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Just gave Elli a bath…..found new source of garden compost! Who knew dog fur could hold that much dirt! I bet she lost a couple pounds…

Tess CGC

Last night Tess earned her CGC. I’ve been way behind on that because of working on Elli’s problems. I finally knuckled down, put Elli’s dog & stranger work on the back burner for a couple of months to get the paper on Tess. We sure weren’t perfect, but I don’t care because Tess is a very friendly, easy-going dog at heart. She has some more growing up to do -holy cow can she be a goofy puppy brain-and she HAS to check out anything that gives her pause or peaks her curiosity- but she’s got it all there. In fact, she’s the only dog of the five I can count on greeting any dog or person anywhere if they will greet her. If there was any way she was less than perfect last night, it was not in an bad way. Most importantly though – taking the CGC makes me really nervous. Really. I know it’s silly, but nervous like nothing else. Comparatively speaking, I’m a cool cucumber walking into the obedience ring, but I crumble at a silly CGC. I guess it’s because I just really want to get it over with… our club requires it to do the next thing, and I’ll have to wait another 3 months to do it again. Also, some of it may be the difference between doing a stand for exam, which nobody cares if your dog can do, and the embarrassment of an ill behaved dog….especially when you fancy yourself a dog trainer. Let me tell you, Tess is not the dog to get nervous with…she just checks out ostrich-style (lalala Icanthearyou yourenotthere lalala) until you can convince her you’re not a kelpie-brain eating zombie or worse. So if I got tense (like thinking ‘don’t go say hi to the strange dog, don’t go say hi to the…) then she’d pretend I wasn’t there until I could think a happy thought. Then there was the person in the ‘milling crowd’ with the beautiful big swirly skirt–Tess just had to see what that was about. Then, someone else’s dog started barking in the big echo-y building. Tess was pretty sure she needed to do something about that. This happened simultaneously as we set up to do the reactivity exercise. Yah. But we got through it. We can move on.

Major Disappointment

This weekend we were out-of-town retrieving my daughter from the airport after her exchange year in southern Mexico. While I was gone, I had my son’s friend taking care of the birds and ” The Predator” came back. The night pen wasn’t securely closed I guess? Saturday night “it” (I’m pretty sure we’re talking about a fox) took off with FOURTEEN of my birds. My only herding livestock…
After a long winter of keeping them well & alive, waiting out the cold & snow, then while they sat on nests, raised the babies…all this time, months, of keeping them (oi, all those buckets of ice) but not being able to work them….suddenly they are all gone.

Now I have to buy new ones? Seriously? Do you know how much bantam ducks go for??? I am just crushed…annoyed…angry…and that’s about all the euphemisms I can deal with right now.

Joe RL3

We finally went out and got Joe’s RL3 (APDT rally obedience level 3). All weekend I was getting comments like “Joe’s not an A [untitled] dog!”. But he was. I’ve been spending far more time & effort this past year raising puppies and working sheep than thinking about rally. Joe was all ready for RL3, oh gosh, 2 years ago. Then we just never did it. I love showing in level 3. Mesa & I did it a lot for fun. There are several beginning open and utility obedience exercises (retrieve, moving stands, directed jumping, signals, etc) and the courses really flow.

The lack of practice did show because he has a lot of problems wrapping his speckled brain around a directed jump when sent to his right (my left). Funny old dog. He has no problems doing it the other direction. We had to work very hard on that two years ago. Little practice let it disappear. But he qualified 3 out of 4 courses this weekend. Out of 210 possible points, he scored an NQ (failed on directed jump to his right), 205, and 210 as an “A” dog. That was his title because we went in with one leg from trialing one day last fall. Then he beat all the “B” dogs with another 210 and came home with 3 blue ribbons. Good boy, Joe.

Elli was originally entered in level 1, but I pulled her because she was in the tail end of her heat. Next time, El. I promise.

I really wish

it would stop raining, you know, just long enough for the duck pen to dry out?

Bluegrass Classic

I mean… wow… days and days of herding…..dogs…..sheep…..fiber festival!! Yowza.
Every year I think “I’m gonna go down there!”. It’s ‘only’ a five hour drive, but every year it doesn’t quite work out. So this year I splurged on the new webcast. Right now it costs the rough equivalent of one tank of gas…not nearly as fun as being there, but waaay more economical.
Bluegrass Classic
KY Sheep & Fiber Festival
Next year….

A Clinic Day

I went out to Nancy Whelan’s place today for the 3rd day of the Larry Painter clinic going on there.
I got to say Hi to Larry, show Tess off to him (since he’s her breeder), and chat with folks all day long.

Larry got Tess & I doing our off-balance work. I’m glad I started that with him. Tess so completely did not believe I really wanted her to do that. It took quite some convincing. If Larry weren’t looking over my shoulder, I think I would have been sure I was doing something wrong and given up for the day! I couldn’t even call her too me for awhile, she really believed with all her herdin’-doggie soul that I was insane and she needed to go the other way. Once she gave in and I sent her on around, she got it. But boy was that a big step!


