Thursday, October 29, 2009

She Falls Softly

I think maybe the title to this should probably be "she falls like a ton of bricks and makes the ground shake" but that's a lot longer and not nearly as kind to my poor self-esteem. For some reason or another here lately I've had a string of stupid falls resulting in either humiliation or pain, but mostly just pain.

A few weeks ago I opened my front door into my face. I was seriously opening the HECK out of the door. I was bringing in the groceries, and somehow managed to crack the storm-door right into my face - managing to crank it right into my nose and left eye. I fell into the house, and laid on the floor for a while moaning. I actually almost passed out, but not quite. I couldn't stay long though as I had brought home dinner also, and didn't want it to get cold. Sandy wanted to know if I'd concussed myself. Probably.

Later that night I had taken off my glasses (I wear contacts during the day and glasses at night) and was rubbing my swollen nose. I was walking back from the garbage cans in the dark, with my glasses off, and somehow I managed to fall over a bush. This would be the same bush that I've walked around almost every day for the last seven years. Anyway, I landed sort of tee peed over the bush with my behind in the air... butt crack all flashing for anyone with night goggles to see as my shirt was part-ways over my head and I was wearing low rise jeans (which are only made for skinny teenaged girls wearing cute thongs and sporting tattoos of butterflies over their cracks - none of which applies to me). I was face down with my face inches from my concrete stoop. I thought, "I sure hope nobody is watching tonight". That didn't hurt but I sure did feel stupid.

Then this past weekend at the trial I managed to fall out of Robin's camper. Twice. That's right. Normal people would maybe fall out once, but oh no. Twice. The first time I didn't hurt myself, I only felt stupid. The second time I had puppies in my arms and it was like puppy popcorn. I turned over my ankle - and it is still swollen up now. In fact... I have a cankle. That's when you can't tell your calf from your ankle. I don't think it's broken, and I know this because of my surperior armchair doctoring skills. Oh yeah, I'll probably be banned from the campers of all triallers... destined to only stand on the ground and look in longingly. After all, who wants a chick falling out of their camper on a regular basis?

In response to my own personal stupidity and misery I ate two pieces of cake yesterday. After tonight with Pam I will have indulged in bacon cheese fry debauchery multiple times this week. I have upped my quota of F Bombs for the week. If F Bombs were gas I could drive for a month without having to fill up. I've had orange fire shoot out of my eye sockets more than once in the last week, and watched four episodes of Grey's Anatomy back to back last night. I road-raged two different people on my three mile drive home from work yesterday.

I think a donut would make me feel better. Eh, make that a dozen donuts spread out over two days. That, and not hurting myself for a few weeks. Yes, I'd like a hiatus from stupid accidents until at least December. I don't think that's asking too much.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Water Cress Farm SDT

This past weekend we went to Jan Thompson's place in Limestone, TN. It was absolutely gorgeous - the mountains were spectacular, and the view on her farm took my breath away. The trial was really nice -the food fabulous, and everything ran very smoothly.

Friday Nick and I set out for Ranch. The sheep were a bit challenging to hold, but we had a ball. He is SO in his element setting out, pushing out, and working the pens. Anything that involves us getting in there and bossing sheep around makes him ridiculously happy.

Then I ran Linc in Pro-Novice. What can I say? He ran out pretty well. He stopped once, I redirected him, and he landed beautifully behind his sheep. He then commenced to do... nothing. He was just in over his head - he had no idea what to do with sheep that didn't run in abject terror due to his mere presence. I finally managed to jigger him around enough to budge them, and they bolted to the set out, where he again couldn't figure out how to lift them. I think we'll spend some time just picking up sheep here and there and moving them around. I think we'll also spend some time just letting him grow up a bit more.

Saturday morning Nick and I rolled out of bed to run second. He laid down a beautiful run - better than I would have ever expected in just his third open trial. We had *really* nice lines, and got our first shed in a trial. It wasn't a perfect shed (he took a hard look at the wrong set of sheep), but it was a shed. The sheep liked him, and though he was a bit on his horse until about 1/3 of the way through his fetch he was listening well, and did absolutely everything I asked of him. The sheep were very hard to shed all weekend, so we wasted a bit of time in the shedding ring. When he came through and the judge called it I almost did "The Charleston" in the shedding ring. For reals.

