Saturday, December 18, 2010

Small Dog Goes for a WalkAbout

This is what happened one day at Robin's when the Small Dog went on a walkabout...

No dogs or sheep were harmed in the filming of this video.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Online Dating Decoded

He writes: "I don't normally ask this so soon, but can we meet..."
He means: "I'd like to get laid."

He writes: "Family is the most important thing in my life."
He means: "I live with my mother."

He writes: "Hi, my name is ____ and I'd like to meet you."
He means: "I'd like to get laid."

He writes: "I've not had good luck so far with drawn out emails, so I like to move things along quickly. I think we should meet to see if we mesh."
He means: "So far I'm a total loser, and I'd like to get laid."

He writes: "I love to travel and am looking for that special person to do it with."
He means: "I'd like for you to pay for it."

He writes: "I am known for having a great sense of humor."
He means: "My mother is the only one who laughs at my jokes."

He writes: "I really like your profile and want to get to know you better. Here's my phone number - call me!"
He means: "I'd like to get laid."

Added by KPR:

He writes: "I work nights, so I'm available during the day"
He means: "I'm unemployed ... and married."

He writes: "I'm semi-retired, and my mother is sick, so I sold my house and moved in with her so I can take care of her,"
He means: "I don't have a job and I am a pathetic loser and am mooching off my mother now, but I came up with this great story to fool you with and it's working perfectly."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Casual Eavesdropper? I think NOT.

I'm standing in the kitchen at work, and I hear, "Blah blah blah I live in Level Cross blah blah blah FARM SITTER blah blah blah CHICKENS blah blah blah".

Farm Sitter? Level Cross? I pipe up, "So I have a friend near you guys that I used to farm sit for - how long does it take you to get to work? Come to think of it, my friend might could use a new farm-sitter since it's too far for me now."

He replied, "Oh, about 30 minutes, but you should tack on another 20 from your friend's place. What does she have?" I replied, "Sheep and Border Collies."

So I tune back out of the conversation, and go on about the business of washing the tea cup (the one that belongs to my boss). Did I ever mention that when I walk through the halls carrying his teacup that I hear the "Imperial Death March" in my head? I do. I even breathe a little bit like Darth Vader. Or a sleestak. Or Darth Vader eating a sleestak. Or maybe a sleestak eating Darth Vader. Whatever, but I hear the song.

I digress.

I'm tuned out again, until I hear, "Oh, but really, horses, cows and sheep are really just all the same".


Here's where I begin to run amok. Afoul of the culture. In it with both feet. I pipe in (remember, I'm not really part of this conversation) "Oh but really sheep, cows and horses are not the same at ALL!"

I then proceeded to run my yak about how sheep can be a bit more inclined to fall over dead on you, and farm sitting border collies can take a special touch and so on. Oh yeah, I really know how to make friends around here. I'm not sure if the looks on their faces were looks of horror or glazed over boredom, but I sure did manage to clear out the break room in record speed. Hey, they should be grateful I didn't move on to butchering and having sheep in one's freezer. They're lucky I didn't get into a long diatribe about horses not being able to throw up, and colic, and all sorts of things. That would have taught them to think twice about allowing me to actively eavesdrop on them! So there.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Food Rules (according to the Mad Spaghetti Noodle Lady)

I have lots of rules when it comes to food. I like many different things, and am willing to try most things, but there are certain rules that must be followed. Here is a sampling:

1. No food is to be eaten before or while drinking coffee. Once food happens coffee is over - there is no going back. Food is NEVER to be combined with coffee. I don't like for anything to interfere with my coffee experience. Coffee is never to be drunk with dessert - this would interfere with both the coffee experience AND the dessert experience. I know this goes against conventional wisdom, but I just cannot help it.

2. Eggs are to never have runny yolks. Eggs are to never even have yolks that might SUGGEST some form of runniness. Ever. Ew.

3. Breakfast food may be eaten any time of the day. However, dinner foods (such as pizza and fried chicken) may not EVER be eaten for breakfast.

4. Foods that are supposed to be eaten hot may never be eaten cold (ie no cold pizza... no cold fried chicken - see #3). This also applies to coffee.

5. Water goes down best for me when drunk at room temperature. No brain freezes allowed.

6. Candy bars MUST be intact before eating. You just never know who might have been fondling your candy bar at the store. It's perfectly OK to break it up yourself though.

7. Food should not touch. If by some tragedy food DOES touch, it may be allowed as long as neither food is runny. Some dipping sauces fall into the touching rule, others do not. Steak sauce does, ranch dressing does not.

8. Exception to the not touching rule: certain foods may be DIPPED in other foods. For example: roast beef is perfectly acceptable when dipped in one's mashed potatoes. However, it would be unacceptable to fully mix the two. Ew.

9. Everything is better with bacon. Additionally, there is no such thing as too much bacon. Ever.

10. Grits are to be eaten with salt and butter only. No exceptions.

11. Steak sauce is banned. See # 7. So is barbecue sauce, except on ribs.

12. PB&J is an exception to the touching rule. However, the PB and the J should be applied to separate pieces of bread and then put together - NEVER mixed beforehand. Same with PB & Banana.

