And then there were two.

I’m down to two puppies, Inferno (who is staying with me) and Heatwave (who is going to a local home when he’s nine to ten weeks old). I shipped Scorch and Torch to Detroit, Michigan where they were picked up by a friend (who will remain anonymous. I haven’t had much time to talk to her since she’s picked up the puppies, but in the brief time I did talk to her, she raved about their temperaments and vitality. I’m glad she’s happy with them. While my friend originally wanted a female, and Scorch has had My friend’s name on her from the beginning, she said she was going to have a hard time deciding as they were both such nice puppies. My friend is very, very committed to natural rearing and I totally enjoy our conversations both via e-mail and on the telephone. There are very few people I feel such a connection to, my friend Sheryl who breeds Australian Shepherds is another such individual. There are so few people who can truly appreciate an animal that is essentially a clean slate thanks to good rearing practices.

My friend will find an appropriate performance home for which ever puppy she elects not to keep. She’s got several people lined up waiting to look at the puppy, all of which are natural rearing homes. The puppy will not go to a kibble-feeding, vaccinating home. It was pre-arranged that my friend would get to work with two different puppies and decide which one she felt was the best fit for her and then get the second in a performance home. I am perfectly comfortable with my friend screening potential homes.

Saturday night I brought Gel, Midge and the two puppies to my agility class with me. During my down time with Gel, I worked with Midge doing one jump drills. She’s doing well. On October 20 I’ll start a beginner class with Midge. I’m looking forward to that. Midge is going to be very different from Gel.

The puppies were completely unconcerned about being in a strange place with strange dogs running around; the noise didn’t bother them a bit. They traveled well too.

Gel ran well during the class. It is interesting that as he has matured, he pays more attention to what happens to him during a class vs. being an air head. He has become much more focused; while he’s always been a biddable, honest dog, he has his independent moments. During my lesson with him while at Bon-Clyde last Sunday he slipped off the teeter. There was dirt on the surface of the teeter and Gel had a good amount of hair between his paw pads (which is now removed) which interfered with his traction. This past Saturday, he flew off the teeter (meaning he leaped off it before the teeter landed on the other side), which he’s never done before. When I asked him to take the obstacle a second time, he refused. I’m sure he was remembering how he slipped off the teeter while at Bon Clyde; just as he’s remember how I shocked him when asking him to come to my left side. Even now he flinches when I ask him to come to my left side; but comes to my right side without hesitation. I think Gel is starting to care more about what he’s doing, which is a good thing.

On Sunday we sorted the adult ewes from the lambs and loaded them up to take them to my friend Wally’s house to be bred. That was not any easy project. I do not have any type of sorting equipment and we were not using a conventional trailer but a large wire (panel) cage on an open trailer. The Dorper ewes were the most difficult to catch and load as they must weigh close to 200 pounds a piece. After unsuccessful attempts at catching the adult ewes (using Gel to keep the sheep close to the trailer), we made a type of chute by backing the trailer parallel to the fence and used the gate to the paddock as a means to stop the sheep from running through. Gel had to push them through the “chute” so Wally and I could catch one of the adult ewes and then load it. We could only catch one at a time so Gel had to round the sheep up after they ran through the “chute” and bring them back through again. It didn’t take long for Gel to figure out his “job” or for the sheep to figure out that they didn’t want to go through the chute which made Gel’s job harder.

It is impossible to back the trailer up to the paddock and load them that way. Wish we had considered that prior to placing the gate, but oh well. In the past, we’ve loaded goats and lambs by having Gel keep them close to the trailer, but given their size, the ewes were too hard to keep hold of. I can grab and hang on to a small goat or lamb, but not a 100-200 pound ewe.

We managed to catch and load the nine ewes without injury to anyone. Now I have twelve lambs at my house for working. I hate working lambs … but it will be good practice.

Gel and Midge are entered in a herding trial at Red Creek Farm in South Carolina on Saturday, but I’m on the fence as to whether I want to go or not. I haven’t spent much time working either dog, partially due to my time being taken up raising puppies, but also due to the heat. It’s been too bloody hot to work dogs or sheep. It is a two and half to three hour drive down there for two less-than-five minute runs, somehow it doesn’t seem worth it to me. If I was confident that both dogs were ready for the trial, it would be a different story. I’ll see how I feel towards the end of the week. Now that it’s cooled off nicely, we’ve lost daylight, which will prevent training after work. I usually don’t get home until around 6:30 and the sun sets a little after 7 these days. This has been a difficult but enlightening four months.

More later …