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Seven months after his surgery, and today was...

Sue R

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I posted this under Health and Genetics, but I particularly wanted to share it with my working-dog friends.


Today was a red-letter day. Our next (and hopefully last) therapy/rehab appointment was not scheduled until next Saturday, and is now unscheduled until Shari and I can find a new date that we can use. We needed to gather the cows to treat for lice, which have begun to get active with the short days of winter. I knew I needed a dog to help move cattle on this milder, perfectly sunny, but blustery day, but I just did not feel up to using Dan (particularly with the cow with the twin calves). I decided to go ahead and give Celt a chance to do a little, simple work.


Dan was quite put out when I crated him and let Celt come with me, and Celt was beside himself with anticipation. When we got out and behind the house, the older cows were already filing along the fenceline on their way to the working pens. We waited for a hiatus in the progression and walked out into the house field. There were some animals on both sides of the fence separating this field from the south hayfield, where they were feeding on the big round bales. Gathering them would call for a dog that would look, observe, and think in order to get both groups moving in the right direction, coalesced, and moving to the pens - and, while the mother cow was already in the pen and getting some supplement, her calves had been left behind with the stock at the hay bales.


Along with the two young calves were the first-calf heifers, the two young steers from last year, some of the younger cows, and the one old granny cow (who is fifteen, and very slow-moving). This would call for finesse, the right amount of pressure and balance to get them all moving where we wanted them to move, young, old, and in between. I was glad to have Celt for my partner, as Dan is not my choice for finesse.


I sent Celt away and watched as he went on a nice outrun, adjusting his path for the terrain and natural obstacles, and stopping a little bit short at around 3 o'clock, on the near side of the fence, as he observed cattle on both sides. He was aware that he needed to move both groups along the fenceline towards the gateway east of where they were located but I think he was concerned that if he crossed the fenceline to move those in the south hayfield, that he might lose control of the ones in the house pasture.


I gave him two short flanks, both of which he took, to place him closer to the fence, and the two or three on our side of the fence began to move eastward. Good. One more flank command and he slipped through the fence and began walking up on the bulk of the cattle nicely, and turned them eastward. But these cattle have not been worked by a sensitive dog like Celt, not for most of a year at least - they've been worked by Dan and I could see that in their reaction. "DOG! Moooove out, girls, he's coming to getcha!"


Celt, who can have a real issue with flying around to the heads (which is something we have struggled with over the years, and which has improved quite a lot) just kept up a nice, steady, right on the bubble pace. He moved all the animals along the fenceline, flanked himself to put them through the gateway, and was walking them very nicely on their way to the pens. At that point, while I hated to do it, I downed him a few times to take the pressure off the old cow, who was moving as fast as she could, trying to keep up with the others. Fortunately, he was on his best behavior, taking my stops and not pushing her unduly.


When he got the herd to the pens, he hesitated - Celt is extremely pressure-sensitive and it's very hard for him to push stock when there is a lot of "back pressure", or pressure from the pens or a fence corner that is "pushing back" on them. Ed encouraged him to walk up and the ladies complied, with all but one moving nicely counter-clockwise to be in a good position for moving into the pen. Celt and I walked around and we both worked to move them quietly into the pen.


I really wish I'd had it all on video because he did a very nice job, hardly any input from me as he knew what needed to be done and he did it beautifully, but I can barely walk and chew gum, and so did not have my camera along. If I'd know just how nicely he was going to work without me having to do much of anything, I could have done it but I just didn't know in advance.


So here's the only picture I did get, a contented dog looking on the fruits of his long-anticipated first-time-back-on-the-job -




I didn't want to push my luck and we used Dan to help move the older cows (minus the first-timers, the mother and her babies, the old granny, and the two steers, back to the south hayfield, across the road and into the south driveway pasture, and then across the driveway, into the south barn field.


So, nothing in this post about rehab, just sharing our excitement at using Celt on the cattle for the first time since his surgery. It's a mighty good feeling.

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