We timed out, unfortunately, as the sheep were about halfway in the pen. That's what I get for not wearing a watch, eh? I was just sort of out there tiptoeing through the tulips (I was all la la la la la in my head). Hah! I'm told that with the pen points we would probably have placed. Anyway, we made all of our panels nicely, and it felt really nice. I was pleased to see Nick holding the pressure nicely - I actually didn't say too terribly much to him.

Sunday we ran next to last. We scored better this run than Saturday's actually, but it didn't feel very good. By this time the sheep were *very* heavy. It was a strange combination because they varied from either bolting or being heavy (within the same run). Anyway, on the cross-drive he showed some stress, but he dealt with it anyway. His normal tactic to deal with heavy sheep is to flop back and forth goosing and nudging as he goes. I was pleased to see him just hunker down and keep pushing (albeit somewhat slowly). We only missed the cross-drive panels, we got our pen, and then timed out as we were trying to shed a single. We got the last one on the head but couldn't hold her.

The course and sheep were challenging, and I am pretty happy with both of us. Nicky boy was pleased with himself. Then again he's *always* pleased with himself. Several people commented about how I "kept my cool" so well, and I was so relaxed (hahahahahaha) and level headed. All I could think was, "Does this mean things were going to hell in a hand basket and I didn't notice?" and "Me? Relaxed? If they only knew." Queen of throwing up on shoes = ME.

Now that THAT is out of the way, lets talk about careening down a mountain. CAREENING I'm telling you. Julie swears up and down that it's not careening if there's four lanes of highway and the speed limit is 65, but I swear on Zippy's bloomers that we were freaking CAREENING down the mountains at dusk in a stoopid minivan. So what happens when one is careening down a mountain at dusk in a minivan? All of one's friend's seem to want to call. All I could do was screech out "I CAN'T TALK I'M CAREEEEEEEENNNNNIIIIIING!!!!!". When I got home I had to beat the pucker marks out of my seat with a rubber hammer. From here on out I'm just going to close my eyes coming down the mountain. I might be dead but at least I won't see it coming.

Photo by Dan King

Monday, October 19, 2009

Lexington SDT

We're back home, and I had a ball in Lexington. Cheryl and David put on a really nice trial. I don't know if they read blogs or whatnot, but if so Thank You both so much. I felt very welcomed and comfortable, and I'm glad I went. The field and sheep were challenging, the food was stupid good, and it was a good trial. I got to scribe for Barbara Ray for a while - and she is an absolute blast. I learned a lot, and enjoyed my time with her. Oh, and my toes were infinitely happy to be in the truck too.

It was a good weekend. Nothing froze, I didn't throw up on my shoes, and we somehow managed to not completely humiliate ourselves. Completely being the operative term. Dan and Julie kept me fed, Robin kept me showered, and dang if there wasn't actually room in front of my crates for me to sleep - and I stayed warm and dry. I did try letting Ginger sleep with me the first night but there just wasn't room. She got exiled the second night and all was good.

I decided to go on and run Linc in Nursery on Friday. I managed to get him out there on his first run, but once he got there he was a bit in over his head. He got the sheep covered and down the field, and we retired. However, I was really pleased with his attitude and the fact that he trusted me to get him up there. I'd say the outrun was about 3x anything he'd ever done. Second run his outrun was better, but he came in tight and pushed the sheep backwards. He flopped around them but as he'd rattled them one was trying to break back off to the back of beyond. To make a long story short she ran way way way back into the woods and tall grass. I had a hard time calling Linc off - he was very serious about bringing her back.

They got her back. Eventually. I was somewhat mortified, but to his credit he was trying very hard. She had other ideas. Yeah, OK, so it wasn't exactly our shining moment. Debbie Crowder Pen Goddess was up in the pens and Shay McMullen was setting out - and they were both very kind about it. Sorry y'all.

Nick's runs were better than I expected. I had to give him a lot of redirects to get him out there the first day but he too trusted me to get him out there. I sent him right the first day and it was completely blind. About halfway around he stopped and looked at me like I'd lost my mind. I just kept nudging... and though he crossed over he got there. He lifted his sheep nice and straight actually. He just rolled them gently off, and fetched them nicely making the fetch panels after a few wiggles. We did struggle around the post... gotta work on that. Our fetches are losing points as we turn the post.

