Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Week and a Half of First Impressions

Ember is 9 weeks old today. I've had her since the 17th, and it's now the 28th. Can you believe I've had her 11 days? I sure can't! :)

I am very impressed with this puppy. She is smart, funny, cute, and a total workaholic already.

I'm totally smitten <3

So far, she's doing well with the other dogs. She and Moss are best buddies, and Scully and Cedar pretty much just ignore her.

Moss has really stepped it up and is being the best babysitter ever. He is probably just happy to have another dog around that wants to play constantly! He is so gentle with her... they roughhouse, but he's always careful not to hurt her. It's very cute.

Here's a video showing what Ember and I have been working on since she came home:

So far, these are the things she can do/stuff we're working on:

Nose touch to palm
Nose touch to target
Spin (turn to the right)
Twirl (turn to the left)
Paw touch to target
Tip the wobbly/teeter board
Follow my hand/finger when I walk in a figure 8, on both right and left
Front cross foundation
Rear cross foundation
Blind cross foundation
Mary Ellen Barry foundation work on eye contact
Restrained sit (impulse control)
Restrained down (impulse control)

I'm excited to see what her future holds :)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Meet Ember!

On Tuesday, I picked up our new puppy, third Border Collie, and fourth dog. I've decided to call her Ember. She's about as cute as a puppy could get, don't you think?

The trip to go get her was eventful, to say the least. Winter driving sure is fun... NOT. In the Pacific NW, this winter has been pretty uneventful, with warm(ish) temperatures and not much moisture. That is, until this week. Of COURSE there would be a huge winter storm system the week I actually had to do some serious driving! Murphy's Law, I guess.

So anyways, last week I was pretty stressed about it since I knew what was to come. I had planned on driving down on Wednesday, and coming back Friday, but that didn't look like it was going to happen. I watched the ODOT road condition cameras with an increasing sense of doom. It was already snowing in the mountains and showed no signs of stopping. Then, on Sunday, there was a five-hour window of sun and warm temperatures. After watching the cameras for a few hours, and encouraged by the amount of melting, I decided to make a break for Boise. I'm glad I did! The roads were, for the most part, not bad at all. Here's a pic of the worst part of the pass on Sunday:

The first night, I slept on my friend Mollie's couch. I had a great time visiting with her and her sister, Grace, drinking cake flavored vodka (yum!) and looking through photos of Miss America contestants from this year. The next day, we went out for sushi (oh Shige's, how I've missed you since I moved to Kennewick!) and then I drove to my friend (and agility instructor), Mary's house. She drove down to Utah with me the next day to pick up Ember.

Tuesday dawned bright, sunny and CLEAR. Mary and I got a pretty early start, wanting to get the 4 1/2 hour (one way) drive out of the way in order to be able to (ideally) get back before dark. The drive was easy, with bare pavement and sunny skies. It was nice. We made good time, and arrived in Plain City at the breeder's house around 1 PM. The breeder let the puppies outside to play and greet us in the front yard, and Ember was definitely the one most interested in people. She was also the cutest... but I'm probably a little biased ;)

She still had plenty of spirit, though... hehe


She was a total star on the ride back to Boise, other that getting car sick once. She sat on my lap the whole time, either sleeping or chewing on a toy. What a good puppy. I was very impressed. Aside from being a little whiny, she was good once we got back to Mary's house, too. And she was very good at bedtime, sleeping quietly in her crate until 6 AM!

On Wednesday, when I woke up to take Ember out for the first time that day, the ground was bare and it was pretty warm out. By 10 AM, it looked like this:

Ember took the snow in stride, and pottied outside without much difficulty. Pretty good for a little puppy! The snow came up to her chin at times.

Unfortunately, as soon as it finished snowing (8" worth!!) it started to rain. By the next day, it looked like this:

I've never seen so much standing water in Boise before. It was pretty bad. But thankfully, all that rain meant that the roads were clear and nice. I decided to make a break for home yesterday. Even though it was nice visiting with Mary, I really just wanted to go home. New puppies are stressful! ;) The drive was really good until AFTER the mountains, surprisingly. Then it was terrifying. It was 42 degrees and cloudy over the pass, with wet but good roads. Off the mountains, it was 22 degrees with freezing rain and horrible slush and ice. What normally takes me about an hour (Pendleton - Kennewick) took almost 2 1/2 hours. Cars and semis were sliding around and chains or traction tires were required. Thankfully, my car handled it very well. And Ember was quiet! She's such a good little traveler.

We made it home around 4:30 PM and quickly got everything set up for her. She had some dinner (hand fed, of course) and played for a few hours. She also met the other dogs. Scully mostly ignored her, and Moss was very sweet and gentle. I think everything is going to be fine with all of them. Even Cedar isn't being as bitchy as expected. Good dogs all around.

Some stats:

Miles Traveled: 1182.1
Hours Driven: 18 hours 32 minutes
Hours of White-Knuckled Terror on the road: 3
Puppies who were quiet in their crates all the way home: 1
New mamas really, really ridiculously glad to be home: 1


Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Yesterday I went out to Walla Walla to work dogs with my good friend Mary, who owns Toss. We did agility and herding. Mary and I are kind of trading agility lessons for herding lessons. I help her with agility, she helps me with herding. Quite a good arrangement, if I do say so myself! We started off at Mary's house doing agility. She just got some new (to her) equipment, including contacts and a teeter, so we worked on some sequences and contact performance. Both Mary's dog Kitty and Cedar did really well! When I wasn't helping Mary, I worked on discriminations and some distance stuff with Cedar, as well as tightening up her 2o2o on the A-frame. She was on her best behavior :)

After we were done practicing agility, I loaded Moss into Mary's truck and we headed out to work sheep. The day before, Mary had sorted off four ewes that needed to be hauled to another farm. In order to get them in the trailer, we had to make sure that they wouldn't be able to run off and join the rest of the flock. Mary had me take Moss and drive the flock down to the other end of the pasture and hold them while she loaded the sorted ewes in the trailer. Moss was a very good boy, and it was fun working that many sheep. He almost lost them a few times when they bolted for home, but he always got them back. I need to figure out how to not let that happen so much. I think that Moss appreciates the more practical aspects of the job just as much or more than working "formally" out in the field. I know I do.

