Monday, January 26, 2009

40 things about me

Okay, like many other bloggers recently, I've been tagged. Samantha got me yesterday. I have to write 40 things about me and include a recent photo. Then I'm supposed to tag three others to do the same. Let's see...

First the's not so great and it's from last year, but I really don't have too many recent pictures of me. At least this one has Taz in it, too. That makes it on topic for this blog, right?
I was tempted to write 40 things about Taz, since my life isn't that exciting and, well, this is supposed to be a dog training blog, but I think that might be cheating a here goes...

1. When I was 16, I was arrested for shoplifting a packet of Reece’s Pieces. I was handcuffed to the wall at the police station and had to go to court with a lawyer and everything. I have never been tempted to steal anything since.
2. I used to do a lot of whitewater kayaking. I loved the feeling of paddling down the river, but it always scared the sh*t out of me.
3. When I was five, I fell off a swing set backwards and upside down. I landed in tall bushes and wound up with a concussion. I cried hysterically, and, finding nobody coming out of the house to see what was the matter, I stopped crying and went to find my mom in the house. Whereupon I immediately started crying again, so I could have a proper fuss made over me.
4. I lived in the UK for a couple of years and would live there again in a heartbeat.
5. My hair is pin straight, and, except for a few years in the eighties when I thought I wanted curls, I’ve had the same haircut since I was four.
6. I get terrible motion sickness, even in a sea kayak, though I’ve always known spending lots of time in kayaks is way worth the discomfort.
7. I have haggled for a wooden monkey in Morocco.
8. I was a vegetarian for about fifteen years. Well, that’s not true. I was a vegetarian for about ten years and then also ate fish for the following five. I started eating meat again a couple of years ago, when I was at a stockdog clinic and the host barbecued such a tasty lamb that I sampled some. And that was that.
9. I used to listen to heavy metal, and my favorite band was Iron Maiden. I’ve since broadened my musical horizons considerably, but I can still rock out to “Run to the Hills.”
10. I’m really pretty shy.
11. One day, I’d like to live on a little hobby farm and have sheep and goats and chickens.
12. I went to Russia when it was still “behind the Iron Curtain.”
13. I love spending time on a trail with good friends and dogs. I went hiking for the first time when I was in my late twenties and going to grad school in Oregon.
14. My first car was a Pontiac Sunbird, with a broken passenger door and a kickass stereo. It stalled and died every time I drove through a puddle containing more than two inches of water. It finally committed suicide for good on a highway in the Bronx.
15. I am pretty impulsive. I got a tattoo before they were cool because someone told me he thought I’d never have the guts to do it (and since I obviously could be manipulated pretty easily, I’m thankful I only got a tattoo—but in my defense, I was pretty young).
16. I took Spanish for four years in school and was completely unable to communicate with the locals when I was in Baja.
17. I think working sheep with a dog is the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to learn how to do.
18. I found my first dog, Sophie, locked and abandoned in the bathroom of a city park, after teaching a kayaking class on the Willamette River.
19. I fell off a horse once in Wales.
20. I met a stranger on a train to Edinburgh and then stayed with her in her parents’ house for a few days. It was the first, and last, time I ever ate haggis.
21. I miss everyone in New York terribly!
22. I used to ride my bike nearly everywhere I went when I lived in Oregon. I wish I still did that...
23. I think Neil Young is a genius.
24. Due to its predominantly Jewish and Italian demographic makeup, my hometown of Massapequa is known locally as “Matzoh Pizza.”
25. I miss the ocean, but I would never want to give up the mountains.
26. I once was terrorized by a big mean cat I was watching while apartment sitting in NYC; if we tried to leave the loft bed, he would launch himself at us spitting with claws and teeth everywhere. We stayed up there for three days before making our escape.
27. My snowboard is pink.
28. I miss my sister every single day.
29. I still watch “The Real World” sometimes. This may not be too surprising, given that my cousin Jen and I once watched videos on MTV (back when they actually played videos) from sunup to sundown without leaving the house all day.
30. I was told (and I believed) my Sophiedawg was a purebred lab when I first got her. Um, no. She’s so not. She’s also not a Chihuahua, despite the results of her DNA test results.
31. I interned as a production assistant at the McLaughlin show on CNBC when I was in college and got my friend Kevin booked as a guest.
32. For a little while, I was also a freelance floor manager and a camera operator at CNBC.
33. I wish I could spend more time with my nephews, Eric and Tommy, who are the greatest kids on the, along with my friends’ son Michael...and, well, I don’t know them very well yet but I am sure my newest cousins Lucas and Amelia are, too.
34. I was fired twice: once because I ditched my shift at Pergament’s to go play in Manhattan when I was a teenager and once when I dumped ketchup all over some hapless woman’s shirt when I was a waitress at the Ivy in London.
35. I got my first Macintosh computer in 1993 and have never owned any other kind.
36. I love sushi, Italian food, Indian food, and Mexican food. And French toast. With real maple syrup. Mmmm.
37. Sometimes I say ridiculous things I would never normally say because I am afraid I’m not holding up my end of the conversation (see #10).
38. I have zero musical talent. I couldn’t even master the recorder in third grade. No wonder I can’t whistle.
39. I used to work in a word factory in Cambridge, Mass. It was a horrible, horrible job. Remember, Kate?
40. I’ve driven across the country from coast to coast three times and halfway across and back dozens of times. I love road trips!