His drive away was good but things got a tad squirrelly on the cross drive as they bolted at the turn. He hesitated on the inside flank there and though he gave it to me it was a situation of trying to catch them at that point. We missed the cross drive panels, and brought them back to the pen. The pen was set up so that the human was on the pressure side, so we really struggled to get them in. Apparently we got them in the pen right as time ran out and didn't get our pen points. But he treated the sheep well... they liked him, and dang if he didn't trust me to get him out there.

The second day I sent him left and gave him one redirect (and he was going to get there I thought but I was hoping to kick him out a tad... that didn't work though because my perception was WAY off). Because he came in tight he bumped the sheep, who bolted up the hill. He got on his horse and caught them though - I have to give him credit. He's struggled with running sheep in the past, and I kept calling him in, and we finished the last 1/3 of the fetch nicely. As we turned the post, however, they started turning and fighting.

Nick's never really had experience with sheep facing him off, and I was pleased to see him trying to figure it out. He tried standing his ground (they'd bolt around him as the pressure was behind him). He tried flanking and flopping... that didn't work. He tried walking in... and that worked pretty well. After a hard fought battle we got them going on their drive.... and made the drive away panels. After the turn he refused my inside flank and yet again it was bolt time. We managed to catch them and bring them to the pen. During the fight back down the hill, though, I somehow managed to forget where the pen was.

I turned around and said, "Hey. Where's the pen??". I didn't think anyone heard me, actually, but I was told later that the peanut gallery was howling. Evidently I said it with a Short-Bus look on my face. What can I say? I was concentrating on getting the sheep TO the pen... wherever it was. LOL! Anyway, we timed out before we could get them in the pen.

Our scores sucked. They deserved to suck. Nonetheless I have to have goals... and perspective, right? There were so many things I was happy with - for my dogs AND myself. I feel like I'm growing as a handler, and I think my dogs are progressing too. Besides...we didn't have the lowest score either day (yeah, OK, so it was the best I could come up with). Lofty aspirations, right? Hah! I was happy - Nick made some panels here and there, and there was some really good work in there. Nick did everything I asked of him and he really, really tried for me. I think this trial will have stretched him and taught him that when I send him for sheep... no matter where we are they'll be there.

I may be somewhat incommunicado (blog-wise) over the next few weeks. Thursday I'm heading up to Jan Thompson's trial, and at some point over the next few weeks there'll be some lessons in there. I'm planning to run Linc at Rural Hill in PN on the 6th of November, and I may see if I can get on the Open waiting list depending on what happens with lessons. Mid-November the Crazies and I will be farm-sitting, and then I'm planning to get to the VBCA winter trial at Tom Forrester's place in December.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


A few weeks ago Dan King and I were out in Julie P's pasture working dogs. I was working Linc, and he'd brought the sheep up. Dan and I were standing there talking with the sheep between Linc, myself, and Dan - like a triangle.

In a conversation with Dan King:

LC: It really drives me bonkers when Linc looks at me when we're working. *looks pointedly AT Dan* It's getting better but he still looks at me.
Dan: Does he?
LC: Yeah, and it drives me batshit. I can't STAND it. I'll be he's looking at me now. Is he looking at me?
Dan: No.
LC: How about now?
Dan. No.
LC: Is he looking at the sheep?
Dan: No.
LC: Is he looking at me?
Dan: No.

short pause...

LC: Is he looking at the sheep?
Dan: No.
LC: Is he looking at me?
Dan: No.
LC: Well what's he looking at then?
Dan: *rolls eyes* I don't know... he's just... looking around. OK, now he's looking at the sky.
LC: *looks at Linc* SEE? I told you!! He's looking at me. I look over there and he's looking at me. It drives me crazy.

long pause...

LC: Is he looking at me?
Dan: No.

What a long-suffering sort Dan is.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Conversations with a Crazy

This conversation with my brother the other night:

J: Your car stinks.
LC (me): What? Nunh-uh! It does NOT you punk.
J: Yeah, it does. You have GOT to do something about it.
LC: NUNH-UH!!! It does not stink.
J: I'm telling you it does. The other night I almost threw up. When I was helping you and Sandy with her car and I had to get your jumper cables out of the van? I opened the door and it smelled so bad I almost threw up. I talked to Ashley and she thinks it stinks too.
LC: Does it smell like mold? The other day at a trial it was all rainy and I left some towels in there. It could be like... stinky towels or stinky socks or something.
J: It doesn't smell like mold.
LC: Not mold? How about stinky socks? Sometimes I pull my socks off, and then take them into the house later.
J: It doesn't smell like socks.
LC: Ok, Ok, I'll do something about it. I've been meaning to do something about it really.

