Thursday, November 01, 2012

Dogs - Sheep Out - Kate Turns On

First off, thanks for all the kind comments about Archie. We all are adjusting to life here on the farm without him. Winston is adjusting too and we are going to try it for awhile with only one guard dog. I on the other hand am thinking about all of you out there without power, trying to get through your own Sandy recovery. Stay safe. Nature is a beautiful thing but can be downright wild and dangerous. A good lesson for everyone to learn. We can't tame it.

It has been a pretty doggy month here. When I went away to Detroit, Phoebe our 13 1/2 year old Border Collie took a bad turn. When I got home, I thought we were going to lose her. It was a worrisome couple of weeks but she seems to have recovered from whatever it was that was making her feel bad. Dogs unfortunately don't live forever and we take a rather holistic approach as our dogs age. Every day is a gift with her. She is my shadow and I am really happy she is able to get outside again, down around the chicken pen, and into my studio to sleep at my feet while I work.

Phoebe in my studio. Photo by Rikki Snyder via Houzz

The other day, one of our ewe bands of sheep escaped. This is a rather normal occurrence which has to be dealt with pretty quickly. The sheep escape for a number of reasons - usually it has to do with something happening with the electric fencing. Trees falling down, deer knocking down wires, or the battery running out of power. Sometimes getting the sheep back in is a 2 person job, depending on the location of said fence. The other day, I was needed to block the road so that the sheep would go into the field they were supposed to be in and not head down the road to the next town. I took Kate for the experience. She has just turned one and although she is extremely athletic and seems to have talent, she hasn't been overly eager to start working as a herding dog. Chickens are one thing, sheep another. 

We stood where we were supposed to and waited. Then the sheep came.

Just by us being there, the sheep turned in where they were supposed to go. 

Then I let go of her leash to see what she would do. There were two possibilities - she would either run the other way or she would move towards the sheep. She moved towards the sheep.

Nessie, our working Border Collie, and Kate held them until the humans could catch up. 


We all moved the sheep towards their electronet pasture. Nessie flew over the fence and we lifted Kate in because the fence was on and we didn't want her to get freaked out by getting shocked. We let her go and honestly, it was like a light bulb had been turned on in her head. She started circling the sheep, just like Border Collies are supposed to do. 

We stood there watching. Amazed. We took her leash off and watched some more.

She kept circling them, the sheep responding. She went both ways - both clockwise and counter clockwise. This is a big thing because some dogs only like to work in one direction.


She didn't scatter the sheep crazily, nor dive and bite. 


The Farmer and I went home pretty amazed. We had thought she was going to be a good working dog but we didn't want to push her until she was ready. She is now definitely ready. We have a lesson scheduled with Becky Peterson who is a local sheep farmer and who trials Border Collies. Can't wait to see how that goes. 


Adaliza said...

Wow - great to hear about Kate doing so well. Did you hear about the collie in the UK that sold at auction for £8,400! We've been looking at Belle in a new light and no longer is Himself saying she looks as though she's been 'designed by committee'! Wonderful to see that instinct coming through so strong. Do keep us posted with her training. Love to Phoebe too!

Cathy said...

Way to go Kate!!! Again, thanks for sharing your life with us.

Robin Allen said...

That's so wonderful that Kate has understood/embraced her calling! I love the perfect synchronicity of the natural order of things.

sally said...

Thanks for the pictorial play by play. You Go Kate!

Kathy said...

That was a really cool post! I love learning about working dogs...the pictures are great. Glad that the switch flipped for Kate!

Elaine said...

Hurrah for Kate and best wishes for Phoebe. I feel badly for Winston and your family.

Anonymous said...

I don't know anything about farming or sheep and I love your blog. It takes me into another fabulous way of life.
What is that black stuff/spots all over the sheep in this post?

lisaj @ ravelry

linda bowton said...

this was so inspiring to see/read that Kate 'took' to her calling!!! reminds me of when i was trying to potty-train my new ShihTzu was not going very well. her 'cousin' Zoey came over for a visit and we took them for a walk... watching Zoey potty during the walk was all it took to learn what/how to do it outside!! best wishes to all your dogs!!
^)^ linda

Anita said...

I loved this story and havectoldvalotvofpeople, being extra fond of border collies myself. Can't wait to hear how her lesson goes.

Anita said...

Bad typo in the last comment. I was trying to say that I told a lot of people about little Kate kicking into gear.