17 December, 2012


Two years have passed since two important events befell our family. One heartwarming, one heartbreaking... both evoke the same emotions even after two long years.

On 14 December 2010, Rye was born. 

Happy 2nd birthday, Rye! You make us smile every day!

On 17 December 2010, Paddy left us.

My heart still aches with loving memories, Paddy.
These events will remain inextricably linked in my mind and my heart.

31 October, 2012


So the original Dogzilla was puppy Paddy. Here is Dogzilla v. 2.0.

Then there is Princess Magick who is pleased to be the center of attention.

Alas, poor Zora has the.meanest.mom.ever.

Apparently, Dogzilla's life is exhausting because he fell asleep during his photos! Lucy got a bye on the costume photos since she doesn't really care for having her photo taken :)

27 October, 2012

International Hug A Sheep Day!

Two years ago, Punkin's Patch started Hug A Sheep Day! Being that I enjoy sheep but am not normally a "sheep hugger," I was skeptical. Alas, this year Jenny convinced me. After all, they even did a story about it on the Today Show's website!

So I set out this morning on my mission to get a photo for hug a sheep day. Rain clothes, a warm hat and my iPhone in its waterproof case in hand, I headed out to the farm. I had in my head that the hug-ee would be Badger, AKA 1203. She was the single lamb of my katahdin ewe who survived a dog attack last November. As a side bonus, she is quite cute.

Phase 1 of the plan: Explain Hug a Sheep Day to the ewe and catch her up. Badger was entirely unconvinced that this is a real holiday and was not impressed with my explanation. A true skeptic, she required convincing, so I called in some reinforcements.

Lucy helps Badger see the wisdom in my plan...

Once the reinforcements arrived, I was able to move to phase 2 of the plan: capture Badger.

Ha! Gotcha, Badger! She still looks unimpressed...
Phase 3 of the plan: Somehow get a photo of me and Badger in the same frame without a timer-set shutter or tripod. I decided to give Badger a nice hug around the neck and then stretch my other arm out as looooooong as I could. Looks like my arm was just barely long enough!

Success! Badger hugged, captured on film! Well, on iPhone at least. 

I am thinking my sheep are pretty glad this holiday comes only once a year. I told Badger she is lucky it was only Hug A Sheep Day and not Halloween, otherwise who knows what might have happened! I think she would look quite dashing in a set of devil horns ;)

05 October, 2012

Conquering fear, saying truth and finding humility

Nice dog, shame about the handler. It's an old one, but stands true for me more often than not. But I'm working. I'm getting better, a little at a time. With a better handler, my dog would have had a better score. But without my dog, I'd not have had this opportunity at all so I am grateful we are partners. Thank you, Lucy. 

The "let down" after the finals is starting to wear off and real life is starting to settle back in. Much like when I went to the agility nationals, I felt the culmination of a year's work come down to 13 minutes on the field with my partner. After that type of build up, the coast downhill requires a little mental let-down. I don't say let-down in a bad way, but rather in the sense of taking time to unwind and reflect.

I've had a few more hot showers, scrubbed off the layers of DEET, dirt and sunscreen leaving behind my sunglasses-raccoon tan. The laundry is washed, $8 in quarters later the mosquitoes and blood spatter are scrubbed off my van. The camper is not yet washed but will be this weekend. I'm still slathering on chapstick in recovery mode from a week in the sun-bright high desert.

In non-run-related news, I did not even turn on my computer for EIGHT consecutive days. I can't remember the last time that happened and it felt spectacular. I took my camper on its first journey and got everything set up and working all on my own. I shared meals and wine with old friends and made some new friends as well. I saw the huge moon set in the clear pre-dawn light every morning while walking my dogs and saw the sun set over the mountains every night. 

I could not be more proud of my friends. A bunch of us were at our first ever Finals, some of us with our first collie even. We shared the nerves, the excitement, the success, the heartbreak. I think my favorite part of the finals other than standing at the post was cheering on my friends, both old and new.

