Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Dog Who Flanked too Wide

A Parable

Once upon a time, in a land far away, there lived a novice sheepdog handler and her first Border Collie.  The Dog took care of the sheep at home, and managed well at trials, quickly progressing to Open.  The Dog was fleet and strong, hard-working and wise with his stock.  The Dog was a good partner, listening to commands and doing the job that was asked.  The Dog was happy.  The Handler was happy.  All was good. 

Yet all is never truly perfect in the world.  When given a flank command the Dog sometimes ran too wide in his arc.  The Handler asked online how to bring the Dog closer, sure that more experienced hands would share their wisdom.  Quickly a sage came forward with some training exercises to help the dog learn to stay closer to the stock when flanking.  Then a Troll joined the conversation.  The Troll explained how flanking too wide was a sign the dog was weak.  The Troll quoted a famous trainer as one of his justifications for his pronouncement that the dog was weak.  The Troll declared that the Handler should put the Dog aside and work with a dog of more power and quality.  And then Kind People took pity on the handler and berated the Troll while telling the Handler that she could still be successful with a weak dog, but to be sure not to breed the Dog and perpetuate his weakness.  And the Troll defended his position, with another troll or two as reinforcement.  And the Kind People continued to wring their hands and tell the trolls to be nice and assure the Handler that she could get by with this poor weak dog.  The Handler assured the electronic masses that she fully intended to keep the Dog and keep working it.  The Handler asked that the conversation return to ideas to help keep the Dog closer on his flanks rather than debating the overall quality of the Dog.  The request brought another training idea or two from people trying to be helpful.

Like all storms, the roaring wind of words eventually ceased, and all was forgotten.  The Handler took the idea first given and tried it.  It was very helpful not only in keeping the Dog closer, but in helping the Handler understand the dynamic between dog/sheep/person.  The Dog was happy.  The Handler was happy.  All was good.

The Dog went on to be very successful despite some clumsy handling.  The Dog went to the National Finals, getting to the semifinal round.  The Dog was successful at a variety of trials on a variety of stock, though never that good on very light sheep.  The Dog was bred and offspring were solid dogs.  The Dog took the handler from Novice Novice, to Open, to the National Finals, to the World Trial.  The Dog was happy.  The Handler was happy.  All was good.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Summer Symphony

A storm came in while I checked the lambs.

The western sky filled with great gray clouds,

tall and dense.

A lone bee buzzed his industrious tune against the distant thunder,

One last load.

The ridge was still bright and hot as I walked down towards the lambs,

towards the storm.

Sun shone through the gaps, outlined the sculpture of the clouds.

No carved and painted ceiling comes close.


I sent my dog to gather, silent she vanished over the wall into the brush,

Nothing but the flies and thunder and heat.

I wait then hear the cadence of the flock coming, bleats from stragglers,

past the wall.

They are fine, vibrant, annoyed at the interruption.

We let them go.

My dog and I walk back up the ridge, storm behind and heat before us.

I hear the rain.

The drops advance behind me like a tiny running army,

thousands of footsteps swarming up the hill

I reach the top as the first drops find me,

cooling the air and my skin.

© Maria Amodei 2015