Wednesday, August 3, 2016



An Aha moment....Also known as "pay attention you dumb human". Working from home, to stick close for my Ffire, who is about to burst and deliver pups soon....killing time. Thinking too much as always :) thinking can be good though, especially if you realize good stuff to help your training with pups. 

So, in the morning before the day gets busy, I usually do some training with at least two, often four of the dogs. I pick a Couple skills and focus on that. 

Teg has been making progress. I love this pup, independent nature and all. She is not an easy pup, a mixture of strong and sensitive. Loves to create and repeat patterns, less inclined to repeat or love those I am asking of her-except on stock. Last weekend, she worked in 90F+ heat on goats, some really good stuff. It was sticky-humid heat. No quit. In agility, I don't think she sees the sense of it. She isn't ams connected to agility, as she is to stock work. So, I am making agility a big game of chase, tug, high level of rewards...always! She is a perfect example of how R+ training is not only useful, but kind. It is helping her to make positive associations, while also making it her idea-which any offered behavior that is reinforced, is that much stronger than one we "create".

One of my AHa's with her today...I missed doing Early play retrieves. Not sure why I skipped it, but I did. We did lots of tug and early exposure to other stuff, but arriving at 12 weeks, I think I focused more on the out and about socialization-just in case. Of course, she loves all-man and beast, friendliest pup ever. 

But, I missed teaching a retrieve when she was young and more open, so dumb of me. The biggest and fastest way to build a bond with a dog, is to build the game of retrieve. It is a building block for so much else...I know this, and yet I skipped it. Also, with Ffin too. Maybe it was the crushing sadness of having recently lost my Dad. I wasn't feeling playful. Trudging along through training, but not joyful. A seminar I went to last week, has re-inspired me to play more, train more, enjoy more. I, like my dogs don't like to be dissected or yelled at, for what should be a Fun game. Agility is just another trick as says Silvia Trkman. So, giving myself atta girl's for successes, and ignoring mistakes. 

It has been hot, it is summer. I have several things set up in my large basement, on rubber mats-teeter, two planks on table with hoops to start running contacts, some jumps, set of weaves, tunnel, etc. I have been practicing with Ffin & Teg at ring rentals too.....ALL INDOORS!! Why caps? Because, duh..Context! My AHA today, was outdoors to both, means run like crazy, run with the other dogs, explore new places or control stuff that moves. Outdoors doesn't really mean much about *Me* to these two younger pups. We do have good recalls, but, it is a missing chink in our foundation, to work on. 

So, this morning we started a new plan, outside!! I set up a 4 jump straight grid with low bars, and tunnel at far end. I am happy to say that an indoor training session from the other morning, carried over to outside. There were many things I needed to work on, as focus with so many distractions outside is hard for both. all started with a game. One that is rewarding to them. I used to always train outside and have class and trials outside. That is rare up here in New England. Such a different context for the pups...AHA!!

Teg has not loved the tunnel, I believe because she loses the ability to control/keep things in sight for that brief moment and possibly some body sensitivity. I don't judge her for it, just trying to figure it out. Ffin has been a great help for being aware of context too. I have been trying to build commitment/drive in Teg for the tunnel and it has been a work in progress. 

A couple mornings ago, while it poured outside...we trained indoors. I set both up in sit waits and released to the tunnel. If both drove through, they each got a poor hands. If only Ffin drove through, I held Teg off the toy and tugged madly with him. She is a competitive soul...this pissed her off (to put a human emotion on it) to have a valuable resource kept from her. Very quickly, I was able to back further and further away to about 15-20' and send...running for them to catch up, each to tug. It worked! :)

My goal is not for perfection right now with my pups, it is for feeling a connection and building a love of the games-together. I will work with each, every day that is possible outside, trusting them to start to learn that I am part of that picture too. I think the primary thing for a reward based trainer is to see what is missing or has gone wrong, take ownership of it and have a plan to build or fix what we want. The dogs are doing nothing wrong if they "fail", we haven't taught them enough or is on us.  There is no blame, it is a game, we own it, they come along because we make it worth their while. 

