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.