Monthly Archives: September 2007

Rain!

This morning I woke up to a sound I haven’t heard in months — rain! Glorious rain! When I walked down to take the sheep down to the pasture with Gel it started pouring. We (Gel, Ted the cat, the sheep and me) got soaked. Ted was not happy about it. Even the sheep seemed happy to get wet.

I am blessed to have a good local source for venison scraps. Last night I picked up a meaty rib cage and a bucketful of scraps. I’ll pick up more on Sunday. The puppies reveled in the rib cage. They chewed on it and played with it for hours. Pyro fell asleep inside the rib cage! If given the opportunity, they are so like baby wolves in their mannerisms and food preferences.

The puppies are all named and all spoken for. The almost black male is Heat Wave (Wave for short), the second male is Torch (his blaze is shaped like a torch). The female I am keeping is named Inferno (Fern for short). The almost black female is Pyro. The last female is Scorch.

I Didn’t Want to go to Work Today

Early this morning, I sat out on my front steps and watched Midge playing with the puppies. It was a wonderful sight. I would have liked to have stayed there all day and watch them.

Every day I rearrange the puppies’ run so that there is a new challenge or stimulation. This morning I tipped the half-tunnel I mentioned a few days ago over so that it was a true tunnel. Then I took a piece of an old dog walk and put that up on two cinder blocks for them to climb on. The stimulation I am providing on a daily basis will prepare these puppies for challenges later in life.

For those of you reading this blog and feed commercial pet food, look where your money is going. This article was published in the New York Times on September 2, 2007. Those poor dogs.

It’s Only Money

Just sent off entry forms and checks for an AKC herding trial in November (Gel only as they are only offering the B Course); an AKC agility trial in October (just Gel) and I entered both Gel and Midge in a USBCHA herding trial in October. Midge is working nicely and I think she can probably run a Novice/Novice course at this time. I had originally planned not to run Midge in a trial until she was ready for Pro-Novice, but if I’m driving almost three hours to get to the trial, I might as well run both dogs. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am now able to pull Gel off a fetch line in either direction (and hold him there which is key) and he’s starting to drive well so I think I can try to run him again in Pro Novice. The trial is being held at Red Creek Farm. I like these people and I’d like to support their trials. They have nice sheep too.

A “fetch line” is the path the sheep take which in a trail situation needs to be straight to the handler’s post through one or two “fetch panels.” When the sheep are “lifted” (moved by the dog) from where they are “set” (held by a person and his/her dog or with grain or both) ideally they will be lifted such that they set off in a straight line to the handler’s post, but this all depends upon how they lift. If the dog has a good, deep outrun and doesn’t overly disturb the sheep prior to the lift, it is easier setting the fetch line. It doesn’t always happen the way it should with a young dog in a trial situation. Gel is what is called a “line dog.” He “flanks” (moves from side to side) as necessary to keep the sheep in a straight line, which is a good thing if the sheep are going where you need them to be. Previously, I couldn’t pull him off the line because it was uncomfortable for him to do so.

Ah, I’m probably going to regret sending off the entry for the USBCHA trial, but too late to stop it back now.

The puppies learned to climb stairs this morning! Gosh I’m having so much fun with them. I’m going to miss them when they are gone, but I am looking forward to having more individual time to work with the puppy I am keeping.

A woman came out this weekend to look at Midge. I was considering selling her to someone who was interested only in herding as I am not sure Midge is going to be open to doing anything else. I just e-mailed the woman (who said she would like to buy her while we were together, but I wanted a few days to think about it) and told her that I can’t sell her. I like her too much. If all Midge wants to do is work stock, then that’s all she’ll do. I’d have to look far and wide to find a nicer dog to have around.

Last night I was messing around with Midge with a ball on a rope and I was able to get her to tug some. She’s learning to “hup” over the barrier at the gate of the puppy pen so I’m hoping that will transfer to jumping over jumps. When I start working with the puppy I’m keeping I plan to do a lot of the same foundation work with Midge. Who knows, she may be able to do agility as well.

I used to think that you couldn’t do both USBCHA-style herding and agility (or other “sport”) and that may very well be true; but if all I do in USBCHA is run at the Pro-Novice level, then that’s fine with me. I do not aspire to qualify for the National Finals or even to run at the Open (highest) level. If we ever get there, then fine. If not, it’s fine too. If I had a competent instructor closer than three hours away from me things might be different, but driving three hours, taking a lesson, then driving three hours back is too hard on me and my car. I have to drive just shy of 100 miles round trip to work each day and that’s not going to change. The interesting thing is Gel’s stock work has improved since I’ve started doing agility with him again. Maybe the intense focus that I had on working him on stock was too much for him.