So, my AHA today has in part with the fact that I haven't trusted my youngest pups, to stay with me to train outside. I have to get over that and make the game worth their efforts. Day one was pretty promising!!! Looking forward to Day Two. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Keep it simple...

The last few days have reminded me why I love to train my dogs, and even do some trialling...which is not my first love. My Dad always said that as a writer... "keep it simple stupid" meaning, sometimes there is no need for flowery, complicated or over-doing. I took that thought with me this weekend, as I had entered a few trials. I like to have fun and enjoy what I am doing as hobbies...not feel miserable. 

It has been months since I competed in agility. Seriously started to wonder if I was losing my love of it...completely. Was looking forward to it, but at the same time had a mental goal, that if I didn't accomplish certain things...that might be it. Maybe forever, or at least a longer break. With C'ura still not ready to go back, from her dogwalk injury, I have missed being able to train her, feel guilty leaving her at home, so we stayed home.  

The weekend started with agility, with my girl  Ggrail. We entered four classes, first class was Masters Gamblers with a near impossible flick away to layered set of weaves. At least, not a skill we have worked on at such a Distance. So we tanked, after some pretty nice opening points. :) Next up were Masters Pairs, Standard and Snooker. I know some love Snooker. To a dyslexic, a red coming down and having a backup plan is not strategy, it is mental least for me. I have no trouble saying I hate Snooker! But, with my keep it simple plan, we tackled it head on...for a First place Super Q! Why yes we did...maybe I like Snooker. Standard and Pairs also score, with Q and 3rd place. Maybe the universe is telling me to keep at agility? 

My plan was to do as simple of handling as I knew would make sense to my girl, and it did. I think as courses get more complicated, and we all feel the pressure to keep up with the next fancy move, let alone trying to remember what it is called-that for me at least, I was losing sight of just having fun and plain running my dog with LOVE, on the best path-no bells and whistles. I am not the best handler, but I try my best. My dogs are more gifted than I. Simple, Clear info is what they deserve. Baby Genius pup along for the day, amazing in the trial environment, tugging, playing, sweet, social, unfazed. The Vibe at this trial was up and happy, people were NICE to each other. That reminded me of why I love to train and test my skills, to trial. I'm tired of being around whiny, mean or miserable people-it is supposed to be fun, yes??!!! :) 

Sunday we rest. And visiting Vet here...yay for four more dogs negative for tick borne diseases! We have been lucky there, knock on wood...not a+Lyme/Erlichia/Anaplasmosis in years. My Vet said their diet is what is helping, I think yes it helps build strong immune systems, but also not over vaccinating and just letting be dogs-eat dirt and stuff in the woods & RUN!!! I also look for strong immune systems as a trait in my dogs (will not breed weak).

Monday started early, up at 4:30 AM to head to an AHBA herding trial, 2 trials in one day. What the hell was I thinking? Two dogs never trialled before, Kestrel is still a baby dog, sleep deprivation and stock! Craziness. Kestrel, Speck and I had a keep it simple, me to see what we have in our training so far. I gave them a pep talk on the long drive down, actually wasn't nervous, go figure. Kestrel was up first, on goats. We did pretty well. I was happy with our teamwork. 

It was also nice to be around people, who seemed to be happy when others did well too!!!!! Refreshing! One person snarked at my new to the venue question, but she was angry at her dogs and life...she was insignificant in a great day. I felt bad for her dogs, they tried hard.

Speck was in bigger field, on light sheep that were not used to the farm. Oh boy! It was not all pretty, but we got around the course-which is more similar to real work or a farm trial, than just a lift, panels, pen of Novice course. I think a big field sheepdog trial would actually be easier for him, but his down has not been steady-baggage in his training that I am working on. Push, push, push....It  was an arena trial, about 125 x 250'. Pressure for such a 
wide outrunner. 

There was a freestanding obstacle to one side of the field-no fence-line to help as funnel, that was a "pen". In this case a horse trailer where we were supposed to load recalcitrant, slippery butterfly sheep. Not happening! :) but, we had enough points from the other course elements. Both dogs qualified in Trial 1, (which I didn't know until the end of the day). The exhaust pen gate latch, was also broken by a dog who ran before us, which I didn't know. Popped open several times while we were on course-which is like crack to sheep who want to get away from the "Wolf".  That was an added challenge!!! 

