17 December, 2011

Remembering Paddy

My dear Paddy dog has been gone from us a year today. She was a miraculous beast, really. I know that often the memory of a legend is inflated beyond truth, and I shall do my best to avoid that pitfall today.

Photo by Look Back Photography

Paddy was born on the Muckleshoot Reservation. Her mother was a feral ACD who had her pups under someone's porch and then declared it a "no entry" zone. Animal control came and collected mom and pups. Mom was euthanized because she was a danger to herself and others... the pups came home with me, hitchhikers on a cat shelter transport.

Photos by M. Feyrecilde

Fostering the puppies was fun, we spread them out among 3 different foster homes. Paddy was the only brown pup. There were 2 that looked exactly like mom, 1 that looked like a yellow lab, 2 that were black with tan points and smooth coats and then there was Paddy.

Photo by Salamandir

Failing fostering Paddy was not easy but it was my best failure to date! She developed pneumonia and required tube feeding and treatments every 2 hours. I became attached to her and eventually broke my lease, moving to a house where dogs were allowed so Paddy could live with us. I ended up being glad. When she was 7 months old Paddy bit a man on the leg who tried to steal my backpack downtown.

Our constant companion, Paddy came along on camping trips, our honeymoon and family vacations along with Allie. She was an easy puppy but a difficult adolescent. She had energy to spare and was destructive. She ate an entire tray of Costco muffins, innumerable sticks of butter, dug craters in the yard where the previous tenant's dalmatian had buried toys and bones. She peeled a square of linoleum off the kitchen floor and pulled down curtains.

Photo by M. Feyrecilde

In spite of this turbulent adolescence, Paddy grew into a stately and stable adult dog. She was bottle raised and yet had some of the finest dog communication skills I have ever seen. Because of this, Paddy became my demo and stimulus dog for teaching obedience classes and seeing private lessons for clients with reactive dogs.

Photo by Look Back Photography

Paddy was my heart dog. She knew my feelings and emotions. She was thoughtful and determined. Paddy had an independent streak that meant we often compromised. I feel lucky to have been able to understand her and trust her well enough to realize that compromise was not a failure of our relationship: it was simply what we did. When it was important, Paddy would do things my way. When it didn't matter, she did things partly her own way.

Photo by KMM Portraits

She was a dignified dog and did not particularly like to cuddle but loved to be stroked and to lay with her head on my lap or at the foot of the bed. She would sometimes creep between me and my husband on the bed, flip on her back and roll around with the joy of being the only dog on the bed. She liked to be touched but not held.

Photo by Salamandir

Paddy was an agility dog and an obedience dog. Agility was not her first love but she enjoyed it and did it for me because I enjoyed it. Yet another example of our many compromises. Demonstrating exercises and socializing (and disciplining) puppies during obedience classes was where she made many of her friends and fans. There was something stately about her lying on a down stay with her front paws crossed while I taught a class of hooligans. She could be trusted to stay indefinitely unless something required her intervention, such as a dog growling at me.
An excellent judge of character, Paddy could be trusted to be friendly to friends and those who were non-threatening and aloof to those who deserved it. She would defend me without question and I never worried about being in class or even going for a walk alone if Paddy was with me.

Photo by Tien Tran Photography

Paddy was a stimulus dog. She could make herself virtually invisible to other dogs by using non-confrontational body language, or she could act interested and friendly. She would stay for long periods without me while I helped a client do graduated approaches or approach-retreat sequences. A confident dog, she never reacted if a fearful dog put on a threat display and she did not require my assistance to behave appropriately. Paddy saved many dogs and repaired many dog-handler relationships in her work as a stimulus dog.

Photo by Salamandir

I could write for days the wonderful memories I have of Paddy. Paddy's favorite places were the beach and open fields with tall grass. She loved to run and chase our stunt kites as we flew them above the sand, eventually plopping down panting heavily with a big grin on her face. She never enjoyed swimming but would always wade in up to her chest. In tall grassy fields she would leap like a deer or get the zoomies and race around as quickly as possible, cutting swaths with her body between the stalks. We would play hide and seek in the head-high grass, I would sneak away and then call her and she would track and find me, overjoyed when she was successful.

Photo by M. Feyrecilde

As she aged and neared the end, Paddy developed seizures and anxiety. She became progressively more senile and it was terrible to see her in that state, sometimes lucid and very "Paddy," sometimes confused and worried when she used to be such a strong and immutably confident dog. When the end came, it broke my heart and my heart still aches for her absence. But in a small way it was a relief to let her go from her suffering of seizures and confusion.

Photo by Look Back Photography

A dignified soul with a joyful streak, Paddy taught me how to be patient and calm, the value of confidence, the absoluteness of consistency and the depth of friendship possible between a woman and a dog. Ultimately she has also taught me how to say goodbye and know that I can survive with a piece of my heart gone. These lessons will stay with me a lifetime and that is part of the legacy of Paddy.

Photo by Look Back Photography

I will always love her and she will always be with me in memory.

Ink by Ed Lott at Slave to the Needle Tattoo

14 December, 2011

Happy 1st Birthday, Rye!

Photo by Look Back Photography
Editing that ruins Look Back's work by Monique

Today is Rye's (and Sagan's and Ben's and Reba's) first birthday.

Rye is a charming dog who is easy to live with. He is definitely becoming a teenager, testing my patience at times. Lora can tell you she has to remind me that "f*#&@r" is not a name or a command ;) He looks lovely on sheep and is now ready to work several times a week. He enjoys agility training for fun and I think he will be a great demo dog for obedience classes as he continues to mature.

I love my Rye. He is a neat blend of both his parents, athletic and affectionate, intense and calm, fun and serious. I am enjoying our journey together. Thanks Diane Pagel and Scott and Jenny Glen for helping me bring such a neat pup into the world.

So Happy Birthday, Rye. I am looking forward to many happy years for us together!

17 November, 2011

Small Favors

Well, to all of our surprise, the ewe lamb continues to live. She is eating and drinking some, and we are going to start turning her out for short periods and see if she can act like a sheep a little at a time. She could still die any day, but I'm happily surprised she is hanging on for now.

The katahdin with the leg wounds is doing very well and turned back out with the rest of the flock.

12 November, 2011

Bad Neighbors

Alas, we have a bad neighbor where our sheep live. She has allowed her dog to run loose and savage the sheep 3 days in a row. Two ewes are badly wounded, and one is looking like it might be a loss. Time will tell, the vet came out and said the ewe lamb deserves a chance to try and live, and so we are giving that to her. If we were running a larger commercial operation she would be an obvious cull, but she is well below finishing weight and with so few sheep we have the extra time to give her some special attention.

I hate the idea of killing dogs, but I'd have no compunction about shooting this one. The poor dog, it is not her fault that her owner is irresponsible and not keeping her safe. But my sheep do not deserve to be terrorized and I don't deserve the financial losses nor the sadness and disappointment.

Animal control is some help but not much, advising us to "take care of" the dog ourselves. I went to the field bright and early today ready to ambush the dog, but it stayed away. Hopefully the dog and her owner moved out today as was planned and the sheep will get some peace.

Lucy and I are on our way out for our evening vigil of pain medication and antibiotics by headlamp. Lucy is such a wonderful partner in all of this, I feel blessed as always to have her help (Thanks, Diane!)

I know it is just a sheep, but suffering is not meant for any animal and I hope she either improves swiftly or passes swiftly without a great deal of suffering in between.

14 October, 2011


I'm getting old, and that's a fact. I suppose there's no escaping it, though it might make sense for me to try and come to terms with my pathologic fear of death as it inches closer, a minute... an hour... a day at a time. I don't bounce as well as I once did, if I hurt myself it actually hurts. I have the feeling every day that life is short, and so I'd better spend each day doing something that is both important and useful to me at that moment.

cur·mudg·eon [ker-muhj-uhn] noun. a bad-tempered, difficult, cantankerous person.

I am stubborn, set in my ways. I feel like the world is traveling down a path I'm not interested in taking. I suppose this happens to everyone at one time in life, when the young people are harder to understand than the older ones. The things that bring me comfort are now passe, cliche or old-fashioned. My taste in movies is now "campy," my taste in music is now "oldies." Funny, I don't feel much different than I did at 17, except I'm a bit softer now. I think one of the secrets no one tells you as a kid is that once you get to your set point (a little different for every person, but I think it comes near the end of adolescence), you feel pretty much the same forever.

It is possible I feel the same since I've decided not to have kids, and so have not gone through that dramatic transition in life. That being said, I'm not ready to give that theory all that much credit since the quality of a person's personality and relationships is found to be the most salient predictor of their personality, behavior and relationship satisfaction after a child is born (Cowan & Cowan, 2000).

I like my life. I am grateful for technology and the many conveniences it affords. Without technology I would not be able to reach out (pathetic though it may be) in a blog, connect with old friends en masse via Facebook posts or contact 8 people at once to remind them of a team meeting. I would not be able to serve on a board of directors comprised of people from around the country and see and talk with them via Skype in real time. I would not be able to do all my shopping from home, have every bit of information imaginable right at my fingertips or stream content at a moment's notice. But this technology comes at a price in my mind. It has taken some of the intimacy out of my communication, some of the passion out of how I spend my time.

I miss "real" communication. Letters from a friend, written longhand. Going to the mailbox and finding an actual letter from a friend warms my heart. That small piece of paper scrawled in pencil or ink, posted across the country or around the world is a time capsule. It represents those few moments when my friend was thinking of me, caring about me and wanting to give me the gift of his or her time and thoughts. email is not the same as a letter. It is entirely utilitarian. Communicating by email allows me to keep in touch with friends when my life is too busy compared to what it ought to be. It allows customers to reach me and me to reply quickly even at hours that are entirely unreasonable. But it does not hold the same sentiment for me as a handwritten note.

Some of the many letters that live in a lovely cedar box full of memories

I'm finding as I talk to younger people that my sentimentality dates (and ages) me. Many would *rather* receive an email or a text than a letter. I suppose I have considered electronic communication a necessity but not a pleasure. This boggles my stubborn, cantankerous mind. It makes me think thoughts with short words.

I miss making art for the sake of doing so, and for the sake of making it a gift. Holding a pen, a paintbrush, a stick of chalk pastel in my hand and putting emotions onto paper. I often used to craft handmade greeting cards to give as boxed sets to friends. The market for such a gift is expired. No one sends letters anymore.

Some old samples of handmade greeting cards

The art store is one of my meccas, I can spend hours walking down the isles fondling the stock. I am particularly fond of handmade papers. I suppose that makes me old-fashioned, yet again. In this world, my "art" has become things created electronically. Websites, logos, digital imaging. The tangibility that satisfied my soul is somehow less with those forms of media. Yet the people who are young right now will know this as usual, and will be sated by it in a way I am not.