Elli was the delight of my Saturday, two weeks ago. It’s hard for me to convey the experience concisely and I’m only going to tell a splinter of our adventure so far so I hope this sort of makes sense…
Elli is a late-bloomer, of sorts. The working instinct comes out in dogs at widely varying ages, but usually before 2 yrs. old. Mesa ‘turned on’ when she was 8 months old. Joe was ‘on’ when he first saw sheep at 9 wks old. Elli has had lots of interest in stock (sheep & ducks) since she was a little puppy. As little as 3 months old, she used to do little helpful things with the ducks while I was doing chores, like round them up and hold them if they bolted out of the pens while I was changing buckets or gather them up and ‘put them away’ if they were grazing in the yard. Really amazing stuff that Mesa still can’t do without my firm guidance because she isn’t at all patient with ducks. Elli has always been very gentle, respectful, & firm, but would only do these things while I ‘wasn’t looking’. If I entered the picture, she would stop and leave. The hard part has been that at a year old, the ‘traditional’ age to begin training, she still couldn’t handle any training pressure. Even a month ago she couldn’t reliably work. Sometimes…gorgeous for a few minutes, next minute – exploring the fence line. Sometimes there would be something going on (not at her) that would put her off completely (like the time I had to pretty much beat the sheep off the gate where we were, just to get in the round pen, yah that didn’t work well). Off & on, off and on. I live with her, so I know just how amazing she can be. But the herding trainer’s I work with have only seen the ‘delicate’, pressure-sensitive, not working, apparent lack of instinct, ‘need to build interest’ dog. All I could do is tamp down my fears (over and over and..) and wait for her to begin to mature mentally. Mentally, from puppyhood to now, she has been a very goofy young dog.

She’s just now beginning to mentally harden up at almost a year and a half. Honestly, if she was a real farm dog, I think she could do most routine farm chores without any special help from me. Really, she has done some really neat things with the ducks, but not training. Over the past month I have begun to see her abilities come out with enough drive that I can ask for it. She has push (something I also worried about needlessly), but will stay off her stock easily, very comfortably working wide. She usually flanks squarely by choice and has an awesome sense of balance & group.

As a puppy, she could easily keep 16 ducks together. The one time she didn’t was completely my fault, it was the first time she did that voluntary gather to put them ‘back where they belong’ and I started to verbally intervene (expecting her to stomp on them like Mesa, Joe, or even Tess might do) and screwed her up for a moment before I realized my mistake, left her alone, and…she backed off, turned, and deliberately added the split ducks back in and drove them all on into the duck pen.

A couple weekends ago, she was pushing the sheep past me while fetching around so we worked into a “pinwheel” with me very lightly, gently pushing out as the sheep passed then changing direction for her to re-gather. She let me push and gave while persistently working. With minimal effort, the sheep were no longer passing and we were walking around. No muss, no fuss. When I went to take her back into the field after a break, I had a ridiculous urge to take her out in the bigger field with the small flock of 16 sheep Tess had been working. She behaved just as before adjusting to the big group and new, bigger space without a hiccup. She didn’t get excited. She didn’t get worried. She just went to work. No muss, no fuss. It was beautiful. It was smooth. I don’t know what it looked it from the gate, but it was FUN. Mary Lou stood there staring, mouth open actually, and said “I think we’ve been underestimating her.” Now, even when I express doubt about what is in her…ML says…no, I think there’s a lot of depth we aren’t really seeing yet. Thank you ML!

Looking Back

Just saw my post about the egg that was apparently pulled from a nest a week or more ago. I actually forgot. What an idiot.

Interesting note: adoptive Call mom was one of the ducks that was taken…guess who filled the gap? Nope. One of the drakes!

Even more that’s less

The other night “something” got into my duck pens. I haven’t had any creature bother my ducks for about 3 years. After the big Blue Swede Massacre of ‘Aught Eight the predators all went home satisfied? Things got kind of slack out there. I figure the creature was teaching me a lesson. The day this happened, I dismantled my predator-proof pen because I couldn’t reach the eggs the ducks were laying in the back…. I used the panels to make duckling-proof fence.

Apparently I was woken up by the hulabaloo when “it” took one duck, though I didn’t know it yet. I let all the dogs out because Joe was vigorously pacing back & forth…the sign that he really has to go out…that or the garage is on fire (really). I then went back to bed. As soon as my head hit the pillow, there was an unmistakeable hulaballoo from the ducks. The rancid sneaky little creature was actually out there in the pen while I was letting the dogs in. I rushed around trying to find my pants. By the time I got out there, another duck was gone. Clean gone. I never found a sign of either. I just count 2 ducks less. No feathers laying around from a struggle, chase, or being carried off over the fence. Nothing.

I faced a midnight dilemma…standing there in the dark with my flashlight & galoshes in the middle of my soggy duck pens. The runner duck hen was on her nest OUTSIDE any available protection. Do I lock up the duck or hope the thing was done for the night? I locked up all the ducks. Damn it. There goes the rest of the eggs from overnight chill.

The results in the light of morning: one duck hen gone from each pen; one duckling on the wrong side of the duckling-proof fence (???); every single Runner egg/baby gone in it’s entirety (not just from cold, the creature took them) – all but one, laying the the center of the nest (do predators say “nayh-nayh-nayh-na-na?). This is the only evidence of fowl-play (bah doom)…..just the missing things. I found a freshly dug hole dug under the 6ft privacy fence that runs along the back of our yard into our garden. The creature dug a hole, climbed the duck fence and made off, repeatedly, with my ducks.

Now that the horse is gone….I’ve got the barn door firmly shut.

P.S. Last night I heard another hulabaloo… fortunately it was before bed, this time. I went out and could see nothing. I stood out there for a few minutes shining my flashlight all over the yard. I eventually found eyes glinting back at me…from near the freshly-blocked hole dug under the fence. It didn’t move. Was I really seeing an animal? It kept not moving. It was small. I kept the flashlight glinting off it’s eyes as I backed for the garden gate to get closer. It whisped, utterly silent, up into the air just like the ember from a campfire, and gone. False alarm. The only solution that comes to mind is screech owl. I don’t think that’s what took adults ducks and whole eggs, but I’m glad the ducklings were locked up.