A Border Collie's Mistress' Place for News and Musings

Travels, Trials and Tribulations

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Story of Dogs - original work

Dogs are one of man’s closest animal companions.  Human beings see a lot of themselves in the dog.  We admire their traits of loyalty, bravery, and humor.  Wild wolves and dogs live in very structured packs, based on family which is another trait people can identify with.  Dogs did not always live with people, but it turns out that people needed dogs and so they found away to each other in a little village.

There was cause for great celebration in the village the day the brothers were born.  The chief’s daughter-in-law had given birth to twins.  The chief threw a huge party for his first born grandsons.  They were strong boys with mops of black hair, pools of dark liquid for eyes and  branches for limbs.  They were so much the same their mother could hardly tell them apart.  Where ever one went the other was sure to be right there by his brother’s side.

As they grew they turned into sturdy young men, strong as cedar trees.  The brothers were the favorite of their grandfather, for he was a wise chief and knew that these boys were special.  He taught them in the ways of their people; knowing that one of them would some day be the leader.  They patiently learned the stories about Raven and other tales of their people.  There favorite stories were about brothers.

Their father taught them to hunt and fish.  They loved to go out fishing together most of all.  They would paddle out onto the ocean and work together and catch the biggest halibut anyone had ever seen.  The brothers spent all their time together hunting, fishing and helping their family.  Soon it was time for them to get married.
Their father and grandfather chose them the most beautiful brides in the village.  The brides were sisters with eyes gray like morning mist, noses like perfect sea snail shells, and a smile that radiated the sun’s warmth.  The twins were very happy.  They went hunting to bring back gifts for their new brides.  There spirits were with tem when they found two white sea otters.  The pelts were as beautiful as there soon to be wives.  The whole village feasted for days and all too soon the brothers went back to their normal lives.  They moved into a big long house together with their brides.

A few months after the wedding the brothers decided to go on a hunting trip up to the mountains.  They packed up their tools and supplies, and then set out up the path into the woods.  The younger twin’s wife old him she was going to have a baby soon.  The twins were very excited as they set off into the woods laughing and joking.  On this trip they thought it would be good to bring back a special gift for the younger brother’s wife.

They came around the corner and there was the perfect gift.  A big black wolf was standing in the middle of the path.  Fearlessly the wolf looked at them and the younger twin said he would kill it alone for his wife.  The older twin did not like this idea, but wanted to honor his brother’s request.  The younger brother took off after, the wolf and it began to lope away.  The older twin continued on to the hunting camp.

When his brother did not return by night fall he began to worry.  In the morning his brother had not come back.  He went down the path to where the twins had parted ways and began to look.  To his great sadness not far off the path he found his dead brother and the dead wolf.  He wept enough tears to fill the ocean.  He picked up his brother’s body and skinned the wolf.

He came back to the village with great sadness in his heart.  The whole village mourned the loss of a good hunter and the chief’s grandson.  The older twin was inconsolable; he would speak to no one but his grandfather.  He was very troubled by the dreams he kept having about the black wolf.  The brother went through many months of this as he watched his brother’s wife get rounder and more pregnant.

He decided he must do something about this sadness and went to the medicine man for help.  The medicine man sent him on a quest back into the woods.  He made sure the two wives were taken care of and promised to be back soon.  To prepare for this the brother fasted and spent time in the sweat lodge.  He cleansed himself to prepare for the journey.  Finally he set off with few supplies into the woods.

The brother walked until he felt tired.  Then he walked farther pushing the weakness aside.  Finally he was so weak and tired that he fell.  He pushed himself back up and walked a little bit more.  Then he fell again and could not get up.  He lay there thinking of his brother and how much he missed him.  The older brother fell asleep there in the middle of the path.

After some time he was woken up by gentle licking on his face.  He opened his eyes and saw a tiny black fuzzy ball.  He sat up and looked it over discovering it was a wolf pup.  The brother tried to push it away, but the pup would have none of that and kept trying to play with him.  The brother opened his bag and ate some dried salmon, he was starving.  The pup begged shamelessly for a bite and the brother tossed him some.

