Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Time to raise the bar!

I pretty much know what I am doing with working my dogs, but since I was almost on my own in California for years, what I thought looked good to me, really wasn't correct.  What the hell!  LOL

I have lots of options for training here in the PNW, for lessons and clinics (as long as the funds hold out).  I am now working with Maggi McClure.  Oh my gosh, I came away with NEW knowledge after our first lesson.  Today I had my 2nd lesson on Vashon Island.  I learned that I need to RAISE the BAR on what I expect from my dogs.  But, first you have to SEE it:  whether they are correct or not.  That's half my problem.  I'm always so happy that they try to do what I TELL them to do,  I don't require above and beyond mediocre.  I haven't been allowing them to THINK on their own.  Now, we are training Suzanne to SEE more clearly, EXPECT more, and ASK (not order) my dogs to figure it out, correcting them only when they are wrong.

I am going to try to train my dogs at least 3 times a week.  They have been getting into the top third of the placings at most the trials with some well known handlers and dogs.  I would guess most of these handlers work their dogs daily and sometimes twice daily.  I am pleased with my dog's work, but I know they can do even better!  You just don't stop LEARNING in this sport;  that's what makes it so addictive.

Muscle memory (CORRECT muscle memory) plays a big part of them being able to be consistent at the trials.  So, they need more training time than I have been giving them.  Time and money....hahaha.
The partnership with my dogs when we go to the post is the highlight of my retired years now.  They can't wait to work.  Plus, the fun and social aspect is the BEST.  So many different walks of life accompany their dogs to the post.  It is really intriguing to say the least to get to know the stories, the lives, of those that are involved in sheep trials.

So, that's where I am today.  Traveling up and down the coast trialling.  In 2 weeks I will be in Scio, Oregon and a week later, in Cottage Grove, Oregon.  It's possible that Champ may have enough points to attend the National Finals in Alturas, California, but I really don't think he and I are ready.  I'm still mulling it over.  Hate to miss a finals almost in your backyard :0)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Mohawk Valley runs

I was fairly pleased with both Yoko's and Champ's runs.  I trust Champ completely, but Yoko makes me a bit nervous.  But, now I am over my ego of being embarrassed by her, I think we are moving on.  I think Jeanne said she is, "quirky."  I think that is a good adjective to use.  It's like people.  Mensa (high IQ) type people are usually a little OCD with quirky type personalities.  That's the class I would put Yoko in.  She is brilliant, but very quirky.  If a fly lands on her or if she even hears someone mention a fly, she almost has a seizure.  A stockdog that can't handle flies?  Oh my.  She is a "food-a-holic."  She will eat anything.  No way can we use anything toxic around here (not that I would want to) but you never know what Yoko will eat.  Many times she has heeled the sheep away from their set out pan of grain to gobble it down for herself (on her outrun, no less).  Now, she is having a little phobia about the top and lift.  I think she understands I don't want her to grip at the top if the sheep don't move immediately off of her.  But, she is worried.  She is 7 years old now.  I haven't seen her use her teeth of late.  But, I'm not sure what she was doing up at the top at the Mohawk Valley trial on day one.  I think she got to the lift and took a crap.  Now you laugh, but I don't think anyone could see that far.  She probably thought WTH, I'll give them some time to make their move.  Oh Yoko!  Day two, she was tentative at the top and they blew off into the trees to the left.  Instead of quickly balancing them to me, she followed them along the tree line.  I couldn't see her or them but after about 4 rather FAST away whistles she appeared with the sheep.  At least she didn't eye them up or bite them.  But, if I can get the top fixed, she would probably be in the money.  Sheep like her and she is listening to all of her whistles quite well now.  She is a brilliant farm dog.  At the pen, I don't have to give any flank commands.  I just use a low shhh shhh and let her decide what she needs to do.  She knows the job.  Same on the shed.  I expect my dogs to know where to put themselves as far as the pen and the shed are concerned.  Champ still needs some assist at the pen to stay off of them.  He's still too pushy.  Yoko had a moment on Fido's big field where she was queen for a day with a 94 out of 100.  It was a smoker run.  I know she has it in her.