Yep, an old scholarship portfolio full of hardcopy work

I miss having a hard way to prove to myself I did work. Notebooks, papers corrected in red pen, pages of calculus homework meticulously drawn in 0.3mm mechanical drafting pencil. I have been back in college for quite some time now. The sum of my efforts could be reproduced a hundred times and stored on a microSD smaller the size of my thumbnail. The portability is wonderful, and certainly I can type more quickly than I can write in longhand. My laptop is my favorite friend. But there's something vague about words on a screen put through the "network of tubes." I don't feel as accomplished: because my ruler is so out of date. Yes.... I said "ruler." The evidence of my curmudgeonly ways mounts with every sentence.

Recently I acquired an eReader. It is ridiculously convenient, especially when I have numerous books required for school that are available cheaply and instantly on eReader. Yet there remains a special place in my black, cold and aged heart for paper books. The kind with worn covers and dog-eared pages that I've read a dozen times. The kind with dust in the binding and real glue binding the individually sewn signatures into a hard cover printed with gold foil. The kind that give old bookstores the wonderful musky smell of books and the people who love them. The very impracticality of my nostalgia about books should leave me aghast at myself. But I am not.

A few books read a few dozen times

I miss being unavailable, and being available for real communication. My smartphone makes my life more streamlined, and text messaging is convenient and very reinforcing. Every time we hear the beep-beep and it is followed by a few characters from a friend, we all get the ultimate tiny social version of click-treat. But I miss having the time for real conversations over coffee or sitting in the park. For talking my thoughts out beginning to end instead of being barraged by a series of half-thoughts and asinine abbreviations 165 characters or fewer. Yes, I like having text messaging, but I feel like texting has become the normative mode of communication for anyone younger than myself. Text allows a level of anonymity and social distance that can open people to say things they would not say in person. It accelerates a false sense of intimacy because accountability for statements is not required. Texting is a unilateral opportunity to throw thoughts and words at someone else without having to (or wanting to) see their reaction, or be accountable for the effects. I feel the same way about internet "dating."

In pixels on a screen, we can each create who we want other people to see. The screen is a shield behind which we can hide, and upon which we can scribble a caricature of ourselves. It can be false advertising.

The ultimate irony perhaps is the way I've delivered these thoughts. Electronically. Pixels on a screen. I feel somewhat better having written it down longhand first in my usual journal so my nostalgic self will have it forever, it can become dusty and musty with the rest of the paper trail of life I've left for myself. Now I've left little electronic breadcrumbs of my last few weeks' musings for the rest of you, as well.

Peace be with you.

20 September, 2011

Tell me... erm... heck what day is it again?

Laura from Crooks and Crazies posts these fun lists of questions every Thursday. I'm experimenting with my first answer and it is even on the wrong day for extra points :)

1. If you're not at the 2011 Sheepdog finals this weekend what are you planning to do?

In between lamenting about how I am not at the finals and not watching the live feed of the finals or reading tweets of the finals or explaining to myself why I am not doing any of those things, I am running Zora in an agility trial, taking 2 exams, writing a paper, taking Lucy to sheep twice and cleaning house.

Of course, during all of those activities I will be obsessively refreshing the browser on my smartphone to read said tweets and yammering on to agility people who don't care about the contents of tweetdom...

2. One item you NEVER walk onto the trial field (any trial field, or training class will suffice) without?

Well, hopefully my dog? I would normally say my whistle, but I did forget my whistle whilst doing chores the other day. Interestingly I just whistled like I would ordinarily whistle a tune and Lucy somehow by divine providence understood what I meant and was a gem. I would like to learn to finger whistle, in which case I could successfully avoid going ANYWHERE without my whistle, barring any unforeseen amputation events.

3. Katy wants to know if you have a pre-run ritual that you observe?

Yes. I work my dog within 48 hours before the trial whenever possible. The day before the trial I make sure my dog gets a moderate exercise day. Once on the trial field, I try to attend the handler's meeting. If I've missed the meeting I find the course director first thing and ask the course. Then I will make sure the dogs are set up in the car with water and shade and go visit and chat for a while, just getting the lay of the land. I pick up a running order if I did not print one at home, then fold it into 6ths with the current runs showing. (Check run order every 5 minutes ad nauseum until returning home.)

4 runs before mine, I take Lucy out and let her watch 2 lifts if I can. I used to do this only 2 runs in advance, but then one day the 2 dogs before mine never found the sheep. I, of course, went to the post wondering if I had my cell phone in my pocket to dial 911 before I died of heart palpitations. Lucy, cool as a cucumber in spite of my palpable insanity, ran out and found the sheep anyway. I did not allow her stellar performance to prevent me from developing a new obsessive habit of going out 4 runs in advance rather than 2. Between these spotting sessions I put Lucy back in her crate in the car if it is at all feasible. If that is not feasible, we go somewhere out of sight and quiet. After the last spotting session, I get out my crook and double check my whistle.

When we are just walking around relaxing and visiting, Lucy is generally off leash. When we are getting ready to spot and run, I leash her.

1 run before mine, we find a quiet place near the gate to sit and relax. I make a mental picture of how I want my run to go, and Lucy gets a neck massage.

4. How old were you when you had your first real kiss?

I was 5, my brand new dog was 2 ;)

5. Bonnie wants to know what you do for yard mud control during the winter?

We have a small potty yard for the dogs. There are 2 trails they tend to make it a habit to travel so we spread shavings on those trail areas from autumn through spring. There is an astroturf doormat outside the door and a heavy duty high-profile doormat inside the door which catches most dirt. If it is really horrible outside I also wipe paws.

