My view from the milk stool is long delayed. This has been a very emotional week. I thought I’d get a break from it this morning, but alas, no.
I’ve been thinking nonstop about a lot of things – Border Collies, training dogs, farming, writing, photography, etc. My mind has been essentially a blur. Do you think I’ve taken any time to sit my butt in my chair and write anything down? No. It’s not like I haven’t written – I’m forced to write three days out of the week for the paper. I should take more joy in it – and I do for some stories, but unfortunately because I am the newsroom at this point, I’ve had to write on topics I’d rather not.
On Monday, I took Katie to a lesson, and she was a jerk. I went to the lesson all excited thinking my teacher would see a big difference in Katie and me as a team. Wrong. Katie blew me off right and left and nothing was accomplished in this lesson except to know that we’ve got to go back to the drawing board. Unfortunately work, not feeling well and heat has kept me away from doing much training.
Also on Monday, I had to read the workshop piece that I had written for one of my classes. I could have written on a lot of things, but instead I chose to write on my relationship with Gel. I sent the initial draft to my teacher, and she gave constructive criticism, which threw me for a loop. I thought about it, took her advice which was to weave in my fight with alcohol.
It’s still not a good piece. I had a hard time reading it Monday night. I broke down crying several times. My relationship with Gel wasn’t as it could have been because I was still drinking. I missed out on a potential relationship with a lot of other dogs because I was still addicted to drinking.
I’ve thought a lot about how it was essentially because of Gel I became a farmer and met Wally. That’s special because both of those things are an important part of my life. I told my teacher later on in the week that I know there’s something I’m supposed to be doing as a writer (and maybe a photographer) but I still wasn’t sure what that was.
I had an interview with a man on Wednesday who bought what was once a plantation. We talked about the agrarian aspects of that plantation – how at one time the farm produced most of what the family consumed. Much of it on the backs of slave labor, but that’s another topic. I reality it’s still happening. We eat in large part because of immigrant labor. Those agrarian skills are both underappreciated and being lost.
When Wally and I lived on Herter Road and had a good-sized flock of sheep, goats, pigs, cows, etc. we relied on Gel. We used him to bring the animals up at night, move them to where they needed to be moved, etc. The livestock was not there just to train Gel. They were there because we relied on them for food.
We purchased the sheep we have now to train Katie, however, they are still first and foremost livestock that we will in time consume. Not the adult sheep, but the lambs that they produce. If it’s hot, I’m not going to work them because it’s not kind to the sheep or the dog. I’m not going to allow Katie, or any other dog, to abuse them – that’s why we don’t allow Jack (our other Border Collie) anywhere near them. He may cause them harm.
The utilization of a dog to move livestock is an ancient art. It’s not done a whole lot now. Of course, there are ranches that have sheep, cattle, etc. that use dogs, but not as much as it was once done. It’s instead become a sport – and there’s nothing wrong with that. I simply choose to look at it as an offshoot of farming.
When I was milking 13 goats when we lived on Herter Road, I’d open the gate from where the goats had spent the night and let two out into the milk room. Gel would wait at a separate gate, which was open. When I was through milking, I’d push the two goats out and he’d bring them into the section he was holding. This went on until I was through milking all the goats and then he’d move them out to pasture. It was useful and unless you’ve had a dog that is that handy, you don’t know what you’re missing. I sure wish I could use Katie to do something similar, but she doesn’t quite have the presence that Gel had.
I saw a video on one of the Border Collies for sale lists where they showed a video of a dog that did something similar with dairy cattle. The dog was trained to go slow so that the cows wouldn’t hurry and potentially slip on the concrete. The dog weaved in and out of the bars and the legs of the cattle and gently pushed them out. It was amazing.
We have a little boy coming today with his mother who had to have open heart surgery. He was adopted from India where he was in an orphanage. If he wasn’t adopted and had this surgery, he would have died. Some portions of the heart repair were from a cow. He loves animals. I asked his mother if he’d like to come here to see the goats, etc. and she thought he would. I’ll be doing a story on him. It’s this kind of story that I love writing. I don’t care to write about new developments taking over farmland, court battles over masks, vaccination fights, etc., etc. especially when I share them on Facebook the comments are ugly and abusive.
It’s been a long hard haul through COVID and it’s nowhere near over. I want to hide from Facebook and all the hate slinging. I want to envelope myself in figuring out what it is that I’m supposed to be doing with what gifts I may have. It’s hard to stay clear of it because unfortunately there’s a whole lot of obsessive thinking going on in my mind right now. Most of it is not good. Hopefully I’ll find some peace.