So maybe this why I have a problem with some of the replies on the Novice and Beyond list when I mentioned Champ is a cheating SOB on his stops just like his mother.  I got all of this, "He doesn't understand his job" answers.  Sorry, NOT believing that for a minute.  He knows his job.  If I asked him to pick up a quarter off the sidewalk, he would know what I was asking.  Jet came with a stop on the dime.  Part of it is the dog, I'm pretty sure.  Yes, handling plays into it, too.  I'm not a tough handler.  Probably not tough enough.  Plus, I don't have livestock.  We only work in a 4 acre field a few times a week and he takes his stops quite fine there :0)  He would not take my down whistles 50% of the time or he cheated on them at Mohawk Valley.  He did take some "Take time" whistles though and he is not hard to handle.  He's a team player....just need a better stop.  Plus, he needs to square up his flanks on the fly.  I was very happy with his Saturday run.  He was first up and his score didn't reflect his nice run.  C'est la vie.  Sunday he had a bit of an easier time at the top.  I stopped him on Sat. at the top which I never should have done.  Sunday I let him pick them up how he thought was best.  He is a bit too mechanical at the top. He is pretty darn trustworthy to treat the sheep nicely.  He DQ'ed on Sunday in the shed ring after a respectable run.  He had a psychotic black face that wanted to go home.  He finally got pissed off and popped her one on the nose.  The judge and I both thought it was warranted.  He is very patient, and thankfully, he has his mother's moxey.  But, I should have known that his endorphins were running on high after the grip.  I juggled the sheep around in the shed ring so the psychotic one was with the group I didn't want.  I brought him in on the two white faced sheep.  But, I wasn't on my toes.  He shot in like a rocket and grabbed a Not-So-Nice grip as close to the head as he could get and hung on.  He deserved a thank-you.  It only made me laugh.  Hey, he is 3 yrs. old and I better sharpen up my handling skills!

Long ass drives, but necessary to get both of dogs out to the trials for experience.  I have heard some people complain about so and so trial has bad sheep, etc.  This is my take on it.  I expect my dogs to work anything in almost any type of condition.  I don't want perfect conditions.  The great thing about Mohawk Valley is that it was challenging.  We are always looking for a good time and when we can get into the winner's circle or with some placings, or even just get around nicely without any drama, hip hip hooray!  Onward and upward!

The fur kids having fun at Mohawk Valley

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Go to the light

Saturday I went to the Dungeness spit.  There was a flier in the Visitor information Center that said, "See the lighthouse (no hiking involved).  I was already aware that it is a 12 mile round trip hike from the parking lot at the recreation area and thought I'd get a free ride out to the lighthouse.
The joke was on me and others.  They made a model lighthouse and had it at the entrance of the Dungeness spit wildlife area.  Yup, no hiking involved.  Hey, not very funny.  When I talked to one of the volunteers at the wildlife refuge about it he said, "If it seems to be too good to be true, well....."  Correct-a-mundo.

I started down the path with a small fanny pack that housed my truck keys, kleenex, chapstick, and one small lollipop.  Once I walked the steep paved hill down to the beach, it was so lovely that I just kept walking.  Walking and walking and walking.  When I began to tire I told myself that I must be half way there and I shouldn't be a 'weenie' and turn back.  And, walking and walking.  Still no lighthouse to be seen.  I kept thinking I would see it around the next bend.  Nope.  All I saw were seagulls and more seagulls.

The good thing was that I actually had hiking boots and thin wool socks on with my bermuda shorts and short sleeved T-shirt.  Hiking boots and shorts truly make me a Pacific North Westerner :)  I really had no intention of doing 12 miles, but it was so gorgeous outside, I just kept going.  It was about 52 degrees when I started and probably about 55 degrees when I was through hiking some 5 hours later.  I was never cold and actually wished I had brought a bandana with me to keep the sweat out of my eyes.  55-60 degrees with the mild humidity here is the absolute perfect temperature for me.

The water of the Strait of San Juan De Fuca was crystal clear.  And, I have to tell you even though I didn't see any wildlife other than sea gulls, the beach was pristine.  Not even a bottle cap.  Not one piece of trash anywhere.  Yea.  The water for about 100 yards had a familiar emerald green glow to it like the Caribbean. So, I kept walking, walking, walking.  I kept walking and thinking.  Once in awhile I would climb the mass piles of gorgeous driftwood to look to the east over the Dungeness bay.  The driftwood separated the view from the bay to the west to the strait.  Beautiful view of my Canadian friends from the strait.

