Monday, November 05, 2012


It was a picture perfect November weekend in Northern Nevada.  We had a jam packed weekend of sheepdog lessons on the calendar.  Every slot was taken immediately and the schedule was from sun up to sun down.  There was only one spot for me, so I had Pearl signed up for both days.

I was responsible for the cheese and crackers.  And picking up DD at the airport and delivering her to Dayton.  Who doesn't love a trip to Whole Foods?  I chose a Parmesan to pair with pear.  The Lemon Stilton is now a standard, as is  my favorite Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam.  New to me this time was a Cranberry Chipoltle Cheddar (you must try it!).  A couple of bottles of Syrah to go with the pulled pork and a couple of Chardonnays, because, why not?

When we got down to the field on Saturday morning, there were 20-30 head of mule deer grazing.  One big buck who was injured, maybe hit by car.  I stopped and let them race away as the truck with sheep trailer made its way onto the field.  One young buck stopped right by my car, trying to decide which way he was going.  Just two little points on his baby antlers.

Pearl and I had one of the early lessons.  The few of us locals had the early spots, so the Californians could drive over in the morning and take the afternoon lessons.  On Sunday, the order was reversed, so the Californians could get home before dark.

We started out with an away outrun and saw immediately that we needed to loosen up Pearl's eye and get her out.  It took a few corrections and some patience to get her out, but then BAM!  there it was.  Come bye is much freer and she is not as apt to get stuck.  Some driving, driving driving.  I can see when her body starts to stiffen and that always means she is about to slice and bust up the sheep.  I just need to start seeing that earlier and flank her before she gets to that point.

photo by Kelsey Nichols
We worked on bigger outruns and more driving and bigger outruns.  I'm not sending her from my feet, but as long as she looks correct on her way out, I'm not really near the sheep and she has a good long fetch.  What a nice fetch, too!  It is so different to just stand there and watch the sheep come at a nice trot right to me.  I can stand there and breathe and feel relaxed.  Wow.  It really is cool.

photo by Kelsey Nichols
She isn't perfect and she doesn't always take my steady or stand commands.  On Sunday, because we had waited all day and because we were parked right next to the sheep trailer and there was a little commotion in and around the sheep trailer while we were getting Pearl's set out, she was really geared up.  So, DD brought out a secret weapon. . .the soft shell jacket!!!  I sent her on an away.  She started right up the middle. . .well, maybe not straight up the middle, but close.  DD snapped that jacket at her and wow, did she kick out and go wide and come in deep!  That's all it took.  So, whenever she thought about blowing me off, a little snap of the jacket got her right back on board.  In the past, I've thought about using a flag with her but never had.  Ordered on last night when I got home.  But, I'll probably need to visit REI for a North Face jacket, too!

In the past, Pearl hasn't always wanted to finish her away outruns, stopping short.  This weekend she outgrew that. . .never once stopping short.  Her come bye outrun is very nice. She's driving well, as long as I don't turn and put my pressure on her and as long as I don't get sucked into walking a converging line, instead of a diverging line.  Her flanks are very nice and square as long as I don't let her get into the sheep's bubble.  I learned to see her eyeing up too much and feel more comfortable loosening up her eye.

I didn't work Jane at all.  Which made me sad, especially because she glared at me from the car all weekend.  I don't think I will work her for a while.  My whole mental game is different when I don't work her.  There is no running up the field yelling and screaming.  There is no frustration.  I'm relaxed.  My voice is even.  My emotions are even. . .well, I do get a little excited watching that nice quiet lift and especially the first ten or so steps on the fetch, but a good excited.  I wish I could start Jane all over again.  But, she is the one who got me to this point, and she is exactly the dog I wanted when I decided to get a Border Collie.  When I made that decision, I didn't know this was the path I wanted, but Jane put me on this path and I couldn't be more grateful.

And then there was Pogo!  She will turn nine at the end of this month, but she's still got mad bird skillz!


Severe Autism said...

Who's in the water? That is so cute.

Ann said...

That's Pearl in the bucket!

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