These last few days through tomorrow, I am house-sheep-dog-sitting for the DD.
This is good for me and J because it is unlimited access to SHEEP. I can't believe DD left us alone with them! UNSUPERVISED!
We are learning many tough lessons.
Wednesday was deceptively easy. DD left, we waved.
Then, J and I sorted off 5 ewes, took them out of her pasture, across a little bridge and into the big field. We worked together nicely. Her weakness is that she lacks a little confidence. (MINE TOO! Plus, the bad language…oh, and beer. A really good chocolate cake…I digress.)
The further away from me J gets, the harder she is to move and the more I have to work against her wanting to overflank and bring the sheep back to me.
Thursday things TURNED TO SHIT. I had a really End Times awful day. Work, personal, everything. Somehow even my car, left with windows cracked open in Greenleaf, was filled with flies. I fully expected the minivan in front of me on the highway over to unman and some smirky family of 12, plus a terrier, to ascend, leaving me stuck on the freeway in between Meridian and the Cheese Factory behind a car I'd never consider driving.
At DD's, this time J could not get the sheep off the fence of the small pasture. We'd sort 5 out of the gate, they would run to the fence bordering the canal and there they would stay until she panicked (and I panicked) and she chased them DOWN the canal…and then BACK to the spot on the fence. While I screamed and whined.
I said the word 'FUCK' at top volume enough times to send some kid to college were there one of those Cuss Jar types around. A good college.
J was not building self-confidence, meanwhile.
I felt especially shitty about this.
We put the sheep away and I worked her in the small pasture. We did small stuff, short drives, small outruns; I was discouraged with my complete lack of communication skill. The sheep seemed smirky.
I expected the pasture to become unsheeped. The 11 ewes, plus J, to ascend leaving me behind with that fucking horsse (sorry DD).
We concluded our working session and I drank 2 beers in rapid succession.
"REMEMBER," DD said via phone, "This is about communication: Learning how to communicate with J. It doesn't have to be about the TASK at this point. Try some things and WATCH YOUR DOG. This is the one time I will tell you to watch your dog instead of your livestock. Watch J's reaction to what you are telling her until you find a way to communicate what you want that works for her."
Friday – Again, J easily sorted off 5 sheep and moved them down the road, across the bridge into the pasture. I was much calmer, having decided that, as DD said, even if all we accomplished was for J to feel good about getting the sheep off the fence and my being able to help her do this, that was all we needed. A key piece to our relationship would be accomplished.
In the field we worked on her driving and cross-driving and some outruns. On the last outrun she went way wide and I had the sheep put away before she noticed they were missing and came back….but…she's not a lover of the Away side in that field. I felt good about the other stuff.
Today we will work on the Away side in the big field.
It's hard to remember that I only have to accomplish something as seemingly small but really ultimately huge as learning to build communication with J; that just because we have a huge field and access to sheep, doesn't mean we have to complete a course to have a successful day working. It's much easier though to break it down to that. Or so I think. Ask J.
My whistles are killing bees, though, I'm pretty sure of that.