Even though my left instep was starting to be a bit painful and my right hip was grating bone against bone from the slant of the beach and the rocks I was trying not to walk on in the sand, I kept plugging away.  I finally ran into a couple strolling the other way (back to the refuge) and they told me "Only about another 40 minutes and I would be there, at the lighthouse.  It felt like I had already walked 10 miles, but there in the distance I could now see the lighthouse.  I felt like Dorothy (without Toto) looking at the Land of OZ!  Only, 40 more minutes.  Heck, I could do that.  God knows, I'm a Capricorn and not a quitter!

The Dungeness lighthouse on the world's largest spit.
spit or sandspit is a deposition bar or beach landform found off coasts. It develops in places where re-entrance occurs, such as at cove's headlands, by the process of longshore drift and longshore currents.

I had looked into becoming a volunteer lighthouse keeper a few days before my massive hike (massive for me, anyways).  I wanted to know more about it.  The best way to find out was to go see it in person :)  Even though my bones were aching and creaking I kept trudging away with my ankle once in awhile rolling painfully under me from walking in the sand.

All photos I had to take with iPhone since I hadn't planned on hiking and left my camera at the house.  I took a lot of photos, but my camera battery lasted until about the last mile before it died. Really, I almost didn't want to hike right up to the lighthouse door I was so tired, but I made myself do it.  I'm glad I did, except for the zillion steps up to the top of the lighthouse.  One step at a time.  I didn't even know it was open to the public to walk up there.  A lighthouse keeper was at the top.  I didn't know that either until I heard a voice from above.  I knew it wasn't God...haha.  I was taking one step at a time huffing and puffing.  The voice above said, "Keep going, not much further."  I laughed and replied, "You can hear me puffing."  I finally made it to the top with a spectacular view.

The volunteer lighthouse keeper filled me with information about the Dungeness spit and the graveyard spit that has formed off of it.  She told me lots of stories.  Everyday she has seen Orcas.  I watched carefully where the gulls were feeding out at sea, but didn't see any Orcas.  There are 4 volunteers at a time in a house next to the lighthouse.  It's not free.  You pack your food and clothes and they trek you out in a 4 wheeler for a week at a cost of $350.  That's a good money maker for the Wildlife refuge.  They are booked solid for a year.  You do the math.  $350 X 4 each week :)

I personally would rather go in the winter to see up close first hand the winter storms, plus, I'd have a lot less hikers coming through to see the lighthouse.  After about 15 minutes at the top I started the stairs down.  I asked if I could go down on my butt (I have no shame), but I was assured it would be easier to go down backwards.  Funny, the older I get, the more acrophobic I get.  I went really slowly down. One step, one step....I was really thankful for the water fountain they had.  They should keep some candy bars on hand for diabetics.  But, I guess if you were diabetic and hiking 12 miles, you probably would pack for that long of a hike.  Not be like me.  But that itsy bitsy lollipop I had in my fanny pack tasted damn good after slurping down some water from the fountain.

I sat on a bench outside of the lighthouse yard and sucked on my lollipop. Then I decided I better start the 6 mile trek back.  I reminded myself of a barn sour horse wanting to get back to the barn as fast as possible.  Though, I can guarantee you I wasn't running, just walking quickly.
Like magic, the fog rolled in so thick that I could barely see 25 feet in front of myself.  I saw a few late hikers going towards the lighthouse.  I wondered what sort of view, if any, they would have when they arrived.  I walked over to the piles of driftwood to see if the Dungeness bay side was a shorter route than the strait side.  LOL  Nope.  But, I did find a cool sculpted driftwood cross.  It would be perfect for Jet's grave site.  He loved walking on the beach with me.  And, thankfully it was lighter than the beach rocks that I had already picked up stuffing in my shorts pockets and fanny pack. About an hour later the fog rolled back out and it was crystal clear.  Amazing.  At one point, I stopped, looked to the Heavens, arms out stretched, palms up, thanked the Lord and said hi to my Mom and Dad above.  I knew they were watching and in full approval :)

All the way back I kept thinking about ordering Chinese food take-out as soon as I got back to my truck and got my phone recharged.  Truly, I think it was the only thing that kept me putting one foot in front of the other.  Because now, I was getting really sore.  I leaned forward as I walked trying to tuck my butt under to take the strain off my back.  It isn't easy getting older.  The thought of a cushy couch, Chinese food and a large glass of merlot kept me trudging along.  Finally, I could see the bluff where I began my insane moment of going for a brief hike that turned into the grueling 12 mile hike.  I knew I had a steep hill to climb (about 3/4 mile) back to my truck.  Thankfully, from clomping up and down my own steep driveway and hill my legs are in pretty good shape.

