Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to friends and family, and all the great folks we've been fortunate to meet and share time with in 2008. Here's to more great times with you and new friends to come in 2009!

There's not a whole lot going on these days around the farm and with the Shoofly crew. I'm waiting very impatiently to find out if Gael is bred (2 weeks to go until ultrasound!). The dogs are getting some sporadic training, as weather allows - it's been pretty wet lately. Zac seems really sound and his skipping is becoming less and less frequent (knock wood). He's sure happy to be back at work and getting more of it. Billy is coming along in his training, Jet is her usual good self with the work. The holidays have been very nice, quiet but nice.

January is looking to be a busy month if all goes according to plan. If the weather holds, New Years weekend is going to be jam packed. Tomorrow i'm heading to a friend's place to work my dogs. Saturday, i'll be doing a group lesson at Julie's, with about 10 dogs to do. Sunday, more lessons at the farm. Then next weekend is the Edgeworth Winter Trial from friday to sunday, followed by a Fun Day on monday. The next week i'm heading off to KY to visit family, and hopefully sneak away for a day at Vergil Holland's to work the dogs some more. Busy, busy. I hope the weather cooperates!

Now, everyone think puppy thoughts for me....and have a great New Years!!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Presents

I just have to show off what my Dad made for me for Christmas. How cool is this? There will be some very happy bluebirds at the farm this summer.
And here's Gael showing off her Christmas collar (see the little Christmas tree?)

It was a gorgeous day at the farm today, sunny and mild. What a lovely sort of Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to everyone from the Shoofly Farm crew. Hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday!

The forecast is holding for the christmas party at the farm saturday. Right now the weather guys are predicting 68 degrees and partly cloudy. Sounds better than 40 and raining like it was on our original scheduled date. We'll start 10ish or so and go all day. Hope to see lots of folks there!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Progesterone Test

Well, the news isn't good. Gael's progesterone level was 22.5 yesterday, so the breeding probably won't work. In Zac's opinion, she's been ready for breeding just since Sunday, so hopefully she was still fertile yesterday when we did the AI, but based on the progesterone level, chances are slim. I'll take her in to the vet on Day 26 to be palpated, so the waiting continues. Damn it, i'm really disappointed.

Additional notes, 7:00 PM: After talking to the vet again and studying the timeline of the last few days, i decided to run Gael back in and do another AI, just to be on the safe side. We did a smear on wednesday and know she'd not ovulated at that point, and did the first AI 5 days later, so hopefully it'll work out. Zac definitely said sunday was the day she started making him crazy and as of today is trying to do a natural breeding, though Gael's not real happy about it. Bill is still quite interested as well. So, that's the latest - it's going to be a long wait until January 15th when i can take her to be palpated for pups.

Monday, December 22, 2008

And the Watch Intensifies...

..because now we're watching for puppies! Today, I took Gael and Zac to the vet i want to use during this whole process (reproduction is a special interest of hers). I'd taken them by to see her last wednesday, and based on the smear she did then, and the timeline of the heat and behavior of the dogs, we decided to do a progesterone test. That will tell us where Gael is in terms of ovulation but it won't be back until tomorrow, so we also went ahead and did an AI. Zac has been trying to do a natural breeding for a couple of days, but with Gael being the dominant dog in the house, he was having trouble getting it done. She'd swing around when he got serious about trying, and if i was holding her, he wasn't as aggressive about it all. He may still manage a natural breeding in the next couple of days but this way it's done and we know it's done.

Keep your fingers crossed that the news is good on the progesterone test results tomorrow, that it wasn't too late to get her in pup.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Watch Continues...

Well, the Gael/Zac watch continues. I'm trying to not be too crazy about this whole breeding but i am fretting a bit, worried it won't happen for one reason or another. I've only bred one litter before and both sire and dam were experienced, so that one was easy. Hopefully there will be some good news in the next couple of days.

It's been a nice weekend around here. Even though the forecast yesterday was for rain, i loaded up the dogs and went over to Denise's for a little dog working and visiting. I got the chance to work Billy several times and he did really well. Denise has a nice flat training field and her sheep aren't as broke as mine, so it works nicely for dogs that are just getting the idea of driving. I'm hoping i can get him over there a couple of times in the next few weeks. I thought it was great for Moss when he was at this stage and hope it helps Billy as well.

Last night i caught an enjoyable movie, "The World's Fastest Indian". It's based on a true story, set in the 60s, of Burt Munro, an older New Zealander, and his quest to beat the world land speed record on his modified 1920 Indian Scout motorcycle. It was a good story, maybe a little heavy on the ominous foreshadowing, but a good story.

