Saturday, November 1, 2008

so i have a confession to make...

There's a border collie here, right here by my side as I type this. She's been here for a week and currently is laying on the floor beside Annie watching me type. I just recently told my family about her, and about the possibility she may stay. Her name is Sarah, and if you read this blog you've heard about her before. She's six months south of being two-years old, a spunky tri-color bitch with tick marks on her face and a tan patch over her right eye. She hails from international champion lines (her great grandfather was the famed Roy ISDS 200199 - owned by Aled Owen), and currently his progeny is here with me on a trial basis. I have two weeks to see if the little scrapper will work - both as a working sheepdog, and as a part of my canine family. So far Jazz and Annie have no qualms, and the first week has been smooth, but again, this is a try-out. I need to see if and how she works, in every sense.

We did some herding work with Marvin and Maude (Sal learned he could clear a 4-foot electric fence when Sarah was in the field...so he stays in their pen instead of joining in the training), but I am new at this shepherding bit and worry my novice handling will screw her pre-training up. Sometimes the sheep are a little too ballsy and stomp or try to headbutt (they haven't done this, just start advancing, head down, so I tap them on my head with the thin metal training stick (which weighs about 5 oz.) to stop them from scaring/injuring the dog.

One morning Sal looked like he was going to stomp her down (another reason he doesn't train with us) so I jumped in-between them and smacked Sal on the head with my open palm to save her. I couldn't have a dog I didn't even own get crushed or scared of sheep. I didn't hurt him (I don't think a baseball bat would bother Sal), just confuse him while Sarah slid away..My neighbor who just moved here full-time from New York City watched me from his porch project. Great... I thought. Now the neighborhood will think I beat animals. Another neighbor is upset about the turkey.... The last thing I want to do is explain tapping a wether on the head isn't cruelty to animals, but letting 140-pounds of hoof slam down a dog is.

Sarah's a started dog, meaning she was trained by a professional before I laid hands on her. So she comes to me knowing more about this sheep business than I do. Next weekend I have an hour long private herding lesson with her over in Greenfield (I bartered it for the turkey in the freezer), and if she does well, and has the gumption to make a decent stock dog she may stay. I really am on the fence about her, a third dog, even one as well trained as Sarah, is a commitent I'm not sure I can make.


So we'll see. Nothing is written in stone. She may go back to the trainer I got her from, specially if it's too much for me to handle. As much as I want a working sheepdog, I need to be realistic about my life and all the creatures in it...

-Tangent -
Okay, so just as I was typing this, I heard loud rustling outside. Really loud. I looked out the window and saw nothing. I went back to typing and then heard louder, closer rustling. I looked out the window and there was Sal. Standing in the glow of the porch light, chewing on the lawn. I rolled my eyes, slipped on some crocs, and grabbed the lantern on the way out the door. I stepped off the porch and saw all three sheep standing there, staring at me in the dark. Jeez.

I used to freak out when the sheep got loose, panic, run for the grain can to bribe them back with anxiety in my eyes. Those days are over. I am now break-out broken. I just walked out, mumbled a hello/curse at them, and then told the jerks to follow me. Which they did, in the glow of the lantern they trotted behind me in a nice single file line back to the pen where they knew I would give them grain and they would no longer have to settle for crappy frost-bitten grass. I penned them and came back inside. Sarah stayed in. I worried if I brought her out she's just scatter them into the woods, uncertain if Sal would feel deer-like and take off forever with his fence-hopping gusto. A young dog new to herding isn't a great help yet. Maybe someday.
-End Tangent-

So I don't know if I'll keep her. But I thought you guys should know. There's a wee bonnie girl here curled up on the kitchen floor. Her papers say half her lineage goes back to Scotland, Wales and England and the other half, ironically, to Pennsylvania. So we share a collective commonwealth. If this is fate maybe I'll marry a Scottish fellow and bring this full circle? (I'm 67% kidding) But regardless, the shepherd, for now, has her dog.

photo of Sarah's face by Sara Stell

10 Comments:

Blogger Chicken Mama said...

Ahh, so The Turkey isn't going to be gracing your family's Thanksgiving table. Probably just as well.

BUT, had I remembered to do so, I was going to tell you that my mom and I were discussing you (and the turkey in question) yesterday only to decide that you should offer (could have offered) a lottery-ticket drawing for it! The proceeds could have gone towards your "a farm of my own" pot! I'll bet each one of us readers here (we readers?) would have ponied up $1 or $5 per ticket!

Ah, well . . . next time. :)

November 1, 2008 at 9:13 PM  
Anonymous RC said...

In the farming game one must make some small progress all the time and some large progress some of the time otherwise the enterprise founders. I hope the large progress of having the trained dog succeeds for you.

November 1, 2008 at 9:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Somehow I knew that dog was going home with you. Good luck with the dog and if next year you raffle off a turkey put me down for a handful of tickets....

EricN

November 2, 2008 at 3:50 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

ah, a raffle? Well I would consider it but shippingbthe bird would be a nightmare. And if the dry ice didn't work or someone got sick I'd never forgive myself. If I did it it would have to be local folks I think?

But this works out. You know? Lessons like that are up tom 50 bucks so at least the sheepdog gets a test run and my family isn't nervous

November 2, 2008 at 3:57 AM  
Anonymous Nikki Jackson said...

Yay Jenna,
I think that's a great solution all round: you get something that really fits; someone with a proper appreciation gets turkey; and you can also have Thanksgiving without WWIII.
Sarah is beautiful. If she's also smart, I don't see how she could go back to the breeder, (I do like smart dogs!). Good luck making the decision that's right for you.
Nikki.

November 2, 2008 at 9:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good luck with your decision on whether or not to keep Sarah. Good for you taking your time to make not only a good decision for yourself but with regard to your animals/pets as well.
Wendy

November 2, 2008 at 10:56 AM  
Blogger Mare said...

I think you are doing this the right way. You are taking your time and staying unattached until you decide what is best. I imagine she is very expensive too, so i am sure you will make the right decision...

November 2, 2008 at 11:29 AM  
Blogger Chicken Mama said...

Just a follow-up re shipping a turkey. Yep, it would be a HEAVY package, no doubt, but I'll bet you could just overnight the frozen bird to its destination (no dry ice needed). It takes forever for them to thaw, anyway!

Priority service from your neck of the woods to mine in Minnesota is $31.50 for a 28# package (couldn't remember how much you said it dressed out at). So, actually quite do-able! Either the raffle ticket winner could pay the shipping OR you could deduct it from the overall winnings . . . which would probably make even MORE people buy the raffle tickets!

But, like I said, it's a moot point for this year. :)

November 2, 2008 at 1:21 PM  
Blogger Anne said...

Very cool about Sarah! What a beauty! Even if she doesn't end up being the right dog at the right time for you, it must be so exciting to have this experience now. You really are making your dreams a reality. Also, I am sorry to hear that the turkey became such an issue for your family. I loved your impassioned post (even if it stirred up more trouble than you expected). You ARE "normal"-- it's everyone else whose idea of meat is an anonymous plastic-and styrofoam-wrapped specimen who is not normal. Unfortunately, that artificial paradigm is the only route so many people know, that I guess patience and compassion are needed as (hopefully) more of us make a transition back to a more authentic lifestyle. Anyway, good solution to a thorny issue.

November 3, 2008 at 2:46 PM  
Blogger danahollis said...

Oh my goodness.... she's so sweet! What a darling face!

May 6, 2009 at 12:46 PM  

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