Now, prior to the middle of October, I need to get Gel solid on his weaves and make sure he understands knocking bars is unacceptable.

Success

Last night was one of success. On the way home from work, I stopped at a Goodwill store just outside of Charlotte. I found this cool toddler busy center, a brightly colored soccer ball, several small stuffed animals and a stuffed turtle on wheels. I had stopped looking for a skate board and hoping to find a toddler slide, neither of which I found, but I was happy with my purchases especially since they only cost $14.00.

On the way home I was listening to a book on tape, but I kept hearing strange noises coming from the back of my car. Originally I thought it was on the tape, but soon I figured out one of the toys I bought had sound. When I got home and took out the busy center, I discovered not only did it make noise, but the lights at the top lit up in sequence. How cool!

I brought the puppies into the duck pen to meet the ducks for the first time. They were not interested in herding them (which I didn’t expect at their age) (also because the puppies are not out of open trial dogs so I cannot expect them to have any real herding ability) <sarcasm added>; but they were not afraid of the ducks. They’ve been regularly exposed to cats and they live around the smell of sheep (which is a rather unfortunate side effect of the dry weather, the smell of manure doesn’t go away). An additional benefit of the chain link run that I am using to contain them in the house is that it reeks of sheep and goat because a portion of it was used to fence in Wally’s billy goat and then the ram. We could have washed it off with bleach prior to bringing it into the house, but I think the smell is a good thing. It will help to remind the puppies that they are Border Collies and are supposed to work stock. Got to take every advantage that I can given that they are not out of open trial dogs. <sarcasm added>

Walking with five puppies at your feet is very difficult! Either I’m going to fall and break my neck or I’m going to crush a puppy!

After I put the puppies up, I took Gel and Midge down to bring up the sheep. On the way down there, I noticed farmers loading up old hay bales. Over the past few years, hay production has been more than what was needed so there are many old bales of hay stacked around the perimeter of the pastures. We got the sheep and instead of bringing them up the way they know, we cut through back fields and then went into the field where the farmers were loading the hay. They stopped their work to watch the dogs work. I stopped to talk to them for a while and when I did, the sheep headed for home. There are both advantages and disadvantages to sheep knowing where home is. I sent Gel to stop them and he did about 200 yards away. I lied him down to hold them and continued to talk to the farmers. This is old, moldy hay that they are forced to feed their cattle. The farmer said they put molasses on the hay to encourage the cattle to eat it. I heard on the news this morning that the Governor of North Carolina is going to initiate assistance for the farmers in the state affected by the drought. That’s good news as I expect Wally and I will qualify for assistance. Wally could use two more round bales of hay to get him through the winter. I could use one more. My sheep have almost completely finished off one round bale that they’ve had access to since June. I have one more, but I don’t know that it’s enough to last me the winter.

Anyway, the farmers (there were three of them out there) were very impressed with Gel and Midge’s working ability. They mentioned that they had an Aussie to help them with the cattle, but he didn’t listen as good as my dogs. They asked if I trained my dogs and I told them I trained Gel and that Midge was just starting out in her training. They asked if I’d train their dog for them. I refused of course. I told them that Border Collies are so natural in their abilities that it doesn’t take a lot of ability to teach one to do what Gel can do. While I was standing there talking, I asked Gel to circle around the sheep first to the left and then to the right. I was able to get him to completely circle around the sheep in both directions at about 200 yards away. This is a huge accomplishment for him. I’ve been having a really hard time getting him to come off balance in a fetch. Gel will bring the sheep to my feet, there is no question of that, but in a trial situation, often you need the dog to go off balance to correct the line the sheep have taken. Gel had the tendency to follow the line the sheep took after the lift, which usually wasn’t the line that I needed them to be on to make the fetch panels. I had decided that until I was able to get him to come off balance in a fetch, I wasn’t going to enter him in another USBCHA trial. Yea for Gel! Now all I need to do is to get him more comfortable driving.

This morning I used Gel to bring the sheep down to their grazing area. From where I live we have to push the sheep through an alleyway cut through a section of woods and then go through a ten acre field and again through another alleyway cut into woods. The sheep do not like to go through these alleyways. It is a blind passageway for them and they don’t like it. Gel has to work to push them through both alleyways and then when they go through, they tend to bolt out the other side. Once we get them through the first alleyway, I have Gel drive them through the ten acre field and when we get close to the second alleyway, I let him bring the sheep to me and he pushed them through into the second field and then into the ElectroNet. I am glad that I was able to set my ElectroNet in that pasture as it gives the sheep access to fresh grass and more importantly, it gives my dogs daily work to do.

