Season Two

Over the phone, my work friend, Kim, was quoting Ayn Rand like a chittery bad literature squirrel over a vocabulary stash.

"I think Sean's conference calls are such a bromide."

"WTF are you drinking at 8 in the morning, mountain time?"

"He is such an egoist."

"Ahhhh.. Ayn Rand."

I muted her.  Ayn Rand is just the final straw. Finally. 

I'm teleworking, which is just as well since I've been bathing on a 19th century schedule.  I have no room to judge Kim her Ayn Randitis, not physically in my 800 square foot living space, and not culturally; I haven't turned my television off since a week ago last Thursday. I've steeped myself in the WORST SHIT the industrial age has to offer, and I'm not excluding world wars, atomic bombs and the Bee Gees. 

ASIDE: Why would ANYONE get their LIPS ENHANCED? I mean unless you were BORN WITHOUT THEM…or UNLESS the surgery INCLUDED a deeper verbal component, like EXTRA SARCASM…

I think Bad Reality Shows make me feel better about living like my chickens.

Yes, I'm scoffing at women who have tan boob jobs and palatial living space while I step over dogs on my way to blow dry the ice in my toilet.

BUT I've muted the tv and select my sound track with care.  Modest Mouse, L7…of course Tom Waits… Wesley Willis.

We are all suffering from single digit temperature sequestration.  I've watched back to back episodes of shows that make me pine for apes.  I've read an armload of good and bad books that make me pine for monkeys with typewriters. 

I have not worked my dogs. Not once. THEY don't even want to go outside.

Jai is not pregnant.  Sometimes I look at her and think she absorbed her puppies somewhere between my brother and his chijuajua visiting at Christmas and my third episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Too much art imitating life and too broad a definition on both, in WAY too small a space.



It's a disappointment that Jai won't be having my puppy, not any time soon.  I won't lie, I cried and ate some poptarts when that Fact was established; she is, indeed, just a little fat.  I love that dog and I wanted her line to continue forever. Sniff.

But it's time we both resumed running and getting back to work; back in shape and back on sheep. The weather is warming.  It's finally above freezing.  We are on the down hill side of winter. I'm out of poptarts, sick of indoors, and Derek has shampood and cut my hair.

I'm back.  

A Leader by Litre

Last weekend I worked dogs at the H's house with L.  (I'm hanging out with consonants as part of my resolution to buy fewer vowels).

Actually, I worked Dog, singular. I'm still not sure whether Jai is bred, but since she HOPEFULLY is and I'm REALLY REALLY paranoid of doing anything wrong, so I mostly let her lie around eating frosted dog treats and licking herself while looking askance at the others.  Every time I feel that I may have hurt her feelings, made her do something she'd prefer not to, or I'm late with a meal – I worry she'll absorb her puppies.  Like a wronged paper towel.

ANYWAY! I worked Jack.

Nowadays when I work a dog, on my way out to the field, I go through a gamut of last minute instruction.

L – "Don't forget: HAVE A PLAN AND STICK TO IT."

H – "Remember: Your feet are NOT nailed to one spot. You can move around. HELP YOUR DOG."

L – "If you ask for something make sure you get it."

I have heard these same true pieces of advice enough to feel like I gave birth to them and then neglected them; sent them to school without shoes to enjoy their only meal of free school oatmeal while I slept till noon and bitched about their unnamed fathers to anyone who would listen.

I REALLY appreciate that people are still willing to advise me on actual sheep and not just gently suggest that I rewatch Babe and aim a little lower. 

So, I went out to the middle of H's big field, sent Jack to gather his sheep, whistled an away whistle that he only took to a certain point, stood there in one place asking him alternately to go away and to walk up until the sheep came to my feet from the wrong off course angle.  I continued to stand in one spot and whistle Jack around the field a little, clumsy and untidy-like, and then we called it good.  He did flank a little better than he had the last time.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the fence, the spirit of WTF hung in the air like a thick tangible cloud.

If Don and Lavon's spleens could scream… HOLY BLOODY HELL!

"Did you forget about your feet?"


Upon speculation, and some incredulous questioning, it's clear that, first, I have NO FOCUS. I walk out to the field with a plan in mind. The words of the advice given FRESH IN MY HEAD.  As soon as I send the dog, it's gone. It's replaced by what I am accustomed to doing.  Still. After all this time. 