Trial 2: Kestrel again amazed me, some not perfect, but for her first ever...very proud of her. Center panels were a thing of beauty and she was patient, as repen was the final element. She earned her Junior Herding dog title, JHD. We had 10 minutes to complete and were done in 3:31. One judge commented on our "great teamwork"...that's what it is all about!

Speck's second run, it was definitely getting hotter and he had really worked his heart out, for the first run. He is a speedy thing! Too speedy in this case, "dog needs to slow down" was one of the judges suggestions, in addition to him dealing with pressure. All part of my simple plan to help him be more flexible, get back some feel and not burn his brain cells, while working. Pattern training, is not much work to do. 

But....we had a pretty decent run. Again no at the trailer, but the level 2 & 3 dogs were having trouble too. Very few got that pen. Some in level 2 & 3 didn't even make it around the whole course. So, miracles of miracles....Speck earned his Herding Trial Arena Dog title.  HTAD1, not too shabby. 

TeG also got to try barn hunt, oh boy does she have instinct! She was  very polite to the rat,  but very very interested and started digging back in excitement. I loved that the barn hunt person gave her rats extra treats after each try-always do that with my sheep, after working them. They are a gift. It was a bunch of really nice people, all simply there to test their skills and their me. One of the best weekends, I feel my love and Mojo of training coming back and testing what we have by trialing, was icing on the cake...keeping it simple and FuN!!!!! Looking forward to the next time...

Friday, June 24, 2016

Let It Be!

Yesterday and the day before, a breakthrough with my mighty midget! I am just letting her Be, and asking little things of her...taking off pressure completely. I think of how I might be belaboring what isn't happening, on my mental timeline with this one pup, and realize she has no idea there is that criteria of time. I'm not in a rush, no need to get a  pup out there the day they are old enough to compete. Or, push in training if they are showing they need some time. It's a dance, to figure out the balance. The last few days, we have been cutting up the floor!

She came along for our long 6 hour R/T trek to Maine for herding lessons, but did not work-she got to see sheep, to swim, just be a puppy and work on long line recalls. Just letting her be a dog, is how I am also approaching creating more reinforcement for her-when she chooses me over environment, which she did several times...big party! 

Our fun recalls are coming along, she has a light in her eyes again. At a ring rental yesterday, She happily did some little tunnel/jump (very low at 8") sequences and shaped end behavior on the Aframe, worked on our Mat/Down and some table games. Sometimes, I think changing venue helps them to BE more-if they have patterned a response (which she does/has) in one environment. Her focus is better when she is not hot also, me too-AC is so nice :) Outside on stock, can cool off in shade or water. 

Also, from our Teeter Bang game work at home-she was happily asking to do a full height teeter! I held the board to control the drop, but no fear. I see the desire to repeat, which hasn't been letting her BE, but shaping that desire to increase. I don't know if I will  ever compete in agility with her, as sheep and cattle are her thing-but this training is definitely building our bond. 

I am also having her checked for Tickborne Diseases, just in case. Whenever energy or enthusiasm drop, if it is out of the ordinary-have to look at the physical too. 

This week has pretty much been awful otherwise for work, etc. but the Pluses are also what I was able to do the last few times in lessons with Kestrel and Speck. They both blew me away! To think this time last year, Kes was on R&R for her injury. Rest is a beautiful thing and just letting her BE, in how well she not only healed, but all of the PT/Ball work we did built our bond, when she couldn't do anything else. 

So when in doubt, my mantra is Let them BE! It can be amazing how quickly this becomes, what you are waiting for or hoping for...patience and time can be your friends in training and raising a pup. Part of why I like having more than one dog in training, at a time. The pups all need to figure out who they will Be too. Time flipped between, lessens pressure on me to accomplish something when it isn't happening on my muddled mental timeline..."in times of trouble", and on them too. "Speaking words of wisdom...Let it Be! Let it Be!" Do you hear Paul McCartney?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

How do I love thee???