I did stop on a bench for a few minutes half way up the hill.  I met a nice Indian man with his father who was visiting him from India.  This was his first time West of Seattle.  He was amazed that I hiked out to the lighthouse.  I probably looked like death warmed over. haha  But, it still made me feel good that I left him in disbelief.  He wanted to know everything about how long it took me, etc.  He found it hard to believe that I had no intention of hiking that distance.  It was just such a gorgeous day, I kept on going :0)

View from the bench

Thought I best have my picture taken with Big Foot as I arrived to the parking lot.  I didn't have anyone else to greet me.
Kind of resembles my husband anyway.  LOL

I made it to Dynasty for my Chinese food.  Must have been a new cook.  It wasn't as good as usual.  Got home.  I barely could get my weak legs out of the car to walk up to the door.  My dogs were looking at me very oddly since I was walking very strangely to them.  I ate. I drank.  I took an 800 Motrin.  I found 2 expired Lidocaine patches, one for my left instep and one for my right hip after taking a Lavender Epsom Salts hot bath.  When I went to bed I put a heat pack under each hip.  Yowser,  I was hurting.  Come morning, I was almost good as new.  Thank-you Lord.  I did it :0)

Wayne is a little worried that I am making a shrine out of Jet's gravesite.  It's at the back of the garden. So?  It brings me joy.  What is more important?  I like his driftwood cross and new beach rocks that I brought him.  I still talk to him all of the time.
Best Dog Ever :0)

Friday, June 19, 2015

On the Go!

I'm on the GO!  I'm afraid I might miss something. There is so much to do and see here.  Good thing I keep a monthly desk calendar and a weekly calendar on the refrigerator.  Among training for sheep trials, lessons, sheep trials, volunteering, the breakfast club, the photography club, and trying to keep the acreage (gardens) weeded....Phew!  This retirement is a FULL time job.

As long as my health holds out, I am blessed with wealth.  Not the $$ type of wealth, but blessed with by where I live, my neighbors, my friends, etc.  There just seems like so much to do and so little time.  But, I do take time to smell the roses and weed the roses.  Speaking of roses, I found three wild roses growing in strange places that I dug up and transplanted today.  That was a workout.  My house is sitting on clay.  If we have an earthquake, this house isn't going to move.  Damn, clay is hard to dig!

I got Champ and Yoko in an Oregon trial in June and another one in Oregon in July.  The end of July Wayne is taking care of the home front here for a couple of weeks while I go to Alaska.  The breakfast club is looking forward to seeing him again and so are the neighbors.  Plus, it will be crabbing time and I purchased him all the gear he needs last Christmas.  But, I do have a bit of a Honey-do list for him, too.  I'm trying to keep it at a minimum so he can have a bit of a vacation, too.

I planned my Alaska cruise so I wouldn't miss La Camas.  Bummer.  La Camas was cancelled and I am missing two very big trials, one including the 90 Farms trial.  Oh well...you can't win them all.  My trip is already paid for including the 3 side excursions.  My girlfriend and I leave the end of July to spend a few nights at the Westin in Vancouver before cruising the inside passage.  After the cruise we are taking a train ride through Alaska for a few days.

I have already found out a wealth of information about Sequim/Dungeness Valley by becoming a volunteer at the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Information center.  I work on Wednesday mornings so it won't interfere with my weekend sheep trialling.  They have lots of alternates that can sub for you (like when I am in Alaska).

I'm already looking at where I want to go on the 4th of July.  Last year I camped on the Elwah River (part of the National Park).  I may try a different place this year.  I know I don't want to stay in Sequim because they do it up BIG time with fireworks here.  I probably should stay in the National Park where NO fireworks are allowed.  When Hiroko was visiting we checked out a campground just inside the park.  It has over 100 sites.  I'll head out on the 3rd and stay until the 5th.

The end of August my brother and his wife are coming for a visit from Texas.  I hope they will stay for more than just a few days.  They are on a 6 week drive across the country vacation.  They will be coming up the coast and around the the western most point of Washington before arriving here.  I can't wait to see them.  I hope I can ESP the Elk in for a visit while they are here!

Busy, Busy, Busy....But, that's how I like it :0)