Second, and most important: I think its because it's not about the advice. It's not about the technicality of moving or flanking, or even timing. It's that I am trying to break through this barrier of who I am and have always been OFF FIELD and become something else ON FIELD.

I asked Lavon last night what he felt was the single most important trait in a good handler.

Without hesitation he said, "Consistency."

I made him define this better because this is too broad for me. Also, I'm WILDLY INCONSISTENT in everything I do and I wanted a narrower interpretation so that I might have some semblance of hope in achieving it.

"Expecting and getting what you want from your dog each and every time."

He went on to illustrate that I typically ask for a flank, get something of a flank, not enough, but what the dog feels comfortable giving, and then I switch to something else, like a walk-up, because I have given up and accepted the half-assed flank.

"Your dogs, both Jack and Jai, don't need much, they are good dogs – but they do need for you to step up and LEAD them. Communicate clearly with them. Until you do, they are not sure of you and they won't trust you."

I'm not a leader.  I'm not a follower, either. I'm more of a spectator. I am one lucky mother who had independent and inherently Good children because I didn't impose a lot of rules with them growing up. They had to be nice, funny was a bonus. No lying or things would get ugly fast.  Other than that, we all ate ice cream and used a lot of foul language. 

Dogs seem to require more than my children did, but I find myself applying the same sort of casual dynamic and of course it's not working.  I'm having to fight my inner Permissive, and it's a bigger struggle than I would have thought.

"You can eventually get there, with the right dog," Lavon said of this minimalist handling style, "but you won't be consistent. And why would you want to wait that long?"

So I'm vowing to change and be more of a leader.  It's worth noting, however, that I'm typing this sitting on my couch because Jai likes to sleep in my chair by the fire.  No point in being reckless.


Plum Right

Last night Lavon applied a stern unwaxed basque eyebrow to my reluctance to work dogs.

I was in a bad mood and wanted to shop instead. I hate shopping, but thought it might be a great way to blow off some aggression – load up a cart full of crap and speed down the aisles of Costco while people stumbled and flew to get out of my way.  Search out samples, manhandle soft things, sneer my way around the cheesy mass-marketed book section until I'd had enough and then grab a beer somewhere dank and bitch about how much shopping I have left to do.  It was My Plan.

Though I have promised myself that I'll train even just a little, each day, I did not feel strong or focused enough to work a dog.

Christmas is not my season.

"You should work Jack right quick!"  Lavon said.  He says things like 'Right Quick' and 'Plum Full'…I like it. It amuses me into submission.


Lavon set the sheep at one end of his big field, and I sent Jack from the other. Jack raced down, lifted nicely, and then meandered out at a 45 degree angle as the sheep ran all the way back to the barn, out of sight.  I stood in the middle of the field yelling a single obscenity and glaring downfield at Lavon, who was watching what I could not see happening with Jack and the sheep. I assumed the worst.  
Meanwhile, I could have been shoving fistfuls of sample ravioli and cheese spread in my mouth while ramming into slow shoppers, but NO.
Right quick, indeed.

I uttered a second oath, and, as Lavon continued to ignore me, I started off on my sullen stomp toward the barn.  I didn't get far before Jack reappeared with his 5 sheep, trotting at a very nice pace. This was really quite a feat, especially since I later learned that this had entailed him getting the sheep out of the barn, twice, and keeping them from running into the corral, and then going back for a single. All by himself while I was busy glowering.  Lavon had a good view of Jack's fine work while I mostly saw only The Future Katy having to go fix things.

I could acknowledge here that I was wrong, but I think it's better and more accurate to say that Jack was right.  Lavon is just optimistic. 

After Jack brought me back the sheep,  I concentrated on him driving them around the field; me walking along parallel and flanking, picking a spot in the field and Jack staying behind or flanking enough to hit our target.  He was good.  He worked more quickly as he did not want to risk losing them again.  I was not as bad.  My mood improved dramatically, especially when Lavon worked Scout and vice versa.

…Not really vice versa. Actually, though Lavon did work Scout, she was….really really sane.  Thoughtful, she took every stop, she flanked nicely, no slicing, no barking.  He put her in difficult places full of pressure and she was good.  I think if someone had introduced Ted Kaczynski to the Right Sport, maybe bowling or darts…he may have been a different man.

Tonight I have to shop. I'm buying a brow waxing kit for Lavon.