Let me count the ways...

Raising a pup to work as a team-whether for real work or sport, involves shaping many layers of interactive behaviors that are both innate and taught. Temperament is there in every pup, they are born with who they will be, on a basic level. While we can shape behavior, we can not change temperament. Basic drives and instincts in a dog, dictate who they will be. 

The pup in front of us, is complicated. Finding what makes them tick, is the key. Some pups don't offer us the keys as easily, we have to count ways to picking the lock! 

So as trainers, how do we find and build reinforcers, for a pup? How do we become important? I think that whether you have one dog, or ten-they all teach us to evaluate and re-evaluate in regards to how we do things, and our relationship with a dog. Our relationship with one pup, may be very different than with another-we remain the constant in the relationship. We might change a bit, but after raising a few dogs, we likely follow the same mode of foundation and early socialization, with each pup. 

In order to train, we build on a pup's pack or social drive first-in other words "bonding". Becoming important to a pup, having them learn their name, follow us around, learn a recall-as something good. Early bonding makes us the reinforcer at first-with affection, praise, eye contact, etc. At 8-12 weeks-this window is unlocked and wide open!!
So, what do we do if we get an older pup, one who may have been used to keeping their own counsel? Or, one who may be a more independent thinker? Or, you have a pup that has hit a stage of seeking reinforcement from environment, has forgotten their name, or sees you and the formally heavily positively-reinforced recall of coming back to you, as a huge bummer? What do you do? 

I have three young dogs, all training in various things. They are all different. The one thing that remains the constant is I look for a real working dog brain, one that seeks out and knows how to make decisions-but that also means I usually have to work harder at building myself as part of their universe. And, they are often not the type that will repeat and repeat-they don't find that reinforcing. I rarely get the easy puppy these days, I guess I am looking for challenges?? :)

An independent worker can make things that would seem simple, very difficult-like asking a pup to do a tunnel, which for many pups would be easy. But, for that pup it probably isn't for them. It blocks their view of what's going on around them for a nanosecond, and for the control freaks, that can be disconcerting. 

Or, working on baby retrieves-pups that readily see the game as interactive, tells you about their basic nature. The one that takes off with the toy, stays at at a distance with the toy, or basically thumbs their paw at you-tells you a lot about a pup. This is one behavior we modify, by making it rewarding to return with a toy, to continue the game. For some pups, the chase part is most reinforcing-I have one of those pups right now. Some softer pups have a harder time coming into our space, they are not being "stubborn", they feel pressure from our physical being. While others, like my pup just don't see the point of mindless cooperation. So, what am I doing to work on this?

Like any skill, starting in a low level distraction environment, controlling the game and breaking it down into successful bits, is how I start. For some pups it can take a few times and they have it! For others, it can take months-like my pup. Some would think I never train this pup, when seen out and about. They would be making assumptions, based on how another pup may be, not this pup...this pup is quite confident that their way, is the way. I am not that reinforcing, to this pup no matter all the "relationship" stuff. 

I have older dogs that will happily work with me, repeating over and over until they drop-not that I train that way. Either they find repetition rewarding? or, they just find doing anything with me, reinforcing? I find that pattern training is "easier" with this type of brain, they are an open door. What is harder is a pup who not only doesn't seem too interested, but rather than finding the patterns you offer and reward interesting-creates their own patterns and self-rewards. Some of the things I know one of my pups finds very reinforcing, I can't bring into a class. 

We all have heard have a bag of tricks-various levels of reinforcers, to try to match high level environment, with a higher level reward. So, when it all goes to hell in trying to move forward in training with a pup, I go back to the beginning. My goal over the next week, month with one pup is to start building not only a happy recall again (as I know the recall off of stock is in part why this has become a bummer) but also to re-start some little skills work that requires repetition, like a down on a mat and quick release to repeat for another reward. 

I saw early on with this one pup that things like wrapping a cone endlessly, were boring to them. We did not get to know each other, until this pup was past the window of opportunity age-that is hard to go back and fix, at least in this pup. Not sure I can change the perception of a task or game in a pup, but I can try to make it part of a fun game, if the reinforcer becomes meaningful to them. 