Today dawned nasty and rainy, like so many recent days. Finally though, the sun came out! I spent the day with my mom Christmas shopping, which was a lot of fun. Other than all of that, i've been playing on Facebook for the last week or so, reconnecting with some old friends from when i lived in Louisville. What i can't figure out, is why they all look so different in their pictures, when i'm sure i haven't changed a bit in the last 20 years?! LOL!

So now we're into Christmas week, and i sure hope i get to work some dogs this week....

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Shoofly Christmas Party

Since it's supposed to be nasty and raining, the party/potluck this sunday is being rescheduled to next saturday, 12/27. I'll keep a list of who is planning to come and what they're bringing here and update it as i get info. Hope everyone can come!

Robin - apple salad
Joan -
Rachel - deviled eggs, mini meatballs
Sherry - cookies
Anet - sausage/spinach casserole
Susan - buckeyes, pesto pasta salad
Mary Ann - desert
Becca -
Laura - corn muffins & ??
Julie -
Denise -
Darci - ??
Debby & John - shrimp or 7 layer salad
Kelly -

I think i'll just stop eating now so i have room for all of this great sounding stuff!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Weekend Report

Not much to report around here. I'm still waiting (very impatiently, my friends will attest) for Gael and Zac to get busy making puppies. It's got to be getting close to time.

The weekend was very busy and very full of dogs (my favorite kind of weekend!). Saturday started with a few lessons. Mary Ann came out with Zac's sister Nan, Lauren was out with Mac and Ghyllie, and Becky and Tim brought their dogs Zee and Cooper, along with a friend of theirs and her dog for a first time exposure to sheep. All of the "regulars" did very well, both human and canine. On Sunday, i went over to Julie's to do more lessons. Julie had Pip and Phoebe out, Darci had Bear and we tried Hank to see if he was ready to start (nope!), Beth came out with Wisp, Pam with Hope and Fly, Kelly with Jen, and we checked to see if Laura's Linc was ready for training yet (maybe). It was a really good weekend with a bunch of really nice dogs, which always makes the full days that much more fun. All of the dogs are making nice progress!

After wrapping up lessons on saturday, i got Billy out and fooled around with him for a good while. I wanted to put him in some different situations and just see what i have with him. I stuffed a small pen chock full of sheep and worked him in there and he was great. He likes hitting hocks and bites noses as well, and is tough and confident. Sheep were stepping and falling on him and he'd just shake it off and get back to work, all very calm and cool. Since he was handling that so well, i had him put the whole flock in the chute system and had him pushing them through there. Again, no problem and he was cool as could be, chomping on heels to push them through when they'd clog up the chute. I'm really liking the maturity and confidence he's showing. I'm still not pushing him along very fast with his training, just trying to wait him out a bit and let him grow into the work. So far, so good.

Now back to the waiting game on Gael and Zac...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Some Thoughts on Training Dogs

It's a rainy nasty week here so i'm cleaning. Cleaning at home and cleaning at work. Today it's going through tons of old emails. I found this one very good and thought i'd share.

Here are some words from Thomas Capstick, written near the beginning of the last century and based on the ways of 'that little Scotch boy, Alex Millar' :

"Probably between four and eight months old, they will begin to round up poultry, sheep or cattle without instruction or encouragement. The instinct is there naturally, it cannot be helped, and without this true born quality we can never make them into good Sheep Dogs. Training is necessary to enable him to take them where we want them."

"You have to ensure first of all that there is a perfect understanding between the dog and yourself, and that means that you have to gain his affection and friendship. He must learn to trust you so that in all his relations with you there is perfect understanding."

"It would never do, for instance, to praise the dog for doing something one day, and to scold him for the same thing the next. There must be an undeviating standard of right and wrong. Each trainer has his own code of signals, by whistle, the shouted word, and also the gesture made by arm and stick. The dog has to be perfectly familiar with these and learn to act on them immediately."

"A dog can never be an absolute first-rater if it isn't genuinely attached to its master, and thus, eager to do the best in its power to please him, and similarly a sheep dog man will not get the best out of either the dog or himself if he is not very fond of his dog"

"Some people are always ready to blame the youngster; it never occurs to them the fault lies on their doorstep. Remember sympathy plays a great part; all dogs have different temperaments; all masters are not blameless. If we would only study things from a dog's point of view we should certainly make more headway."

"Experience is ever a wise teacher, and when you have a new dog try you understand his temperament, read his expressions, try to fathom which is the best system to adopt to give the best results, and when you feel satisfied that you understand him, apply the methods that you consider best in this particular case. If you have to chastise a dog do it at the right moment, be perfectly fair; this is the only way he can be taught the difference between right and wrong, but the punishment must be given at the right time or he will be bewildered."

