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Dan and Sue's Excellent Adventure

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Day Eight is a day alone, with Anna at work, so no photos. Here's my email to her about this morning's (so far) work - Dan, me, four calves.


Yes, we were out working - 50 minutes on the calves. I shut all the gates and we went down and got them out of their hang-out corner. A bit rough at first (no surprises there) and couldn't manage to use my stick effectively but, once we got them headed out to the other end, I called him off and we just walked on out. And, we had been practicing the down whistle on the walk out there and on the walk to the calves in the corner they were in now. Dan interpreted any whistle as cause for excitement, so we will be practicing when just walking about to pick the oranges (next job) and graze the sheep (right after oranges).


He was pretty whipped after that work - we did little outruns and gathers (worked on the down - sometimes my timing was too slow but it was improving) and fetches, but I did not stay in front of the calves well at all, even when he was very slow and calm. That's okay, when that happened, sometimes I downed him and called him off, set up a little outrun, and did it all again. Sometimes, I just asked him to keep walking up quietly and "driving" them down along the fenceline, asking him to adjust when he occasionally looked like he was wanting to inch up too much along the outside.


We worked on putting them in the catch pen between the three fields, and the catch pen where we sorted the sheep. And taking them back out again without a rodeo, even if it took me walking along with him to keep things nice and calm - and let him know that his just being there in the right place got the right results. We varied which gate was the in and/or out gate, and just tried to keep it all low-key and calm. That was the goal. Didn't always happen but each time it didn't, that was a learning opportunity.


He was so tired when we were done - never turned off when working but was dog-tired after. He just walked along behind me as we cruised up to the cooling tank (I like that one in the field by the neighbors, not nasty-dirty like the one in front of the house) and took a short dunk. He was tired but I can't say overly hot. Mentally tired. Sore tootsies didn't help but I was trying to be careful.


We took some walks around the lanes looking for my missing leash, which I may have left in your truck on Sunday but which I think I had out Sunday afternoon. I forgot to check the gate nearest the chickens for that and anywhere else we walk today. I seem to think I hung it up one time, thinking I wouldn't forget it, and we may have left off work in a different direction. I don't remember seeing it yesterday. Do coyotes eat leather leashes?


Well, off to pick oranges and graze sheep. Meanwhile, Dan is out like a light...

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The afternoon - what can I say about the afternoon so far? After picking the oranges, Dan and I headed out with a good book and had a chair waiting for us in pasture #1. The sheep were with Ms Peggy Sue in #3, but it was an easy move up to the corner and down the lane to #1, where Dan and I settled in to relax in the sun, read a good book (well, the book was for me), and keep an eye on the sheep so they didn't slip under the fence into the grove.


Well, the grove was not the issue! The sheep were grazing in the southwestern corner of #1 for a while, and then started moseying eastwards along the fenceline. That fenceline is parallel to the fenceline along the grove, where I was sitting with Dan, ready to move those sheep away from being tempted to slip under. As the sheep got down towards the southeast corner, I saw Karma (the LGD) slip under the fence! Well, the 76 is a busy and fast road, and Karma does not exactly have a recall.


Here I was, no cell phone, no one to lean on, no copping out and having someone else fix my mess.


So Dan and I got up and got moving, and I have to admit I was grasping at possibilities (not probabilities) by calling Karma's name. So, the best way to get Karma back (and if Karma got in that road and hit, or got gone on my watch...) is to get her sheep up and moving and making a little noise. So Dan and I moved to our left a bit where I could send him on a short cast on the come-bye side, and get those sheep moving back towards the western end of the pasture. I was being cautious with Dan, not wanting any excitement, and not wanting any issues as we also had a horse and two calves tagging along.


That did the trick - Karma's first priority is her sheep and she came right back, looking for her spot to slip back under the fence and come along. When my heart rate got back to normal, I found myself faced with another concern. At the other end of the pasture, the western end, all the sheep (except a few of the very biggest ones) were slipping under the gate and into a small field - that was a little relief as I was afraid they were getting into the yard or away.


Dan and I got into that field, minus horse and steers and the too-big sheep, and gave a good look-around. Thankfully, all the sides were sheep=proof other than that gate they slipped under, and we could take care of that. So our job became preventing sheep from going back through the gate. Dan had a job of his own, lying by the gate while I made sure the field was not only sheep-proof, but also Karma-proof. My nerves could not have taken having her getting out on the road side.