Okay, phew. That wasn't so hard. Now it's my turn to tag three people. How about Robin, Jodi, and Maddy?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Working Craig

The last few times I've worked Craig have been rather frustrating. Part of the problem was that due to the holidays and travel and really cold, cold weather before the holidays, I couldn't get out to work very much. Unfortunately, when I take more than a few days off working stock with a dog, my timing really suffers. I need to work often to stay sharp. Craig usually does okay with time off, but we do need to develop a rapport again, so that he listens to what I'm saying rather than sometimes overriding my commands if he thinks his ideas are correct. So the past few times, we've been getting out some of those kinks. In addition, the field I usually work in is very narrow—just 330 feet wide. The sheep are pretty broke and the draw is also very strong back to the barn. It can be hard to work my pressure-sensitive, tight-running dogs here because they don't want to run as wide as they should, and they are either always having to stop what we're working on to cover the sheep or adjusting what we're working on in response to the sheep's learned behaviors. Now, it's definitely not impossible to work dogs here—Cathy obviously does pretty well—but at my skill level I have a hard time compensating for all this. I remember Derek Scrimgeour saying that you should always choreograph the action on the field when you're training a dog. It's really tough for me to do that when we're working in the narrow field.

Fortunately, at certain times we're able to work in the alfalfa field behind her narrow field. Lately, there has been some sort of oil rigging heavy machinery running back there, so we weren't able to work dogs there. Well, this morning Cathy told me it was gone, so Craig and I headed out. Cathy had sorted some of her best sheep off for me, and we worked in the big field, unencumbered and far away from any draws. It was freakin' AWESOME!!!

I spent some time reminding Craig to bend out on his flanks by standing in front of him, but off to the side of both Craig and the sheep and then waving my stick up and down a couple of times before sending him the other way. I tried to lie him down immediately if he came in at all straight and let him go around if he bent out enough. Craig does respond to this, but I guess I'm not quite consistent enough for this to become ingrained, or maybe he's just gotten away with running tight for too long, because he does have to be reminded to bend out every single time. I still don't remember how to transition the exercise into a drive, as it's supposed to be, so maybe that's the problem. Anyway, I wanted to work on driving, so we spent most of our time driving the sheep in a square about 100 yards around me in each direction. I worked him mostly on whistles and tried to minimize any back-and-forth corrections, and we did pretty well. Craig didn't take all my commands, and my timing wasn't perfect, but we were in sync for the most part and our lines weren't too bad.

When I was ready to go, someone else was working her german shepherd in the arena between the field I was in and the outside world, so I had to wait for her to finish up before I could go. There's a pen in the field I was in, so I decided to try to put the sheep in the pen so that they wouldn't hang against the fence acting as a draw for the german shepherd lady's sheep. I absolutely suck at penning, so this would be good practice for me. We spent a lot of time with the sheep going back and forth and around a few times, but eventually we did it. I was pretty proud of us, because both of us figured it out. We started out putting way too much pressure on the sheep and coming in way too strongly, and gradually we moderated and positioned oursleves correctly and got the job done. Craig only tried to grip once, which is pretty good for us, as he grips when he gets frustrated. Only trying to grip once (and not even doing it) means that we were working more or less together, even though it took some time.

Well done, Craig!

So it was a great work session for us today. We're in the middle of a weird warm spell (it was in the 60s today and should be nice for the next few days), and I am looking forward to going out again later this week!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Taz's first time on sheep--old photos

I was just going through some old CDs I had, and I found these photos of Taz's first time on sheep (taken by my friend Julia)! In these pictures he was about 8 months old and working with our first trainer, Claudia. I think I was in the arena, too, staying out of the way but trying to follow the action (though I had little idea what was going on).

He's not quite sure about them at first but he's interested

Getting up close to investigate the obviously dead broke puppy sheep

Figuring some things out

Now he's getting going...

Looks like he might even be driving a little here

That'll do, Taz

He does look remarkably calm in these photos, and I'm not sure why that is, since I remember him being kind of a little hellion on stock when he was younger. Maybe that part came a little later. Anyway, I'm beyond tickled to have discovered these photos! There are a few more on my Flickr site here.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Not a baby daddy...

"Well, Taz is still a virgin," Scott said, laughing, much to my disappointment.

Rats! We came so close to that not being so. A couple of weeks earlier, Jenny had contacted me about possibly breeding Taz to their young Megan bitch. Megan is a bright Alta-Pete prospect; she's a half-sister to Maid and a niece to Pleat, and doing quite well in training. Scott thought she and Taz would be a good cross and wondered if I was interested. After we discussed some of the health considerations, you bet I was interested! I have just started to consider getting another puppy, and the timing seemed perfect—and there's nothing I'd like more than a Taz pup! And from an Alta-Pete bitch to boot! Jenny cautioned me not to get too excited—lots of things could happen to prevent it from taking place, not least of which was Scott possibly changing his mind...

Welllll, it turned out Scott was all for it, but Taz had other ideas...

Apparently, Taz needed a girl with experience. He liked to flirt with Megan, and he tried to do the deed, but Jenny said, "Megan was not the nicest girlfriend and whenever she snapped at Taz his feelings were hurt and he wouldn't try again. We held her for him but he was too polite and wouldn't mount her. Megan is just one of those bitches that (at least on her first time) needed a male who wouldn't take no for an answer." And in the end, she tied with another dog.

I guess I'm not that surprised. Taz is very much a gentleman, and I can believe he wouldn't force himself on another girl (that would be so rude). So there will be no Taz babies after all.

Ah well. It was fun to think about for a while :)