Yesterday at Dianne's I worked with Patrick's Jen. Poor Scout looked on in scoutrage from the front seat of Jodi's pickup. Actually, though, I think it's more appropriate to say that Jen worked with me.
Jen is a great accomplished open dog who has gone into retirement or semi-retirement, at least from trialing. Nine years old, and having recently raised a litter of puppies, I think it must have been a rude surprise for her to be roused from her lazy Sunday morning and thrown into the back of Not Patrick's truck, into a crate, next to some beer bottles, only to emerge 15 minutes later at Dianne's house working for….a clown. Someone who can't find her come-by with both hands. Someone who would try. Someone who instead of employing a whistle seemed to almost beg, piteously.
"Jen? Come by? Here! Herehere!?"
It took her a little bit to realize I was serious. Or that she was awake and alive and really being asked to work for an amateur. It took me a little while to be serious. I was in awe of a dog who knows so much more than me.
When we got to Patrick's that morning, Patrick came outside, followed by Jen, unawares and carrying a nice bone. "Patrick and I are going to check on something Important. Maybe I'll pee…" You could almost hear the tune she was humming in her doggy head. Then she saw us, saw the truck, felt our intent; she dropped the bone in shock as we started steering her toward Jodi's truck. Patrick's Boston Terrier quickly nabbed it. Somewhere a cow bawled. I'm sure it all happened in slow motion for Jen and that her thoughts were something along the lines of,
"Who are these Not Dianne or Susans? Are those BEER BOTTLES? Oh, no. No. nonononono. I am NOT getting into a COOLER in the BACK of Not Patrick's TRUCK at 10:00 in the morning when I still have my genitals to lick and that bone…where is my b….oh! Sweet Crunchy Jesus, that little punk with the fancy collar took my bone! What is going on?! Have I died in my sleep? Is this HELL? No, there would be more cats….and not Patrick… Oh! Is he really allowing this? After I have given that man the BEST YEARS OF MY LIFE?"
Poor Jen. It was a rough start to her morning, but once she rolled out of the pickup at Dianne's house and onto the field with me and some sheep she seemed to warm to her job.
It was nice working at a slower-than-Scout pace, and on things other than Get Back and Get Out of That. Jen and I drove. Back and forth long distances on Dianne's field. It was tricky at first, for me – — like learning to use a clutch. My timing sucks. I'm not used to saying 'Come by' or 'Away' and having it work. Jen is so smooth and steady. So we drove crooked, serpentine lines back and forth, but it was really fun. For me. Jen was probably busy trying to remember what she chewed up at home to deserve this.
I've seen these skills used by other people on other dogs, but I'm not even close with Scout. It was nice to have that experience. Saturday, at Colleen's Going Away Party, (sniff, stifled sob), I worked Reena a bit and that was good, also. It is helpful to experience how different dogs work, how their eye or power or speed or whatever effects the livestock, what one needs to do to compensate. It's nice to have the time to process things as they happen.
I'm sure Jen didn't even look back as she and Patrick drove away. She assumed we'd go back to drinking beer and the sheep would scatter like leaves.