left in odd places.  Mostly on my desk. 

Over the years I have gotten some whoppers.  Ones that would put the notes featured on Passive Aggressive Notes to shame. 

One of my favorites from my son was  "I HATE YOU!  I need lunch money."   I took that to work and hung it up in my cube for a couple of years.  It made me giggle every time I looked at it. 

My relationship with my daughter has seen it's ups and downs.  As with most teenage girls they think their mothers are set upon this earth only to destroy their life.  I did my best to ruin hers with rules, boundaries and Oh MY doG...CHORES!    My daughter epitomized passive aggressive and I never knew what I was going to get from her.

She used to get angry with me for asking her to do the dishes.  So she decided to throw them away instead of wash them.  I was not a happy camper when I realized she had chucked all our silverware and half my tupperware into the garbage.  She learned mothers can be passive-aggressive too.

Some days the chalk board would say "I Love you Mommy".  I knew she was mad at me if it was crossed out in big bold lines.  

But every negative note she ever left me was erased by this amazing gem of a note.   This one is framed and hanging on the wall.   Not very often do you see your daughter commit "you will always be right" to print.  All mothers of daughters will recognize the absolute value of this note. 

Of course, two weeks after she wrote this note, she stopped talking to me for months.  *sigh*  Daughters....the joys of womanhood. 

My middle son, Zach,  has been blessed with a wicked sense of humor. 

A couple of years ago my son got ahold of my camera.  This is what I found when I downloaded the pictures. 

Right after we found out my daughter is expecting our first grandchild he wrote this doozie.

Teenagers - its what drives a person to surround themselves with Border Collies. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Caption This! 2

I have been posting some seriously lame stuff lately.  So I decided to institute a new weekly feature, because my imagination has taken a nose dive into creative hell.  

Once a week I will post some silly random picture and YOU can suggest the captions!   See now this works?  I will use YOUR imagination instead of my own!   Gets me of the hook for at least one post a week! 

The photo for the Caption This - 1

The winner was selected in a top secret scientific manner that involved thumb tacks, glue, wasabi peas & 3 cans of Bud Light Chelada.  We are unable to reveal anymore details to you at this time pending patent approval. 

That said, the Caption This - 1  Winner"Dance like Nobody's Watching" submitted by Paws on the Run a gifted photographer located in Lethbridge Alberta.  Visit one of her blogs - her images are to die for!

Now for Caption This - 2

What weird, twisted, slightly demented things come to your mind when you look at this picture?  Perfectly normal captions are welcomed too. 

Can't wait to hear what you come up with! 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Brynn and the Kelpies

When we were at Dianne's Brynn got to see a couple of friends she knew well from her time spent in training with Dianne.   Two Kelpies, Sonnet and Roulette. 

It took a moment to recognize each other...then joy, happiness and silliness ensued!

Oh hi...do I know you?  

Wanna play?  I have a stick buried here from earlier.  I can dig it up.  

I can help!  Lets dig!

 It is here somewhere...I just know it is!  

I found it!  Where are you going?

I will let you hold it first!  

Mad stick dog pounce!

I am tired of racing around playing chase.   I would rather watch the sheep now.  

That is BORING! Chase me!  Pretend I am a  SHEEP!    
I am a Rouge sheep from Montana - with TEETH!  

Rouge Sheep Beware!

Uhhh! You are a scary sheep. 

 I am a mature Kelpie, I don't play with pretend sheep.  

Darn serious Kelpies.  Bahsheepbug. 

Mom, this stick is boring.  When can I pay with the sheep again?