The older brother sat there wondering what to do with this wolf pup.  He smiled as he watched its antics.  He kept throwing little bits of salmon to it.  He reached down to scoop up the pup, holding it up he looked into its eyes.  What he saw almost caused him to drop the creature.  It was his brother in those eyes.  The older twin tucked the pup in his bag and set off for home with a smile in his heart.

When he arrived home he went right to his grandfather and showed him the pup.  His grandfather was overjoyed.  The brother brought the pup to his home and the younger twin’s wife recognized him immediately.  In a matter of weeks the pup grew into an adult.  The wolf’s wife had a set of twins one was a wolf pup and the other was a little boy.  The family was very happy

The brothers lived long lives together.  They still went everywhere side by side.  The twins found that hunting was much better when one of them had four legs and mighty teeth.  It was also easier to retrieve water fowl and the ends of fishing nets.  The dog brother didn't mind getting wet even when it was cold.  The dog brother had wonderful hearing so he could tell the whole village when strangers were coming.  This continued for many generations and that is how dogs came to live with people.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Marching on

"Every time, thoughts of quitting come to visit my head and tagging along are Quit's friends, Not Good Enough, Who Are You Kidding, Can't, and Impossible." - Livin life

Moments worth
The price of myths
Lifting from our fingertips
Reaching for the next hand hold on the wall

How'd this mountain get so high
How'd this mountain get so high
Can someone tell me how this mountain got so high

Cowboy Junkies
I have made quite a number climbs on quite a number of mountains, figuratively and literally. I guess maybe it is the time of year, that time where we are emerging from the dreariness back into the warmth and light that sends me into an introspective fit. I admit, I'm prone to these fits.

As I set my anchors wisely (I hope) and select my upward route, I will practice more patients and humility. I will continue to look up, to my left and to my right. I can only choose the route forward, I have already chosen what is behind me.  I will continue to look at the whole mountain and not just the fissures and crags right in my face. I must remember I am not alone on this mountain.

For now, I'll be reaching for the next hand hold on the wall.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


The words get caught in my throat every time I go to speak.  I have this indescribable hole in my chest, that is incredibly painful. It is always the hardest promise to keep, the same one I make to each of my dogs. It is always these moments that I feel so small and that just being there is not enough.  I lay on the floor with him and spooned like we had done a million times before, even then I still couldn't hold him close enough.  Whispered so many things to him and he just went easy and quiet, I know he was more ready then I was.

Really, there just are not any words or maybe really not enough words to say about this dog.  This dog with one eye, no functioning thyroid and Border Collie Collapse Sydrome, who had the biggest god damn heart, you would never know how sick he was for his whole life. Everything he ever did was with his heart.

He never said no I can't, even in his last days. He always enthusiastically said ,"Yes, yes I will go and do that for you I will try hard and will not give up.   I will work all day with you to set sheep for the trial and I will do the chores and I will run in the event. I will be try to be patient with while you learn."

There is no way I can ever pay back to him all that he has given to me and the dogs that come after him. We are all grateful and better for the lessons he taught. I am thankful that I understood the gift of him from the early parts of our relationship. There are so many things I wished for him, in way they came true when he crossed over.

Where ever he is he is no longer sick, my sweet handsome boy.

That'll do son.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Letting Go is the Hardest Part - Rufus

The top picture is Rufus at 6 months old.

The middle picture is of him at nearly one year old.  He came to me from a wonderful breeder located in Texas.  Her name is Wendy and she specializes in raising Red Front macaws and Blue Throat macaws.  She raises her babies in a very special way.  She allows them to be fully fledged and flighted, this is something that is surprisingly uncommon in aviculture.  These babies are pretty independent, self actualized, and confident, in short they act like parrots really should.  


The last picture is of him pretty recently kind of grown up looking!