I'd be interested to see if anyone else has food rules. :) I know I'm not the ONLY freak.

Monday, November 22, 2010

25 Things I've Learned My First Year in Open

25 Things I've learned my first year trialing a sheepdog in Open (in no particular order):

1. You lose some... and you lose some.
2. One must pay their dues. Many times. It is fair.
3. It's a long way to go to just trial one dog in Open. Where? Anywhere. Anywhere is a long way to go to run just one dog.
4. Campers are good.
5. I wish I could afford one. But I gotz no money.
6. Tents suck.
7. Tents are better than nothing. They suck less than having nothing to sleep in.
8. Whistles are good. It helps to keep the whistle in your mouth.
9. Handler's dinners ROCK. It's a nice departure from PB&J. See #5
10. If I shuddup I can learn from the real handlers there.
11. Rain, in a tent, sucks. See #4
12. Your first open dog will pull lots of stunts designed for ultimate humiliation.
a. Crossing over at your feet
b. Not finding the sheep
c. Getting stuck on the exhaust
d. Blowing you off all the way down the fetch
e. Refusing flanks... and then missing the panels cuz the handler insisted *cough*
f. Looking goofy (Ok, so the long-legged Noodle cannot help this!)
13. Once you get past the point of major explosive trainwrecks but haven't yet achieved true greatness (for the most part) people don't really pay that much attention to your runs. Whew.
14. The first time you actually place in Open is worthy of a tear or two. So is the first major humiliation.
15. The first real shed at a trial, on the fly, with no points off is a very exciting moment.
16. Don't leave the post until you're called off, but temper that with an eye towards good sportsmanship and leave when you should. Learn the difference.
17. Give yourself a tiny break when you're new.
18. Tiny little personal sized porta-potties to go in tents make the tent experience suck a little less. But see #6.
19. Porta potties that spring a leak in your tent suck.
20. People put a lot of hard work, heart, and soul into putting on a trial. Be Grateful.
21. Watch your sheep.
22. Set your dog up right - and make sure the dog actually SEES the sheep before you send it.
23. Laugh a lot.
24. Trialing with friends is fun. Having no friends to hang with sucks. Get more friends. Be nice.
25. I love my dogs - and what a testament it is that we can do this together.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Just One Recent (mis)Adventure of Mad Spaghetti

Back several weeks ago I was headed out to a trial (Highland Occasional SDT, I think, at Donald McCaig's). I had packed almost everything up in the van when I remembered I needed to put something else in there. I went up to the sliding door, and pulled the handle. Nothing happened. I mean, nothing. I locked and unlocked the doors, and pulled again. Nothing happened. I pulled. Nothing. I pulled again. NOTHING.

Hm. Maybe I should pull harder, I thought to myself.

I pulled harder. Nothing. I reared back and YANKED.

Suddenly I found myself arse over teakettle rolling backwards through the front yard, door handle in my hand. I jumped up (that's what adrenaline will do for you - normally I have to grumble and groan and use something to pull myself up) and brushed off my behind. I looked around to ascertain that nobody was around to see this. Whew.

I walked up to the van to see that I had pulled the entire door handle off of the van - and it had even warped the metal where it came out.

So what did I do? I called my Mom. "Mom, you're not going to believe this. I just pulled the door handle off of the Van!" Somehow she believed it. "How did you manage that?", she asked.

Uh, I'm an idiot? I said, "I have no idea. I really didn't even pull it that hard."

Yeah, right.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Conversations with a NoodleHead

This past weekend at the Rural Hill SDT:

Me: You are going to go around those horses.
Noodle: No, I am not.
Me: Yes, you are!
Noodle: NO, I am NOT.
Noodle: NO, I AM NOT!!!!!!!

This is followed by a duck inside of the horse to jigger the sheep off sideways, followed by covering… followed by:

Me: LIE DOWN!!! LIE DOWN!!! LIE DOWN!!! (side note: all lie downs are given in Linc-worthy voice of doom)
Noodle aka PunkBoy: *doggie finger*
PunkBoy: la la la la la la la can’t hear you la la la la la
Me: *raises stick* (side note: this is guaranteed to make him actually run away)
PunkBoy: *raises doggie finger* la la la la can't hear you cuz I'm bringing the sheep la la la la

The sheep eventually get to my feet, and he eventually takes his fingers out of his ears.

Me: You better listen to me when I’m talking to you. Do you hear me?
Punkboy: Oh, Hi! I didn’t realize that you were here! Did you see how far I went and how far I had to bring them? And didn’t they arrive in spectacular fashion?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Follow Up Conversation

So "I cannot copy for myself' called me again to say, "Do I mail things myself, or do you do it for me?" I responded, "Typically people here mail things for themselves, so yes, you would do it". The conversation progressed a little like this:

Old Guy: I have an envelope and these signed letters, so now what do I do? I know, I'll fold them up and put them in the envelope

Me: Have you addressed the envelope?

Old Guy: No.

Me: Ok. So you need to start by addressing the envelope. If you don't address it then it won't get very far.

Old Guy: Ok. Then what?

