Sunday, September 27, 2009

Stock Doggin' Saturday and Oppositional Reflexes

Reese and I went herding yesterday. It was a beautiful day. We did some farmwork first. Helped trim sheep hooves and vaccinate. Then a great lunch of enchilladas and pork sandwiches.

Everyone did well with their respective charges. Zephyr continues to do well as does the other young pups now at about 5-6 months of age. A lot of which is due to the handlers having increased their knowledge and being more experienced after a summer of herding.

Reese and I started out like others to work on not having her be so excited that she runs to the stock and scatters the sheep instead of just peeling them from the fence and then working them.

We were trying not to engage her oppositional reflex. When a dog is pulled by their collar they have a natural reflex to pull in the opposite direction. This is why so many dogs have problems walking nicely on a lead. The dog starts to pull and the owner pulls them back with the leash and so the dog pulls harder. It works the other way too. Have you ever tried to get a dog to go somewhere it doesn't want to. Pull them towards something often they will put the brakes on and pull backwards.

So we walked out towards the stock and I had her lie down when she started to pull towards the stock. I talked to her calmly and let her calm down, then we moved a little closer and then did it again. When we were close enough to the stock I layed her down and talked to her calmly and unclipped her line and softly sent her.

When things started to go haywire I had to pick Reese up again. So I told her to lie down and she did, I picked her up and we started again, walking towards the sheep etc. However, this time I didn't use her lead I hung onto her collar, sent her but it didn't go so well. Did it again, and again, the same thing was happening.

I was told to put her line on and leave it on. This confused me a bit because each time I had told her to lie down she did and I could collect her without problem. But I did it because my trainer told me to. I was having a hard time getting her to work the sheep off the fence, because for one when I held onto her collar I had to bend over. It was explained that the sheep didn't think I was strong enough in that position and so they weren't going to move from the fence for me or my dog. Well, that made sense so we worked some more with the line on. But because we had done it a number of times, I was getting tired and frustrated and so was Reese but she was also losing confidence in herself - not a good thing.

She has pulled stock off fences before so I knew she could do it. However, I know it is an area where we sometimes have trouble so I tend to tense up when it starts to happen. I realized I was doing this and told myself to take a breath and just work it. I could tell that helped Reese also as she was reading my nerves and when I relaxed she did too.

We pursued the fence bound sheep and were able to get them off. My trainer would not let us fail by stopping. She made us keep at it until we had success. After we were successful then we stopped. Reese was very happy about her success and so was I.

Thinking over the day last night I also realized that when I led Reese by her coller to position her behind the sheep at the fence I was employing her oppositional reflex again, something we had been trying to avoid. So that, coupled with my bending over did not work - lesson learned.

What else went well. Reese stopped working and followed all of my lie down commands when I gave them. Whoo hoo, this is something we have been working on away from stock but with other distractions and it has carried over. Also, Reese was quiet while others were working -another great stride for her. Good girl!

A good trainer once told me that your dog will do what you expect them to do. If you expect them to have a problem with a recall, or a contact in agility or in our case taking stock off the fence they will. If on the other hand you expect them to do it - providing they know how of course they will. I expected Reese to lie down when I told her and I wasn't going to accept anything less. She layed down. Next week when the sheep are on the fence I will expect her to take them off. I won't accept anything less. Tune in next week to see if it works.

Here a few pictures of dogs working yesterday.

Hello Goat. I think you should get a move on...

I said,"Move It''

That's better.

Look at the concentration and focus.

These last two are my favorites.


Who are the teachers that you remember the most? It usually is the teacher that you did not like, the one who was tough on you, but the one you learned the most from. I remember a sixth grade teacher I had, Ms. Scanlon or something like that. She was the mean one, the one you didn't want to have for math. Who did I end up with, Ms. Scanlon. Was she mean, no, she was firm. She was hard on her students in that she expected them to work hard but she was always willing to help, AND she got results. That's right, her students learned. Now as an adult I look back and thank her for that. She made me learn.

So what is the role of teacher, mentor, trainer?

