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Thursday, January 13 2011

     I'm supposed to go to a Patrick Shannahan clinic this weekend, and I'm really looking forward to it, but at the same time, I'm a little scared since I'm well aware that Lily and I are certainly not a textbook example of how to work stock. We suck. Our outruns suck. Our flanking commands suck. More often than not, at a critical moment I can't remember the correct word, and Lily just reads my body language. (Oh crap!  I meant "A-Way," not "Come Bye!")  While Lily appears to know her flanking commands when the sheep are between us, when she is driving stock and I'm behind her, she doesn't seem to understand the words, thus I end up reverting to commands I used in agility and SAR with other dogs, "Get out", "Come 'ere" and "go-on."  At this moment, I hear a collective groan from the herding trial people. Yes, I've screwed my dog up. Yes, I know that. No, I'm not really ashamed of it. I suppose I'm not ashamed of it because despite the fact that our work looks like a train wreck on a Sunday afternoon, we still get it done. I can never be ashamed of Lily.  She gives me 110% of everything she does. She may not be a trial dog, but she is a stock dog. All her faults are mine.

Today is a perfect example of why no matter how bad we look on the training field, I could never be ashamed of my little dog:

Wake up to sound of a cow bellowing and dogs barking.  Livestock Guardian Dog is having a stroke because big Santa Gertrudis Heifer has climbed fence and is in the Sheep pen beside the house. Lock all dogs up except Lily (Top Hand Border Collie). Lock sheep up. Santa Gertrudis Heifer is in heat and doesn't understand that we do not wish to breed her to our Angus Bull but wish to breed her to Registered Santa Gertrudis Bull instead.  She is not a fan of arranged marriages and wishes to pick her own suitor. She picks - the bull on the neighbor's pasture.  This will require her to crawl in with sheep. Crawl out of sheep pasture. Go through yard. Cross canal. Climb into neighbor's pasture.

That is quite a journey, but Daisy Mae is not daunted.  She is a Heifer On a Mission.  And at the moment, nothing stands between her but an Irritated Human and a Little Black & White Dog.   She vaguely recalls that she doesn't like Little Black & White Dog but in her Love Lust, has forgotten why.  Oh Yes!  That's it! Little Black & White Dog bites heels. Bitch!  She then exits sheep pen the same way she got in.  Human produces food products (hay) which entertain her for a short time until Love Calls and she climbs in with sheep again. 

Freakin' Livestock Guardian Dog tattles and a short time later, Very Irritated Human and Little Black & White Dog reappear. Heifer discovers round bale of hay belonging to sheep and goats!  Woo hoo!  Pennies from Heaven! Dog bunches sheep up at end of pasture. Human locks alleyway gate to keep Heifer from sliding back out into pasture with sheep.

With a mouth full of hay, Heifer bellows to Boyfriend in another pasture to coax him into joining her and her newly discovered bounty. Boyfriend ignores her. (Men!) Little Black & White Dog with Freaky Eyes appears.  Perhaps if Heifer continues eating hay and ignores her she will go away. Bitch!  She bites! Heifer turns to leave. Little Black & White Bitch insists that Heifer walk to barn instead of joining sheep in pasture. Heifer ignores Black & White Mosquito. Bitch!  She bites! Heifer turns back to barn. Heifer discovers sheep feeders.  OOOOOHHH!  Crumbs!  Pennies from Heaven! Dog with Freaky Eyes waits. Human points. Dog insists Heifer enter barn. F**k barn! Heifer does not wish to leave feeders. Bitch!  She bites! Heifer slings mud into Human's face as she tries to kick Black & White Mosquito Helldog but walks into barn.

Discovers square bales of hay.  Pennies from Heaven!!!! Decides that if she squeezes her fat ass between bales and barn she will not have to leave Hay Heaven. Helldog goes all the way around the hay from other side. Squeezes her tiny self along wall and slithers up to Heifer's head.  Ouch!  Bitch bites noses too!  Heifer backs down wall and out of hay.  Dog reappears. Human opens stall door. Helldog insists Heifer leave Hay Heaven and walk through stall door. Heifer hesitates. Dog nips heel again. OKAY!!!!!  (Spoken exactly like Alvin the Chipmunk!)