Me: You then put the letters in it, seal it up, and take it to the guys who put the postage on it. They'll then put the postage on it, and it'll go out.

At this point I could literally FEEL him wanting me to do it for him. Had he asked I would have, but I'm just not going to play this sort of passive aggressive game.

So, Old Guy, mail your own letter. This is just not that difficult.

You want me to do WHAT?

I sit approximately seven feet from the copier. One of the managers came over a few minutes ago, stood BETWEEN me and the copier, and said, "Can you please make a copy of this for me?".


I got up, and responded, "Would you like to stand here and wait while I do this?" He nodded. I then said, "Would you like to come stand NEXT to the copier while I copy for you?" to which he replied, "I guess I could copy it myself but I'd probably mess it up". Yeah buddy, you probably would. You're ancient, a bumbler, and a bigot. What does the bigotry have to do with the ancientness? Nothing, it's just an observation. I gave him "the Eyebrow". I'll admit that the Eyebrow was relatively ineffective since I'm wearing my glasses at the moment. But I gave it to him anyway. I don't think he noticed.

Two weeks ago my shining moment in my new job was that my boss LET me go buy a gift for him to give at a baby shower. Keep in mind, however, that I was required to go to the baby shower in his stead. Did I mention how much I hate baby showers? Hate. Major hate. Baby showers rank right up there with bridal showers, weddings, funerals, and company parties. Oh yeah, I'm really moving up the corporate ladder. Watch out bottom feeders, soon I'll be taking over your position.

Two weeks ago my boss also LET me go get his car washed for him. Again. This was also a shining moment. This is what my work-life has become. Yay me.

For a while I coped with donuts. That upset my stomach. Then for a while I coped with copious amounts of wine. THAT upset my stomach. This week I'm resorting to shopping. This is also upsetting my stomach, but more like a vague acid thing as opposed to complete faucet-ass. Next week I plan to employ a new coping mechanism but I haven't picked it out yet. Maybe I'll go with something slightly less self destructive like enjoying my own witty banter and self-indulgence by blogging. It might upset my readers' stomachs, but maybe I'll feel a little better.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Blog of Silence

I don't think I've ever been accused of being silent, or even remotely in the neighborhood of silent. However, I have been I suppose when it comes to blogs and boards and emails and such lately. I think that I might be getting back on the horse, though. I seem to have lost my funny for a while, but I've found it. Trust me - I'll tell you all about the Turd in the Sleeping Bag later. But not tonight. Tonight.... cue Mighty Mouse music....

Who can it be?
It looks like a loose cannon! It moves like one too.

Oh wait. Is it a wolf?

No! It is Linc! Wait, what is he doing? Oh yeah, he's....

...bringing the sheep. He's lying down. He's actually finishing a Pro-Novice trial course.

Good dog Linc.

Like I said, I have some brags on the boys, but I'm exhausted after two weekends of trialing (the most I've done in a while). Updates to follow this weekend when I get my brain back. However, suffice it to say that both Nick and Linc are making me very proud. Photos taken by Nancy Starkey.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Circle BR SDT Recap

I think I could do an entire post about rain, hail, air mattresses (human taco #2 anyone?) and then tents that leak. I won't - you guys get the idea. As usual Ben and Emily were so hospitable, and just a whole lot of fun. The field is gorgeous - terraced, and beautiful.

Day #1 in Open we ran about middle of the day. We'd been delayed for fog for an hour and a half, and it was pretty hot by the time we ran. I was having images in my head of last year in Ranch when it took three redirects to get Nick to the top, but this time he just went. He lifted the sheep really nice, took his down, and then proceeded to just bring the sheep down the middle of the field without more than a whistle or two from me. We were perhaps not as precise as the judge might have liked (lost 4 pts on our fetch) but it was so nice. He continued that on the drive away, and I think I blew one whistle at him after I set it up.

We had some squiggles - took a really wide turn at the drive away panels, but got it back online. Then... I misjudged the crossdrive panel. They went around high, and by the time I figured it out it was too late. We got into the shedding ring and it was the last two on the head. We settled the sheep and strung them out, I flanked Nick a couple of steps and called him into about a 1' gap. As I was calling him in I thought, "OMG, what have I done???!?!?" but he came in - and we lost nothing on our shed or pen. I feel like I could ride for YEARS on that shed - it felt fabulous.

We were on the leader board for a while after that. Lame as I am I took a picture. I'm not sure where we ended up - my guesstimate is somewhere around 15th or 16th.

Here... lame-o picture:

Open Day#2 we ran three from last - around 4pm. It was hot, and I knew after a long season of being off he'd struggle. He ran out SO nice - landed deep and easy, and lost nothing on his outrun or lift. Nice fetch, and then it all went to heck in a hand basket. From that point on it was a matter of containment. I think we got a mercy point each on our drive, pen, and shed. We never did get them in the pen as I sent him for water and we still couldn't get them settled.

But he gave me everything he had. He was trying desperately to figure out how to handle them, and even though nothing we did seemed to help he gave it all. What a good boy he is.

