This weekend was pretty stockdog intensive and I wish I could illustrate this with nice digital photographs of dogs and sheep in action…but…I take shitty pictures. Always have. Jodi takes beautiful pictures and will undoubtedly post some on her blog. My pictures are my words. Be thankful because that usually comes closer to an actual point, believe it or not, than anything I can produce with a camera.
With a camera, I always either take a shot of the wrong thing or frame the picture ridiculously….
"What is that a picture OF, Katy?"
"An ant hauling a potato chip…"
"Where is the ant?"
"It's really small…its down there somewhere…"
"Is that your garage and the neighbor's house?"
Yes, its a shot of my entire yard…I thought the context was important."
Context is important. That continues to haunt me with my stockdog work. Until I can master context in the physical sense, the way I over-master it in the written/picture department, I will be a shrill mess out in the field.
This weekend we took part in a demo for a little community (*cough* Victorian Stepford *cough* ) that was celebrating, as near as I could tell, vacuuming out an old barn and ….the civil war, plus the bad music that preceded it. I might be a little jaded here because…who writes songs about a Badger in the Outhouse? Are these words something that we need to put to music, really? AND why in Idaho do we need civil war re-enacters? If I had known that the event would be festooned with aged men shooting blanks, I'd have brought my mother and left my dog at home. Scout certainly didn't need to be reminded that anyone fought to keep blacks enslaved. We both hate gunshots and balloons (and Eric's cell phone). SO…Scout and my part in the demo was sort of frantic. THOUGH I do think it was, despite my little rant, good for us in general (no pun intended) because I did make her work through our issues. The area we had to work in was VERY small and she worked too tight at first and I was afraid to correct her too loudly…with all the children and women in skirts and bonnets and such…plus I wasn't sure if I'd be shot for screaming "GODDAMN IT I SAID GET BACK YOU LITTLE BITCH! JODI IS LAUGHING AT US!" I know for certain that we would have been violating some social code of the 1800's. Women weren't named Jodi until after washing machines were invented.
Anyway, Scout did better each time I worked her, because I did better. I was more relaxed and made her, quietly and without the use of foul language, "lay down" and "get back". It wasn't stellar, but it was good for us. Scout's sister, Mo, did really well for Jaenne. I hope someone took pictures of them working together. I hope Jaenne updates her blog.
Next we drove over to the Ketchum/Hailey area to help out with the annual Trailing of the Sheep trial. I helped with setout. This was good exposure for me because we weren't using dogs (in the pens) so it was a good opportunity for me to be around stock and experience them from my dogs perspective. I don't have sheep of my own, yet. Just 4 dogs and a cat, so my experience with livestock outside of my recent dog herding forrays is …oh…nonexistent. It was pretty impressive to me how easily Jodi and Susan could take a group of 30 range ewes and calmly encourage 5 to walk into a small pen, quickly and yet pretty languidly. I usually ended up with 6 or 7 and it happened much more haphazardly. I tried adjusting my pace and body movements and it helped some, but I couldn't replicate the ease. I asked Susan about this later and she said that she sort of communicates what she wants from the sheep. Being a woman of science, she was reluctant for this to be interpreted as 1-900 Ask a Sheep Psychic fodder, but it made sense to me on a deeper, less Shirley MacLean level too. I think Susan communicates thru her body movements, eye contact, and even more subtle language that prey animals would pick up but I can't yet, that she can be trusted and is in control; Susan never doubted that 5 sheep would walk into the pen. Like with athletes who say that they picture the objective in their mind slightly before and as they are achieving it. I think, again, its a matter of confidence and being fully engaged, instead of just trying too hard with your body while mentally worrying about the Badger in the Outhouse or why we don't have Vietnam or Desert Storm re-enacters.
Anyway. It was a great weekend. I don't have a picture to prove it.