The puppies had fun with the busy center, crawling through the various openings and pulling on the ball that is tied to the center of the toy. A friend of mine dropped off a wobble board for the puppies and I let them play with it for a little while, but I decided the drop-off from side to side was too severe for the puppies to play on it unsupervised. A puppy could easily get under the board and get crushed by the board coming down. The board will be good for training later on when the puppies are bigger. A wobble board is a piece of plywood, maybe 3 feet by 3 feet with a ball placed underneath, in the middle of the plywood so it wobbles. It introduces the puppy to wobbly and tipsy surfaces in preparation for the agility teeter.

This morning after I checked e-mail, I shut off my computer and came into the room where the puppies are. They were in such cute poses that I grabbed my camera and took these shots and then turned the computer back on to up-load them to pbase. Pyro was sound asleep with her head in a bowl of meat. Inferno was lying on top of the turtle. The photo opportunity was too good to pass up.

The puppies are five weeks old today. I separated the puppies from Midge in their runs for the first time today. Midge is in the run right beside the puppies and they can still see her.

I have several pieces of heavy plastic half tunnels (for lack of a better description). For a short time, my former landlord’s son was in the business of children’s outdoor play equipment. The business didn’t last very long and pieces of the play equipment were tossed out into the woods and left to rot. I picked up the half tunnels with the intention of making a covered mineral feeder for the sheep out of one of the pieces. They are about three feet long and the half tunnel, if placed on the ground would likely be about a foot and a half off the ground. I placed one of them in the run with the puppies in an upside-down position so it would
roll and tip when the puppies got on it. When I left this morning, several of them were playing on it.

Busy Weekend

As always, it was a busy weekend. On Saturday I went to a local agility show and go (fun show) and ran Gel in both a Jumpers and Standard course. A friend of mine went with me to video tape, but darned if the battery for the video camera was not charged. I had it on the charger, but it wasn’t plugged in. Minor detail. Note to self: buy a spare battery.

Gel ran well. He was pumped to be there and his responses to my commands were very, very fast. He knocked a couple of jumps (he was a bit too ramped up) and gave me some trouble with the weave poles (not surprising given I had just finished training weaves when we stopped practicing agility six months ago), but all in all, I was very pleased with his performance.

Got back to the house around 1 or 2:00 and brought the puppies and Midge inside, did some cleaning, played with the puppies and I guess that’s all I did, but I think I’m leaving something out.

Sunday was the real busy day. My friend Wally picked me up around 7:00 and we went for breakfast. While we were at breakfast, we left Midge and Wally’s Border Collie, Kessie, in the fenced-in area to play. After breakfast, we went back to Wally’s house to pick up the small chain link dog run. After loading the run into his truck, we wormed two goats that he bought at the auction this past Thursday, then went out into his large pasture to round up the herd of goats so we could worm the four steer goats. Of course, we could have lured the goats up to the top of the pasture with grain and possibly caught the goats we wanted to worm, but why do that when you have a Border Collie? The back of Wally’s pasture is dense woods and as soon as the goats saw Gel coming towards the pasture, they high-tailed it deep into the woods. Once Gel brought them up to the top of the pasture, we easily caught the four steer goats and wormed them. Gel did his job keeping the goats near us until we were finished.

We headed back to my house with the intention of setting four rolls of ElectroNet fencing down in the back pasture where there was still some green grass. That pasture (about a half mile away) is close to the river and floods whenever there are heavy rains. The close proximity to the river and past floods enabled that section of the property to remain relatively green. We loaded up the ElectroNet and other tools we needed for this project and put all five puppies in a large crate to bring them down with us. Their first vehicle ride was not a smooth car ride on the road. They cried, but they all did fine. Once we got down to where we were going to set the fence, I let the puppies out to run around and play. After playing for a while, they all fell asleep under the truck where it was cool. It took us about an hour to set the fence. Gel and I moved the sheep down to that pasture and then we went to my neighbor’s house (cutting through the back fields) to get their truck which had a water tank on the back. I road in the back of Wally’s truck with the puppies in the crate next to me.

Wally went back to the house to put the puppies in the run (it was getting very hot) while I filled up the water tank, then drove it down to the sheep and filled up their water troughs.