Monday... ProNovice... Linc. Nice enough outrun (a tad flat and short, but didn't lose but 1 and 1). After a few steps though (no lie down in sight) one sheep broke back to the set out. I retired rather than have a rodeo. Then we had the rodeo. It was a zoo - he wouldn't stop, blew through the sheep, one fell down (uh... he helped it a bit) all of this after the judge asked me to turn the sheep back to the single. LOL! I tried to grab him and accidentally whacked him with my stick - and then had visions of people saying I was trying to beat my dog on the field. Nothing like a little paranoia to finish out one's weekend, right?

After that Nick and I exhausted the rest of the P/N class. Nick would like for everyone to know that the only job in the world that compares to pushing sheep out of the pens is EXHAUSTING. He has hung a sign on his crate that reads, "Will exhaust for food. Or not. Just will exhaust."

We had a good time. This coming weekend we're working at Robin's trial, and then two weeks after that we're going to Roy and Debbie's. Beyond that I don't know, but we are certainly having fun.

(top photo by Robin French)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Crazies Ride Again

Finally.  After what feels like forever the Crazies and I are headed out to a trial this weekend at Dr. Ben Ousley's place in Lawndale, NC.  I'm pretty excited to be getting the dogs out again, and they always love to just... go.  I'm running Nick in Open, and Linc in ProNovice.  As much as I hate that it's Linc's Nursery year and he's missing it, the truth is he's JUST not ready.  Anyway, I'm looking SO forward to getting out and seeing everyone, and just getting away from home for a few days.
It has been a week of challenges though.  The CrazyMobile's starter went out on me this week.  I rolled 220K miles recently, and with every bit that passes I worry about how long she'll hold up.  Plus, I have gotten nothing done in preparation for leaving.  NOTHING.  That's like double extra zero.  The plan (yeah, whatever) was to leave around noon tomorrow and more or less caravan over with Julie.  Well... I will get home from work tonight around 6pm.  At that point I still have to do laundry, mow, vacuum, grocery shop, pack, load the van, water my garden, get gas and get going.  This is assuming I make it to Target at lunch to pick up some things I need there.  If that doesn't happen I'll have to add THAT to my list too.  I just don't see how it's all going to happen by lunch time tomorrow.
Did I mention that I have been a grump of the first order?  If I were to have some sort of re-naming ceremony I'd be "Grumpimous Maximous".  Imagine going through the rest of your life with a name like that.  Picture an evil PMSey version of a Sleestak.  Yup, that's me.  Lets see... in the last 24 hours I've managed to inadvertently upset a friend, send my dogs hiding, and then somehow managed to walk off and leave my coffee at home this morning - thus contributing to my feelings of ill will.  I feel like a deranged fishwife with bed head on the inside.  But hey, today is cheerful bright green shirt day!  At least outwardly I'm exuding daylight and daisies.  Maybe according to the power of positive thinking my bright green cheerful shirt will make me feel better.  Oh wait, osmosis.  Or whatever. 
In all seriousness, though, for the sake of my dogs I'm going to just get over it.  I've just got to get my groove back is all.  I've lost my going trialing mojo.  My train has derailed with this extended time off, so I just have to get back on the tracks.  It's going to be a FUN weekend, with good friends.  See you all there!  I'll be the one with the bed head on the inside.

Friday, April 2, 2010

I Have a Problem

I have a problem. I have a crate problem and they say that the first step is admitting it, so here I am admitting it. I have six dogs and 21 crates. Yes, that is two-one crates. 21. My Stepmom accused me of being a hoarder the other day when Moon came to stay permanently. I was pretty offended and off put by this (and declined Easter at their house) but while I'm certainly no dog hoarder I might just be a crate hoarder.

In my defense part of the problem is that when I started with the dogs I liked the wire crates. Somewhere along the line I realized that my dogs prefer plastic crates, and started the transition while not exactly getting rid of the wire crates. Ok, not getting rid of them at all. <insert singsong voice here> I've got crates in the van, crates in the living room, crates in the office, crates in the bedroom, crates in the dog room... and even crates at a friend's house. I've sold a few crates along the way, and even gave one to my ex-husband to go with my ex-bordercolliemixdogBree. But it's sort of like sitting there staring at a candy machine. I know I don't need it but I WANT it. Oh yes, I realize I sound like I'm about five years old.

Anyway, here's why this is an urgent problem at this exact moment - I just got an email from and guess what? They have free shipping on selected dog crates for a limited time. I am seriously jonesing here. Some women collect shoes. I collect crates. Here's the thing: I have a new dog. Doesn't she deserve her very own new plastic crate? Not only that, but it's exceptionally useful to have many crates for when other dogs come over to stay - and for when other dogs come ride in the StinkMobile.

Maybe if I went to Pet Supplies Plus and just smelled the dog crates it would help. I could just open and close their little doors and maybe arrange and rearrange them in the store. That would be ALMOST like having a new one myself, without the cost. So what if one of my dogs got in there? They'd never notice (the people who work there).