Heifer goes through stall and exits other side to wander back outside with horses. Immediately checks fence to find that Irritated Human has locked gate which allows Heifer to get near sheep fence again.  Bellows to Boyfriend.  He ignores her. (Men!) Black & White Mosquito With Freaky Eyes stares through fence.  Heifer wanders off to eat hay and re-organize her thoughts.  Little Black & White Dog high-fives Human.

Thus is a typical morning in the life of Lily.  We have so much to learn. I have barely scratched the surface of what she is capable of doing and that's why I want to attend more clinics, meet more herding dog people and pick their brains. And even though we could never successfully compete in a sheepdog trial, I will always be proud of my Little Black & White Top Hand, for she is invaluable and I cannot imagine how we ever ran stock without her. 




Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 12:14 pm   |  Permalink   |  11 Comments  |  Email
Isn't that what it boils down to? She does what you need her to do! Very funny post. Thanks!
Posted by Lynn (in Katy, TX) on 01/13/2011 - 03:15 PM
I learned something I thought Heelers were the only nippers of cattle heels. Hence name and rotton bite reputation here.
Posted by Liz (Vic Aust.) on 01/13/2011 - 04:59 PM
What is wrong with you teaching the commands you already know? I understand it might mess up other people working with her but the behavior is key, not your word choice.
Posted by CarolG. on 01/13/2011 - 05:16 PM
Relax and have fun at the clinic. So what if you use different lingo than the other herders? As long as you and Lily understand each other and get the job done you have nothing to worry about. Not everyone in the show horse world uses the same voice commands either. Thank you for yet another great story that makes me laugh out loud.
Posted by shawna on 01/13/2011 - 06:45 PM
Thanks! At the moment, I'm battling on two fronts. Other Half has no clue why I want to go to clinics to "improve our communication" since Lily is already so much help, (but I know we can be better!)and yet on the other hand I'm sure that serious herding trial people will look at us and say "How can that untrained pair ever get ANYTHING accomplished?"
Posted by forensicfarmgirl on 01/13/2011 - 07:07 PM
LMAO!! It doesn't matter how you and Lily do it -- IT GETS DONE!! That's what's important.
Posted by Lynne on 01/13/2011 - 09:48 PM
You will enjoy the Patrick Shannahan clinic! He is super to work with and will love Lily. Just tell him you used to do SAR and cadaver work and you revert to those commands under stress. Do not let him know you carry a gun (that's a joke). Most of the other people there will also be non-trialers. He's a "real shepherd" not just a trialer, even if he did win the Nationals again last fall. He mostly has Katahdins for his own sheep.
Posted by Peg H. on 01/13/2011 - 10:58 PM
LMAO too. Years ago all my obedience dogs were trained to lay down (drop) with the word "charge". Long story (:-) Guess what? They laid down <G> Correct words? Humbug.
Posted by creamcupminis on 01/14/2011 - 01:30 PM
You and Lily don't even have time to go to stock dog trials; have fun at the seminars, but be real. It's to improve your real work. Most of the folks would envy your everyday routine! And yes, I use my current agility trial and training commands, body language, and curse words learned from keeping my daughter's goats to steer Emma June when necessary (it's never necessary - I can't help myself). I LOVE watching Emma move the horses - she bites their heels too! I laugh, and laugh, and get her a tug toy. She laughs, too.
Posted by sue on 01/14/2011 - 01:58 PM
I forgot - I try to remember that time goes BYE - the clock hands go around clockwise, thus come BYE is clockwise. The rest is a crapshoot. Please don't tell me if it's backwards. I'm too old to get that one over again.
Posted by sue on 01/14/2011 - 02:00 PM
High five! Who needs herding trials when Lily works in reality? Good job Lily! (and human) Laughed my way through the whole thing. (not sure how, but your link fell off my blog. remedied!)
Posted by Jane on 01/15/2011 - 07:50 AM

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