So now the bad news - our run.

Lucy drew up 2nd dog to the post on Friday, the final day of qualifying. I felt great all week up until watching the "Thursday afternoon bloodbath." However, I awoke Friday energized and excited, my nerves felt good instead of frightening.

I sent Lucy left, though most were sending right. She ran out wide and deep. At one point I thought she was going to bend in and raised my whistle to speak to her, but it was a trick of the light with a brown dog on stubble and she was simply bending out as appropriate. She lifted her sheep without a struggle and cooperated with me. It took a bit of work to get the fetch straightened out but we did it and she brought them right to my feet. Then I made a major handling error coming around the post. I didn't read my dog's mental state well enough and accidentally allowed her to unsettle the sheep coming around the post. The first leg of the drive was spent recovering from that error with a skimmed panel followed by a good turn.

Our crossdrive line and pace were decent, with Lucy feeling her sheep while I blew steadies and she held the line. I made yet another critical handling error at the crossdrive panel. Handlers had been missing the crossdrive panel low all week. I doubted my dog and myself and blew a small flank to change the line right before the panel. Unfortunately, the sheep were NOT low when I blew that small flank. I ended up releasing the pressure to the hard draw upfield and so we skimmed high but recovered for a good turn (read: me blowing 13 billion flanks to protect against a pull through or an escaped brockle face ewe. Lucy took every whistle even though they were fast and furious) and third leg.

In the shedding ring I knew there was plenty of time. Glad I wore a watch. I tried to get everything settled down. The sheep and my dog were nice and quiet, but I wasn't able to shuffle the sheep as easily as I thought I would be able to after watching the past few days. After one missed attempt and having to regather into the ring I managed to get my act together and we took a good shed.

Going to the pen time was tight and I had one ewe who wanted to break back and avoid the pen, ending up stuck behind the gate. Some quick clean flanking by Lucy and a bit of dancing around by me and we closed the gate with 10 seconds left by my watch.

So yes, I made a LOT of handling errors - and I own them. That being said, I also made some good decisions and got my dog back in hand, preventing a grip when things got chaotic with that ewe against the gate of the pen. Lucy gave me her heart and her trust. She did as I asked even when I was wrong. She did what was needed to move sheep some may have thought her incapable of moving. She was such a good partner to me and WE CLOSED THE GATE!!!!!

The feeling of closing that gate, hearing my friends cheer us on even though the score would not be a good one was a feeling I want to cherish.

Some of my fears came true. I did let my mentor down, and I did let my dog down a bit. However, I conquered one of my fears as well. While I may have wished I could have done my run over, I didn't dwell on the bad and I was sincerely pleased with my dog. I stayed in a better mental place than I thought I would have and I was proud of myself for that. My summer lessons paid off and I was able to recover from a problem in the shedding ring and put my head back together to finish the course. Lucy was physically fit and showed almost no fatigue after her run, hopping in the tank because she liked it rather than to cool off.

While closing the gate might not be a big accomplishment to some, for me, in that one moment, it felt amazing. Our run was mediocre, but our partnership is really something special.

I want to thank all my friends for their support along this journey. Words of encouragement or harsh truth when needed help me grow. I knew going to the Finals would either be a time to succeed or a time to learn a needed lesson. In our own way, we did both.

I'm hoping to get some photos soon and will share them when I do. In the meantime, here's a photo of Lucy and I with our sponsor, Scott - and Me with the team I sponsored, Scott and June. Yep, we sponsored one another! (Photo by Jenny Glen)

23 September, 2012

On the road again, almost... and with an airsick bag.

Well, I'm at the point now where I vacillate between giddy enthusiasm and nausea with general malaise. The weekend was tough with trailer problems and the electricity at the house being out for 10 most inopportune hours, putting me behind on laundry and homework.

The homework is done, the trailer is fixed, the laundry is clean. The camper is all packed and I will fold it down and hitch up tonight. The car is almost all packed and I just need to run to the store for a few things before leaving ungodly early tomorrow.