In some ways my crate problem is a little bit like my book problem. I just... love them and need them. Besides. FREE SHIPPING!!! Who can say no to free shipping? I'm going to try to talk myself out of it, because really the money could be better spent on Advantix and Glyco-Flex III. But man. Free shipping on crates.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mad Spaghetti Strikes Back

Earlier today I was on a mission. I was going to rid the CrazyMobile of the dog smell. Don't laugh... it was a noble cause indeedy. I thought to myself, "If I have to drive the boss around THIS week he's in for a huge surprise!" and boy is he ever.

I drug the crate pads out of the crates, put the extra crates back in the house (I'd had two extra in the back of the bus since I had Ghilly and Mac last week). Oh, and did I mention I have a new member of the Crazy Pack? Moon is now a permanent Crazy. She apparently decided that for herself, so now she's with me permanently. It's good though - she fits in well, and is appropriately submissive to Ginger.

Anyway, as I was saying I pulled out crate pads, tossed out any trash, and then drug the vacuum cleaner outside. I vacuumed the floors, and vacuumed out all of the crates. I usually do this on a reasonably regular basis (if you call 3x a year regular) and hadn't done it lately. I then sprayed all six crates out with apple cider vinegar. The vinegar acts as a cleaner, and also neutralizes odors. Oh yeah, I was armed and packin'! I was gonna wash that dog right out of my van (sung off key, of course).

What I didn't count on is the staggering vinegar smell every time I open the van door. I tried in vain to leave the van open to air out, but even with that when I get in there now the vinegar smell literally gags me. I'm not sure if the van still smells like dogs (I don't notice a dog smell) but it sure as heck smells like ACV. My guess? My guess would be that it smells like vinegar... and dogs.

I think I'm definitely losing here.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mad Spaghetti Goes Corporate

My new job is very much a big corporate sort of place, with a tiny hint of small corporate thrown in for good measure.  My new boss is a very nice person - with a very nice car.  This week he called me after I'd already gotten to work, and he wanted me to come pick him up.  He'd dropped off his very nice car for maintenance, and wanted me to come get him... in the dog car.  In case you missed it, let me say it again:  My boss had dropped off his very nice car and wanted me to come pick him up.  In the dog car.  Please bear in mind that at this particular junction he didn't necessarily understand the ramifications of a ride in the dog car, and to my knowledge was unaware that I drove the dog car.
So there I was at 9:30 in the morning fresh off of a weekend of dog working and dog walking, and the dogs had taken quite a few swims in the creeks, and I've not washed dog bedding or vacuumed out crates recently.  I just started my third week of work here, and up to this point I've parked the dog car in the veeeeeerrrrrry back of the parking lot, thinking maybe nobody would notice me rambling up to work in a minivan full of dog crates every morning, where I get out and put on my suit coat to take the walk of shame into the building.
I digress.  I ran out to the van where I vigorously tried to de-doghair the passenger seat with a lint roller.  I then rolled the windows all the way down, and proceeded to drive all the way to the car place with the wind beating me to death.  This, I suspect, was a vain attempt at airing out the CrazyMobile.  I also placed the bounce sheet infused lint roller next to the passenger seat thinking to maybe perfume the air of eau de bounce as opposed to eau de dog.  Ok, so it was a good thought.
I somehow managed to get lost on the way to pick him up, so had to call him for help.  When I rambled up he was standing on the side of the road... waiting in his suit and tie.  I proceeded to apologize for the dog car, and he did try desperately to save me by saying, "I have a dog!".  Unfortunately he made the grave mistake of asking how many dogs I had.  This started a ramble-fest about how many dogs, what do we do, which segued into a ramble about sheep, factory farming, and butchers.  Yes, I talked about butchering sheep to my new boss.  All of this took place over the span of two blocks where I also managed to try to turn the wrong way down a one way street and cut across three lanes of traffic trying to recover.
I babbled incessantly (and yes, I could hear myself but seemed to be powerless to put a cork in it) and risked our lives all the way back to the office.  I dropped him off at the door and then parked the van back in it's unobtrusive spot.  I'm not sure why I bothered as obviously the gig is now up.  Oh, and it gets worse.  At one point, during the babble-fest and life and limb escapade, I blurted out, "I used to have a nice SUV but I gave it to my ex-husband so I could buy THIS!".  Oh yeah baby, I'm just that good under pressure.
It took me seven hours to stop sweating.  To make matters worse two days later he asked me to take him back to pick up his car.  I guess maybe he wasn't as freaked out as I would have expected.  Or more likely I was just the last person on earth available.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I Can Haz a Job!

Well, the blessedly short period of unemployment has ended. I start a new job on Monday! And what does the picture have to do with any of this? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! I just think it's funny, and we could all use a giggle. There's just something about those big ole bat ears and silly expressions on the Noodlehead's face that cracks me up. Besides, I'm pretty excited about starting on this new adventure. I hope this means that the season of extreme sacrifice is coming to a close - or at least a recession. My thermostat is now on 68. This is good.

Why do I need a job? Lots of reasons. I need to pay the bills, I need to sell my house and buy a farm and sheep and stuff, and I need to find something else to do... something other than watch reality TV shows.