After Mary got the sheep loaded, we trailered out further into the countryside and worked in a big hay field. My goal for that training session was to focus on learning how to help him when things start to go "wrong," and to practice recognizing when he needs help and when he needs a correction. It's an ongoing battle ;). When I told Mary my goal, she told me to never start out thinking something is going to go wrong. Always believe it will go right. Ah, the power of positive thinking ;). Good advice, though!

Moss started off with a really gorgeous come-bye outrun, at a distance of probably about 100 yards. Not *that* far, but still pretty good for us at this point. I should have helped him more at the lift... I didn't say anything and he let them drift off line a bit. But still, not a bad first effort ;) For the next outrun, I sent him on the away side and it was not good. He started tight and tried to cross over. I think it's because Mary was standing on that side holding the sheep for me. I know that picking sheep up off a setout person is something we really need to work on, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that it went awry. To help him, I moved closer to the sheep and pushed him out. With me closer, he was more confident and the lift was really nice. After fetching them back to where we were originally standing, Mary had me drive the sheep in a straight line back to her, around her, and fetch them back. We did this exercise a few times and it was REALLY helpful, both in teaching Moss how to hold a line and helping me improve my timing. It reminded me just how important it is to watch my sheep, not my dog :-P. We did a few more outruns of varying distances, a bit more driving, then Moss and I loaded them back in the trailer and we went home.

A most excellent day of training!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Agility Pix

Yesterday afternoon I finally dragged out my weave poles and jumps and set everything up in the back yard so I could practice in earnest. Our back yard is pretty narrow and not very big, so space is of the essence. I worked both Cedar and Moss, and practiced some jump grids, weird angles, wraps/turns, and front and blind crosses. Oh, and weave poles with Cedar. Joe was nice enough to take some pictures for me.

Cedar did really well. This was her first time weaving 12 poles since the beginning/mid December, and she didn't pop out once! She missed her entries a few times, but that's to be expected. I think she's on her way to becoming an "experienced dog" and I'm excited for this upcoming trial season :) Speaking of which, the NADAC Championships are in Utah this year, so I think I'm going to try and get her qualified. She already has enough points in Jumpers. We are also going to try and qualify for the USDAA Nationals, which are in Colorado this year. In AKC, my goals for us this year are to earn our MX, MXJ and MXF titles. We're definitely going to have fun this year!

Moss is doing pretty well, too. He is not as serious as Cedar, which makes training him a different experience, LOL. He is doing short sequences now, and has a lot of enthusiasm for training ;). He seems to be more comfortable at 24" than 26" right now, so I might drop him back down for awhile. No matter what the height, he is a very powerful (but not very careful) jumper. The Linda Mecklenburg DJS still has been really helpful, though.

I pick up my new puppy on January 19th... I can't wait!

Friday, January 6, 2012

And the winner is....


I guess it was destiny that the only tricolor in Tag's litter would be picked to come live here in the House of Tri ;) According to Kristin, Smudge is a really nice agility prospect, confident but not independent, well built, very into people, and already retrieves. I'm excited for our future together :)

Younger pictures of my new girl:

Now for a name... I have some ideas, but I'm taking suggestions!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Wordless... Thursday?

Okay, so I was a day late and a dollar short on that one. Here's the picture I was going to post yesterday for WW:

Sunday, January 1, 2012

First Post of 2012!

We had a pretty uneventful New Years over here in Eastern Washington. Had some drinks with the hubby, cuddled with the dogs, watched some X-Files, and chatted with friends online.... just like most other nights in our house ;)

We did have a fun afternoon in Walla Walla before that, though, working sheep and hanging out with our good friend Mary, who owns Moss's brother, Toss.

Here is a photo of the "Ossome" brothers:

Moss was pretty good, considering the spotty training he's had for the past year or so. Mary helped me to be more authoritative in my commands ("lie down is a command, not a request!") and (nicely) helped me to clean up my handling. She has a way of explaining things that just make sense to me. There were definitely big improvements from our first work to our second, which is encouraging. Moss is getting more confident with his outrun (or maybe I'm getting more confident about it? LOL) and his driving and inside flanks were a LOT crisper after yesterday's training session. I worked on trusting him to do his job, and being as clear as possible in my commands and expectations. We had some lovely moments where it all came together and felt smooth and easy.

But still, I am plagued with self-doubt. Herding is not a great sport for the ego.

It's been a bit frustrating for me because I am still new to herding and am not the most confident person to begin with. I also have not been able to work him on a consistent basis for about a year. A lot of the time when he's being "bad," I don't know whether to correct him or help him, or even how. And yes, I know that the only thing that can fix that particular issue is more miles LOL. I guess I just need to learn to let go of the past, embrace the future, and plan better :-P

One think I really need to do is to sit down and think about what exactly I want to accomplish with Moss in herding. Then, I can figure out the best way to accomplish those goals. I feel sort of directionless right now, which is a bad mindset to be in when I'm trying to train myself and my young, talented and enthusiastic boy dog, hehe.

Above all, this year, I am going to try harder to just relax and enjoy the ride. A lot of the time, I take things way too seriously. In case you haven't noticed by now :)

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