Learning can be stressful for them and us. At a certain point in sports, which is not training in instinct generally-if I see a strong working pup  who excels on stock, is not having fun...we will re-evaluate. I am never one to force a pup to do anything in training, they don't show they enjoy. There is a difference of pushing outside your comfort level or through to the next level, and both you and your pup losing enthusiasm along the way, when it becomes not fun. Comparisons made to other pups who may want to wrap a cone a million times when your pup doesn't, is not helpful... I look for solutions, will not label or judge my pup, for having their own mind. One of my pups is very very keen, and although sensitive, loves repetition. The other is very strong-minded and really I think just doesn't see the point of it. I don't compare them, I work with what I have in each.

Meanwhile, preventing access to self-rewarding will help us move along. What doesn't help, is overfacing a pup with asking too much, when they are showing they can't handle it. What really helps the human side of the team when you hit the wall in training, is someone offering solutions and acknowledging that you are trying. 

Sometimes, coming up with our own list, helps count the ways to move forward. Like a "To do" list, if we have a pup that takes off on us in a certain setting/distraction, where on the list of basic behaviors do we go back to? I think it is a good combination to teach impulse control, while not squelching a thinking dog. I don't like a dog mugging my hand for treats or a toy, but I also want to build their desire-so sometimes if a pup is less into you, letting them be a bit naughty can be a useful thing on the "list" too. If we don't have a recall, we are missing the biggest piece in our relationship, with a pup. 

With my one pup, she got many, many rewards-but seems to now see recalls as not fun. It is an age of "forgetting", that many pups hit too. So, back to the beginning.....starting with rebuilding our recall.

.Name recognition with happy ears and eyes (no flat or submissive ears/squinting or sad eyes), as they are already looking at you, say a name and Reward!!

.With treats in both hands, arms at your sides, can pup not look at your hands and seek your eyes? If this is hard for them, wait until a flicker of eye contact and mark with Yes & reward. Build it!

.Pup sitting or standing within arms' length, looking at my eyes and start saying what will be their eye contact cue-"look" "ready" etc, as they are looking at you & reward! Naming the behavior as it is occurring.

.Pup in previous position, as you turn away to your right or left, do they shift and follow you, to find your face again??? If they do, big reward and party! If not-this is one of your basic things to work on. Lure at first, if you need to. Or, if the pup disconnects, have them on a long line and your foot on it, to manage them "leaving". Wait for them to re-connect and big party! This step is especially useful outdoors and in increasing environments-will be going back to this with all my pups. Winter babies have fewer outdoor training opportunities in the Northeast...showing up now. (another thing on the list to remind myself of).

.With pup now following you in circles in both directions, introduce your Recall word-before this, you were saying nothing.

.As the pup is learning new words, that will mean the difference in your foundation working relationship-as you are building, or re-building the bond. 

.After a few sessions of this and As the pup is eagerly learning and seems into the "game" with you, as you ask for name or recall/when they give eye contact and approach-reward with touching the side of their collar and "yes", and "Ok" or I use "Get it" as I toss a treat away-to reset for another repetition. Turn slightly, but stay in same location.

.At first, you want to make this game super easy, very close tosses. But, in order to build your recall, adding motion and distance is important. Toss further and walk, then build to run the opposite way, as you call your pup to you. This ignites prey drive, as well as reinforcing pack drive, with rewards close to you. You can also toss treat and reward at your side with tug, if the pup finds that reinforcing.

You can always go back to these (which I will be with one teenager) or if you skipped some of this, or pup came to you as an older pup-blank slate is faster than "re-train".

Cheese may not be as exciting as working sheep, or swimming for a water-loving pup, but access to that can be an ultimate reward, as you work together. Try to make a list, to help in figuring out training and rewards, especially if you are hitting a wall, like I am with one pup. These are in no order, but are what I see in one pup.

The list of reinforcers needs to be reinforcing to your pup! Not because you think it might be rewarding.

For one pup, sadly I am not on this list for training purposes, in life yes, but training no-but am working on it....