This is what unemployment does to a person. Time becomes all weird and relative, and Reality TV is like some sort of warped lifeline. Yesterday I watched something like eight straight hours of "Millionaire Matchmaker". The day before I watched "America's Next Top Model". It was a marathon - an entire season of episodes, and you guessed it - I watched them all. Go cute Danielle with the tiny gap teeth! I lurves her. Oh, and lets not forget that "Tabitha Coffey's Salon Makeover" and "Shear Genius" are my new friends. "Chopped" is the bomb. These shows are all in addition to my usual ones, like "American Idol".

I need a job or my life will just waste away into a Reality TV sort of puddle of mush. The once quick as a whip mind will leave me and I'll be reduced to grunting, smoking, and living in a trailer park somewhere with my gazillion dogs and a guinea pig hidden in the walls.

YAY work!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Proper Channels

There is a post on the BC Boards at the moment by a member with two dogs that have gone missing. It absolutely breaks my heart for this person - and it's a fear I think most dog owners live with... the fear of losing one. However, it gets to me that often people who find these lost dogs don't even go through the proper channels to try to help these dogs out.

Case in point: I received a phone call around 9pm a few weeks ago. The caller (who shall remain nameless) was calling me because a loose dog had followed his roaming dog home, and did I want another dog. Uh... hello? Do you KNOW how many dogs I have at my house right now? Eight. I have my five, a puppy I'm keeping, plus two more border collies I'm boarding. I do not need another dog. Period. I suggested they should go to the proper measures to try to find out where the dog belonged.

I asked if they'd tried to find the owners. No. I suggested they maybe load the dog up (or leash it and walk) into the car and go drive around the neighborhood - it's a big subdivision - and see if anyone appears to be looking for a dog. He wasn't too interested in doing that. I suggested that if that didn't work I'd wait until morning and then call the animal shelter, local vets, and put up posters in the neighborhood advertising the found dog. I would even run by the shelter and see if they'd scan the tag-less dog for a microchip.

I heard some grumbling, and then that was the end of the conversation.

19 hours later I got a call back. He had found the dog a new home 30 minutes away with a coworker. Got that? The lost dog was given to someone else thirty minutes away after less than 24 hours, and no measures were taken to find the owners. I was so sick to my stomach I could hardly talk.

What if it had been one of my dogs? I'd be on a rampage. I rarely rampage, but this would push me over the top I'm afraid. All of my dogs minus one are microchipped and wear collars with Boomerang tags on them. However, most of my dogs lurve to roll in stinky nasty things, could feasibly lose a collar and then show up somewhere looking like they've never been cared for in their lives. They also are kept very thin - in working condition - so your average pet owner out there would assume they were starved. I cannot fathom. I'm still sick over it.

The moral to the story is this: If you find a dog wandering around... go through the proper channels to try to find the owners. It's the right thing to do.

ETA: I also meant to mention that the situation was not intentional ignorance - they truly felt like they were doing the right thing.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Happy Zen Place

I think Linc and I have finally found our Happy Zen Place together. Well, maybe he's grown up a little. Maybe both. He turned two back in December and it's been a bit like flipping a switch for him. I'm sure it has helped that we've more or less taken some time off by necessity, but he's... different. I'm different. Even though losing my job has hurt in some respects the horrible dread and tension that's been hanging over my head has lifted. I'm actually able to relax. I'm able to sleep again. Sleep is good. Sleep keeps the orange fire from shooting out of my eye sockets. Well, except for the times when there's PMS... that is always the exception.

Today as I was driving down to Julie's to watch lesson day I ran through working him day before yesterday. It occurred to me, "Hey! We sorted sheep and he didn't bite anything! He didn't rush anything, and when I flanked him around to my feet he came softly and lifted them off of me gently but with authority at the same time. That's pretty special!" What a nice feeling that was.

He was looking at me more than I'd like today so I made an extra effort to just not look at him. I think maybe he's slightly weirded out by my kinder, gentler, quieter way of handling him. I'll admit that I'm vaguely weirded out by myself too, but then who do I not weird out? OK, at the very least crack up, anyway?

Interestingly enough the last two times I've worked him he's thought *very* hard about grabbing something, and when I've said simply, "NO. Don't do that." he's stopped. Amazing. Who would have thought I could just have a conversation with this dog? Isn't that part of what handling the stock is though? Isn't it partly a conversation, so to speak, between me and my dog?

Nick is into middle finger dog working this week. But... I'm not letting that get to me. I don't mind so much Nick boogering me a bit - it doesn't take me standing on my head to get his attention. So here's to Happy Zen Place dog working! May we all have our Happy Zen Places with our dogs this week.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A New Vocation

Starting today I'll be taking in dogs for training. Not just any training, mind you, I'm going to take dogs in and start them on stock... all without ever leaving my house. Oh yes, this will be a good way to take out the potential for danger and injury for your dog.

I will start by teaching a stop using the back door method. When I recall a dog to come inside I'll slam the door shut in their faces while screaming "Lie DOWN!". When they hit the deck I'll toss a cookie through the doggie door. This, of course, will become less effective as the dogs learn they can come through the doggie door, so this will need to be implemented at a young age.

