Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Grid

So... I apologize for the extreme lack of posts lately. I've been really busy with school, dogs, and family stuff. The new (and hopefully my last, LOL) semester started with a bang last week. I really like my new batch of students, and the class I'm taking (18th Century Lit) promises to be a lot of fun.

I do, however, need to get serious about writing my thesis. Because of all the crap that happened last fall, I didn't get as much done then as I'd hoped. So, for the next month or so, I'm going to need to fall off the grid a bit and focus on completing that project as much as I can. I am not sure how much blogging I'll be able to do, but will try and check in periodically. I'm sorry that I haven't been keeping this up very much so far this year... I know y'all must be getting bored!

This past weekend, Moss and I competed in The Big Freeze sheepdog trial. It was a mixed bag of successes and failures and I'm not through processing the experience yet. We did pretty well in Novice, finishing the course and placing both days. Overall, I think my handling in Novice was good, in spite of my nerves. Nursery was a complete disaster. We didn't get past the outrun, either day. Oh well... guess I know what we need to work on for the next trial.

Here are a few pictures from yesterday's very foggy Novice run!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Time Keeps on Slippin'

I just realized that I forgot to blog about agility last weekend. And now it's the next weekend...

Oops :)

Anyways, we did quite a bit of agility over the past two weekends, working through some really complicated courses from this year's AKC Invitational. Overall, Cedar and I did pretty well, even though a lot of the challenges are still over our heads.

However, we have made progress noticeable progress in several areas that is really encouraging. Most importantly, she is gaining speed and confidence in the weave poles. I am now able to send her from more complicated entries, and also move around more while she's in the poles without her popping out. Last weekend, I was even able to get in a front cross after the weaves without her leaving the poles too early. Yay!

Here are a few shots of her awesome new weaves:

We also have been working hard on "barrel racing"... which is modeled exactly like the rodeo event. Here's a video of Dani, our agility instructor's dog, running the barrel pattern:

And here are some pix of Cedar running the same thing. She LOVES it and has gotten very fast :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Nightmares and Dreamscapes

This past weekend--Saturday in particular--was a whirlwind of (mostly) dog activities. We did a LOT of both herding and agility... which is never a bad thing :) I've been so immersed in training, that it's begun to permeate my dreams.

Which is not always a good thing :-P

Last night, I had my first ever nightmare about herding. It was one of those dreams that is just vivid enough to leave you unsettled and disoriented when you wake up. In the dream, I was running Moss at a sheepdog trial (same place we'll be running in a few weeks). We were basically a big pile of fail... but in that exaggerated way only dreams can capture. Moss crossed over on his outrun, blasted into the sheep, and somehow tossed one about thirty feet into the air. It fell to the ground and I/everyone watching thought it was dead, but it wasn't. I decided to continue trying to complete the run. However, after completing the fetch (I don't think anything else happened there), I completely forgot to do the driving portion of the course, instead going straight to the pen. The pen was at the far end of a long chute, surrounded (conveniently) by really tall hay bales. Needless to say, we couldn't get the sheep penned. They kept jumping out of the chute and onto the hay bales. I was really upset and unnerved the entire dream because I didn't know how to "fix" things.

Ugh. Maybe this is my subconscious expressing my anxieties about our upcoming trial? Or maybe it means nothing. Who knows.

Either way, I am going to make a big effort to mentally prepare for the trial. For some reason, herding makes me nervous, and I'd like to be able to relax and enjoy it more. I think I get nervous because I really want to be good at this, and do my dog justice...but it's SO complex with so many different factors that can affect your success on a given day. Unlike obedience or agility, where it's just you and your dog, herding has a third factor: the sheep, which are notoriously unpredictable. And I'm not experienced enough to know how different types of sheep tend to react to things. I guess that will come with time.

I have some things to report about agility, but I'll save that for another post, maybe tomorrow. Plus, I need to upload pictures :) For now, here's a picture of my Moss as a baby puppy :)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

And now, back to the studio

My dad is feeling a bit better, so I didn't feel *too* guilty about going out to work Moss on sheep yesterday. He was pretty much awesome, as usual. :)

For our first work, we practiced driving. He listened well (mostly) and we drove the sheep all around Dianne's field, practicing straight lines, square flanks, pace, and (for me) whistles. I was having a hard time with my "lie down" whistle for some reason. I just couldn't get the really high tone I needed. Irritating. So, Moss was a bit confused at times, but that's okay. It's all part of the process of learning to work together.