Half an hour grazing in the first field, an hour in the second, small field, and it was time to bring all the mommas and babies and hangers-on back to their original field. Dan really pleased me - he did some pretty decent casts around, fetching when I could keep in front, and walking along behind and keeping things moving to the out-gate when I wasn't keeping in front. No issues with the calves because they, thankfully, lagged back in their favorite corner.


All were seen, safe and sound, to their pasture - at evening chores, it will be Dan's and my job to bring Peggy Sue up to the night pen, and go back for the sheep, and see them safely put away for the night.


And, on the way back home, we stopped to clean the covered section of the night pen. My goal had been to do a lot bigger area, but that one section took me an hour and all the energy and ambition I had. I had to save something for calf work and evening chores, right?

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How to sum up our lessons so far?


For me - quiet voice; better timing; see what's going to happen and be ready or proactive to avoid problems or make appropriate corrections; see what you want and need to do, and work at doing it; work with your dog, not against him; if things don't go like you want them to do, figure out what went wrong and use the opportunity presented by a job gone wrong to learn and to do what needs to be done.


For Dan - listen; take your downs; relax; no cheap shots; just because the stock are moving away doesn't mean they are getting away; fetch to Sue; being calm, taking your downs, walking at a reasonable pace and distance are things that all get the job done much, much better than flying around like a brainless fool.


For us both - don't forget to thank Anna every day! And Ed, for supporting us in doing this.

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"Saving Karma" - sounds like the title of a movie or a book! My thanks and appreciation to those who have been enjoying our adventure, and letting us know.


The afternoon included a bit over half an hour with the calves again, by which time my boy was tired, tired, tired. And still a bit foot-sore. So, we set things up in the night pen, I set the gates, and we put up Ms Peggy Sue, and then all the ewes, lambs, and wethers. And fed Ms Karma.


And both of us were very grateful for a ride back to the house on Kathy's little cart. We are both tired. Dan's been fed and sleeping in the bedroom, and the other dogs need to come on in shortly, and Anna's due home in another hour, more or less.


Did I mention I was tired? I didn't get to ride Peggy Sue but I kept myself (and Dan) pretty busy. Got to go lock up the chickens!

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Today dawned drizzling and oh so not-southern-CA. But Dan dawned not-so-Danlike. He hurt the pads of several feet on Sunday but other than ouchy feet, he was doing fine - lively and active, and rip-roaring and ready to go to his stock. But, yesterday evening and then this morning, he was just not himself. Lethargic might be a description; looking like every bit of his body hurt might be another; depressed could be a third description.


So, we declared a rest day for Dan (and Anna, with a raging cold that came on yesterday, needed a sick day for herself) and ran him to her vet, just to check. No abnormal temperature at all for him. Sore feet but healing very nicely, no raw spots remaining. No evidence of joint pain, or any other particular, localized tenderness. We had been giving him half a Previcox (sp?) each evening since Sunday, which should have taken care of controlling pain from elevated levels of work and helped moderate the foot pad pain. But it seemed to have no significant effect, and that's what had Anna worrying about tick-borne disease.


Proposed diagnosis? Working too hard, combined with the ouchy feet (which are healing well). The vet took blood to send for a SNAP (the clinic was out of kits) and we'll have that result tomorrow. But she felt that he should be showing improvement by morning and, if not, a more extensive blood test for tick-borne disease would be the next step.


So, it's a lazy day (well, except for Danielle, who is out there working with Chesney) and I'm enjoying it - except for the reason why it's a lazy day. Here's hoping Dan is on the road to feeling much better soon - and Anna, too!

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I may be grasping at straws, but I am thinking that I am seeing a bit of improvement in Dan already. I just took him for a good walk in a grassy pasture, which was nice and cool and wet with today's rain, and he was interested in sniffing about and I could see him break into a trot every now and then, on his own.


He trotted up the stairs back to the house for the first time in a couple of days. The last two days, he's been walking up (or down) them quite slowly. And, in the house just now (with Anna and all her dogs gone to bed), he's actually been a little playful, something I haven't seen over the last day or two. Of course, with no puppy here to play with, the playful mood didn't last long - but he just seems optimistic and cheery, not depressed and tired like he was yesterday evening and even more so this morning.


When he got up this afternoon for a potty trip, he stretched the way an "I feel good" dog does and now he's moving all around the house, alternating with eagerly grooming himself, which behaviors were *not* there this morning or last evening.


Here's hoping!


Meanwhile, poor Anna went to bed early with her cold. I'm hoping she feels better soon. A sick day tomorrow is more than merited.

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Donna - How sweet of you to say that!