Season's Greetings from Scout

A Moment on the Clicks, A Lifetime on the …..

One thing I still keep hearing is 'Timing'…

The other thing is 'Focus'…

The third thing is….

…Focus and Timing: I know they go hand in hand, and I've never had either.  Before the internet and cellphones, texting and remote control devices reduced everything to one click and multi-tasking, I moved through the physical world in half-sentences and halfass-tasking.   Oddly, I can spend hours on a good book.  I can spend SECONDS on a (casual) conversation.  And usually I'm also thinking of something else, like ..Is My Shirt On Inside Out? Should I look or Will That Draw Attention to My Sloth? I'm Glad That Pants Only Go On One Way…Mostly…Although There Was That Time P*trick Had His Running Shorts On Inside Out….They Should Make Running Shorts Sandy On the Outside So That Good People DO NOT Make that Mistake….

Yes.  So when you end your side of the conversation with a quizzical look at me and why I'm nodding when I should be shaking my head, or why I'm smiling instead of looking suitably appalled by that Horrible Thing you've just described…remember… I HAVE NO FOCUS. I should be forced to wear some sort of blurry identifying patch on my shirts.

And I have no Timing.  Which is why sometimes I walk away to soon. Or don't stay long enough.

"You need to stay with your dog," both Helsleys told me this weekend, "He is trying really hard for you, but your timing is off and he is so uncertain about what you want, that it's making him slow and unsure.  Stay with him and speed him up. Practice whistling and making him take his flanks. It will help your timing and him to know what you want from him….ALSO: Your FEET ARE NOT GLUED TO THAT SPOT."

I do forget to move around.  In practice I tend to stand as if at a trial, at the post.  Otherwise what is to stop me from DEVELOPING THAT HABIT? This 'moving around' the field 'with your dog' could be a gateway activity. It could be one accordian away from dancing at the post.


Jack is a really good dog.  He is all about Me.  If Jack had a wallet, it would have only my picture in it. Covered in sheep poo. He likes me THAT MUCH.  When I go to work him, I can see him, in his head, going over his list of things he knows that I like and don't like and trying to do, or not do, all of them –

Walk Behind Her, chicks dig that.

Wait to roll in the steamy green shit AFTER I run, it shows her that I am not impulsive.

She likes me to BRING her the sheep FIRST and then TAKE them AWAY. I think this is called Foreplay.  I have to keep the sheep from her, moving them almost parallel to where she is for awhile, then she'll ask for them back and we can do some things together. 

She won't want me to end with biting one, though sometimes I SWEAR she is asking for it.  It's always someone else who thanks me…

Jack is a sweet dog and he's the only dog I have for the next few months while Jai decides if she's pregnant or not, is pregnant and uses her maternity leave or is not pregnant and I finally confirm who is eating all my guest's snacks. (Sorry, again, Ann.  Tip for the future: My Dogs DO NOT like carrots.  None of them. Or Bell Pepper. Or things wrapped in razor wire.)

So, Jack and I are spending quality time together walking in lines and flanking and working on my timing.   I'm also trying to improve my focus by limiting my one-click endeavors. More running, more meditating – less cellphone…less internet…

I've never meditated in my life, so 'more' should be easy. I know there's an ap…

The Making of a Dog – (or Man) – Scout Vs Lavon

"That little dog is all heart; she just needs to figure a few things out…"L. Calzacorta, Figuring Things Out, or the First Rule of Scout

Lavon has theories about Scout.  He is intrigued, I think, by the combination of her Intense Desire and Immense Misswire.  He thinks deciphering how to communicate with Scout is like learning a foreign language…
(I wonder how you say, "LIKE THE SERIOUS FUCK DOWN, YOU LITTLE BLACK PSYCHOPATH!!!?" in Scoutish? I think I will never know.)

But it seems more involved than merely finding the Common Language. It's also finding and tapping MOTIVATION.  Rewriting History.

Maybe it's like teaching a bear to ride a bike. To wear clothing and pedal around in circles based on some end game incentive. THERE ARE DONUTS INVOLVED!!
The difference between Want and Need; balance between  Fear and Respect.

Sure, it SEEMS like the easy thing for the omnivore who REALLY WANTS THE FOOD would be to maul the man holding the bike, the bike itself, and anyone else between him and the Sugary Treats…but somehow, sometimes a bear is taught to demean itself and ride something it's ancestors never wired it for, dressed like my mother's sisters for reasons probably more complicated than JUST food and/or fear of the handler.