After a break, Moss and I had the opportunity to practice again. This time, we "played catch" with my friend Jody and her boy, Reggie, who happens to be a full brother to Moss. You may remember him from a few months ago when I was working with him. Now Jody has him, and he's really blossomed with all that individual care and attention. He's almost like a new dog. I'm so happy for Reggie! Anyways.... "playing catch" is an exercise to help dogs (and handlers, haha) learn how to lift sheep off of a set-out person in preparation for trialing. In sheepdog trials, the set-out person and their dog "hold" the sheep for the dog and handler whose turn it is to run the course. This is so the sheep stay in the same place for the dog to execute their outrun to go get 'em. This is important, because most of the time, the sheep are set really far away!

Lifting sheep off the set-out person is often hard for young dogs as they're not sure if they are supposed to hold the sheep to that person, or bring them to their handler. Also, having a person and a strange dog up there puts a lot more pressure on the dog. So... it's a good thing to practice and get comfortable with before trialing :) Playing catch also has the double benefit of teaching dogs (and handlers) how to actually BE set-out people. All around, it's pretty dang fun.

It was really nice to do something different. Overall, Moss was really good. He was thinking, trying to figure out what I wanted, and learned from his mistakes and my corrections. At first, he wasn't sure how to deal with the pressure of another dog and handler being up with the sheep. So, I walked up closer to the sheep to help him. On subsequent outruns, I stayed closer to the sheep and corrected him for coming in too tight. Dianne had me watch him closely the whole way around, and correct for every time he looked in... because every time he'd look in, he'd drop his shoulder and mess up the top of his outrun, which would then mess up the lift and cause the sheep to go off line on the fetch. By the end, he was a lot looser and more comfortable with the pressures of lifting off the set-out crew.

Although we had some difficulty with the outrun part of the exercise, Moss was GREAT at being a set-out dog and holding the sheep for Reggie. He never misbehaved, got up, or tried to steal the sheep back from Reggie. He held his lie down with only a few "are you kidding me?" looks in my direction. He may not have understand what we were doing, but he was a good boy nonetheless. I'm so proud of my boy. I really feel like we're becoming a team, and that feels very good. :)

For those of y'all that don't do herding and are really confused about some of the terms I'm using, click HERE for a glossary.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Not a Dog Blog Post

Sorry for not writing much over the past few days. I know it sounds lame, but I just haven't been in the writing mood.

For those who don't know, my dad has been in the hospital again, for the same thing that scared us all a few months ago: pancreatitis. And they still don't know what's causing it. I've always been a daddy's girl and this has--with the risk of sounding really self-absorbed--been really hard on me. This is a picture of me and my dad at my wedding a few years back:

My mom was able to take him home yesterday, but he's still not out of the woods, and is still feeling weak, tired, and generally lousy. To top off the pancreatitis, which is really painful, he also managed to pick up the stomach flu whilst in the hospital. :(

This whole experience has really rattled me. It's the first time, I guess, that I have been faced with the terrifying truth that my parents are mortal. That they won't always be around. I have been a wreck... crying at seemingly-random things and being generally unstably depressed since he went back in the hospital. At least things are looking up... his enzyme levels are almost back to normal. I guess I'm just worried, even though I know he'll be okay.

It's odd... I started off this post wanting to write a typical post about the training I did with Cedar and Moss on Sunday. Blogging is funny that way.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!!!!!!!!!!

Things I have done so far in the half hour or so I've been awake in the year 2011:

1) Drank some water to offset feeling like I was lost in the desert over night.
2) Let the dogs out.
3) Let the dogs back in after they decided barking at nothing was a great thing to do on New Years morning ;)
4) Checked my facebook because I am too addicted to it.
5) Learned I am officially entered in The Big Freeze Stock Dog Trial, January 22-23.
6) Felt my heart clench when I realized that running Moss in Nursery is going to become a reality.
7) Wrote this blog post to distract myself.

Look! It's Pet Blogger Hop again... the first one of 2011! Wahoo!

Here are some photos of Cedar, so that this post isn't totally lame. Plus, I think she's beautiful :)

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