I have learned from past teachers and trainers that it is okay to push outside your comfort zone. In fact you have to if you want results. That is the only way you will learn and stretch yourself. It happened in school and it worked. It happened when I played tennis and it worked. I would be dead tired but coach made me serve 1o more times and get them in. Or have three more great volleys. Or keep hitting until I nailed the backhand one more time. Then I could quit.

When I wanted to be the #1 singles player my sophmore year I knew I had to be better then the other players. To do that I knew I had to practice more, and be in better shape and so I did. I rode my bike to each practice, I played twice everyday or just about, even if it was practicing serves in the driveway. I ran in the mornings to build stamina to outlast the other players in long multiple sets. I did sprints to be able to get to the ball fast, I jumped rope so that I would have quick footwork. In the end I was the #1 singles player. My hard work paid off.

When I trained for marathons I trained on my own with books and training guides to help, but it was me who made me get up, put my shoes on and get out the door. I knew I had to push myself just like with tennis. When I was tired and wanted to quit I went one more mile. When I didn't feel like running I would tell myself to go at least one mile and see how I felt. Before I knew it I would be on mile 5. I learned that the days I really didn't want to run were the days that I usually had my best runs - still works like that.

Now I am herding with my dog and I expect my trainer to push me. She has great knowledge of the craft and has a history of working with border collies with many tempermants, through all sorts of problems. But the bottom line is I know I need to push past my comfort zone to improve, but sometimes when I think I've done enough, I won't always recognize that I need to push farther but I expect that she will, and she will tell me. She will also tell me when it is time to stop. When I have pushed enough because this isn't just me this time there are other creatures involved.

Working with my dog in a partnership is new to me. This time it isn't just me and a sport. It is me, my dog and the stock - a much more complicated scenario. There will be days when I want to push on, but Reese is not ready to go that far, there will be days when Reese wants to continue but I want to stop. But I know that my trainer will help me see when it is acceptable to stop and when I need to push myself or Reese.

I trust her to know what we should do - after all that is why I am working with her - to learn. Will there be days when I think she is wrong, probably, will there be days when I don't understand why I should do this or that, yes. Will there be days when I get mad - most likely.

Those are the days when I will learn the most, and those are the days that will make me a better handler and Reese and I a better team!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sun, Sand and Surf!

Back from the seaside. It was wonderful, we had great weather if you don't count the humidity. We were at the ocean for heaven's sake. The beach house was perfect, right on the beach so basically we had our own private beach. Occasionally, people would walk by but there was so much beach and so few people it didn't matter.

Eileen made a beautiful sand turtle in honor of all the Loggerhead turtles that lay their eggs on the beaches.
We even saw a new hatchling make its way to the water one night. It was about half the size of the palm of your hand. Amazing that they can survive in the water at all.

Fishing boats trolled the waters off the shore each morning.

A couple beach bums I know at the ready for the next big wave.

Ready, set....




When out in the water you could see schools of little fish being pursued by schools of bigger fish. Larger fish could also be seen jumping out of the water. We didn't know why they did this but thought perhaps they were being chased by something even bigger and we didn't want to find out how big. It was then that the beach bums usually staggered to shore for some sun and rest.

We also tried to avoid the water during the early morning and late afternoon/early evening time so as not to tempt feeding time of the ahem, Carcharodon carcharias or any other kind of carcharhinus for that matter. For those of you not up to speed on your scientific names that would be SHARK.

Yes, we spent one evening watching the movie "Jaws". You can't go to the beach and not watch it. It is such a classic.

In addition to the Loggerhead turtles nesting on the beaches there were many Ghost crabs that nested in the sanddunes. The ghost crabs were also one of the many predators of the turtle hatchlings as they make there way to the water.

Ghost crab photos courtesey of Eileen McCarty. Thanks to Eileens observation skills she was able to get photos of this little guy/gal that lived under our deck while he ate. I saw this one earlier in the week making his way down our steps to the beach. He actually went down the steps. I got tired of waiting and made my way past him, as he was bit slow even with all those legs.

Ghost crabs get their name because they are so fast and they will hide quickly underneath the sand- Now you see them, now you don't. Or they will burrow underneath and then you will see a line form under the sand and zoom it's gone.

Don't worry these guys were at the aquarium not at the beach.

This is my favorite picture I took in black and white of some unsuspecting beach bum!