After we were through with that project, went in the house and took down the cattle panels that I had been using to keep the puppies confined and set up the small chain link dog run. It works much better than the cattle panels did. We ended up setting up the run in the living room rather than off the kitchen as that’s where I spend most of my free time. Brought the puppies in the house then went outside to put the dog walk back up. The bloody sheep rub on it and knock it over. The ground is quite uneven where I have it set up so it doesn’t take a lot to knock it over. That took us about a half hour.

Wally went home around 2:00 and went back in the house to do some more cleaning. Then I took a few pictures of the puppies and a video of the puppies playing with a new “toy”: a paper bag. I have been using auto focus on my camera, but this evening when I plan to take more photos, I am going to switch it to manual focus. The camera has difficulty focusing on black puppies and I end up missing more photos than I get waiting for it to focus.

I dug out a tripod that I purchased many, many years ago. I’m glad I didn’t sell it! Now I will be able to set the video camera out on it and video tape training sessions with Gel, Midge and the puppies. I used the tripod to take the video I mentioned above.

I am hoping tonight to construct a wobble board to put in puppy pen for them to play on.

Three of the puppies are scheduled to go to Canada on September&nbsp24. Just 14 more days! The time has flown. It seems like just yesterday they were blind and less than a pound in weight. Their personalities are starting to emerge and they are so much fun to play with! Poor Gel and Midge are being put into the sidelines so I can play with puppies. I am looking forward, however, to having more time to focus solely on Inferno (the puppy I am keeping). I’ve not had the opportunity to be around puppies this age nor have I had a puppy to work with who has had such a good upbringing. I’m looking forward to the experience!

Extremist

Okay, I’ve been dubbed an extremist so in order to make sure that everyone knows of my status,
I’m going to shave my head and then have these two tattoos placed on the front and back of my skull so that everyone will know, coming and going, that I’m anti-vaccination and pro-raw feeding. They won’t even need to read this blog or tell (I should say warn) anyone else about me or my views.

I was asked on a on-line stock dog forum (probably not a good place for me to hang out, as they tend to be extremists) how I could enforce the section of my contract that indicates that my health guaranties will be null and void if the caregiver does not keep the puppy/dog on a home-prepared raw diet. If I saw the dog, I would know if it had been eating kibble or a raw diet. It’s quite obvious to me after over fifteen years of feeding an exclusively raw diet to my cats and now dogs. Kibble-fed, even partially kibble-fed, even dogs feed a commercially prepared raw diet, look and smell different. I suppose if I am an extremist, I shouldn’t get down on them for being extremists should I? Or maybe I should look at it in a homeopathic sense, if like cures like, then if we hang out together we’ll all become easy going, non-confrontational beings. Something to hope for.

Good news, two of the puppies, not sure which ones yet, are going to go to Canada. One is going to a herding/agility home, the other an agility home! That’s a relief. One is staying local and going to an active family home. That leaves just one puppy to find a performance home for.

Fun Times!

Each day the puppies become more active and interested in things other than their mother. Last night I sat outside with them for about an hour. It’s hard to tear myself away from them now. I didn’t even eat supper last night I was so busy with them. Oh to be a puppy exploring the world. Everything is new and exciting.

The new enclosure worked well. This weekend I’m going to build something a little easier to get in and out of and one that will fit better in the area that I’ve put it. For now though, the puppies have an eight foot square enclosure to run and play in. Much more room than they had previously.

Tonight I’m going to set up a potty area in the enclosure and spend some time enticing them to eliminate in that one area. That will make clean up easier.

Hopefully this weekend a local nursing home will be able to get me and the puppies in for a visit. I did that in Boston when I was breeding cats. The residents loved it and it was a wonderful means to socialize the kittens. Gel is much too rambunctious to visit old folks, but Midge will probably go along as well.

Also scheduled for this weekend is an agility show and go. I am looking forward to that. It will be a chance for me to gauge where Gel and I are in our training. I hope to enter him in his first agility trial in October.

Surfaces, People, etc. Exposure Update

The puppies have already been exposed to many different surfaces: linoleum, wood, grass and dirt; they’ve met many different people at home (they haven’t gone off the property yet); they’ve met cats. This weekend I plan to take them to a local nursing home. I often walk around the house banging pots together, I always drop and knock over things making all sorts of noise. They’ve heard the TV and radio, meat grinder of course (the cats respond to that like a can opener). They are now eating two meals of solid food a day and doing well with that. They’ve had welded wire fence (very light) and small pieces of lattice fall on top of them (not in the planned exposure, but oh well). They’ve “rode” in a cat carrier down to the pond; they have been dragged across the floor in a child’s swimming pool; they’ve been transported in and out of the house in various boxes and a laundry basket. When I put their food down for them, I click a clicker several times to expose them to that noise. If all goes well tonight, I plan to start basic clicker training with them.