13 September, 2011


There is a contest located HERE to enter to win the full set of DVDs from this year's USBCHA Sheepdog Finals. I entered and so should you! Well, maybe not all of you so I have a better chance to win ;)

09 September, 2011

Big shoes, and big hats....

Rye's sire, Don, is owned by a "big hat" handler. Scott is truly a cut above - plus he is just an all around nice guy.

Rye's sire also has some pretty big shoes himself these days. I am looking forward to the day that Rye gets a chance to start getting his feet under him and testing out his own shoes for size. (It's a good thing I look terrible in hats as I'm pretty sure they don't make hats small enough for me.)

Rye in December, 2010 at 4 days of age

Congratulations, Scott and Don on your recent successes at the Canadian National, Soldier Hollow and the prelims at Meeker. One little red pup and his family are cheering for you!

10 August, 2011

Thanks, Full Tilt!

Full Tilt Border Collies has a really fun blog. I really enjoy reading about their life training, trialing, raising sheep and freezing their a$$es off... ;)

Imagine my surprise to see this --

Full Tilt Border Collies sent me a blogging inspiration award. Super fun!!

I enjoy writing my blog, thanks Full Tilt for the kudos. Positive reinforcement works on people just like any other learners. This small recognition really made me smile. I wish I had more time to devote to my blog, but then again I'd so rather be out with the dogs (and now, the SHEEP!).

Part of the inspiration badge is to pass it on -- share with other bloggers who make a difference to you. Full Tilt and I seem to run in some of the same circles so there would be some overlap (Go Rocking Dawgs!) but here are my choices for INSPIRATIONAL blogs:

I am pretty sure most of these people don't read my blog -- but that's ok. It's the thought that counts, right?

The Pioneer Woman -- Ree Drummond. Love this blog!! What a fun life and a fun story.

Rocking Dog Ranch
-- Insightful posts from a fellow over-thinker and dear friend.

Training Border Collies
-- Candy's blog always teaches me something new, and often reminds me there is more than one "right" way to accomplish a goal.

Alta Pete Farm Tails
-- Jenny is a crack-up. I love her photos and stories about life on the farm, on the road and holding down the fort.

eyeherdewe - KH posts incredibly witty, creative and sometimes painfully accurate, if sarcastic, bytes of life in the real world.

Delta Bluez Stockdogs -- Fun blog by my original sheepdoggin' friend!

BCxFour -- Posts are sometimes brutally honest, sometimes goofy and giddy, but always feature amazing photography.

-- The Food Lady strikes with sardonic remarks about life with dogs and doing animal rescue, all punctuated by neat photos.

10-7 Ranch -- This is kind of like reading about Disneyland for me. Don't judge me! ;)

Cold Antler Farm -- Jenna is a young new homesteader. Her journey is so fun and very inspiring. Go slow food and novice sheepdogs!

Phantom Ridge Border Collies -- From home building to dog training, snow to hail to scorching heat and sangria -- fun abounds.

Thanks for writing blogs I learn from and enjoy. If you wish to participate in passing along the positive reinforcement to your friends, just follow these instructions --

Grab the badge, pass it on, but make sure to follow these simple rules as you do:

1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded this to you.

2. Link posts by you and ten fellow bloggers that you find inspirational.

3. Forward the award to those ten fellow bloggers.

29 July, 2011

A place of our own...

Well, I've gone and done it. I have entered into a cooperative arrangement with a friend and leased pasture near home so we can have our own sheep. The pasture is about 15 minutes from my house, and what I save in gas alone will pay the pasture lease.

I never thought it would make "sense" to have my own sheep, but with an open dog and a pup who will benefit from frequent, short training sessions, it actually will save me a considerable sum each month to have my "own" flock.

This road won't be without bumps, but the journey promises to be fun. I went for my first work this morning with Lucy and everything went fine.

The field will be mowed tomorrow, so here are the before pictures.

Field looking West.

Use the pointy evergreen tree in the distance, just below the end of the
branch dropping into the photo from above as the "reference" point.

Field looking Southwest. Reference tree in the center,
it is about 2/3 of the way to opposite the corner of the field from this point.

Field looking south
Reference tree far out of frame to the right

Lucy driving the sheep toward the north edge of the field

Lucy lying down, holding sheep off the draw.
I love how her ears are cocked back listening for me.

Today I just went to see how the sorting goes (there is a guard llama to watch out for with the dog work), and get more acquainted with the field. I spent a good portion of the work just training the sheep a bit that they MUST move off of me, and that they must go through the gate from the night pasture to the work field. I suspect I will be spending my first several works just doing this, getting the sheep into the routine a bit. The sheep are all very nice for the dogs to work, but they are not accustomed to being pushed through gates or having their movements forced. It won't take long for them to get the idea.

The sheep belonging to the pasture owner are for sale, but still on the property (Let me know if you are interested. There are 10 ewes available, some are Romney, some are Rambouillet crosses). My co-op partner's 12 sheep are there, and my 8 sheep will be delivered in a few weeks, hopefully once the pasture owner's sheep are gone so the graze won't get depleted unnecessarily.

Tomorrow I will stop by to help finish shearing, install the tank I got today so the dogs have a watering place to dunk in and dress a few wounds on the pasture owner's ewes that were uncovered with shearing. Also tomorrow the field will get mowed, so look for some after photos later this weekend.

Overall it was a peaceful morning. I was able to go, sort, do some gate practice, work Lucy, practice Rye's recall and down, visit with the pasture owner and stop at the feed store on my way home -- all in less time than what I would have spent in the CAR before just to get to and from sheep! This is going to be terrific!