All in all a great vacation. Read three books, walked the beach, got some good runs in, relaxed and laughed a lot. Just what a vacation should be!

Puppy Pictures!

Look what I found. I got a new phone today as my other one stopped working. I was able to get the pictures from my old phone, the one I had before the one that just stopped working transferred to the new one.
This is Reese when she was a brand new puppy. This is on the way home from when I picked her up. She got in the car and snuggled right down on my feet for the two hour trip home. No, I wasn't driving.
Her "I'm a very serious puppy" look.

In this one she is a bit older but I love her ear here.

"Exit Stage Left!"

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sunflowers For Sue 1966-2006

Happy Birthday
We remember you and think of you often.
You will not be forgotten.
"Love Shouldn't Hurt"

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fun with Water! by Guest Blogger Reese

Why shouldn't I post once in awhile, after all this blog is supposed to be about me, except when my human goes off topic on me.
I love to play in the water so it wasn't really a hardship when my human asked my to get wet and jump around. She wanted to try out some new settings on her camera.
She says she got some great action shots of me. All I got was a crummy ear ache!!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Tarangire and Ruaha Tanzania

Tarangire National Park is located south of Arusha and southeast of Lake Manyara. It is a tented lodge and campsites set among baobab trees and large acacia's.

We saw what was now the usual suspects: elephants, lions, antelope, giraffes etc. While we had seen these animals many times already when you are watching them in their natural environment it is so much more interesting and you never know what you will find.

For instance on one game drive we came upon this mother lioness walking along with her cubs. The park had roads that we had to stay on but, you the visitor, must still yield to all wildlife, including this.

Why walk in the brush when you can walk on the road.
We followed from a distance to see where they were headed.

We stayed in tented camps that were located across the top of a bluff. There was a path in front of the tents leading to the main lodge with a large patio and a swimming pool. At night you could hear the lions right below the bluffs roaring. A friend of mine decided to go swimming one afternoon inbetween game drives. It was a bit crowded but not too bad. Many people in the pool and an equal number sunning in the lounge chairs reading of talking with friends. We swam a little layed in the sun for a bit and then went back to our tent and got ready for the afternoon game drive.

We all met up in the lobby of the lodge with all our camera gear. As we were sitting there one of our drivers came in and asked, "Do you want to see a snake?" We all jumped up and said yes of course, and we followed him out. We got outside and everyone was running out of the pool area and people were yelling, " nyoka, nyoka, very bad" while we all ran into the pool area with our cameras ready to shoot. This is what we saw.

A baby cobra had come down from one of the trees IN the pool area where my friend and I had been just an hour ago. Which meant it was up there while we were laying there....the cobra hooded a bit and then went up and over the ledge you see on the right of the picture and it was gone.

It was then that I realized that some of the people in the pool area were not in fact tourists but park workers who blended in like tourists not to alarm anyone. But they were there to look out for nyoka's and other dangers that are where they don't belong and protect the visitors of the park.

We saw two other snakes on our trip. One was a baby python that was swooped up by a verreaux's eagle owl. The owl took it up to a tree, but the head off and sucked it up like a spaghetti noodle. The other was a very large cobra most likely a black necked spitting cobra that was crossing the road we were on. It made it across right in front of the vehicle, but its length stretched all the way across the road.

Tarangire features over 300 variety of birds. So if you are a birder this is a great park to visit.

Lilac breasted roller

Saddle-billed stork

It took a good couple of days to travel down to Ruaha National Park which is part of the southern circuit of Tanzania. We spent the night in Dodoma. The terrain of Ruaha is much different than that of other parts of Tanzania we visited. The park was wonderful, we stayed in tented camps along the Ruaha river. When we arrived at the park the river was dry.

This was our view from our tent when we arrived. It rained a few nights and that put some water in the river. We could then sit out on our veranda area and watch the animals come down to drink.

As you can see the scenery is quite different than other places we had been.


and I leave you with a Greater Kudu.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Serengeti con't.

The Serengeti offered so many things and places to see. When we were there the short rains that had finished prior to us arriving lasted longer than usual which made for a nice green lush Serengeti. A great thing happened while we were in the Serengeti. My luggage finally arrived that was a happy day. Yes, if you recall from an earlier post my luggage missed the connecting flight from London to Nairobi.