.saying Hi to people she loves
.sheep, goats, ducks
.dry catfood
.tug toys-furry? soft fabric? fluttery? hard bite like firehose?
.chasing, catching things that move
.flirt pole
.water-swimming, splashing, biting water
.playing with other dogs
.sitting on my lap when sleepy
.Frisbees-soft ones, hard ones
.competing with another dog-getting "there" first
.me.....some day! :)

And...the work continues....

FOOTNOTE: Asked this right after I posted this, nope will not and do not used social isolation/Crating endlessly/etc to get a pup to bond to me.  This is used by some positive trainers as a recommended way to work on relationship stuff, yet to me this "method" is as aversive as popping a shock collar on them, for blowing you off on a recall. 

I may balance attention paid to a pup, with ignoring them at times-but I also don't want a clingy, insecure dog who can't operate in the real world, without getting cues from me for every move. I'm so not a micro-manager, and want my pups to naturally evolve into loving what we work on...Force free. 

Social shunning in solitary and spending too much time alone or locked up, is applied mental punishment in my book, for a naturally social creature such as a dog. My pups all spend some time alone (builds self-reliance and confidence, prevents separation anxiety) and being crated-I work...but not when I am home. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Lions and Tigers and Bears...Oh My!!!

I was thinking about July 4th coming up, and the first thunderstorm season for many of my pups, both here and elsewhere. I know many already know this, but proactively engaging a pup before they react to something either by distracting or redirecting, when something new that could be scary is happening-is better than waiting to see how they might react. Waiting for the reaction to work on something, the pup's emotional state is already reacting/protecting/worrying-their brains are not open to your "help" at that point.

TeG who just turned 9 months, saw the ceiling fans moving for the first time this past week-motion control brilliant herding puppy that she is, she swirled under them sure she should control them, her unsure self barking at them. With cathedral ceilings, it probably wooshes that much more, and she is also in a bit of a sound sensitive stage, which is pretty normal for this age. 

I am pretty sure I turned them on a few times this past winter-but obviously it was scary for her, although in her case also likely pissing her off that she couldn't control "it". I was reminded of her first experience seeing gulls flying on the beach, racing them to try to head them off-the fans were not cooperating.

As a ceiling fan isn't a dangerous situation for her, if possible my thought is always to try to pair something that can be scary, with something they love-to help them get past the fear or initial reaction. In her case chase and tug are highly rewarding-so out came the sherpa toy flirt pole. 

Thinking of the "bubble" (distance) that was around this new scary thing, I started the game outside the bubble, far enough away (in this case back door was open, so in the yard) and got her truly engaged. After, a minute or so of play, we moved inside. She was able to continue playing tug, even as we moved under the fans. I then would ask for an "out" drop, and point to the fans-as soon as she looked at them, our tug game commenced again. Very brief nanoseconds of looking-bit for sight sensitive dogs who have been bred for centuries to be aware of minute motion-helps pair, "this thing is no big deal". There is no barking on stock for her, she is very very confident she's got that, tiny but mighty!

I could have turned the fans off and worked with her with them still first, then turned on low, etc. to incrementally help her, as I don't believe in flooding ( basically drowning a dog in triggers) for solving behavior, normally that just makes things much worse, especially for aggression. But, knowing that this pup has a core of steel and it was her not being able to control the motion that was triggering her reaction, knew that going straight to "let's work on this", was okay for her. I also kept her focus low at first dragging the toy on the ground, then started to lift it to twitch and asking for the moment of visual awareness of the fans, as she was visibly relaxed under them. Maybe not another pup, but knowing your pup and watching their core reactions, helps to have a creative approach to solving an issue.

So, for fireworks, thunderstorms and other scary stuff coming up as summer hits, do I wait to build a reinforcing game? Nope, we are building tug and chase games in the basement or a safe place-so they become so reinforcing, to pull them out of our "bag" when we need them. 

Does it work for all pups? maybe not-but when I know they are experiencing their "Firsts" of anything-especially the one trial learners, and things that can be scary-I do my best to be one step ahead and be pro-actively ready to work on it. Can't always be home, but if I am, hopefully can do group tug, downs and sits for high level rewards, as a way to make Thunder "fun", etc. 