Anyway, bike and a ring and an audience are not a bear's native stomping grounds.  Fear is an ingrediant; Respect is a recipe.  Want is now, Need is chronic.

Or maybe not. Yawn. Who knows? I do know that my Aunt Yoris could NOT be
taught to ride a bike, though she did enjoy salmon and dancing badly to
accordian music.

I also believe that Scout lives in a world of chronic Fear and an Impulsive response to Want.  She has little Respect, and Need is biological. Her drives are Chronic and Impulsive.  Need sits in the back; respect is bound and gagged, riding in the trunk.  She was born with some of this, and I put some of this into her by not knowing what the Fuck I was Doing.

Lavon has worked Scout on sheep a few times in the past, accidentally and on purpose, and, as I've written about here, mostly these sessions result in Lavon and one ewe getting an intense cardio-vascular work out.
He has not, before now, ever implied by word or gesture that he thought it would be in anyone's benefit to make this a regular thing.  HOWEVER> NOR has he ever said that Scout wouldn't make a dog, as they say. He's always maintained that she has "more try in her" than any other dog he knows. 
DISCLAIMER: Lavon seems to like dogs with a bit more…independance in their thinking. 

Scout is enthusiastic and Scout is different.  I have no idea how to make this 35 pound furry fury stop biting at my feet when I run – bark, bite my feet, bark, repeat. Every time.  I + have tried = Everything.  I have tried reward and correction and everything in between. I have been as harsh to her as I am capable of being to any living creature to NO AVAIL.  So, I live with it. Or I don't bring her, if I'm not in the mood to be barked at and bitten by my own dog for 5 – 8 miles.  I do not THINK of working Scout. It's not good for us.  Those days are over for me and Scout.

Last week Lavon started working Scout daily.  At first, it was just hard to watch.  Circling, barking, running through the sheep.  To me there was nothing that she was doing out there that should be encouraged or allowed.  She was like a One Dog/5 Ewe Civil War Reenactment.  Lavon stood in the midst of all this chaos, calmly and then not-as-calmly, asking her to "Lie Down." "Scout, LIE DOWN!" …"SCOUT! YOU LIE DOWN!!"
Scout was doing no such thing.  I can only imagine how Ulysses S. Grant felt.

"If what you are doing doesn't work, try something completely different."Lavon's Second Rule of Scout – HURRY HURRY HURRY!!

Lavon attached a long line to Scout.   This got Scout's attention.  Though it has occasionally crossed my mind otherwise, Scout is not insane. She sees situations maybe TOO CLEARLY. 
She knows when she no longer has the upper paw.  The long line made her aware that Lavon did have a say in what was happening out there with her and the sheep.  She needed him to get what she wanted. 

But it was what Lavon did next, that made me wonder, at first,  if I had questioned the sanity of the wrong creature out there on the field. 
Once Lavon could get Scout to down, as soon as she barely hit the ground for him,  he'd send her into the sheep, no regard for bending out or flanking correctly, just in with hard encouragement – shusshing and, 'HURRY HURRY HURRY' shusssh shussh shushh.

This method has never been employed with Scout. Because it seems LUDICROUS.

Sheep were initially going everywhere. Ending up loaded haphazardly on his flatbed trailer. Scout staring up at them, then at Lavon.

Lavon would lie her down again. She'd take it. Then again, HURRY HURRY HURRY.

I took turns covering my ears, my eyes, my mouth.

But it wasn't long into this new method that Scout changed profoundly. Physically. Tail down, bark gone.  And she was listening to Lavon.  She was lying down. He called her off the sheep easily. He worked her in the big field.

"She gives me what I want, and she gets what she wants." Lavon explained it.  -Lavon's Third Rule of Scout.

Anyway, it's been one week today. It's been an interesting week.  Each time he works her, Lavon claims she does better than the last.  He's excited about working her. She is, of course, excited to be working.  She respects him.  They have balance.

Tomorrow when I take her running, she will bite at my feet, rush at me and bark. This isn't about me, though.

Sittin’ on It


Quick update…

Last weekend I ran Jack in PN at Fire Ridge.  I didn't enter Jai because back when the trial opened for entries I assumed that in late October she'd be "ripe with the fruits", so to speak.  The bitch has been holding out.  My theory is that she took one look at Lavon's new puppy and said, "No. Not for me, I want a career. I'm not licking anything's ass that isn't my own."