Rufus and I have done some pretty intensive training over the last 18 months.  Our lives have been rewarding, difficult and richer for knowing each other.  How things have changed for us too.  Rufus also now has a big brother named Gizmo that is also a Red Fronted Macaw, in addition to Bacardi the Blue Fronted Amazon you can see in the last picture.

My biggest goal for Rufus was to train him to come to me when I called while flying free outside.  It has been a long road.  I am trying to put into words how difficult, yet easy the whole process was.  I learned more about myself during this process than I think I really wanted to know.

These parrots are not like dogs, they don't really have any reason to work with you.  They are also very much wild animals and they are prey items too.  They spend a lot of time trying not to get eaten or trapped by predators and let's face it humans are predators.  When picking a parrot as a subject to work with as a trainer you are really working against so many natural tendencies.  What always amazed me is his willingness and interest in learning what it was I was trying to teach him, even when I wasn't doing the greatest job at it. Rufus has pretty much and endless capacity to learn and is pretty willing to learn all kinds of things, if I just had more time or maybe if I were more creative he'd do a few more interesting tricks!  I am also very amazed at his willingness to forgive me on the few occasions that I have inadvertently frightened him.

So yesterday was the big day, I let him go free outside.  We had been close for such a long time, like since last summer. I couldn't do it, I just wasn't ready even though he was.  Finally, I was able to work through my issues and believe that the training I had done up to that point prepared us for just this occasion.  It did, it went fine.  I will never be able to describe in words the feeling I had when he flew right to me the first time I called him after letting him go.  He was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen at the moment.

I'm sure there will be more pictures in the future and maybe some video.  I know this blog sounds a little random, but thanks you all for reading it any way.

 Thank you so much Hugh Choi for mentoring me through this whole process.  It would have been much harder with out your experience and knowledge.  Hugh and Otis have a feature on Wendy's web page, they started their free flight career in Central Park, NYC! 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Some Serious Catching UP

Part 1 Giving Some Thanks

Since it is close to Thanksgiving I’m going to list some things I am thankful for.
A partner that lets me run away from home to work dogs, that supports my journey on this path and will put up with this level of crazy.
Fabulous mentors that keep their patience and are willing to tell me the same thing over and over until finally hear it.  Mentors that keep me on and help me down the path and are willing to answer all my questions no matter how much detail I need.
I am grateful for wonderful friends that provide the opportunities to learn from great mentors.  Friends that are willing to be honest and also willing to help me over think everything.  Friends that kick me in the butt when I need it, pat me on the back when I deserve it and pick me up a little when I ask for it.

Part 2 Awash in Information

Last week I spent four days at a handling clinic coached by Scott Glen http://www.altapetestockdogs.com/ .  It was a pretty amazing experience.  I really didn’t know how much I learned until I walked away and had some time to digest everything.   By day 2 I thought I hit maximum capacity!  The third day I was feeling pretty hosed by information.  By the fourth day I could see so many new things, things I wasn’t seeing before. 
I am a very visual learner and I like to take things a roll them, around in my mind.  It usually means I don’t ask a bunch of questions, but I see everything.  In this clinic I was extremely fortunate to have a few friends participate in it, folks that I get to see their dogs trial pretty often and some dogs that I have been a spectator on their journey for a few years now.  I was doubly fortunate for 2 friends running dogs that had very similar things going on with their dogs as I do with mine.  It gave me the opportunity to see why things were happening for me the way they were.  I was able to see how to handle and avoid some of the situations.  I also discussed some training exercises to work on over the winter, although it shouldn’t take that long.
So boiled down as it applies to Z and me:
Better stop – we have an ok one, it has been working for us but just barely. We have a prescription to remedy that.  The homework is already started.
Clean flanks – I had gotten lazy about keep his flanks square.  This is what has been really killing us at the pen and sometimes in the shed.  It has been killing us around the course but I have been handling to compensate for it.  We are going to fix it.  Again we have a strait forward remedy, homework started there too.