Lucy appeared to have a grand time, though she did get a little warm running through the high grass. However, that, like all problems, was easily solved with a little technology.

The dog dunk trough gets installed tomorrow.

Fortunately Lucy was clean when she hopped in so no mud in the sheep water :)
I am really looking forward to this process, and having the ability to work my dogs more often. Yes, the flock maintenance will mean some extra work, especially at lambing. However, I think the investment will be well worth it, and still be a significant savings of both time and money.

24 July, 2011

When the air is rare...

For a long time I have been battling exhaustion. I simply could not get out of bed. 3 alarms were needed to get me up, and then I would drag through the routine of the day. I could never believe it was time to get up when the alarm went off. I chugged coffee by the pot to get my way through. I assumed this was all because I am a very busy person. I have 2 jobs, am in college and have a sweetie and 4 dogs, let alone the rest of the zoo to look after, resulting in an average of 5.5 hours of sleep a night, sometimes as little as 3 or as much as 7.

I was wrong.

In May, I went to the doctor. My exhaustion was going to get the better of me, my blood pressure was creeping up. I had headaches when I got out of bed and a sore throat every morning. My sweetie reported I've always snored, but that my snoring had gotten worse over the last 2 years and now I would sometimes cough or choke in my sleep.

The doctor referred me to a pulmonologist, who ordered 2 sleep studies to determine what was wrong with me and why I could not seem to get rested.

Well, long story short, I have sleep apnea. On average, my sleep was being interrupted 29 times per hour by respiratory arousals - meaning I would partially wake up due to difficulty breathing, but not awaken completely. She estimated in 8 hours of attempted sleep I was getting less than 1 hour of actual restful deep sleep.

I have obstructive sleep apnea. The doctor says this is partially because I have an "impressively long" soft palate combined with my obesity. I have a strong family history for sleep apnea as well, at least 2 generations that I know of.

Obstructive sleep apnea happens when you relax and go to sleep, and the soft parts of your throat that comprise the airway collapse on themselves, making it difficult for air to pass through. This results in snoring, coughing and lack of breathing. When a lack of breathing occurs, the brain tells the body to begin waking up to get AIR. All of this partial waking up disturbs the deep sleep that is needed for rest.

When awake, my airway is open, like this.

When asleep, my airway collapses, like this.

Sleep apnea is a serious condition worth diagnosing and treating, as I am learning. Based on my sleep study test, the pulmonologist prescribed a CPAP machine. This machine delivers air through a mask that seals over my nose. The pressure from the air through the mask into my airway keeps the soft tissues from collapsing, allowing me to breathe. When I exhale, the machine lowers the pressure automatically making it easy for me to push air out.

To calibrate the CPAP machine, the doctor ordered a second sleep study. During the study when I was connected to the CPAP, my respiratory arousals decreased to 0.4 per hour. Yep - less than ONE. Further, I achieved a plane of deep restful sleep within 5 minutes of going to sleep. In the previous study it took over 2 hours before my first restful sleep. I was shocked to get those results.

So, now I have this next to the bed:

And this strapped to my face while I sleep:

The CPAP is a smart little machine. It is also silent. The only noise sounds like my own breathing just a touch louder because of the amplification of the mask. It is a million times quieter than snoring, I am very sure. It stores all my sleep data and when I go back to the doctor they can see how many times I stop breathing, how much my mask leaks, and how many hours I sleep, as well as how many days I use the machine. I went back for my first checkup the other day and they were STUNNED to see I had 100% days in usage. Apparently this is surprising.

It did not surprise me at all. Because I have NEVER FELT BETTER. I no longer need coffee in the morning to function, I no longer need 3 alarms to awaken from sleep. I wake up feeling refreshed and ready to face the day. Am I tired sometimes? Yep. Getting too little sleep will do that to you. However, I am getting approximately 8x more sleep than I have been per night in years.

Because of my increased sleep and decreased caffeine use, my blood pressure has returned to normal. I feel like a new person. I can not overstate how much this little machine has changed my life. I've never even pulled the mask off while asleep. I look forward to putting it on, knowing how much better I will sleep.

If you have sleep problems, please go see the doctor. It is SO worth it.

16 July, 2011

Wessels' Dirt Blowing Trial - June 2011

We went back to Archer Farms in beautiful Dayton, Washington for the Dirt Blowing SDT again this year. Last year at Dirt Blowing was my first time to ever really see commercial range ewes. I learned a lot in a short period of time, getting around the course with no pen that year.

This year we got around the course in much better stead, still no pen either day. Guess I have some work to do.

Judge Karen Child lived in the big red combine for the weekend, having an eagle-eye view of everything going on on the course.

The view toward Dayton

The view away from town.

Rolling wheat fields cut to stubble.

We ran on a rolling field with several hills and blind spots. The photos don't fully capture the terrain, but I tried with some captions to see if you could get an idea. I figure the outrun was around 450 yards, but did not get a measurement. The crossdrive was quite long.

The set-out was done from trailers and went very smoothly especially when contrasted against last year which was a struggle. The sheep were not easy, but got better with every passing day. I ran on Friday and Saturday, and had to come home to go to work on Sunday. My understanding is Sunday saw the best runs of the weekend.

Click the photo for a larger view to see more detail.

The running was tough. Many runs never got past the lift, with sets of sheep taking off into the high wheat and being tracked down on ATVs. Mutton-busting and roping were required to retrieve a number of sheep, and ranch hands carrying a ewe on the ATV was a common sight on Friday and early Saturday.

