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A hot, muggy morning's gather...

Sue R

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Dan got a tiring work this morning. Really, if he got enough exercise/work to be fit, it would not have tired him out but...Ed dropped us off down the road to gather the herd, that was spread out on a hillside field that includes a wooded wet area. Dan is not a gathering dog, although he does maintain the definite opinion that cattle (or sheep) should bunch together. He's more the sort of dog that likes to "punish" the stragglers and independent thinkers than he is a dog that likes to put them all together.


He was listening well, bless his heart, taking every down I gave him, although he had not much of an outrun but useful flanks. He went this way and that, getting everyone started - flushing the calves out of the brush and woody area, getting the mothers calling for their youngsters and moving on downhill.


I could not see him in the wooded area but when I did call him and he turned to me, then I could see that he had been doing just what was needed, getting everyone together and moving on down towards the next field. I wish I hadn't called him but I could see nothing. He came happily and readily, always a plus.


The cows headed up the next field to the south, towards where Ed was waiting two fields away. Bless Dan's heart, he did not take off after them but walked thoughtfully, staying primarily with me, watching the cattle to see they were "behaving" and not leaving this panting, sweating old woman in the dust.


I saw a few calves up on the bench behind some trees and rocks, and sent Dan. He kept going up nicely but stopping short for the first calf or two he'd see, and so I had to call him back several times and redirect him up. I though he'd missed a couple but he was right and I was wrong - they were just big rocks!


He knew where Ed was and he knows the job - he never made an attempt to gather or bring the cattle to me on this "drive" but always to push them towards Ed. And always stopping when I said "down", even at a distance from me.


A few calves gave a little trouble at the neighbors' driveway, balking about going across, and so he got to do his favorite job of working and covering them as they would squirt left and then right in an effort to avoid crossing. On the other side of the driveway, he was great at holding the herd to the fence to push them across the road.


But, again, a few silly calves balked which made Dan's day. Except that as they headed up the hill and he ran to intercept them, he was getting a bit tired and was moving way too flat, and they popped through the wire gate and into the next field. No problemo for Dan-O. He flanked out and around them (because he did know that they needed to come back to us, being as job-oriented as he has been), brought them down to the corner and back through the wire gate, down the field, and to the crossing. At this point, they were only two happy to comply and they went right across.


But a calf had split earlier and headed up the road. My very tired dog could not see the calf and without a good, wide outrun in him by nature, was not managing to understand he needed to go out and around and into the road (which does have its advantages anyway, in that I don't want a dog going in the road without direction or purpose).


Meanwhile, the cows had spread out in the regrowing south hayfield which is ten acres, and were messing with the haybales, so they needed to be moved out and soon. My dog was pretty beat and so I walked him out and around (remember, no outrun to speak of, particularly not on stock that is not moving much - this would have been a perfect job for Celt if he'd been sound) and sent him on the bye side. It took a couple of redirects but we got them moving in the right direction.


The cows did not really want to cooperate as the hayfield they were in was very tasty and fresh, and the field we were moving them to has feed but is not as appealing. Dan had to work hard but he was also exhausted and it was warm and very humid. It was a very good time for him to work on nice, calm, quiet, slow walk-ups. He had to do some quick flanking as the front of the herd would start veering off back into the field as he was walking the rear of the herd up the fenceline. And then when he would get the front turned, the new front (the old rear) would start heading back where they shouldn't be.


Poor dog, his tongue was dragging and he was getting fried both physically and mentally, but he kept giving his best and the cows gave up, and poured through the opening into the pasture behind the house - which is where they needed to be. I took Dan right to water and the dog tank was full of chilly water as I'd filled it just last night. The measure of how hot and tired he was was that he lay down on his belly, lapped, and stayed put for several minutes - and this is a dog that is no fan of getting wet unless he is *hot*.


Good boy, Dan, well done! I'm really seeing that he is trying hard to understand what I want and get the job done as a partner, and not just go flying off the handle. He is the polar opposite of Celt in so many ways - they are both very useful dogs but each in their own way. But Dan, bless his heart, loves working the young stock and Celt does not, so Dan holds a big advantage there.


I wish I had photos to share but I'm not that coordinated!


PS - This was a good example of humidity being an issue. Early in the day, it was not that hot but it was very humid. I was dripping sweat in no time at all and, at a point, Dan could not keep cool enough. I kept a close eye on him and made sure to not ask what he could not do, and was grateful to see him working slowly and with thought when he was getting tired. I think that has been teaching him a great deal, learning that he is just as effective (or more so) when he keeps a distance, moves with purpose, and uses his head instead of flailing around like he had been wont to do sometimes when younger.

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Fun read. Nice example of using a dog to his strengths. Understand about pic's. Tried holding a video cam while working my dog...once. Lots of shots of grass, sky, trees, my boots, and a few poorly framed shots actually containing dog and sheep. Recently went to placing camera on a tripod in strategic location. Steady, yet sheep/dog and handler can disappear out of view for minutes at a time.


Thanks for relating a great well told story. Words hold a magic that will never be replaced by technology. -- TEC

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What a wonderful story. I'm so proud of you and Dan! I don't get that many chances to do "real" work with my dogs, since I lack livestock of my own, but I know how wonderful it feels when I can give them a job and I see them "get it." Dan the Man is growing up, it sounds like, and you're giving him terrific work to help him on that road. Good for both of you! :)


~ Gloria

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