Next they'll learn to call off. This will be taught on a long line, and I'll teach them to call off from chasing Zippy. I mean, he's white. Mostly. And silly, and he doesn't notice when other dogs harrass him anyway. So, recall will be taught from chasing the Small Dog. I can see as to where this might be a problem considering that Zippy doesn't really run very often, but I assure you, my skeptical future employers, that I'll find a way around that. Even Small Dog runs for dinner.

The next part of the Inner-City Sheepdog Training Program is teaching flanks. I'll start them off in the back yard on a long line, and then progress to free lungeing with treats thrown at an intermittent reinforcement schedule to reinforce directions. From there we will progress to flanking around the house. I'll use a chuck-it and big strong man (big strong man TBD) to reinforce the flanks out of sight. This should open the dogs up nicely, and give nice *square* flanks.

Driving might be a bit tricky, but for this we'll make use of the long sidewalk in front of my house, and a remote-controlled car. I'll teach the dogs to follow along behind a remote-controlled car, and will keep them on a long line so as to ensure their safety while adjacent to our slightly busy street. I can, of course, stand on the porch for this exercise. Additionally, I will smear peanut butter on the spoiler of the car to reinforce rapt following of said car.

Finally they'll complete the starting portion of their training with some beginner shedding. I'll start them out with a couch cushion setup. It's important to have cushions that neither cling or swirl, and I'll have to set them on different sides of the living room to make sure there's enough room to call the dog through. When the dog gets proficient at cushion shedding, we'll move on to shedding the dogs that live in the house. If they can shed the Crazies... they can shed ANYTHING.

Should the neighbor's duck get loose again I'll utilize him to introduce the dog to different stock.

After all of this, your dog should return to you sufficiently started to do anything you need him to do. For this amazing service I will charge $1800 per month, per dog, and they must bring their own food. You, the owner, must supply sufficient cookies to cement these methods. I am intending to implement an online training follow up course, entitled "Training your dog on look backs using items you have in your own home".

Please email me for more information. I'm eager to get started, and I'm sure your sheepdog is too! Annnnnnd.... if you act now I'll throw in one free week of look back training too!

This message has been brought to you in jest and does not seriously reflect the true thoughts or methods of the author. Disclaimer: Please, do not try this at home

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Becoming the Statistic

This past Friday I was laid off from the job I've held for right at 10 years. Earlier this year we took pay cuts (ouch) and now... the ultimate pay cut. I hope the very best for the company, but man does this ever hurt. Even when you know it might be coming it still hurts when it happens, right? In some ways it's a relief that I no longer have that axe hanging over my head. It will be a bigger relief if I get a paycheck for the last two weeks.

Someone in my family is in a similar situation. This person's company has instituted 30% pay cuts and put a freeze on overtime. You don't really have many options when your pay disappears (or your job for that matter) and you don't have another job lined up. Almost everyone I know has been negatively impacted with regards to income and job security. It's heart breaking, and scary.

I'm going today to sign up with a temporary/staffing agency in hopes to fill in the gaps while I find a permanent place to land. Unemployment Insurance will help but it won't be enough to live on. I've finally had some positive response otherwise, so I'm crossing my fingers there. But in the meantime I'm treating this as the desperate situation that it is.

So the dogs aren't getting a whole lot of work right now. I'd had visions at one point of trying to get my dogs qualified for the finals this year - as it's in VA, which is practically in my back yard. Now I'm just having hopes of surviving and keeping a roof over my head. Oh, and that's not to mention the snow and rain and mud and muck! It's been an icky winter so far, and I'm pretty much over it. I still have Moon, but she's such a good sweet girl that she's really not much trouble at all. I've not particularly felt like blogging much - there's not been much to say, or in the case of where there is much to say not much I CAN say. I'm just hoping and praying that it gets better for all of us - and soon.

Monday, January 18, 2010

International Shedding Clinic

This past Saturday I went with Julie and met up with Robin and Dan at an International Shedding clinic with Tommy Wilson. I was fortunate to be able to go audit, and had an absolute ball. I always watch International Sheds at trials on the edge of my seat, and it was nice to be able to begin to have some sort of understanding without the pressures of a trial situation. Shoot, if I'm truly honest it was nice to not have the pressures of trying to do it with my dog but to be able to watch and learn.

I usually manage to take a few things home from a clinic, somehow only being able to absorb a small number of things at one time. Here are the four things I took home from this one:

  1. Watch the sheep you want to keep, but don't look at the ones you want to let go
  2. Sometimes you do what you have to do to save it, even if it means losing a couple of points
  3. If you turn the ones back you want to let go too many times they'll not want to go
  4. If you turn the ones back you want to keep very assertively they'll think twice about trying to go next time

It was a fun time, and since the Small Dog was one of the chosen three who got to go, he had a blast of a time. Dan King kindly took the two pictures in this post, thanks Dan!

Monday, January 11, 2010

An Afternoon in the Life of a Crazy

I loaded up the CrazyMobile with six dogs yesterday - my five plus Robin's Moon who happens to be hanging out at Chez Crazy for a little while (not permanently). We went out to Julie's to work a little and to play a little.

