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.