Lucy is ready. She is physically and mentally fit and has been looking great in practice. We had a little discussion during practice yesterday that ended in mutual understanding. Carolynn and John made it possible for us to haul out to a local hay field and stretch out a bit. It felt good. She is a well-trained dog and her biggest liability is clearly me.

I've been working on ME. Working hard. A friend prompted me to define what exactly I am nervous about. I don't want to look foolish, I feel like I got in by the skin of my teeth and some people would consider the trials my points came from "easy." I don't want to let my dog down, I want her to look good and want people to like her. I worry I will disappoint my mentors and friends if our run goes badly. I worry that I will be a "sore loser" if it does go badly. I worry that if there is a mistake on the course, I won't be able to shake it off and straighten myself out for the rest of the run. I feel like I don't belong, like my name being in the program with those other names isn't quite right.

Mostly it boils town to a perfectionistic overthinker who has a global fear of failure.

Alas, the time for worry is mostly through. I'm off work for a whole week!!! (WOW) And I've turned in all my homework in advance so I have little to worry about while away. The hubby is staying home with Magick, the cats and Stanley. The collies and Zora are coming on the road with me and they will all have fun either way. The camper is going for its inaugural trip and hopefully it will keep working! I will get to spend a week away with friends and dogs, watching some of the most amazing teams in the US and Canada walk to the post. What a privilege. Thank you, Lucy for making it happen.

15 September, 2012

Productivity vs. Senioritis!

Ok so I sent in my graduation application and now I have a BAD case of senioritis. Procrastination is the name of this game. I can't be bothered to do my homework in advance like I normally would, it gets left until the last moment an acceptable job can be done. Of course, I'm conceited enough about my grades that these are not suffering, but I'm not engaging with the material like I should. Rather than my usual zest for learning as much as I can, I find myself doing the minimum necessary to maintain. I haven't yet decided if I want to actually change something about this, or just ride the wave of mediocrity toward commencement.

While my punctuality at school is WAY down, my productivity in other areas is way up! The collies have been getting consistent work and exercise. The house is less of a wreck than usual.

This weekend is a great example. Yesterday I was up at 5, worked dogs in the morning, did homework mid-day, Rye had CU class in the afternoon, trip to the farm to feed and water sheep and chickens, home and everyone got nails clipped and brushed and the car got loaded up for agility.

Today, agility all morning. I haven't been to an agility trial since April and it felt like a vacation! Running Zora was interspersed with a nice long off leash walk for the collies and agility practice for Rye. Mid afternoon I headed up the hill to the farm to work both collies, water and feed sheep and chickens and work on setting up a hay delivery. Then, back to agility for a few hours since Zora had 2 more runs in the late afternoon. Now we're home and I'm blogging when I should be doing homework!

Zora's ribbons for today!

Zora had a lovely day of agility. She is such a great partner. Six attempts, 4 flawless runs with 1st place ribbons. Neither of us was entirely perfect today: I accidentally caused an off-course in one round and she figured I was an optional part of the team for an off-course in another round. That off-course went something like this:

Me:  Come IN, frame!

Zora: [beady eyes gazing adoringly at tunnel under the A-frame while she runs at top speed]

Me: [sees the beady eyes looking the wrong way] ZORA! HERE!

Zora: Yeah, I'll be back in just a sec [speeds through the off-course tunnel with great flair, leaping out of the exit and looking pleased with herself]

Me: Come here. Frame.

Zora: K! [completes AFrame while shrugging shoulders]

elapsed time: ~6 seconds

Yep, it was an off-course but I was just laughing at the discussion we had in those few brief seconds. I love having a partner whom I understand. Though we don't always agree, there is always comprehension on both sides.

Rye did some neat stuff on sheep that I've never seen him do before! Very fun! He is changing all the time.

Tomorrow will look a lot like today except with working dogs and unloading a couple tons of hay in the afternoon rather than mid-day and an evening trip to the clinic for Sunday treatments of a sick kitty.