The set out point was on top of the knoll, with the fetch coming down through a blind gully. Just when the dogs would get the sheep off the draw of the trailers, they would disappear into the blind gully, leaving us handlers at the post holding our collective breath. The sheep were quick to run and quick to split, but could be worked with decent distance and if the dogs did not shut them down by catching the eye too much.

Interestingly, turning the post was one of the more difficult points on the course. The sheep were reluctant to go between the pen, the combine and the handler on the first day, with several runs stalling out at that point.

Both days I sent Lucy left. On Friday, she lifted beautifully, coming between the trailers and feeling the draw nicely. Once they got to the gully they ran for the protection of the tall wheat. It took quite a bit of work to get them back on line, as Lucy was worried they were escaping and reluctant to give me a nice open flank to pick them back up. We turned the post neatly and made all the drive panels. A little bit of fussing to get the shed and timed out walking to the pen. We had a score in the 50's.

J. Helsley at the post running "Cole"

On Saturday, I was bound and determined to fix the fetch, and not work hard for a tight turn at the post after watching runs stall there. Lucy ran out nice and deep and came in at 12 o'clock this time, feeling the sheep a bit differently at the top. She lifted them beautifully and then re-lifted them after preventing a break-away.

She gave me a nice open flank at the top of the fetch, I think having learned a bit on Friday. We split them through the fetch gates and turned the post smoothly but wide to allow the sheep to stay away from me and keep moving instead of turning to stall or fight. The drive was comprised of lovely lines and we made all of our gates with a nice consistent pace. One wobble on the third leg caused by me overflanking Lucy because I wanted a nice tight turn. I let her get just a bit too much of their eye and we had to fix that line a bit.

Her shed was the thing that impressed me the most, I think. I knew we were good on time, so I let the sheep settle. We stirred them around a bit to see if they would string out toward the draw, which they did not. That being the case, I left the draw side unprotected and put a bit of pressure on, calling Lucy up quietly a few steps. The ewes shifted without splitting, I called Lucy into a very small gap (perhaps 12 inches). Smaller than was prudent, but I could tell from the look on her face that she was ready to come in quickly and so I called her in for a lovely shed and hold. It took my breath away to watch her zip in and hold the 2 I asked with such authority.

We tried to regather them in the ring but still had 2 sets and they didn't really want to group back up. I knew at that point I was nearly out of dog, and Lucy was a risk to grip. Temperatures were in the 80's with the air being still and heavy. Lucy tolerates heat well but I knew she was close to done with these ewes. We worked a bit at the pen but I was not motivated to get it, rather was protecting against gripping off after what I thought was a very nice run. We were successful in not gripping off, and did not get them into the pen probably because I was mostly out of dog. If I put her back off them they would not move, and if I called her up close they would split instead of moving so I just kept things quiet. We ended up with a 75 I think, which was a very good score for Saturday but was buried by the sweet runs on Sunday which saw some scores in the 90's.

J. Helsley's "Cole"

I must say in my very limited experience I think this is one of the best trials in the Northwest. It is well-run and the hospitality is top-notch. The sheep are a challenge and a ton of fun, and many top hands put on a great show for me to learn from. I was very proud of Lucy for her good work and think we have come a long way as a team since our attempt at Dirt Blowing last year.

Many thanks to Sue Wessels and her whole crew for such a great weekend.

25 June, 2011

Boot straps...

It has been a very rough week. Emotional and professional turmoil at the office, clients making me nutty or depressed. Extra hours and extra shifts covering vacations and emergencies as well as illnesses and turns out I'm a little off kilter after all that.

However, those are all just excuses, and they never get anyone anywhere. I need to pull myself up by my boot straps, get my head in the game and get to work handling my dog and my life. The last couple of times we have gone to the post I have failed to get my act together.

Last weekend was tough. The sheep were not easy, and Lucy got really engrossed in holding the pressure for the multiple draws on the field. In a way that was very unlike her, she was upsetting her sheep. Even if I had her way off and completely stopped, the sheep would run like heck. She was listening pretty well (twice she failed to do what I asked but that's pretty much it) -- but I could not help her to be successful. It was a disaster. Out of 4 panels we missed 3 and our lines were ragged. No shed, no pen. I came off the field laughing. If I'm going to go down, it might as well be in flames.

Sunday last we ended up missing the trial because I had a tire EXPLODE on the van on the way to the trial. Have you ever tried to buy tires at 6am on a Sunday? I have. It did not turn out well ;) So a call to AAA and a multi-hour trip to Costco resulted in 4 new tires and no run at the trial.

Today was a different day. I was actually really happy with our run and the crowd seemed to like it too. We had one bobble right when she left my feet, the exhaust sheep re-appeared and so I had to redirect her during the first 2 strides or so of the outrun. Our lines were very good, flow was good. Running on light hair sheep I do like to see calm quiet sheep and Lucy treated her sheep very well. Unlike last weekend, she had the sheep very happy and cooperative, and the difference in how smooth the run felt was enormous.

My favorite part today was our drive. There were 3 drive panels (4 legs on the drive) and I think I blew maybe 7 flanks the entire drive. We completed the maltese cross as well, with correct entries both directions but one sheep squirting out the side each direction as well unfortunately. I came off the field smiling. Though I was very happy with the dog work I was a little disappointed in our score. We are 2 in a row near the bottom of the class for scores. I need to quit caring about scores. My dog sure as heck doesn't care about them!

