Last weekend I put Jai on sheep for the first time since I left; since our last trial in February. I have been telling everyone who will listen, and even some who, frankly, will not. Are sick of it. Can't we talk about ANYTHING ELSE??? …what a great dog Jai is. The best dog ever.
I was excited to work her again. My delusions of Greatness were in full bloom.
We were to work in Dianne's little field, initially. It was cloudy with a 30 percent chance of me being chided.
I sent Jai on an outrun, she gathered the sheep, brought them back, maybe a little fast, but she took her down and was taking a steady as she got closer ….the real trouble started when the fetch ended and Jai started to drive them back out, reluctantly. A lot of Jai stopping and looking at me.
One of the sheep, a ewe with an attitude, and, let's be honest, a ratty coat…like something someone who mumbles about her feet and the neighbors' in the same breath would wear, chased her down. I mean turned and CHASED HER a good 20 feet. I stood there and watched the whole thing.
"That fucking sheep!" I believe were my words.
"Jai picks fights," DD said behind me, behind the fence, "You are going to have to watch her….now you need to help her."
Every time Jai would move toward the group of sheep, three would move off and that nasty blight in nappy sheeps clothing would turn and threaten her. Jai did a lot of standing, looking at me, and wagging. She did the Jai equivalent of deciding to get her instinct certificate, have it framed and move on to something else. Maybe agility. Or just spending time together.
"HELP HER!" DD said.
"Should I wack your sheep? Rough it up a little?"
I twirled my stock stick. Stabbed at the air, experimentally.
"NO! Encourage her to grip. Now would be a good time to teach her gripping as a tool."
Jai wasn't thinking of getting anywhere near that ewe. She was enjoying a moment of repose, looking intently away. I was considering a good cry. Strong drink.
DD came out with us and told Jai to walk up; she (Dianne) clapped (although it would be a nice trick if Jai could do this) and spoke encouragingly,
"Come on! Come on! Good! That's a girl!"
Dianne walked about 20 feet beside/ behind Jai as she flanked her left and right. The sheep, all of them, even Aunt NappyAss, moved nicely out into the field.
DD and Jai returned to where I still stood, mostly humming. I had perfected the stick twirl, though THAT went unnoticed.
"Now, you send her on another outrun and when she gets stuck, encourage her!" DD told me. Jai wagged.
I did, same thing happened, we worked through it, but it wasn't easy. Jai still did NOT want to move those sheep, not for me. That one ewe still lagged behind, always threatening to turn and Jai clearly was not sure of herself. I felt sort of …oh…like I'd turned my really really good working dog into a sweater model. Everytime I looked at Jai, she wagged, like always…but I could almost hear her saying,
"Why don't we just cuddle?"
"I know what you are thinking," Dianne said, when our friend Erica's turn had finally come and I was standing around thinking dark things that I can assure you Dianne DID NOT KNOW,
"You are thinking that the wheels are falling off. That she's never going to work again…"
Okay. She might have known SOME of the dark things. But if she knew more, she was tactful in not bringing up Jackie Chan or huffing Whipping Maid. A cringing Sherry Lewis, Lambchop, and nipple clamps…
"This is just part of Jai's development. It's a good thing. I've worked through this with all my dogs…Jai is going from being a dog driven by command to a dog using more of her own instinct. She'll be fine. We'll drive some sheep down to the big field. She'll do much better out there. Take Jai and get the sheep from the corral and drive them down the road. I'll load up and meet you down there.
It took Jai and I 15 minutes to get the sheep out of the corral. The ewes kept moving from a corner near a dog pen to another corner near a round pen and Jai wanted nothing to do with corners.
Finally I left my place near the most recent corner and walked to the gate. Jai ran in and gripped the smirk off that crusty piece of chewy entree and within seconds had them out the gate and down the road. Jai wore a beard of victory hair for half the way.
She has not hesitated since. She is a great dog.