Dan is apparently quite recovered from his sore feet, sore body, and burnt-out mind. He was looking at bit more optimistic last evening, and was very much more mobile and cheery this morning. In fact, we could tell things were looking very good when he spent a long time playing bitey-face and tug with Scamper, the four-month old pup. And the feet were not an issue, maybe a little tender, but not a reason to avoid trotting around as he has been feeling the last few days.


We started out with Dan helping to put out the flock, and then we did a couple of hours of tended grazing. When Anna went back to the house on an errand, I took the time to work Dan on Cindy's three calves for a little while. As soon as she came back, she said that since they were readily available, how about if I worked Dan a bit - and I told her I already had. That's when I did work him in front of Anna and she made the comment that he was back to "loose cannon". We decided that while the feet and body were ready for work, the brain seemed to still be sleeping in the house.


Later, Dan and I gathered the flock and put them across the roadway into a catch pen to sort. Dan really did a terrific job of staying put to hold the sheep in my corner but he did tend to creep on up because, doggone it, Mom, you're letting them get away!!! But it was a huge lesson in patience. And, most of the time that I turned around and saw him moving, he was trying to cover the sheep or lambs that squirted back to the rear of the pen (usually because Dan was too close to the group).


Now we have mothers and babies all in a pasture, and the school sheep and "less-pregnant" sheep and a couple ewe/larger lamb pairs - all waiting for the bread to come out of the oven so we can go work again.


Dan's brain was out of bed for this bit of work, and he's looking forward to any excuse to work. This afternoon, he'll have a bit of sheep work and later on, it will be some calf work. Did I mention how tiring it is to try to keep up with the Energizer Bunnies Anna and Dan?

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Sorry that we have not had someone to take photos but either we both are working dogs or have our hands full.


Dan and I had a very enjoyable time working with the shed sheep, mainly just doing walkabouts. The big news is that I was able to turn my back and walk like a real person - and could tell by the sheep if Dan was getting too close. He was taking his downs nicely, balancing well, listening to me, and even taking downs with the whistle.


We were trying small outruns but they were not going well - too tight at the top and cutting in. Yet he was casting about nicely when we were wearing. One step at a time, I guess.


We finished off the day with a little calf work by ourselves. The outruns were not good as he's going for the heads - so, I send him on the side that will take him to the heads, they turn away, he crosses over - you get the picture. Again, like with the sheep, if he was just balancing to me, he was casting around pretty nicely.


He's tired, a little footsore, happy. Come to think of it, so am I. Life is good.

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Dan and I fly out on Wednesday. It's been intense for both of us. I ache all over tonight - I think I'll blame that largely on the sheep sorting. Fun, educational, interesting, and strenuous.


I think we are both going to sleep a bit early tonight...

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Can you say "tired"? I sure can. I can also say "sore". If Dan could talk, he could say "tired and sore", too.


The last couple of days, most work has either been on calves, working to get Dan to fetch them to me, not run to the heads or go off balance to get to the heads, take his downs, listen to me, work as a partner, and keep his stock together. He is greatly improved in some of these, and not as much in some aspects - but, overall, improved, listening better, and trying to be a partner more.


No working photos but here is the field where we worked yesterday and today in the morning -






Those big "crates" are orange bins, set up in the field for some games that the teen on the ranch and his friends play. They make nice obstacles for working stock, although Dan and I are not yet that far along at all!

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We went to Valley Center yesterday to the feed store - here is a view of the valley between Valley Center and the area where the ranch is located. The plantings that appear in lines and on the lower areas are orange groves. The plantings on the steeper slopes, not in rows, are avocados. I am amazed at the number and size of the nurseries in this area. So many people are into landscaping and plantings of many kinds. Some yards have their own citrus - orange, lemon, grapefruit. Yum!




We drove today to Temecula for groceries and the scenery on the drive was fantastic - but the road was too windy for me to even consider photos.

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I surely wish I had more pictures to post but, with just Anna and myself, and the work getting more "out there and moving", I can either work my dog with Anna's help and direction, or get photos - but not both!


Dan was used this morning to help move the flock to pasture, and managed to do some nice, helpful work - and to be a lamb-bullying butthead - all within the space of mere seconds. As Anna said, "Don't take your eyes off your dog!" Of course, at the same time, you have to have your eyes on the stock, work the gate latches, watch where you are (and are stepping, at least where the gopher holes are), etc.


We did some work on Cindy's three calves this morning. Nothing stellar but both of us chugging along, trying to get things together - sometimes succeeding, sometimes not.