I am a competitive person by nature. It can be a handicap in my mental game. I'm learning lessons every time I go to the post. Some top hands can adjust how they run based on what they know a judge is looking for. I'm NOT a top hand and not that adept. I need to stay true to how I like to run my dog and hope for the best. If I pick things apart or try to change my strategy each time I go to the post, it is not fair to myself or my dog. If I remember the importance of consistency I will see good dog work regardless of the scores.

This journey is made up of good days and bad days, and some days that are a bit of both. On the plus side, this trial is becoming a favorite of mine if for no reason other than the **awesome** potluck. Everyone brings terrific food and the trial hosts provide fresh from the sea clams and oysters as well as pork ribs and beef brisket on the barbeque. There is also a huge raffle and everyone has a terrific time in the evening. I really enjoyed my evening in spite of my disappointment in myself earlier in the day.

So tomorrow is a new day. I'm going to pick myself up by my boot straps, forget the last two trips to the post and live in the moment. My dog deserves it.

21 June, 2011

A Baker's Dozen

Today is the 13th anniversary of my marriage.

We have been through a whole heck of a lot together in that short time. Here's to some quiet relaxation over these next few years together!

I love you, sweetie!

29 May, 2011

Key Pen Trial - Day 2

Well, the weather held again. No rain and even a little sunburn. I am a bit worried about how my sunburn and my CPAP will get along tonight. I'll write more about the CPAP tomorrow. I got it on Friday.

Here are the Open score sheets:

I was very happy with Lucy all weekend. The only trouble we had either day really was at the blind drive panel. There were 3 drive panels, for a semi-square drive all weekend. Yesterday it was the first drive-away panel, today it was the panel turn for the final leg. With the terrain between the post and the panel, and a gully just past the panel, both sheep and dog are invisible in this area. It is a send-your-dog-and-hope type situation. Today, there was not a SINGLE run where all drive panels were made. Everyone (myself included) missed at least one. Lucy and I got the others, but missed the blind one today. Yesterday we hit them all but were off line in the blind area.

It was interesting to see how the dogs handled the blind area. If you closed your eyes as a spectator, you could tell from the handler's whistles when they could no longer see the sheep or the dog. There was either total silence, or frantic stops... little in between. I blew a flank and a couple steadies, and we just missed them to the inside. Most of the dogs refused to take flanks in that area due to a strong conflicting draw combined with the fact that we handlers were blind and could not correct if the dog failed to flank, since we didn't know it had happened! It was a very tricky test.

Of course, Judge Norman got to stand up in the truck bed on a hill behind us and got to see it all. I wished I was 7' tall today... just sayin'.

Overall the running was good. The sheep were honest but required a dog who is capable of gearing down appropriately to avoid startling hair sheep. For the dogs and hands who were able to accomplish this, good runs were to be had.

Instead of a pen and shed today, we had a maltese cross. Trying to shed these farm flock katahdins all day would have worn out the sheep to no good use, making them not as uniform for later runs and they had to be run for the whole day. Hence, the cross. With the cross, all 4 sheep had to be taken through the cross the first direction correctly before the 2nd direction could be attempted. Each direction was worth 10 points. In the underclasses, only the first direction was required for 10 points, instead of a pen.

I am very lucky to have such a good dog. Thanks again Diane, for selling her to me and trusting me with her. I feel like we are really starting to come into our own as a team this year.

I want to thank my friends and mentors (especially Scott Glen) for helping me along this journey. Without the help of good friends and mentors I would never be enjoying this dog or this degree of success. Words can not express how much I appreciate each of you.

After this weekend we have 13.6 finals points. How exciting!

Happy trails, everyone.

28 May, 2011

Key Pen Trial - Day 1

* Reverse the 5th and 6th place Lucy and Kep tied with 85 points each, but the tie was broken incorrectly on this sheet.

I was very happy with Lucy's run today. In the morning, there were not many good runs to be had. We were 5th to the post. The sheep were swift and liked to split, as well as giving the set-out crew quite a bit of trouble holding them. The judge warned me while I was waiting to send my dog as soon as it seemed the sheep were even somewhat set as they would not stay put.

I am not sure why she was hit on her outrun/lift as it looked ok from the post but I didn't have the awesome elevated judging platform to watch from. :)

We had a missed attempt on the shed (I called her in when I should not have) but when we finally did shed, it was very nice with Lucy doing some fancy footwork to make a gap between two recalcitrant ewes.

Today was our first ever perfect-scoring fetch. It was quite a lovely fetch! We had a lot of fun today hanging out with the sheepdog crowd and shooting the breeze. The sun came out and I even had to use sunscreen for the 2nd time all year. Many thanks to Sue and George MacDonald for putting on a great trial. Today was also the debut of my new crook from George (I figured no better place) and for my new whistle lanyard I made.

Off to bed now for more fun tomorrow!

29 April, 2011

Rocky Ewe final winter series trials

I was very proud of Lucy at this last winter series trial. She was in the points both days, with a 3rd place on Sunday (no shed, no pen either day).

I learned I really better practice freestanding pens from the post - my handling SUCKED. After the first 2 tries on Saturday I just got irritated and ran out the clock (as you can see from this video) -- 0-0-6-5-10-10 I think. I thought about not posting the video here, because of the botched pen. It is easy to see the many ways I blew this as a handler. However, there were many nice things about the run and it was my first time to hear my own whistles played back from farther away than my shirt pocket.