So, I only had Jack.  And Jack did great.  I didn't have to fight him to drive, he took his whistles, moved the lethargic, tetchy ewes around the course without busting through or gripping….and on both days we finished the course.  I was very happy with him.  He's a good dog who wants to do right.  He doesn't want to be in charge, he just doesn't want to be in trouble.  When things get confusing or out of his comfort zone, he reacts.  The rest of the time, he thinks.  The thinking times are quickly replacing the reacting times.

Currently he is Lavon's puppy nanny.  And for now Jai's still sitting on it, if you know what I mean….


1-05 Jai's Song*


*Wag of the tail to Georgia White, I'll Keep Sittin' on It, The Dirty Blues


Too Many Words About Words

Something that comes up during or after every trial is What to Say to Someone After a Bad Run.

Complicating matters is that One Man's (or Woman's) Shitty Run is Another Man's (or She-Handler's) Aspiration. 

Really good open handlers can have what less experienced striving handlers would consider a really nice run – they might time out at the shed, or grip off at the pen…miss a panel, but overall, to many of us it was beautiful – straight lines, dog listened, no circling and barking…Control: There was control.
Communication happened and the team worked together.  Talent was apparent.

So, you say, "Nice run!" and they look at you like you said, "Your dog sure is pretty! Is he a McNab?"

I, myself, screeched at a fellow handler not long ago after a run where my dog, Jack, did a nice outrun, decent lift, and good straight fetch….which never ended until I retired him. I was so PISSED OFF that I COULD NOT get the dog to MOVE THE SHEEP AWAY from me more than 10 feet before he BROUGHT THEM BACK.   Jack and his sheep circled me like a drain.  The nice outrun and lift was forgotten.  All I felt of the run was the humiliation of not having a drive on my dog.  I swear I heard circus music.

As I walked off, this novice handler friend said, "Good job!"
To which I graciously barked, "DO NOT PATRONIZE ME!"
I may have added, 'FUCKER.'

It takes me awhile to disect what happened into good and bad parts. In the moment, it's all emotional. I suspect this is true of many people.  Which is why it is really important to SAY THE RIGHT THING.

Because to say NOTHING is bad, too.

One of the first sheepdog clinics I attended a few years ago was with my dog Zeke, an aussie.  We were very new to this, but I, of course, had my Delusions of Historical Greatness, like dead poets and painters are great, only without the time, talent, or work involved.  Zeke would be a badly bred prodigy.  A sheepdog genius.  All I had to do was drive the car and open a few gates.
I couldn't handle my way OUT OF A BARN, and Zeke is afraid of sneezing, but…somehow, this was, inanely, Our Sport. 

Prior to the clinic, the only two times Zeke or I had been near sheep were at a basque restaurant, or the woman's house who advertised Instinct Testing/Playday!  Our lure into the world of sheepdog. She had corgis.  She charged $15 for about 10 minutes worth of your dog in her tiny round pen, circling her and 3 befuddled sheep while she drank coffee and yawned, occasionally hitting the ground with stick.  I thought it was GREAT. My australian shepherd FINALLY doing what he was (theoretically) BRED to do…circle and bark.  He did circle! He DID bark!
"He is keen!" pronounced the woman, both times, and, "Fifteen bucks, cash. I don't take checks."

Of the 4 times we drove 38 miles to do this, the woman only came out of her house twice.  The last time, she didn't even open the door. She just yelled through a window, "I got stuff to do today….You need a trainer!"
I knew this was because we were ADVANCED.  AND>>> Zeke was keen.

I heard about the clinic from Zeke's breeder, a woman who wears snow suits 365 days of the year and trains her dogs exclusively on ducks. The clinic was at an aussie trainer's small farm an hour or so from my house. I didn't know anyone.  Everyone else at the clinic had more experience, but most were fairly new, some advanced. One by one, the handlers brought their dogs into an arena and the clinician had the handler lay his/her dog down at the gate, go to the sheep, then send the dog on one side or the other. The dog would invariably do some good things, and highlight a few areas that needed improvement, which the clinician would point out and make suggestions to fix.  The dog would go again and things would look measurably better. These problems were things like Dog not staying far enough off the stock, Dog not wanting to take one flank or the other, Dog not taking a down.