See what I meant about LIVIN' the life? Feeling blessed today.

11 September, 2012

Canadian Journey v. 3.0 ... Of Youth and the Big Dance

Yep, it's true. I've been so busy LIVIN' the life I've been hard pressed to carve out a little time for blogging.

This summer we missed out on having Scott come to Fido's Farm as usual in August. I couldn't believe it. Here I am like a blind leper trying to train my young dog and get ready for my first prom with Lucy and no lessons, let alone just the right dress and stilettos?

Alta-Pete sunrise

Well, there was quite a logical response. Nothing 26 hours of driving and a pile of cash can't fix. Commence Canadian Journey 3.0, a quick jaunt across the Continental Divide to get help. It was so very much fun. We made some great memories.

I was united with old friends.

Alaska missed me, but was astonished I did not bring Timbits

And made a special delivery from a good friend:

Special edition Spidey meets Hello Kitty (J. Glen)

We had blazing sun and black thunder clouds bringing a gorgeous light show. Quiet mornings and evenings full of the buzzing of those DANG mosquitoes! The dogs ran right through their pads but were keen to run some more with wrapped paws.

Obi Wan helped me get a little bit of understanding with Mr. Rye and the beginnings of an outrun. Lucy and I went under the shedding microscope and came out larger than life.

Rye finishing a gather (J. Glen)
So here we are at the end of Summer. Rye is coming along slowly but surely. Slow to mature but I just love him.

Lucy and I are working on her physical fitness and our teamwork, trying to peak just right for our first trip together to the sheepdog finals, and my first trip to the post there (Lucy ran in the 2009 Finals with Jenny). 

Lucy's Auntie promised to bring a bucket...

Lucy "cooling off" between holding sets.
 See you 'round the bend.

29 June, 2012

Homework Helper

Magick, age 13.5 years.

06 June, 2012

Keeping the "Sheep" in Sheepdog

Over and over I find myself having the same conversation with a variety of people. What do top open hands have in common? What do people I respect and love to watch train and run their dogs have in common? Well, they have many similar traits, but they all share one crucially important thing: They are good shepherds. 

Before all else, before pace and flow, before lines and panels, before pens and sheds and especially before points, this sport is about the sheep. It is also about dogs and hands, but without sheep, there would be no sheepdog. There would be no sheepdog trial, and certainly there would be no sheepdog finals.

Those hands who can see what the sheep need, keep the sheep happy and who maintain respect for the sheep consistently excel.

I admit, I get discouraged when I see sheep run all over the field, panting as they enter the shedding ring, heads hanging low as they warily eye the dog and handler. When the pen gate shuts or the shed is called and the handler's demeanor toward the sheep changes to be more careless, I feel sad. As handlers, we should use our dogs to act as our helpers in our stewardship of the sheep. Anytime the dog is on the course whether the timer is running or not, I feel obligated to do what I can to keep the sheep happy and healthy. I absolutely do not have all the stockmanship of a top handler, it will take another decade at least before I get there -- but I promise to try.

That being said, accidents happen. I think we can all appreciate when an accident happens because of a dog or when a sheep does something unexpected. But before I blame the sheep, I try to take a long hard look at myself. Did I cause a grip? Did I cause the sheep to bolt? Were the sheep handled kindly in the set-out? Did I handle my dog in a way that was not suited to that group (or individual) sheep? If so, I have more to learn and the responsibility is on me to accept what I've created. Most times when I get "bad sheep" I can see that I made them that way with my handling.

What do you think top hands have in common? What is the magic they share that makes them top hands while the rest of us are just part of the overwhelming mediocre majority? There can only be one winner at every trial so by the numbers there will only be so many top hands. Why are so few people consistently at the top? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts. 

14 March, 2012

Heppner Running Order - Saturday

This is my first time going to Heppner and I'm nervous and excited. I look forward to the challenge of a new field and fresh sheep!

I don't normally post running orders, but a few people have asked for the running order, so here it is for Saturday.