Saturday, November 8, 2008

a morning to remember

I pulled into Denise’s driveway fifteen minutes early for my lesson. Sarah was in the front seat, but I asked her to wait. I walked back to the hatch and took out the giant canvas shoulder bag that was holding the 26-pound tom still frozen solid. I slung it over my shoulder with a loud “Ughhugh” and waddled up to the side door I remembered from the Dave Sykes Clinic this summer. The last time I walked through Denise’s gate, where the slate hung from the chain link saying Fall Foliage Top Ten Finalist I didn’t have a border collie or know what a “Fall Foliage Finalist” was. A quarter turn of the year later I have a Scottish dog in the front seat, brimming with possibilities. And to top off the incidentals of all this, I initially met her at this year’s Fall Foliage trial. I was becoming a New England shepherd, or at least learning the dance steps.

After I handed over the bird to her one of her family members, I was directed to go down past the barn. There was a lesson going on and I could watch while I waited. So I got Sarah out of the car and together we walked past the slate sign down the hill to the fields.

The first thing I noticed was Denise and her student with a Kelpie named Fizz. Kelpies are an Australian breed that are super athletic, fast, loud, and herding super stars. They are just catching on in popularity here in New England, but I've met a few over the months with the club. Nice dogs. They were working on Fizz’s outrun, trying to make his flanks wider.

The first thing Sarah noticed however, was the sheep. She turned into a different dog. Seeing a full flock in an open field, made her quiver with excitement and lunge on the lead. Ears up. Body taunt. High gear.

Uh oh.

We waited for our turn. I watched from above them on the hill. I saw the woman who was taking the lesson stride around the field with these black nylon pants over her jeans. Why the hell was she wearing those? She had a training stick and seem relaxed with her little Kelpie, who seemed to be improving his “Away to me” by not being so tight on the sheep. I can see these things now, but just barely. After a bit Denise waved me down, and called her Jess to take the ewes they were working with back to the pen. She said she was going to give Sarah the whole flock.

Uh oh.

I laid Sarah down and sent her after the sheep, which she circled around, frantic and too close. But after the initial gather round she calmed down. Her head low, her tail down. If dogs can smile, she had a shit-faced grin. I didn’t know what I was doing. I just tried to keep the sheep between us. She balanced them well, if I stepped right she stepped left. If I turned one way, she was always opposite me. Like a wire was between us.

Denise showed me how to handle, give commands, and use the stick to cut off her moves by making a small wall between us. I was walking backwards this whole time, trying to watch Sarah and not get over ran by the 4 large sheep in front of me, clinging to me to keep the wolf at bay. At one point I tripped over myself and the training stick jabbed into my stomach, I slid across the mud and was able to get up just in time to not get ran over. Covered in mud from the waist down, sore and tired, I looked up at Denise and the Kelpie owner. They yelled. “Welcome to herding! You’ve just been initiated!!" I stood up and looked down at my favorite jeans... covered in mud. Oh, so that’s what the nylon chaps were for…

By the end of the hour Sarah was learning to walk calmly (well, calmer) behind the sheep and drive them towards me as I walked away from them (herding hint, take long backwards strides, don't run backwards.) She did well. I was impressed. It was a morning to remember.

I was herding sheep with my own border collie. She was brilliant. She stays.

19 Comments:

Blogger Mama Pea said...

CONGRATULATIONS on being the proud owner of your own border collie! May you have many happy years together.

Sarah's a lucky pup!

November 8, 2008 at 7:54 PM  
Blogger Mare said...

HURRAY! I feel so happy for the both of you!

November 8, 2008 at 8:19 PM  
Blogger Keeper of Little Sweetie said...

Bravo!!!

November 8, 2008 at 9:08 PM  
Anonymous Nicole said...

How very exciting!

November 8, 2008 at 10:51 PM  
Blogger EJ said...

What a relief! I hope you have many happy times.

November 8, 2008 at 11:16 PM  
Anonymous Rachel said...

Yeah!!! I was so hoping that you were going to keep her. She is beautiful!

November 8, 2008 at 11:30 PM  
Blogger sara amber said...

YAY!

November 9, 2008 at 2:24 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

guys

i just want you to know how great it was to check the blog this morning and see all these nice things. I still worry about sarah in our small cabin, and most friends and family (not all, just most) are either keeping this at arm's length or keeping their opinions to themselves politely. So to get this overwhelming congrats felt so nice. really.

November 9, 2008 at 5:45 AM  
Blogger Kathleen Stoltzfus said...

Congratulations on your decision! Only you know what is the right way to live your life, what fulfills your dreams, what is good for your soul. I don't believe anyone was ever made truly happy by living their life to please someone else. So even while respectfully listening to the well-intentioned advice of those who love you, I hope you stand firm in working toward your goals and dreams.

November 9, 2008 at 7:52 AM  
Blogger Mare said...

Jenna, i've had some really important, life changing decisions i made in my life, that some of the people closest to me didn't agree with or kept silent and distant. But when you KNOW in your heart it is right, then it is, for you. And i believe when they see that, they will come along too. When i first started working with energy (Reiki) many years ago, my family thought i went off the deep end. Now my Mother and Sister are Reiki practitioners, and we are called to help so many of our family and friends. Really my friend...it will all work out.

November 9, 2008 at 9:01 AM  
Anonymous Andy said...

All my congratulation, and all the best with your new partner (in crime ...) I owned a border too, he is working sheeps, goats and and highland cattles. Once well trained they are one of the most useful aid on the farm way more than a four wheeler (which I don't owned, I ave a couple of horses and mules instead of). I hope you have been finally able to find a ram for Maude. If not, I hope you will consider buying a lamb early next year, using him to breed her and then find him a good home, I am sure that in Vermont people are still looking for that good pasture raised lamb instead of that untasty Wall Mart meat !!!!

Which you all the best guys and I am sure that Santa will bring you some farming gear in a few weeks.

Have fun even while

November 9, 2008 at 11:03 AM  
Blogger Geeka said...

I am so happy for you~ I hope the other dogs will welcome her into your little animal family.

I have a border collie/brittany mix, who is the dumbest dog I have ever met (We've stopped commenting on how often she walks into things from not paying attention). Congrats on getting a smart one.

November 9, 2008 at 11:41 AM  
Blogger Tom Open said...

Congrats. Sounds like Sarah will work just fine.

Thursday, August 30, 2007
Some day, when I have a dozen Suffolks in the pasture I'll have a border collie. And that border collie will be a working dog that shares my home with the no-good rebellious sled dogs. I have already decided his name - Saven.

November 9, 2008 at 12:24 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I guess saven will have to be the name of the dog... Saven is Scottish for Halloween, my favorite time of the year.

November 9, 2008 at 2:12 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

the next dog, is what i meant. sarah keep her name. it suits her

November 9, 2008 at 5:24 PM  
Blogger TheMusingMommy said...

Big smiles from here! And goosebumps! Yay for dreams come true...

Congratulations...

November 9, 2008 at 8:06 PM  
Blogger Mary said...

I am happy for you and Sarah!

Maybe after car trips to pleasant places, her fear of the car will be reduced. We had a dog that hated car rides - she always ended up at the vet. When we got a different vehicle and took her to great places, like parks and lakes, she didn't mind the new car at all. She never learned to like the old one. Conditioning!

November 10, 2008 at 1:01 PM  
Blogger Diana said...

HOORAY for Sarah and how wonderful for you, too!

November 10, 2008 at 8:30 PM  
Blogger danahollis said...

Ahhh.... that so made me tear up! ;)

May 6, 2009 at 12:51 PM  

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