Everyone was friendly and chatty and encouraging,

"Good job, Sue!"

"Who is Twig out of? I LOVE the way you two work together!"

"I can't believe how fast you two are advancing!"

It was finally my turn and I went in with Zeke the Keen. 

I laid Zeke down, went to the sheep, and called.  Zeke immediately got up and began to hoover his way around the far edges of the corral, eating every bit of sheep shit he could ingest. This went on for what seemed like 15 hours, but probably was only 5 minutes. The clinician and I tried to get him engaged on the livestock.  I grabbed a ewe leg, apologizing (I did that a lot back then) while the sheep tried to irritatedly shake me loose.  The clinician clapped and got the fat ruminants moving resentfully away at a laborious trot.
At one point, Zeke did bark, but even that was half-hearted and aimed more at me and my running around. 

When the clinician finally gave up, he said something hopeful, like,
"Well, maybe after awhile we'll try it again while everyone else eats lunch…"

I followed as the others walked to a big field where everyone's second turn would take place.  Everyone was excited about their second turn.
No one said a word to me. No one made eye contact with me.  I stood to the back of the group and tried to not cry.  Really concentrating on happy things, like Christmas and snow in the mountains, the beach… and NOT CRYING.
Finally one guy came up and put his arm around my shoulders and said, "Don't worry…it gets better."
And I sobbed. Yes! And, so to appear less weak, I said, "I fucking hope so."

I still appreciate that guy saying SOMETHING, though.  ANYTHING.

I've spent a lot of time considering what comprises a good response to these inevitable situations.  The perfect sort of response.  Everyone has shitty runs.  Everyone's friends have shitty runs.

Once Patrick handed me a Chelada(tm) and told me that Pat had done "exactly what you asked him to do." 
It was perfect. I initially took it as a confusing compliment. It took awhile to decipher it down to, "YOU TOLD HIM NOTHING!! YOU LEFT HIM OUT THERE ON HIS OWN!"
(Thanks DD, translator!)

The DD has handed me a fair share of Coronas and said things like, "What were you thinking?" or "How did that work for you?" "Maybe you need a beer BEFORE you run…"

Lavon likes to just hand me a beer.  He knows to wait an hour or so to tell me what I did wrong, what I should have done…or that shit just happens.

I guess I prefer gestures to words.  In trialing on and off the field, words are more easily misinterpreted than anything else you can do.  Or if there are words, they should be words that make you think, or laugh, not just bogusly chipper cheerleader words. I appreciate what is behind words like that, but in the moment, it's just irritating to hear, "Good job!" while your dog is still spitting out wool and you are starting to fear that the words Thank You have your picture next to them in Wikipedia. 

That's just my opinion. And me. I'd like to hear others. 

Lavon and Scout

The other night Lavon worked Scout in his big field.  I wondered why he'd do that; if he wanted a long run in full panic mode, I'd have been happy to chase him with the car down the canal for a few miles. That way we would have a starting and an ending point and one of us could keep drinking our evening cocktail.   His option wasn't going very well. Scout – circling and barking, Lavon trying to stay with his sheep who were scattering like dandylion seed.  There was a lot of uncharacteristic yelling, which was cutting into my telephone conversation with DD,

"Why is he working Scout?" DD asked.

"Oh. I think I accidentally let her out!"

Lavon's young dog Boot was standing by with a WTF look on his face. It occurred to me that Lavon had probably meant to work Boot.  Scout hadn't been out of her crate for awhile and so I had opened the door on my way by, thinking nothing of it.

(I think nothing of most things, sadly, that don't involve chewing and/or swallowing.)

"SORRY!" I yelled over the din and motion.


Lavon is a man who would consider naming a guardian dog 'Banjo'.  He is a gentle sort. He is a man who never raises his voice, and when he does, his voice sounds like a normal voice, slightly louder. He doesn't seem to get angry. Not that I, or Scout, have seen, anyway, and we have run a few tests.


(Scout doesn't lie down anymore. 'Down' is just another word for nothing left to chase..)

Lavon likes dogs with a lot of 'push'.  He talks about starting his (now) good open dog, Tess – he and Helsley had to put the sheep in a pen and have Tess circle them on the outside.  It was the only way to teach her to stay off of the stock and listen- she was a gripping machine.

Meanwhile, on his big field, not once in 20 minutes worth of barking and chasing did Scout even appear to notice that Lavon was out there except as an intermittent obstacle.   