We took two nice walks - and nevermind the fact that it's stupid cold outside the border collies, excepting Moon, all decided to take a swim in the frigid creek. Not just once, but twice. Man was it cold, but the dogs were happy to get out.

Zippy was not thrilled to be taken on a walk, but my vet wants to see him maintain the muscle mass in his back end, or possibly increase it. Speaking of Zippy - turns out he has a Grade 4 heart murmur. I need to get him scheduled to go in and take an X-Ray, and start him on some meds. He's just sixteen, and finally starting to show his age some. It absolutely breaks my heart, but on the other hand I've been blessed with almost five years with him now and I'm grateful for each day. Well, that is except for the days maybe where he's "One Papillon Free to a Good Home".

Ginger got to come into the big pasture with me while Julie and I worked on pulling some of the unpalatable parts of the round bale she'd just gotten off of the bale. While we did this Ginger wandered around obvlivious to the fact that Kelly and Spottie were out there working. Ginger is oblivious to sheep as Zippy is oblivious to chickens.

I worked Linc a bit - and practiced staying relaxed but firm. It worked pretty well, and he managed to stay relaxed. I used him to sort Crazy Red out of the group, and then to sort sheep later for the puppies. I didn't see any crashing into the sheep on inside flanks, and I was very pleased that he seemed to be listening just right. I think it would be fair to say we BOTH had good attitudes. Mark the day down.

After that I got to see some puppy working (yay puppies!) and then Nick got recruited to push the sheep off of the feed bunks while Julie put out feed. He pushed the ducks off of the feed too - which always makes him happy as he loves him some ducks. I then took him behind the barn with me to collect eggs where he got attacked by one of Julie's housemate's Velociraptors. I told him to "get em up" - which to Julie's dismay only resulted in closed-mouthed lungeing. Oh yeah, Velociraptors of the world shall quake at our feet. NOT! So much for that. I'd hoped he might teach them a lesson. Guess not.

Finally around 4:30 we put dogs up and went to pick up about 35,000 bales of hay. No, not really. Actually it was 35 bales of hay that the hay guy threw down to me as I loaded them on the trailer. Julie supervised. Activity points baby! We wound up putting them up in the dark as we realized when we got back that we had JUST enough daylight for that second dog walk. I'll admit that when we got to the last bale (we had to carry it a ways, toss it over the fence, and then stack it in the barn) I was pretty wiped out. Good work - a nice start to this week's plan to start losing weight, making healthier choices, and so on. Too bad it won't count as the week starts on Tuesday.

Our reward? After the hay stacking (Julie did most of the stacking part) a stop at Cracker Barrel for pancakes. YUM! So really living in the city and not having my own sheep means I have to work harder to get my dogs work, and work harder to get MYSELF work. But it's worth it.

After all of that I went home and washed off Nick's neck. Why? That's because Nick had apparently amused himself by rolling in cat pee while I helped Julie with hay. Bad dog. I then fed dogs, and hung out with my feet up just waiting for bed time. I must have gotten lazy recently as the work took much more of a toll on me as it should. But man is it ever rewarding.

Photo by Dan King

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Growing Pains

This dog working thing is so fluid.  It's intuitive, in the moment, and it changes from one second to the next.  I'm not a big fan of changes.  I like rules, schedules, and I like for things to be as they are and stay as they are forever Amen.  So sometimes when I think I have a particular issue with a dog worked out and it pops back up I just don't know what to do.  When the picture changes I struggle just a little sometimes.

I farm-sat for Mary and Tony over Christmas.  I had a ball, the dogs had a ball, and while farm-sitting is always hard work (anyone need a good farm-sitter?) I always have fun.  I worked the dogs a little while I was there, but unfortunately being over the holidays I didn't have as much free time as I would have liked.

Anyway, one day out there Robin commented that it didn't seem like Linc and I were having much fun.  Turns out she was right.  He was being a little hard-head, and in response I was cranking on him.  The tougher I'd get the tougher he'd get, and it was like watching a modern day sword-fight except with sheep, dogs, and one seriously pissed off human. 

So with Robin's help I relaxed. I helped my dog relax.  Suddenly we were working together as a team again.  That begs the question - does he get tough because I get tough, or do I get tough because he does?  Do we feed on each other - is it like a spontaneous combustion?  Did he *already* know I was stressed and it just became one big head butting match?  I realize that I am under considerable stress otherwise, and I'm sure that it must be eeking out and leaching into my dog working.  I noticed Nick reacting strongly to me the other day at Mary's, and I'm sure some of it is simply a response to the turmoil that has nothing to do with them at all.  These dogs, they read me well.  I can only hope to become a fraction as skilled in reading them!

Every time I think I have my relationship with Linc figured out it seems like I've set myself up for another growing pain.  I think I have it all figured out, and then I realize I'm having a lapse.  I'll realize I have my shoulders up around my ears, and I'm running around the field shrieking like a banshee and looking like I have no neck.  I'm like the neckless bandit of dog working.  Not pretty.  So thankfully Robin and Julie gently remind me to relax, and next thing I know the whole picture changes.

These growing pains are hard.  But they're worth it I think.  Linc is going to make me a better trainer and handler even if it kills us both.