On Sunday, she had the nicest scoring fetch of the entire day! After a miss at the pen, I decided to just turn it into a training session practicing pen flanks and stops. Luckily there is not video of that, though I wish I had video of the coursework. 0-0-3-5-10-10

We are gearing up for Summer trials. I am planning on going to the local W. WA trials as well as Wessels, Lacamas, Oregon Wine Country, Lopez and Fire Ridge this year... doG help me.

24 April, 2011

The weekend... and then some

Well, it has been a little while. School, work and having a puppy has eaten up my time. I am "off the grid" in a big way. The next 10 days are finals, then I have 3 days off, then Summer semester begins.

This weekend we went to an agility trial, our first one since January. Zora did a terrific job, 7 Qs in 10 runs. The 3 NQs were one because of an off-course tunnel (I was taking a handling risk that did not pay off) and the other 2 were because I was trying the distance bonus lines and it didn't come quiet together perfectly. Both were still clean but over time.

Here is a nice video of Zora's second standard run on Sunday.

We also made some good progress toward her Versatility NATCH. I think we are down to 2 Q's for it.

Have a great week. I miss my friends. Sorry for being so unavailable everyone, and thanks for understanding.

24 March, 2011

Good news

Magick's ultrasound shows her stomach wall has gone back down to a normal thickness. This suggests a bleeding ulcer which is healing. The other good news is she appears to be responding to the adjustment we made to her medications.

Keep paws crossed that she continues to do well and this scare was all something that will pass with time and medications.

20 March, 2011

Shakti Cove Cottages - A great place at the beach!

Well, vacation is drawing to an end. We had a wonderful time at the ocean and wanted to share our experience staying in a super dog-friendly place.

We stayed at Shakti Cove Cottages in Ocean Park, WA. Ocean Park is on the Long Beach Peninsula about 10 miles north of the city of Long Beach. It is approximately 3 to 3.5 hours from Seattle. I spent many summer days at Ocean Park as a child and the LBP has a special place in my heart. I do love the dramatic Oregon coast for its gorgeous cliffs and many tidepools and niches to explore, but the wide open spaces of the Peninsula have their own special kind of fun as well.

Shakti Cove is a hippie hangout like you might expect from the name. The cottages are small and cozy. They are rustic and are NOT fancy. This was very much like staying at the used family beach cabin and not like staying at a hotel or resort. If you are looking for something upscale and fancy close to the beach, this is not the place. If you want to go to the beach and have somewhere nearby to stay that is cozy, clean, friendly but basically utilitarian, Shakti Cove will meet your needs.

The cottage had a kitchen with stove, oven, fridge, coffee maker, tea kettle, toaster and all the necessary cooking utensils/dishes etc to make home cooked meals. A bedroom was off the main living area (no door) and bathroom was neat and clean. There are shared laundry facilities and areas to hose off dogs if they get icky at the beach. We stayed in the "doggie cottage" - dog themed decor. There were many fun pictures on the walls of dogs at the beach or hanging out in the cottages.

Dogs are welcome in all the cottages except the Annex which is their newest cottage, larger and has a knotty pine interior. Dogs cost $10 per pet per night -- still cheaper than a dog sitter! The dogs were welcome guests -- they even provide tons of extra "dog towels" if you want them, covers for the sofa, etc. They are very good about telling everyone dogs must be leashed and to pick up after dogs. While we were there, I did not see a single dog stool that had not been picked up. I was very impressed with how dog friendly the place was.

I also enjoyed that it was private. They do not come in and do daily housekeeping so I did not have to worry someone would be going through my stuff, or try to be gone for the housekeeping staff to come. If you request housekeeping they will come and do it, but otherwise your cottage is just like your own private home for the duration of the stay.

The beach looking North toward Ocean Park and Leadbetter Point.

Looking South toward Long Beach. Cape Disappointment in the distance.

The beach was private as well. There are not a bunch of hotels in this area and only a few homes so the only passers-by were a few people driving from one beach access to the next. Dogs are welcome to be off-leash on the beach. In 4 days, I never saw another person walking on the beach. It is very important to remember that this stretch of beach is open for driving year-round and dogs should be under good voice control to keep them safe from traffic. It is difficult for cars to stop quickly on the beach: they will get buried in the sand. It is also difficult to hear the cars coming because of the noise of the surf. This is true along most of the peninsula.

The location was very quiet. No noise at night except the surf and frogs. The stars are brilliant and the walk to the beach is a few minutes along this private trail.

Halfway between the beach and the cabins, looking East toward the cabins
(they are in the trees behind those 2 homes)

Looking West from the same point toward the ocean

In short, Shakti Cove was perfect for what we were looking for. We are the type of people who like to go camping year-round and this was a nice treat -- soft beds, warm rooms, a full kitchen and nice HOT showers after getting home from the ocean. It might not be right for everyone, but I would recommend it to anyone looking for a great very dog friendly place at the beach that is rustic, cozy and very peaceful.

Shakti Cove Cottages

Quiet and Peaceful
Close to the beach, private beach access
Extremely dog friendly
Cozy and rustic
Pay for 2 nights get 1 free through March (this was a pleasant surprise to us!)

More rustic than some guests might be looking for
Older rooms, cabins are small
Some noisy pipes in the kitchen
Muddy walkway in front of cabins meant lots of paw-wiping

Overall rating:
The dogs definitely gave it 16 paws up.

17 March, 2011

Vacation is the best...

I have been in desperate need of a little time away. We are at the beach for 4 days, coming home tomorrow. Love this!

Here are some photos of our adventures.

For Rye photos, go HERE to his blog.