Both bits of homework are getting applied to Hank as well.  Heaped on top of the stuff we are still working on but getting better at.

This was my Eureka moment: if I stop Z, I have to stop him far enough out of the sheep so he actually has room to walk up and affect the sheep.

I saw it time and again on other people’s dogs.  If they stopped the dog too close, the dog either struggled to shift the sheep or the dog blew it up.
I’ve never really considered the distance between the dog and the sheep a huge part of the equation when the sheep weren’t moving.  Not that I have subscribed to closer is better, but now I understand why closer doesn’t work well either.  It is noticeable on the lift, but where it was driven home was at the pen.  We penned some very silly un dogged lambs. What I learned from watching and listening where clean flanks so the dog can cover AND stay out. The caveat to this was if the dog flanked out clean and stayed off it had to be willing to take the space back if asked.  If the dogs got in too close the one of 2 things would happen it would blow up OR the lambs would not shift.  It was so dang clear.

Finally, I must get quieter with my whistles.  I must make the dogs listen for me.

Part 3 Testing Grounds and Applied Knowledge

My 2 dogs and myself have spend one week, 3 training sessions in total sorting through a hand full of the tidbits from the clinic.   Keeping the focus narrow so no of us gets overwhelmed.
Worked on better stop with both dogs, both are hitting the ground on a fairly quiet note.  I need to get to a whisper.  Distance and driving are where both dogs struggle with stopping, more so with Hank.   We will just keep it close for both dogs for a while and gather.

Worked on cleaner flanks, Hank’s are nicer right now; again they degrade with distance and driving.
On Saturday we went to a local trial. 
For Z, I could stop him anytime anywhere on that course.  I got louder than I wanted on the first part of the fetch and we suffered from sloppy flanks up there.  Still plagued by sloppy flanks around the course, less sloppy on the last 2/3 of the fetch but we have a long road here.

For Hank, it was a good day despite the letters.  The in gate was right on top of the exhaust gate, so it got a little exciting for a minute while we were waiting our turn.  I was proud though when we walked to the post he knew his sheep where up the field.  He knew right where they were.  The out run regrettably for me was a little far and the terrain proved tricky for him.  He went around the first hill and I went to blow him out, he gave but not nearly enough to go behind the second hill.  He got pulling in to the draw between the hills which is the first place he could see sheep for several strides.  He sliced them off the top plus over ran it and then started to chase.  He had them headed down the field to me, but I was already on the way.  He had run through them but kept his mouth shut and teeth to himself, that’s when I started to jog in his direction.  I got him under control and we worked them nicely back to the exhaust.
On his Pro Nov run I walked off the post a sent him, I just kept walking up the field.  He went out and around the hills much better.  He came in hard at the top but I was at the fetch gates by that time and could help him cool off.  We sheep sandwiched them quietly to the post and made a nice turn.  He actually completed the drive really well; a hair short of both panels and that was just my fault.  He’s speedier than Z!  I also kept my whistles pretty quiet, even the stop one!

We have some serious homework to get sorted out this winter, but I think both dogs are off to a good start.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

TMT #8 a bit late

1. What blogging tip would you give other dog-bloggers?

Talk about yourself and your journey.  Try not to get bogged down in the outside forces.

2. If you were going to be stranded on a deserted island and could take five things with you (aside from the clothes on your back), what would they be?

This would kind of depend on how long I'd be stranded for.  If it were for just a few weeks.


2 dogs

3. How much pain are you willing to endure in the name of physical appearance? Do you have painful things done to enhance beauty?

I have tattoos and piercings  - nuff said 

4. Speed limits... how fast do you drive? Do you drive Miss Daisy? Do you do the Indy 500 to work?

In the city around town I drive pretty cautiously.  On the open road about 10mph over. 

5. What trial (that you go to) is your favorite, and why?

So far The Bluegrass has been my favorite dog trial followed up by Lacamas Valley.  They are both big, have tough sheep and actually have a crowd of public spectators.