Wally and I have decided that we’d like to be able to do sheepdog demos every day of the week. We had such a good time yesterday.
After doing the morning demo, which was relatively uneventful, we came back to the house, did a few chores, took showers and went to visit his mother. While we were visiting, I got a call from the owners of the Christmas Tree Farm telling us they were swamped with people and now would be a good time to do a demo. We said our good byes to Wally’s mother, made a quick stop at Harris Teeter to get food for supper and headed back to pick up the dogs.
At Harris Teeter, I got the bargain of a lifetime: a 18 pound Bell & Evans (organic) turkey for just a little over $10.00. It originally retailed for over $60.00. I’ll cook it on Monday. The sell-by date is Monday so hopefully it will still be okay to eat. If not, then the dogs will enjoy it.
We got the dogs and headed over to the Christmas Tree Farm. As we were getting ready to turn into the driveway, four vehicles turned in ahead of us. Yes, I guess they were busy. Wally let me off at the top of the hill with Gel to pick up the sheep. As I came up the driveway, I saw that there was about 30 vehicles parked and well over 100 people milling around. As I came into view with the flock of almost 50 sheep with Gel keeping them together they all but cheered with delight.
I brought the sheep into the clearing near the fence where the goats are fenced and Wally got a few loaves of bread to hand out. Almost all of the children and their parents who were there came over to mingle with the sheep and feed them bread. Gel worked his tail off keeping the sheep in place. Many of them know the bread routine and would have stayed with us for as long as there was bread to eat, but the younger sheep do not know the routine and wanted to go on to parts unknown.
I have to give Gel a lot of credit for all he did there. For him to keep his head on work with all of those excited children and adults was amazing. Gel is a social butterfly and as I’ve said before, Gel works sheep to please me. He’d much rather retrieve sticks and visit with people. Not once did I see him even look at a human. He worked the sheep. Several times it got loud and confusing with all of the people and sheep milling around and I saw Gel rear up on his hind legs to see where I was so he could keep the sheep to me. What a good dog.
The demos went well. I think Gel finally has the driving down. For the first time that I’ve had the course set, I was able to make the cross drive panels. Even though I set the course, I didn’t take the time to walk it to find landmarks so I could more easily make the panels so I was doing it almost blindly. I can tell, however, that Gel has figured out that I want him to put the sheep through the panels. In addition, I can see I’ve been working a lot on driving in his outruns. Several times he buzzed in on the sheep; something he normally doesn’t do.
Until now, I’ve never really practiced penning; remember, I just set up that pen. It’s been in storage for over a year until now. No wonder why I rarely got pens when I was trialing. As a result of this, our sheep are not at all pen broke so we have to work to get them in. My pen is smaller than what I’d be trialing in so it’s a bit more tricky. Again, I can see Gel is figuring out the mechanics of penning. What I need to do with him is to slow him down and get his movements more precise than how he usually works.
Both Fern and Split worked well. We had the ram in one group and he got ornery and started turning and charging Split. Being the accommodating little dog that she is, I saw her think to herself, okay, if you don’t want to play, then I’ll just leave you behind and work the rest of the sheep. I know this isn’t a good idea, but I could see the wheels turning as she tried to figure out what to do with a charging ram. Finally I asked Wally to let Gel off his line and I called him in and told him to grip the ram the next time he charged. That changed the ram’s mind and he worked well for the rest of the session.
When we were through with the demos, I used Fern to bring the sheep back down to where they are fenced. Again, we had to weed through a crowd of people. Not near so many, but it was still pretty busy. Fern handled it well. You can see how proud she is of herself when she does a good job. She all but pranced back after we put the sheep up.
Yesterday, we sold one lamb to be processed. Given the price we quoted, we will be taking a loss on the lamb, but hopefully it will bring in more customers last year. Wally gave away quite a few business cards as I did demos.
Many of these people drive up from Charlotte and I’m sure most of them have never seen a Border Collie work. Several people asked me how I trained the sheep to listen to the whistles. I told them it wasn’t the sheep that were listening to the whistles, but the dog. Apparently, some of them never saw Gel working, they just saw the sheep moving and heard my whistles.
We couldn’t get sheds on the smaller groups of sheep. That’s okay, we’ll keep on practicing. My goal in our first Open run is to get the sheep around the course and pen them. Shedding will come in due time. Since I won’t be entering Fern in the upcoming trial, I might enter Gel on both days. We’ll see.
Today we are driving up to Boone to meet some of Wally’s relatives for brunch. It will be a relatively quick visit because we need to get back to do an afternoon demo and then move the fence.
It has been a lovely four day weekend. We didn’t get as many chores done as I wanted to, but we’ve had a wonderful time sharing our lives (the dogs, sheep and goats) with other people.
Until later …