After the trip to Escondido for the raw food coop pickup, Anna gave me the opportunity to choose the afternoon work. Now, as a bona fide coward and expert on anxiety, I had been dropping heavy hints this morning that I would like to work a small flock of the three school sheep (the "Steady Eddies") with some other appropriate sheep that would lighten the mix a little, as I worked yesterday to my great enjoyment.


I was able to do nice walkabouts with them, Dan was taking his downs nicely, and flanking to balance smoothly - even to the point that I could turn my back on him and walk in straight and curved lines - telling by the sheep by my side (the front of the group) whether I needed to tell him down or walk up. I was even able to use the down whistle very successfully.


So that type of work was well within my comfort zone and something that I felt I could use to calm my anxieties - but it wouldn't be much of a challenge or as much of a learning experience as both Dan and I could use. When it came time to choose, I looked out at the threatening skies, thought about the effort to sort sheep, thought about those four heifer calves in the pasture by themselves, and told Anna we were up to and should work calves. That's what she wanted to hear all along.


We concentrated on a few things with the goal of getting Dan to go around his calves nicely, take his downs, not push the calves past me - and for me to send him calmly, give timely downs, and use gently curving lines to allow Dan to cover and balance, particularly when the calves got too close to me on the fetch.


As Anna said, "Too bad we couldn't have taken some video" because Dan was engaging his brain rather than his afterburners! I was not timing my downs as well as I could, letting him get too far past balance sometimes as I wasn't able to see him on the other side of the calves - but I could have been knowing he was there and it was the right place to down him.


He was, as always, wanting to go to the heads, but he was eager to fetch, cover, and balance - and doing it very calmly and nicely a great deal of the time. In addition, Anna had me "wean" us off depending on the "down" and using his name or a soft "hey" or my movement to encourage him to think, slow down, and pace himself.


If we only had video...

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To the above I'll just add that for the first time, Dan was NOT moving the calves at a hundred fricking miles an hour! He was staying behind them (mostly), and really feeling his stock, and pacing himself accordingly. WOOHOO! And FINALLY!!! :D:D:D


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Counting down to going home, one day left here! Sorry, no photos again but I was working largely on my own, although Anna did take video for the "obstacle course". This is a woman who is serious about this training and testing stuff - up last night when she couldn't sleep, she was devising devilish torments for me and challenges for Dan. And then, so she didn't forget anything, she got up and wrote it all down!


We started the day doing the basic morning chores - instead of Anna supervising the turn-out of the sheep and Ms Peggy Sue, it was our job. Dan and I got them out of the night pen, through pasture #10, and into #13 for a good graze. And then, our obstacle began - gather the calves from #15 (where the sheep were also now grazing), and take them through the four-gated catch pen (the challenge - I could only close one gate of four, my choice).


I chose to close the gate I thought would be most helpful and we went and gathered the calves and Dan did a nice job getting them to the catch pen, and into it (well, just a bit of a bobble at the open gate). But, in my haste to send him around to block the opposite gate, I let him overflank and so he also blocked the gate we needed the calves to enter.


Take the calves out of the catch pen and set it up to try again - second try, success! Then we moved the calves through #14 and into the catch pen at the other end, where Dan had to hold them while I went across the roadway to open the gate to #12, and stay still while I then opened the catch pen gate. He did, and moved them pretty nicely across and into #12.


Then, we had to take the calves out of that catch pen (easy enough, they left on their own volition) and go halfway down the long side to open the gate there, and the corresponding gate into a lane that leads to the round pen. The two gates do not form a lane across the roadway, so the calves can "escape" in either direction.


It took a try or two to get them out of #12 and across to the lane but Dan was trying his hardest to accomplish the job in spite of me! Shut them in the lane with Dan on a down to hold them, go around to the other end, and open the gate so they could go into the round pen. From there, I had to open another gate and have Dan pen them up again.


A brief respite, and we took them out and back into the lane, and then out the other end and across the roadway to #12. Some of these "transfers" went swimmingly smoothly and some did not - but when they didn't, Dan was able to fix whatever mistakes we made. Back to the catch pen, and back to #14 for a well-deserved rest.


This was preparation for loading these calves and returning them to their home farm, where Anna would get four new, fresh calves. When the time came, Dan and I gathered up the calves again, took them into the four-gate catch pen, and out the gate into #13, down that field (Dan doing some elementary driving), into that catch pen, and out into the roadway, where we moved them down to the far end of #12 and into a lane, where they would be loaded into the trailer.


Big day, real jobs (and job training), and an overall good feeling all around!

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If you have not heard, coming home will be a bit of a weather shock for you. We got a bit more of that white manure last night. Just in time for lambing.



I'm looking forward to seeing thinking Dan and Team Sue-Dan.

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