Although seriously I couldn't figure out what he was smelling nor could I figure out what I was to do about it

A conversation with Sandy:

LC: My brother says the van stinks and I need you to smell it. I can't figure out what he's

Because she's my friend Sandy agreed to smell it.

LC: Ok, ready? Take a big deep fresh air breath.
Sandy: *takes a gigantic breath and puffs her cheeks out like a pufferfish*
LC: Ok, get in, close the door fast, take a deep breath, and tell me what you smell.

Sandy gets in, and I walk around and hop into the driver's seat.

LC: Ok, what do you smell?
Sandy: Nothing.
LC: Seriously? Nothing?
Sandy: Well, maybe a faint hint of dog, but that's it. This is a dog car. I have a dog car. I don't notice dog smells. You don't notice dog smells. We have dogs in our cars.
LC: Dog? Of course it smells like dog. But you don't smell anything else stinky?
Sandy: No.

Back to my brother:

LC: Seriously. What does my car smell like then?
J: Dog.

Really? I was afraid it might smell like pond muck or dirty socks. I can live with dog. I do live with dogs. In my car, in my house, and everywhere in between. Dog. My car smells like dog. Imagine that!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Linc seems to have a lot of tension when going between me and the sheep - and the tension exists whether he's at hand or away from my feet. It was one of the reasons I retired him at Robin's trial - I could see and feel his tension building every time I asked him for an inside flank. I was thinking that maybe fixing it at hand would be the way to go, so this past weekend down at Julie's I set us up in a corner - where the draw was - with a small group of sheep.

His tension is manifesting (outwardly) in several ways - putting his head down and zooming through the pressure, pulling wool, body slamming, and also in fighting me. I've tried various types of corrections, and anything that resembles a hard correction results in him fighting me harder. He seems to ratchet up if you will. Robin and I also figured out a few weeks ago that every time I'd ask him to walk up on the sheep from behind me he struggled to walk near my legs. If I touched him actually he'd rush the sheep, dive in, and sometimes pull some wool.

So we had lots to work on. We did a lot of work with my back to the fence, asking Linc to flank around between me and the sheep (and the fence that was behind me). Smaller, shorter flanks seemed to relax him some, but I had to get through to him first to be able to stop him where I wanted to. Most of the relaxing part was deciding what to let ride and when to let him know I didn't like what he was doing.

Corrections (when needed) from the belly as Robin says, as opposed to the screeching banshee method. The long low deep voice relaxes Linc. The screeching banshee voice makes him explode. The squeaky mouse voice makes him grab sheep. Say no to screeching banshee and squeaky mouse - they're like training your dogs while smoking crack. Not that I've ever smoked anything, much less crack. But it's alot like what I'd imagine training a dog on crack would be like. So I'm trying to just say no to myself.

I digress. I finally saw a HUGE lightbulb moment (and all I was looking for was really small changes) when I was flanking him between the sheep and the fence and finally got him relaxed enough to stop just before he went between the sheep and the fence. The sheep shifted slightly and moved a little bit away from the fence. I asked him to take a few more steps in and stop again. His eyes got soft and I could see the tension ease. It was like he was saying, "Ohhhhhhh! That felt pretty good. Maybe I will try that again!". After a few times of that he started relaxing there, and instead of busting through he started going through thoughtfully. After I moved us back out away from the fence he was relaxed going around out in the open also.

Staying near the pressure I asked him to flank back and forth between me and the sheep while not being on the fence - and he began to relax little by little, rewarding him with some fetches. My praising him seems to result in a victory grab so I couldn't communicate with him that way. So I interspersed the fence work and the more open work with an occasion to drive or fetch, and I could actually see him relaxing.

Every so often I'd walk over there and stroke him, and then send him around the sheep. The first few times I did that he was pretty wound up, but he was beginning to accept working with me, and that I wasn't the enemy but there to help him. It wasn't perfect, and I had to pick and choose what I'd accept and what I wouldn't. But still, we made some measurable progress this weekend. I'll be interested to see where we are this week. I might have to do it all over again. Then again I might not. I think part of what he needs is just (as Julie suggested this weekend) doing this stuff over and over and over until it begins to be humdrum.