One of our first drives in the Serengeti brought us to this.

This leopard was hunting in this thick brush. Soon after we stopped our vehicle I looked around and counted 18 vehicles. Some of these vehicles were little mini buses that hold about 10-12 people. After about 5-10 minutes the other vehicles started to leave. People were talking in them and disturbing the leopard so it was a good thing that they left. As a safari participant you have to be quiet in the vehicle or you will disturb the animal(s) you are trying to watch. While driving around go ahead and jabber all you want but when you are watching something as magnificent as a leopard hunting which is so rare, shut up!. Most of the other people in the vehicles were saying things like they had "seen enough", "lets go", or "its not doing anything this is boring". Well, no its not going to try to hunt while you are being Ms. Gabby pants! This isn't the zoo people, if you wanted to be able to walk up stand there for 10 seconds and then move on to the next animal why did you come to Africa.
We stayed there for well over and hour and half. During that time all the other vehicles except maybe one left. At that point we were able to see the leopard jump for the impala. Unfortunately for the leopard the impala got away.
This one didn't get away from whatever was hunting it though...

Notice the Maribou stork. They love to hang out with the vultures.
We saw this hyena scavenging this wildebeast. For some reason whenever we came upon a kill it was right before lunch, it was odd, but it certainly kept the appetite in check!

The size of the herds in the Serengeti was amazing. You hear the numbers and you watch it on television but to really see it is something else.

This was one of rivers we had to drive across. The rains had raised its level over the road.

During one of our afternoon game drives we came across two mother lions with 3 cubs. One mother had one cub and the other mother had two cubs who were 2-3 weeks younger. The one mother was cub sitting...

This cub is lying in the shade of the vehicle. It is unusual for a lion to have only one cub. We noticed a little blood on this guy. And the first mother had both sets of cubs while the other mother was busy with this guy.

Yes - we nicknamed him Scar (from the movie Lion King) males will kill cubs to get the female to go into estrus again. We relized that was what had happened to the other cubs of the mother that was currently mating with the male (Scar). We went back to the same place early the next morning to find them again. But we only found the two mothers. One mating with Scar and the other walking around calling for her cubs that were obviously gone. It was very sad but a very real and normal part of life in the wild.

When I went to Tanzania I wanted to get a picture of a giraffe's eye lashes. They are so beautiful. Well I got plenty. Giraffe's were plentiful and I was overjoyed every time we saw a Twiga.

Push-Me/Pull-Me anyone?

We were lucky and saw lots of cheetahs too.

We came upon these two young cheetahs who had killed a baby wildebeast.

They took turns watching for scavengers. First the left one would sit up while the other ate, and then the right one sat up while the other one ate. It was great team work down to the last morsel.

We also saw this mother with her three babies. They were watching wildebeasts off in the distance.

The Serengeti has various types of vegetation in it. It is not all scrub brush. We found these elephants in a

This mother and baby were not far away.

These two juvenile male lions were just hanging out together on a overcast drizzly day. They were very photogenic and looked like they had just come out of a beauty parlor.

This Caracal Cat was very hard to see. It was excellent at camouflaging itself.

Radio collared lions from Craig Parker's Serengeti Lion Project sunning themselves on the kopi's.

One night in the Serengeti I awoke to what I thought was the sound of rain. But then....I sat up and listened more closely and thought to myself - that isn't rain, those are hooves. And the sound was getting louder and louder. Right through camp came a herd of wildebeast and zebra. What are you going to do. All you could do was lay there and think, well, I hope they see the tents and go around us. The tent next to mine had a baby wildebeast rub up next to it. It made for great breakfast conversation.

We saw so much during our stay in the Serengeti. The full week there really made a difference in what we could see. This is just a taste of what we saw and did.

Our next stop after leaving the Serengeti was Karatu Lodge. It is a flower and coffee plantation. Luxury accomodations after 7 days camping with beautiful rooms, hot showers, grounds for leisure walks and a fancy dinner. A great way to end this half of the trip. Next stop will be Tarangire and Ruaha National Parks.