Alien Abduction

Last night I got home late. There was an accident on the highway that I travel and I sat in traffic for what seemed like forever. I had planned when I got home to reorganize the area where I’ve been keeping the puppies and Midge. It was hard to keep clean and I knew it was only going to be a matter of time before the puppies would be either crawling or pushing over the 2.5 foot lattice that I had been using to keep them confined.

As soon as I got home, I let Midge and Gel out of their runs, checked on the puppies, then ran back in the house to clean and reorganize the puppy area. As soon as I got in the house, the cats converged into the kitchen looking for their dinner. I took the large bowl of ground rabbit out of the refrigerator and put it down for them. I was in a rush to clean and get the puppies in the house and situated. I had planned to start clicker work with them once they were in the house.

Once I got the floor washed, a tarp and then puppy pads laid down I went outside and gathered up the puppies. It was getting dark. Previously, I had been able to carry them all in a bunch in a large litter pan. Well, that doesn’t work now. I’d put one in, grab another and put it in, at the same time, the first one I put in climbed out, then the second climbed out, you get the picture. So I carried them into the house two at a time; put them down in the kitchen and went back out for the rest of them.

Once I had all the puppies in the house, I attempted to fence them into their area. I do not have x-pens. I had hoped I could encircle the area with a large section of welded wire. I had used this wire to encircle the kiddy pool when they were in that. I thought I could make a circle with the wire and clasp it shut. It didn’t work.

Meanwhile, the previously calm, not-too-active puppies were in the process of tearing the house apart. They got into the kitchen and discovered the bowl of rabbit. The cats scattered in all directions wondering where the heck this herd of noisy, short-legged, black and white creatures came from. In the bowl of rabbit, there were several unground pieces that I had saved for Midge. Two of the puppies had removed one of the largest pieces out of the bowl and were in the process of dragging it across the kitchen in tandem, growling and snarling all the while.

Every time I put the puppies into what I thought would hold them, they got out. They were grabbing hold of my pant legs, weaving between my legs, chasing each other around and around in circles, making a mess of my previously well-arranged layers of tarp and puppy pads. Not to mention, the wire that I was trying to use kept tipping over, probably due to puppies sticking their heads through it.

Did I mention it was hot? Even though I had the air conditioning on during the day, I keep it at above 80 degrees, which is comfortable if you are not doing anything, but given that I was trying to corral five rambunctious puppies, I was soon sweating like a pig.

I tried to put up the same arrangement which had kept the puppies confined yesterday (the lattice), but that got tipped over in record time. By the time 8:30 rolled around and I was unable to confine the puppies, I carried them back outside and put them in the run with their mother. I surely didn’t want to do it, but unless I could securely confine them, I had no choice.

I want to know which alien abducted the puppies who were previously so easy to manage and replaced them with a pack of Tasmanian Devils.

This morning I dragged in four sections of cattle panel that were each eight feet long and four feet high. In case you don’t know what cattle panels are, they are one of the most marvelous inventions known to man, right up there with those zip cable ties. Cattle panels are heavy wire with six inch by six inch squares. They work great to make a small enclosure to confine livestock, you can make hoop houses out of them and you can also make puppy confinement pens, if you are creative. Of course the puppies could go through six by six inch holes, but I took the welded wire that I was trying to confine them with last night and attached that wire to the cattle panels with cable zip ties. I then made a square out of the panels and tied them together at all four corners. I figure if cattle panels can hold cattle, they have to be able to hold puppies, even if they have become Tasmanian Devils.

I uploaded a couple of videos of Midge and one of Gel on sheep at Youtube. It’s a darned good thing no one was videotaping me last night as it would have been an excellent video to send on to America’s Funniest Videos show.

More Good News, New Photos and a Video

Got the results today, Gel is Collie Eye Anomaly/Choroidal Hypoplasia (CEA/CH) Normal. This means he will never develop CEA/CH and can be bred to any mate and will produce no pups affected with CEA/CH. Yea ha!!!! No more worries about tests. Gel is free and clear of all genetic diseases common to Border Collies!!!! Happy dance!!!

I put up some photos, but please note some of them are mislabeled as to names of the puppies (heck, they are all black and white!) and I can’t spell forest correctly. Too much to do, too little time. Processing photos and videos takes a good amount of time. I have more videos to upload, but here’s one of the puppies experiencing their first “challenge.” I hate the degradation in quality of on-line videos!