Out of breath and panting, Scout and Lavon finally called a cease-fire. He put a piece of bailing twine gingerly around her neck.  She looked up at him and wagged.

"If I could just… get her to lie down…." he said.  She jumped on him, still wagging.

"She sure has push!" I said.

"She definitely has enthusiasm," he said. 

"Do you mean…'crazy'?"

"Maybe. But I will say this, if you could capture whatever it is she's got and get it work for you, you'd have something."

We're going to build a little pen and try what worked for Tess.

Lavon's optimism is the stuff candy is made of. 

"I think we can get her to the point where she has a job," he said, "I don't know what that job will be….but …."

I picture mobile butcher or border patrol, livestock division. 

Stay With Your Sheep Lavon

Yesterday while I was running my second group of dogs on Lavon's canal, he worked Jai. 

He's worked Jai before, always when I am not around; I let him sometimes, reminding them both that they shouldn't get used to it.  Their relationship will never be consumated on a trial field.  No matter how much each admires the other's talent, Jai still has a long row to hoe pulling me out of The Suck.  And Pat won't sit on my lap.  I'm okay with a little outrun/lift and fetch action in the privacy of the training field, now and then, but when it's all said and done, my house is where Jai gets 700 thread count sheets and raw chicken for one of her two daily meals.  Good timing and consistency are one thing, but sitting in a lap watching netflix on my shitty computer screen are what seperates us from the beasts. (That and a doggie door!)  My face isn't going to lick itself.

I run with his dogs on the canal.  It's an activity we all enjoy. It's where my talent really shines. 

"I'm not trying to blow smoke up your ass," Lavon said when I returned (it should be noted that he begins 3/4 of our conversations thusly…making me wonder if this ass-smoke blowing is not another forbidden dream of his), "But Jai is an amazing dog! Seriously, I was putting her in some tight spots shedding and she came in like a flash and just got better and better…"

They were both wagging. I scrutinized his lap for telltale hairs until he shifted to the side uncomfortably.

"I know I've said it before but she is a really really nice dog," he squirmed.

"Yes,"  I said, "on and off the field.  But she does get into the bathroom trash and chew my shoes.  Do you like your shoes, Lavon? DO YOU?"

I pointed to my own, now missing the laces on one and the tongue on the other as Jai wagged her way back over to me.  I believe Lavon's shoes are SYNTHETIC, whereas my own are LEATHER.

A few weeks ago, short weeks ago, whenever I asked Jai to come in on a shed, it was my cue to cry. She would lick her lips, stand there, and vibrate with intention to NOT DO AS I WAS ASKING UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.  She preferred to not come in on the shed but instead stand around keeping her lips moist until a time presented itself for something she felt better gathering. She preferred to wait until I ranted and raved and cried like a baby, scattering sheep that she would then circle wide and assemble again at my feet.


(I think Jai was thinking the same thing, only in a different font and inflection, regrouping of nouns and pronouns…and more hopefully.)

"Do you mind if I try to shed with her?" Lavon asked.

"Not at all…do you mind if I take Gus and Tess shopping for dog beds that will match your edible drapes?"

And so Lavon has worked Jai a few times and Jai really likes working with Lavon…well, anyone, actually. I swear – pull your most heinous maximum security criminal out of his cell in shackles and hockey mask with mouth guard, send him shuffling out in a field with Jai and she'll run a course ending in a shed and then pen for the most evil of miscreants.  She'll flank and flow and make it all really pretty.  All the worst human being on the living face of this 3rd closest planet to the Sun needs to do is whistle and stand there.

She doesn't take who she works for personally.  Except…

Me…  Apparently I put her on edge; After I walk her to the post and send her, I make her wish that she hadn't brought me with her to the field. Or that I'd wait in the car.

"You know what I think your problem is? She knows you too well. She can tell when you aren't comfortable and so she wants to do whatever it is to fix it; she gets ramped up on your emotion."

Blink blink

"You need to work on being calm."

 "And you need to work Scout."

Ramped up, indeed.  Scout can smell weakness you won't know exists until it outruns you in the desert.  She'll shed until all that's left is your emotion on one side and sheep on the other.

"Okay! I will!"

Scout, too, loves Lavon.


This weekend I ran Jai and Jack at Lacamas.  I was very happy with both dogs and I think they were not unhappy with me, other than my not letting either of them wallow in the dairy's sewer ponds. 