Some pups just want to be close or held, while for others a thundershirt and melatonin might help-definitely seems to have for dogs I have gotten as adults, with previous bad experiences. Some dogs don't stomach melatonin well (Calms Forte by Hylands works too), but can give it even if a storm or fireworks have started and seems to help (I am not a Vet) If you are passively watching your puppy react to something, you are being a tourist, not the tour leader...make life a party bus!!

When I was seven years old...

Two years ago today, I lost my Mom. My life changed. Grief becomes bearable as time goes by, anniversaries put it right back into your face, and your eyes. Writing is cathartic-whether about grief, dogs, life, things I love. I write here often, just never hit "publish". 

As the world gains instant access to your every move, if you read it on social media it must be true, the world is a marketing machine of me, me, me, Google follows your every keystroke...I have become much more quiet these past two years. I have no patience for drama or falsehoods. There are so many public circuses, I try to stick with my own monkeys. I do not suffer fools gladly. 

When I was 7 years old, I started my first journal. Not really a diary, as my thoughts were more about what happened on a daily basis and why? Already keeping a "farm journal" of the multitudes of creatures in my life. Around the age of 7, was pivotal for me, for our family, our lives changed. When you are hurt at pivotal times in your life, they shape you. Trust is a fragile thing.

My Mom was always our champion, she loved her kids, even if she didn't always know or understand what the hell we were doing. She could be mercurial, but was loving and loyal to a fault. She loved flowers, and hers and my fave Irises and Clematis bloomed yesterday-new life and beauty is always a positive sign. The sunset last night was also spectacular-a ring of fire reflecting on clouds in the sky. I can think of her most times now, without tears, even though my heart still aches. I miss her daily, even more so today! Love you Mom, hope there are many flowers up there with you, you taught me to love digging in the dirt. :)

Friday, March 11, 2016

Hope Springs Eternal

We had some amazingly warm weather this week for New England. And, torrential rain that would have been a blizzard, but it was not. Take that winter!! Good for the aquifers, but with ice still up here, lots and lot of pudding mud. 

Midweek, it was a perfect day to take an afternoon off. Seemed like many had the same idea after this bleak winter, as the roads were literally packed, for the two hour drive to a new beach, for us. It was a perfect day to pretend there was no stress and real-life stuff to deal with. The ocean is such a soothing, fiercely strong place to be-truly don't think I could ever live somewhere that I could not "touch" it.

I often do a solo one-on-one field trip with each dog, no specific schedule. Beach day was Teg. 

She got to run full-out as low tide and beach went on and on. I discovered her herding instincts, also translate to tracking skyward-in this case, Sea gulls. She was trying her best to run as fast as she could to affect their path, and get out in front of them. I don't think she realized they could not see or "feel" the tiny speck on the beach, nor did they care. 

When the gulls' path took them out to sea, Teg also quickly learned how to swim and what saltwater tasted like. It was interesting to see how unfazed she was, but also seemed perplexed that "this stuff" was slowing her down. 

Luckily, the attraction to controlling motion obsession seemed to switch gears, as she hit water, or the birds flew off into the distance-I was able to tap into her thinking mind again and she did not swim out to where it would have been dangerous-or I needed to jump in. Water, is still not that warm. LOve my puppy but recalls are a beautiful thing too.

We got to practice some very good, at a distance real-life recalls. I can see the beauty of a sheepdog whistle in these cases, as at points with the breeze and distance, she could not hear me...just saw the arm flapping person imitating a windmill, making funny noises to catch her attention. She raced back, as quickly as she left. But, definitely something to work on. The pup has got an engine!! And at 6 months is very coordinated & speedy.

We also got to hangout with one of our Ggrail babies-her mini-me, running and being beautiful. So, connected to her great people, a beautiful thing. She and Teg got to explore tidal pools, run the open beach for toys, find hundreds of living sand dollars (which is very cool to see so many) and climb on all kinds of textures, especially seaweed covered rocks, that are normally submerged.

A beautiful afternoon!