Monday, May 31, 2010

Pigs and Roses

The three new piglets came home yesterday. One is mostly black, one white with black spots all over him, the other mostly red, a few black spots. These are Tamworth/Berkshire crosses. The Berkshire sow was black, and the Tamworth sire was the traditional Tamworth red.

I was concerned whether the younger boys would get along with their older and larger brothers. No problem. The two sets of piglets took to each other immediately and now I have a little herd of happy pigs.

They have been hanging out along the lower fence under some wild roses for shade. It made a pretty picture.

When pigs fly...

They decided that me following them around with the camera, staring at them all the while, was quite creepy. The little ones either ran, or hid behind their older big red half brothers.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Matter of Trust

We went for a long swim today. I live on the edge of a pond and take my kayak out with them, making triangular laps around the pond, about 11 minutes of swimming per lap with a brief touch to shore in 2 places along the way. By the end of the summer they are swimming 30-40 minutes a day.

Today we did 2 laps for the first time this year. Gust is not a well established swimmer yet, so I pull her into the kayak when she gets worried, something I've done with all the youngsters until they get their confidence for the longer stretches. To get her in the boat I just hoist her across my lap with the handle on the life vest. She's a remarkably trusting little creature. She lays there with her chest across my legs, waist over the edge of the boat, and back legs completely relaxed and trailing in the water.

Watching her gazing about contentedly, laying completely relaxed where I had plopped her, I thought about the trust she puts in me. She has always been a trusting dog. I find it an endearing quality, perhaps only because it makes caring for her easier. I have had other dogs where I had to work hard to earn their trust, and under duress they tended to look to their own plans. Rhyme was the most independent dog I ever had, and the dog I worked hardest to build trust with. For the first year of her life I was nothing but the "puppy police", thwarting her desires. She was stung by a wasp out working one day. I called her to me to swat it off. She took off for the van, running right past me. That same summer Cato and Dare ran through a yellow jacket nest and were covered with stinging bugs. I called them and they raced to me without hesitation despite the fact that they were being actively stung. I was able to swat off the nasty beasts. How I did not get stung myself I'll never know. Both Cato and Dare trusted me to help.

I suspect there is a strong relationship between independence and trust. Perhaps an innate lack of trust creates independence? When I speak of independence here I'm not talking of dogs that are simply not needy, but rather of dogs that resist partnering. If you cannot trust others to work with you then you must always fend for yourself and follow your own plan. I do know that Rhyme began to partner with me much more willingly after I began consciously working to earn her trust. She started to look to me for support, and hear my commands as useful direction rather than endless nagging.

Too Darn Hot

It is 95 degrees in the shade here today. I let the dogs out of the kennels mid afternoon so I could take them for a swim. Usually being let out is cause for 15-20 minutes of exuberant play. Today they did one lap of the yard, then came and lay down on the porch.

We've been out training before 6AM both yesterday and today. It was actually quite cool and nice for both dogs and sheep when we started our work. By 7AM when we finished you could already feeling the heat coming. I have access to work in a large hayfield when it is cut, which it is right now. That means I load up the trailer and take sheep there for our training sessions.

With the 5:45 to 7AM sessions that leaves me getting home around 7:15, full blown rush hour. I live on a busy road. I drop the sheep off up at the sheep field, then drive home with the trailer, where I need to back it into my driveway on a fairly tight and indirect path. My method is to sit on the side of the road with my 4 ways on until it is clear in both directions, then pull across both lanes to back in. Usually I can do this quite quickly on a single pass, important in morning traffic when everyone is hurrying to work. This morning? Well I'm not sure what went wrong. Somehow I screwed it up and had to reset several times. It is amazing how much traffic can back up in just a short piece of time while I flail with the trailer.

The pigs are spending their days in one of two shaded corners in a small paddock they have access to. They occasionally get up, root around to get some cooler dirt on the surface, then flop back down. I told them they were lazy. They don't seem much affected by my opinions. I quite enjoy watching the pigs cavorting on a cool evening, but given the forecast I think they won't be getting lively for some time.

I get three more piglets this weekend, Tamworth X Berkshires.

One thing is for sure, the hot weather helps keep me inside at my desk doing things like updating this blog when better weather would have me outside.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Nearfield trial

3 more days of trialing this weekend. Song got a 6th on Friday and won on Sunday. This is her first Open win. I'm getting together with her finally so we're hanging onto our lines better. We have actually started earning some points now, but I don't think we'll be able to get enough to go to the finals this late in the season. I enjoy going to the post with her. She's utterly focused and determined, and very quick on command. She has gained a lot of confidence in her ability to maintain control of her stock. This allows her to trust my commands on the tough spots on the field where dogs are tempted to take the safe route and either stop and not risk pushing the stock to where they may break or gather the stock away from the pressure.

Song gave me some very good work last weekend as well, but no placements. Fina on the other hand is struggling. She gets flustered when she gets away from me, particularly on the drive. Her littermate Jobe had a lot of trouble when he first started trialing. Jobe got through it and ended up quite a strong trial dog so hopefully Fina can do the same.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Sand Creek Trial

I spent a fabulous weekend at Joyce Geier's Sand Creek trial. Joyce is a superb hostess, very organized and gracious. The sheep were tremendous. It was a group of undogged commercial market lambs. I'm assuming they had been moved in large groups with a dog as they had a sense of what a dog was. Separated into small groups on an unfamiliar field they were very challenging and great experience. A lot of dogs were flustered by them. They required the dogs come forward and really be determined to step in and take control. If a dog was hesitant or unwilling to move further into the pressure they capitalized on that. They would stall, or lean hard to either side, or bolt forward. It certainly made the dog think and manage the stock.

Song did well on the sheep this weekend. Her "ready or not here I come" attitude was quite persuasive with this flock. She was 6th on Saturday. She laid down a good run on Sunday, finishing split and pen with a couple minutes to spare when many folks were timing out because their sheep stalled so often. Levi got his 4th nursery leg. Fina lost her sheep at the top Saturday. Sunday she had great outwork, and good driving except that she gets worried on longer drive lines and will stop. I retired her on the drive on Sunday. She had no trouble pushing the stock.

In this early trial season I'm having a lot of folks who have not seen me since fall giving their condolences for Cato, who I still miss very much (and probably always will). This weekend he was simply described as "outrageous". What a great word for Cato! He'd sit in his chair in the handlers area watching the trial all day. He was flamboyantly social, standing on his back feet and throwing himself backwards into the arms of people. This was his solution to folks not wanting dog feet on them. Every time at the post he heard my soft command and left as if shot out of a cannon. He was an extreme dog in many ways. Outrageous.