On our first open run, Jai and I lost the sheep off-course.  She did a great outrun, lift was rocky – and then she just sort of followed the ewes at a leisurely pace off course. It was like she decided these sheep were not our sheep. These were sheep that needed to be followed and observed.  I whistled a fucking hole in both our heads, attempting to speed her up, flank her, get her to stop, look and listen…but no.  These were FOLLOWING SHEEP, not TRIAL SHEEP.  The judge Thanked me and said that I could go retrieve my dog and sheep from somewhere out of view and point them toward exhaust.  We did this and, as we passed the spectator tent, just because Jai hates to disappoint a crowd, she chased down and rolled a single non-compliant ewe.   It was 97 degrees and the end of the day. I want to think that everyone got their money's worth.

On the PN Field, Jack crossed coarse on his first run.  All the way to the post he told me – SEND ME COMEBY, SEND ME COMEBY – and I ignored him and set him up Away.  He crossed and brought me sheep, we struggled a bit and he stopped listening after turning the post. Again, 97 degrees…I retired. I saw no point in overheating sheep and dog, dusting off my full array of foul language or delaying my beer.  Not on our first run.  We walked. 

Jai's second run was really really nice.  Nice outrun, nice lift….fetch was a little offline but we got it back and made the fetch panels, nice turn around the post and pretty decent drive to the first panels.  We made the panels, though I was a little flustered  – and here is where I translated that flustration to Jai via a wrong flank, a late correction and some apologizing or hesitant weirdness.  We had a really nice cross drive but were too high to make the second panels.  We serpentined toward and away from those panels a few times until I ASSUMED that I'd made an honest attempt at SOMETHING…and went to the pen.

Thank You.

Apparently we didn't cross the plane and so…

It was a good run. Jai was really ON.  She was confident and flowing and it just felt good.  I was VERY PROUD of her.

Jack's second run was nice also, except the parts that included me.  Again he told me all the way to the post – SEND ME COMEBY. He's trot to my left side, I'd put him on my right.
Nearly everyone was sending away.  There was a strong draw to the setout and a lot of runs were going south on the fetch because of it.  Jack has a fucky leg and I worried that he might not be fast enough.

I sent him Away.

He crossed. Of course he crossed. 

He brought me the sheep nicely and around the post in a Not Bad manner.  The drive to the first drive panels was decent and I think we made the panels….cross drive was not hideous…
I can't remember if we made the second panels, but we timed out at the pen.  I think our score (!!) was 50-something.  It was huge to have Jack listen and, though the judge was EXTREMELY FORGIVING..(we could have been thanked enough to warrent a hug or gift receipt) Jack was pretty in control and attentive.  He let go of his chronic desire to bring me back the sheep at all costs.  He's also very handsome.

Things I thought about and would do different..will do differently:

When Jack gives me a strong indication of which way to send, I will listen to it. He RARELY ever does this in practice and hasn't at a trial before now. He's an Anyway is Okay kind of guy.  He also seems to have a lot of feel.  He can be trusted or I will trust him on this until I see that I can't or shouldn't. 

Jai is really fast and responsive and nearly perfect when she's confident.  That second run was all Confident Jai until I screwed us both up getting nervous on the first panel. We recovered but I think I anticipated a problem at the second panel and so didn't set her up right and things went south from there.  Also, I used a harsher correction than Jai needs. Soft corrections are what works and keeps her moving and taking the right flanks. 

I worked hard all weekend envisioning good runs for both dogs.  Expecting good work.  I know it sounds hokey. All that Envisioning business almost wants to come with crystals and incense, but what it definitely did do for me was it made me THINK ABOUT THE ENTIRE RUN and not just the PART I LIKE because it usually goes well.  Normally I picture the nice outrun, lift and fetch my dog will do and then I decide to end there. Cross the other bridges when we come to them. Sometimes I just flash scenes from Jaws or images of trucks bursting into flames.  Monkeys in aprons chasing ducks around a table. 

I think forcing myself to picture the entire run with each dog, several times before we actually went to the post was calming for me and so calming for them.  I pictured things going well and I pictured the problems I might have and how I'd fix them.  (Thanks, Lavon!)
It was hard mental work because I normally prefer to spend the time before a run sweating and chewing something or peeing. It really cut into those activities, but I feel we benefitted in the long run.