This dog training thing - it's hard. I train MY dogs, but I'm not a dog trainer. In some ways I wonder if it's even harder to train one's own dogs - there's too much riding on it, as if it almost matters too much. Maybe years from now when I'm all old and leathery and am on my millionth dog or something I'll be able to be less critical of myself, my dogs, and my own abilities. Maybe.

Oh, and one more thing. The word from Sandy's dealership is that the fireball didn't do any more extensive damage other than that one fuse in the dash. Whew!

Photo by Robin French

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Friday night I managed to rook Sandy, Pam, and Julie into meeting me at La Bamba Mexican Restaurant not too far from my house for dinner. Last week was a long week, and I thought we all could use some girl time. So we met, drank, ate, and were merry. We laughed a lot (as is usual) and then all headed home. I'd had something called "Swamp Water" and while I was OK walking to the car, at one point I'd not been feeling much pain.

Sandy's car wouldn't start. She tried calling several people, none of whom were interested in leaving at 9pm to come help her in a dark parking lot, so (insert hero music here) I came to the rescue. Or something. I pulled out this little rescue kit I had in the back of the van, and pulled out the jumper cables - aka POS fire bringers.

We had to talk a blond chick who was even blonder than Sandy and I into moving her vehicle so I could pull up next to Sandy. Did I mention I'm not in charge of these things? I'm not in charge. I get in. I turn the key. I expect it to work. On occasion I can even add a fluid (although I used to run my Mustang on 1 quart of oil only... habitually). But I'm SO not in charge of these things. Neither is Sandy. Yet there we were, in a parking lot at 9pm with a rescue kit.

So she and I stumbled through the jumper cable hookup - and we thought we had them hooked up right. I was patting myself on the back as I stepped away from her car. "Who's Ya Daddy!" was what I was screaming in my head as I headed over to my van when suddenly a gigantic ball of fire shot past my ear! I saw sparks and Sandy's car alarm started SCREAMING and the lights started flashing. I almost peed myself. I ran over to my car and (amidst prayers of "Please, Lord, don't let me get electrocuted") and yanked one of the wires off of my battery, and it all went quiet.

Sandy and I stood there and just stared at each other. Apparently we'd put them on wrong. I'd just colored my hair earlier, and my first thought was, "That dang ball of fire better not have messed up my hair!" followed closely by, "OMFG, I hope we didn't just kill our cars dead. Are we dead? No, I don't think we're dead, but I'll bet we've fried our cars! Oh {insert expletive here}".

So what do you do when you're not in charge of vehicles and happen to have almost exploded one or two of them? You call my brother, which is probably what I should have done FIRST.

Jeremy (my younger brother by 3-1/2 years) came up there and discerned that the battery was dead, and that we'd blown at least one fuse with our "antics". I think I heard something about "hair brained" but he seemed to be more amused than anything. He put some aluminum foil into the fuse (don't ask me... remember, I'm not in charge of these things) and Sandy and I ran out to Advance Auto to get her a new battery. We were doing all of this in the parking lot, in the dark, with nothing but two screwdrivers, a pair of vice grips, and a sheet of aluminum foil from the restaurant. Jeremy replaced the battery and rigged up the fuse, and off we went. Well, sortof.

We found out in short order that while we could get Sandy cranked she had no acceleration. Because she couldn't get across traffic to the left he took her right - which would mean going up a gigantic hill to get her to my house. Did I mention she had no acceleration? We managed somehow to get her to my Mother's house, and when she stepped out of the car she was practically shaking.

I mean, who wouldn't be? I take her out for dinner and her car won't start, a ball of fire screams out past our heads, and then she can't go more than 5 mph on a street where people drive the Indy 500.

I will say this... it's funny how a gigantic ball of fire whizzing past one's head will induce sobriety in 0.6 seconds.

Somehow we managed to laugh our way through the night, and I got her over to her Mom's where she borrowed a car to get home. Sandy's husband got her up and running yesterday, but he thinks one more fuse needs to be replaced - one he couldn't quite get to under the dash. We're hopeful that replacing that last fuse will make everything OK. So today Sandy, Julie, Kelly and I are going over to Rising Meadow Farm to wander around their Farm Fest. I'm planning to pump Sandy full of lamb-burgers and ice cream in hopes that she'll still be my BFF after the Great Ball of Fire.