"Endless patience is necessary. You cannot force matters, and you must never lose your temper. Sooner or later you will be rewarded for all the time spent, but if you are too hasty at the beginning, and do not show the right temperament yourself, you will never make a successful trainer."

Starting the pup on sheep: Basic obedience done first. Then, "I never like to see sheep unduly chased by a dog; this is unnecessary and can easily be avoided. It is so much better for them when you can make the dog walk steadily, and, what is more important, it shows a better class of training without frightening the sheep."

Monday, December 8, 2008

Broken Back Ranch SDT Report

The trial this weekend was very nice. The field was excellent, very large and rolling. The texel sheep were challenging and the judging fair and consistent. The set out crew had a tough job holding the sheep at the top end but did a good job. Steve and Shelly Godfrey were gracious hosts. The weather was very cold but at least it stayed dry.

Four sheep were set something like 400-450 yards out, then fetched to about 50 yards past the fetch gates. At that point, we were to turn the sheep around a round bale of hay (probably 150 yards or so from the handler's post) and start the drive. The pen and a split followed. The sheep were very difficult to split as they didn't react to handlers at all and were quick to break around the handler and rejoin behind his/her back. On Sunday, the course was reversed and the pen and split were replaced by a maltese cross.

Both of my dogs managed to grip out on saturday, which might be a first for me and my team! Jet ran first and was really on the muscle and pushing, which these sheep did not appreciate much. We just couldn't get a good hold on them, not with Jet being so forceful, and the lines weren't very good. I managed to get a very small gap between the sheep on the split and called Jet through, and she flew in there, but unfortunately it was just too exciting and she grabbed one of the sheep under the ear. She can do that kind of spectacular shed properly but i need to have been practicing shedding a bit with her before the trial. Otherwise her excitement level gets the best of her. Zac ran really well, except for pulling up short on his outrun. He would have placed with a clean shed. I got another small gap on his split and called him through but he grabbed one of the sheep as it was moving off. He was pretty bad about that back when i first moved him to Open and we worked through it then. I guess with the lay off (6 months since his last trial) it's just reared its head again but i'm sure it'll go away again with some more work. It was really hard to get a gap at all with those sheep and i'm sure i probably was a little too excited calling both dogs into such a small hole, but it took a very assertive move on the dog's part to get the shed and holes were hard to come by at all. In hindsight, i'd try calling them through a little more calmly.

On sunday, Zac ran first. He worked pretty well but had a group of sheep that just wouldn't settle to him at all. They took off before he was able to get to the top and begin his lift properly, and never did really settle and relax. We got the group through the first half of the maltese cross but ran out of time before getting through the second half. Again, with a clean finish, he'd have placed. Jet ran reasonably well though her drive was really rough - we were all over the place on at the drive away panel. The maltese cross was beautiful with her, very clean, and she ended up in the money for the day.

All in all, it was a good trial weekend. It was wonderful to finally be running Zac again. The crowd was nice and it was good to see and spend time with friends again. And to top it all off, two very good friends ran in Open for their very first times and both did a great job! Way to go Peggy and Laura, i'm really proud of both of you!!!

In other news, i'm definitely breeding Gael and Zac. We're in waiting mode here now, just waiting on Gael to be ready. I can't wait to have baby Gaels and baby Zacs!

Thursday, December 4, 2008


So, if they'll both cooperate, I'm going to breed Gael and Zac. It should be sometime in the next few days. Here's a little video preview of baby Gael puppies (video of her at 6 weeks old). She was about the sweetest puppy ever.

I don't have video of Zac as a baby but there's a picture of him right below. He was pretty darned adorable.

I'm so excited i can hardly stand myself!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Dog Trialin'!

Yay, we're off to a dog trial this weekend! And finally, FINALLY, i get to run Zac again. It's been just over 6 months since his last trial run. He may be a wild man but he's my wild guy and we'll finally be back on a trial course together. The trial is in Cowpens, SC (don't you love that town name?) and i've heard the field is lovely, and we're supposed to be running on wool sheep. I'll be running Zac and Jet -- it'll sure be weird to not be running Spottie after all these years. I'll post a report on the trial on Monday.

In other news, Gael is in heat. And i'm actually thinking about maybe breeding her to Zac. I'll probably chicken out but i'm always saying she's the most talented dog i'll ever own, and one of the biggest "hats" in this country (actually internationally) always told me he thought she'd produce a worldbeater pup. There's some risk to breeding an older bitch, so we'll see...something to torture myself over for a few days anyway!