|Pia - 17 months|
While farm-sitting for Julie last weekend I went over to Robin's to walk dogs and work Pia. One of the road-blocks I've had is that Pia needs a smaller space still, and she needs some fairly quiet and forgiving sheep. I've worked her very little, and she's still rocking a bit of the yeehaw. So, I loaded up some big woolies into Robin's round pen, and set about the business of trying to get Pia's attention.
We did three or four short sessions spaced out over several hours. The sheep were being fair, but she wasn't really learning from them, and didn't seem remotely concerned about fixing her messes. She was basically going back and forth between orbiting at 100 mph and then diving in for a little grab. Corrections weren't helpful, though speaking to her quietly seemed to help some. On one level she was trying to figure out what I wanted, but she just couldn't seem to get to that place.
I realized quickly as the sheep kept going from corner to corner that this situation was not a good one. Things were deteriorating. I was getting frustrated. Pia was getting frustrated. The sheep were not happy. I was not happy. I tried bringing in Linc, and I also tried tying him in one of the corners. It didn't seem to change the situation much.
Finally after a nice walk I decided to take the dogs back to Julie's and think about it for a while and come up with a new plan. I KNEW that if I could get into the sheep I could help her. I just had to figure out how to do that. I hatched a new plan, and the new plan looked nothing like the old plan.
I took Nick with me, and took Pia into the smallest of Julie's pastures with her lambs that have been worked a decent bit. I'd say the space was roughly 3 to 4 times bigger than the round pen. Maybe more. There were a few moments of yeehaw. However, because Nick was there I was finally able to get into the sheep, and able to gently influence Pia at her problem spots - 10:00 and 2:00 quite specifically. I tried to be as in the moment as possible and see her thinking about a dive so that I could put myself in the right place and speak to her.
I don't even know where Nick was, but suddenly everything came together. Pia, for the first time, settled in behind the sheep and started walking them up. She went to balance (first time) and started wearing the sheep to me. She tucked in a few of the edges.
I almost cried right there in the field. Ok, maybe I did a little. I think that Pia and I (because of Nick) were both able to get where we needed to be. In that moment the picture made sense to Pia. From there I was able to lie Nick down, and Pia worked by herself. It was good. Really good.
I love that moment. That first time when a dog actually settles in behind the sheep. Poetry in motion.
Then because I love this photo, here is Linc: