Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Tuesday, after a rotten day at work, I pulled into the yard, parked my car in the garage, gathered up all my "junk" and exited. As I walked out of the garage my furry greeting committee enthusiastically met me. It literally felt as though a giant weight was power lifted off my shoulders. All the days ills were mostly forgotten.

I had Bella leaning into my legs in doggy love, Reba running and yipping her excitement and Tessa howling a welcome.  As I sat later that night on the couch with Tessa sitting curled up on my lap groaning and grunting, pushing her little body into mine I thought, there's something about animals that's good for a person's soul.  A little doggy or horsey love makes the world feel so much better.

Oh, wondering how Bella is doing with her night prison?  Well, I haven't been able to get her into her house - at all.  She instead lies down with the horses in the straw pile, roots deep into the straw when I call her name.  You can just see her thinking - "See, I'm a good girl, look at me sleeping with my horses."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


When I first brought Bella home she was a little fluff ball that I kept in the hay shed and took her out for supervised visits with the sheep.  As she grew and the weather warmed up I built her a run by fencing off the front of a three sided shelter.  When no one was home to supervise her she was locked in her run.  Eventually she became large enough that I would only put her in jail (her run) during the night.  

This was to ensure she learned good habits.  The last month I've had my hands full trying to keep her in her run at night.  She has started to break out and while I understand she does this to be closer to the stock and to chase coyotes it has me slightly worried.  Lately Bella has taken to going down to the road.  This is not good.  The road I live on is a busy through fare being the last north south road before a large National Park.  She has been caught jumping up at passing trucks (always trucks) and I do think she's trying to guard, but most Guardian Dog fatalities are car collisions.  

If I catch her heading past the house I give her the standard "Get back to your sheep!" but it being winter and she being white I sometimes don't see her head that direction.  I haven't been able to think of a solution to prevent this bad behavior from becoming a habit.  This weekend I'll be going to town to buy a dog run.  I plan to put the dog run in one of the corrals and lock her in it during the night.  This will be a short term solution.  And I need some long term answers.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Dogs

Bella is a purebred Maremma Livestock Guardian dog.  She was born November 2007 near Sangudo, Alberta.  Her mom is a registered import from Italy and her dad is an unregistered Canadian bred.  Bella is a playful big girl who loves to run.  She often tries to play with the sheep and horses much to their horror.  While she appears full grown she is still very much a puppy.  I plan to breed her during her next cycle and spay her after her pups are weaned.  She has such a wonderful personality and guarding traits that I hate to spay her immediately.

Reba is an ABCA registered Border Collie who was born February 2008.  She was bred near Valleyview, Alberta and came to me through some tough luck for her breeder.  You see Reba's mom jumped off the tractor while helping with chores and broke her leg.  Keith's bad luck was good for me as he previously hadn't planned on selling her.  She is an easy going dog who is a snarky rotter with other dogs.  Her saving grace is her very keen interest in stock and drive to please.

Tessa is an unregistered purebred Border Collie who hates having her picture taken.  She was born in December 2001 near Consort, Alberta.  Her lines include Peter Gonnet and Alvin Kopp breeding.  She is a spoiled rotten, tough minded dog who gets to live the good life in the house.  She's also my darling, the one who got me started with stock dog trials, and my money pit.  But I love her anyway.

And that's the dogs.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Personality Test

Today I went to the Pet Expo with my friend and her mom.  Jeanne's mom has spent a lot of time and energy learning about how horses learn and Natural Horsemanship.  As we were talking she began telling what she thought Buddy sounded like.  If you knew me, you'd know I love learning so I was understandably curious to learn more.  She gave me some information on Parelli and lent me a book called "Is Your Horse a Rock Star?" by Dessa Hockley

I have just finished reading this book (I'm a speedy reader) and doing the personality quiz for all three of my horses.  And I loved it!  It really makes sense.  I was able to accurately predict Whiskey and Buddy's personality types (I didn't realize there was a quiz until the end).  Roxy's was a little more tricky, in part because she's young, and in part because I haven't had her for a very long time.

According to Dessa Hockley, Whiskey is "The Worker Bee".  The Worker Bee's traits are Submissive, Energetic, Curious and Aloof.  "It is all about the job for this horse.  Hopefully they find one that they love, as then they can be that steady, consistent campaigner that everyone wants.  In the beginning they may have trouble focusing and learning their trade.  Once they learn it, they will perform it the same for every subsequent owner.  They bore easily and like variety in their work.  This is a great working horse, but he will likely have too much energy to be the weekend pleasure mount." From Is Your Horse a Rock Star? Understanding Your Horse's Personality  by Dessa Hockley.  This fits Whiskey to a tee.  I've always known she needed a job.  She likes to work and I spend at least half of each riding session wearing her down.  The problem being with Whiskey is her job was supposed to be a head horse.  But I haven't roped in years and haven't settled on anything I liked.  So I'm now super focused on finding my worker bee an appropriate job.  Something she enjoys.  

Likewise I was not surprised to find out Buddy's a "Macho Man".  The Macho Man is Dominant, Energetic, Curious and Aloof.  From Dessa Hockley's book " If you have a serious job to do, this is the horse for it.  You will have to get out of the way and allow them some freedom in how they do it.  Sit down, shut up, and hold on! It is initially hard to get them to accept that you do know what you are talking about, so training in the beginning can be challenging.  Use psychology and variety and start them into their career at a very early age."  Of all my horses, Buddy tested the most extreme, meaning his scores were high and low, not balanced.  Again, the personality type fits the horse.  Most days Buddy is the bain of my existence.  He literally makes me crazy.  (Incidentally as a Type A, high energy type I'm not an ideal match for this horse.)  As I have been pondering which direction to take him I believe he's going to need to do something like working cow horse.  Something he'll feel he can play with and be challenged by.

Roxy was harder to assess.  I had thought she'd be a "Prize Fighter" but according to the quiz she's "A Wall Flower".  Keep in mind she's still very much a baby and out of the four areas, two sections were one point off and one section was a tie.  So I'm definitely going to reassess her when she's older.  The "Wall Flower" is Submissive, Lazy, Afraid and Friendly.  Dessa Hockley writes "Wrap these sweet, kind, gentle horses up and keep them safe.  They are not very brave and tend to internalize their worries.  They want to please and will try very hard for you, but they can be pushed too fast very easily.  They make few demands of you and are quite content to perform the same tasks repeatedly as long as you are pleased with them and the jobs are not too strenuous.  The can be quiet enough for the beginner once they understand what is expected of them."  So perhaps the change and pace of cutting won't suit her, perhaps she'll work better as a reining horse.  But then again maybe some of the other traits will become more dominant as she ages and as I get to know her better.

Being thoroughly fascinated with this I read the Parelli stuff sent with me.  According to Linda Parelli Buddy is a "Left Brain Extrovert" meaning "This horse is a playful character that needs interesting things to do.  He's obsessed with learning and needs variety and new things to keep it fun."  Buddy's personality jumped out at me, based on the Parelli information Whiskey and Roxy are harder to place and I need to think about it some more.

To me, the understanding that horses have different personalities and need different training methodologies makes perfect sense.  I loved seeing my horses pop out from the pages of the book and highly recommend Dessa's book.  

The Horses

Roxy aka Queen Leos Hot CD is a registered yearling quarter horse filly.  As of yet she has no jobs other than being a foxy little brat.  She's eligible for the Canadian Supreme and Reining Alberta so I have some high hopes for her especially in the cutting pen.

Buddy aka "pending" (his paperwork was a mess)  is a three year old and will be a registered quarter horse gelding.  I had originally wanted to cut or do working cow horse with him but he's turning into a giant (vet thinks he'll mature around 16hh), he'll likely end up a barrel or rope horse as he has a working personality.  He heads out to be started in February.

Whiskey aka Miss Soft Shoe is a registered quarter horse mare who was bred on the historic Bar U Ranch in High River, Alberta.  Purchased as a four year old I had intended to rope and run barrels off of her but that just hasn't happened.  Currently a ten year old all around broke horse, I'll need to give her a job as she has that working mentality.  Plan to breed her to Buddy's sire this spring.  Would love a buckskin baby.  Whiskey's my darling with such a lovely personality.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Poop Patrol

Ever since I purchased Reba in July I have been working on teaching her to "eliminate" on command. Tessa (who lives in the house) has a "get busy" command that comes in incredibly handy. When we need to travel and I know it's going to be a long trip this ensures she can ride in relative comfort. Tessa quickly picked up the command.

Reba has not so easily learned, in large part because I'm trying to teach my dog who lives outside in a dog run to go to the bathroom on command. In reality Reba doesn't care, and why should she, as she gets to go when she wants. I started out by giving her the command every time I witnessed the appropriate action, followed by copious praise and treats if any were on hand. You could tell she was wondering what my problem was because each time I did this she would look at me with this puzzled look on her face.

I had read somewhere along the line that you can do 50% of your training just by labelling the behaviour you want with the command. The plan for Reba is to bring her into the house in the spring and house train her. I want her housebroke because we travel so much it makes it easier for me and gives her the opportunity to be out of her travelling kennel. However, Reba is still very inconsistent with her bathroom habits. As best as I can tell she doesn't really have a schedule whereas I can set a clock with Tessa's habits. This lack of a schedule is making my plan a wee bit of a challenge.

Each morning and evening I take her for a walk, get her excited then try to get her to go to the bathroom. (Excited helps make them go.) And some days we experience success and some days failure. The worst days are the ones where I return her to her run only to have her immediately go to the bathroom. Arrgh! The joys of puppyhood.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Can't Help But Laugh

The last two days have been a comedy of errors. Yesterday, upon my arrival home, I walked out to Reba's run to set her free. I've been working on having her sit, I open the gate, then give her some pets. As I was bent over at the waist, completely focused on Reba telling her what a wonderful little girl she is, blissfully unaware as Bella comes barrelling around the corner. Well she must have misjudged her stopping distance because I had the rude awakening of a giant dog head sliming up my head then down my face.

While it's not uncommon for Bella to come barrelling up to me, this is the first time a collision of this sort has occurred. For a large dog she's freakishly good about not jumping and trying to lick faces when you lean over.

Today, I was once again treating skin ickies. Whiskey is 15.3hh. So I'm perched on a snow bank, squirting and rubbing the solution into her haunches and back. Whiskey decided this was too easy for me and shifted out of range. So I slide down from my perch and begin the tip toe reach. As I go to rub the solution into her coat (it needs to penetrate), the hair sprays the solution back at me, splattering my face and glasses. As I normally wear latex gloves, I'm curious to see just how this stuff reacts with my skin. Surely it can't be too bad...

In the picture: Bella and I sitting in the snow.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Driving Me Nuts

Whiskey's skin issues are driving me nuts. Just when I think I have things under control I discover more things. I had been keeping her tail up because I've been contemplating showing her halter at some of the local AQHA shows. Yesterday I took her tail down and am just leaving it. Whatever skin things she has seems to have migrated to her tail. She now has a lovely bald patch just below the base of her tail. Grrrr!

It seems that it never fully clears up. I'm treating her with the stuff my vet mixed up for me for all the good it seems to be doing. Wearing my latex gloves, I literally start at her head and work my way back to her tail on each side. I seem to be able to clear up each spot, but each day I find new spots. I'm starting to feel a wee bit frustrated. With the warm weather none of my horses are wearing blankets, and unless the weather gets extreme I'll leave her naked now just in case the blanket is the root of my problem (shouldn't be though - I wash them fairly regularly, give them sunlight and spray them with Vircon periodically). Meanwhile, Whiskey looks positively rough around the edges. Her once lustrous coat a patchwork of bald spots from where the fungal (??) once resided.

So here I am, my one "broke" horse - lame and covered in nasties. Sigh. (If I could get her skin things under control, I'd move ahead with the injections to see if I can get her healthy.)

In the picture: A close up of Whiskey's flank and haunch.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Great Day!

Every once in a while you have a truly great day. A day in which everything just work out. Good Karma in full force. Today was a great day. It started out with Tessa hopping up into my bed (not a daily occurrence) and curling into the nook of my body for a snuggle. So we listened to some classic country tunes and had a bonding moment.

When I went outside, the sun was bright and warm. A wonderful thing to experience in January in Alberta. The next wonderful thing was being able to catch both Buddy and Roxy who think it's oodles of fun making me work for it. I walked out into the corral, straight up to Buddy, gave him a scratch on his face, walked up to Roxy gave her a scratch on the bum and continued on with my chores. Because I planned to work Reba I separated the horses from the sheep. Which was quickly accomplished rather than the gong show it can turn into.

As it was morning and I like for Tessa to have her outside time I risked having both her and Reba out. With a little luck I'd be able to use Tessa to help hold the sheep so Reba didn't have to work so hard. Normally, this is a non-issue, but with Tessa full of pent up energy, her listening skills have not been stellar. I chanced it today and it worked great!

I positioned Tessa, gave her the lie down command, walked to the sheep and called Reba. Reba walked in with head and tail lowered, moving to the side I let her go around. Not only did Reba circle both directions, I was able to get her to walk up which is a pretty big deal. Especially, since it was the ram she had to walk up to. Like a champion she gave him the eye and walked into his space. Each time he faced her she didn't back down, sending him back into the flock. I was overjoyed with her because it's very intimidating for a young dog to face off with a sheep, particularly a ram. I was overjoyed with Tessa because I only had to reinforce the lie down once!

After we ended all three dogs and I went into the big field where Bella and Reba commenced wrestling and running, and Tessa her snow roll. All in all it was a great day. One that makes you smile with happiness. Here's hoping for more great days!

In the pictures (left) Reba watching thru the fence for something interesting to happen.  (Right) Reba's little snout peering thru the rails.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Normally I'm a very focused driven person, however I just can't seem to make up my mind what I want to do with the horses. It all goes back to roping. You see, I loved roping, I loved everything about it. The challenge of it, the rush of a strong powerful horse. I worked very hard to be considered good at it. I didn't want to be just a good roper, I wanted to be a good horseman. To be exceptional with my ability to read the stock, handle the steer and horse. What I wanted was to be considered a "hand". I wanted to be the first woman to compete at the Canadian Finals Rodeo in the Team Roping event. (If you're going to dream, dream big.)

Five years ago, I slipped, fell and damaged my right shoulder - my bad right shoulder (I'm right handed). I've had a sports medicine doctor, a physiotherapist, and a massage therapist tell me I shouldn't rope with it. Every day this shoulder aches and is temperamental at best. A year after injuring it, I sold my freshly finished, ready to rodeo rope horse, keeping my very green prospect.

For the past four years I just rode. I puttered around and put all kinds of bells and whistles into Whiskey (the then prospect). However, just riding has been wearing thin. Last winter I began to loose interest in arena riding. Just riding just wasn't cutting it anymore. I wanted a goal. Something to focus on, to work towards. So I thought I'd try reining. But I find the endless circles and exercises you need to do incredibly boring. Hmmm, maybe I'll show again. Again, more circles. I was having a hard time focusing on just one thing. I kept changing my mind with the weather.

So I sat back and thought, what is it about roping that appealed so much to me? Well, I like the wild card element the cattle added. So I focused on cutting or something cow related. Purchasing a two year old with some pretty good cattle lines. Who grew and grew and grew. I seem drawn to these horses who will make spectacular head horses. Sigh.

My vet thought he'd make a spectacular jumper. Thus putting the jumping idea into my head. I'm back to being indecisive. What do I want to do? Do I want to jump, cut, compete in working cow horse? What I want to do is rope for all the good it does me. I've started pondering the thought of if I can get my shoulder stable enough, strong enough, then perhaps, just perhaps I'll start throwing a rope at a dummy. And if I can throw the rope at the dummy without freezing the shoulder, then maybe Whiskey can go visit a rope horse trainer (to save my shoulder unnecessary wear and tear). And maybe, maybe I can do what my heart so dearly loves.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Snow Bath

People who say global warming doesn't exist are crazy. The strange highs and lows and more extreme weather patterns are indicative of something not quite right. Sunday was a balmy -25 C and today is a tropical 2 C. As the weather was so very fabulous (although I do wish it wouldn't melt) I decided to come home early and take the dogs for a walk up the hill. Tessa who prior to now was under house arrest even accompanied us.

The snow in the fields is winter boot to knee deep (and I'm 5'8") so the going was heavy. Bella had the long leg advantage and bounded ahead of us. Of course Reba would have none of this. But Reba's legs are considerably shorter and she basically hopped and leaped to get through it. Tessa, the Queen of the Universe had to tell off the other dogs, for daring to pass her in the race to the top of the hill. Once we reached the half way point I stopped and just let the dogs run and play around me.

Bella and Reba raced and wrestled while Tessa shoved her face into the snow, scooping it up with her nose. As she developed the wild eyed look I began egging her on. Clapping and shouting, pretending to run. Suddenly, Tessa took off, racing down the hill only to abruptly throw her body off the path. On her side, with her legs propelling her down, she snoodled and rolled. Only to jump up, run to a different spot and snoodle and roll some more.

Because of the warmth the snow was wet and heavy, slowing her down. For some reason she loves to slide down the hill on her side and back. This was her first opportunity to do this this year, but in year's past she's slide a good 10 meters down the hill, more if the snow is the right consistency. It must feel pretty good because she's always so very pleased with herself after she finishes.

Ahhh! The simple joys of a snow bath!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dog Cookies

The weather out here has been frightful.
The roads not very delightful.

Well, I've decided to replenish my supply of dog cookies. Which are of course homemade. So in the spirit of sharing I'm posting Tessa's Favourite Cookie recipe.

1 1/2 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
1 Cup Warm Water
1 3/4 Cup flour
1 1/4 Cup Oatmeal
1/3 Cup grated "real" cheese (cheddar) or 1/4 Cup Peanut Butter.

Mix dry goods with wet goods. Roll into approximately 1 1/2 inch width. Roll into wax paper and refrigerate until firm. (Overnight works.) Slice into approximately 1/4 inch deep slices. Bake in oven at 300 for 50 minutes. This cookie is quite hard.

Because there are no preservatives, I put them in Ziploc baggies and freeze them. Only taking out a few at a time. Then when feeding them I break them into smaller bits.

Tessa goes crazy for this treat. All my dogs love them and I use them often for training.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Disappearing Act

It seems each day when I go to feed the grain or refill the dog dishes, the buckets, tubs and dishes have magically disappeared. Each day I go on a hunt, searching through snow banks, and often finding them in the strangest places. I have never had so much trouble with this in my life. The problem appears to have two roots.

With the horses both Buddy and Roxy enjoy carrying stuff around. Buddy will unhook, untie anything he can wrap his little lips around. One day my dad went out to discover Buddy carrying a stick (yes a stick!!) in his mouth, and was chasing the other horse with it. Am I the only person who thinks this horsey behaviour is slightly weird? Roxy will paw, flip, lip and carry her rubber grain tub. It went missing for two days before finally being unearthed in the snow.

With the dogs, while both puppies will play with the dishes once they are empty, Bella will abscond with them. I'm seriously considering drilling a hole and tethering them to something solid. Today, while Reba had run of the yard, Bella went into Reba's dog run and took off with her full dish. After much searching it remains vanished, not a kibble in sight- probably buried somewhere. I had to dump Reba's food on the snow.

This habit of my young animals at first was kind of cute. With each passing day it becomes less cute and more aggravating.

Friday, January 9, 2009


This week in the mail I received my DNA kits from AQHA (quarter horse). With the quarter horse registry if you want to register any foals the sire and dam must have their DNA on file. Next spring, I plan to breed Whiskey, this means I need to get a DNA sample and send it down to the states. Because I didn't want to do things in stages I had sent in Roxy's transfer, a request for parent verification, Buddy's paperwork (which hadn't been filed), a request for HYPP test, and I figured if I was doing all that I might as well toss in a request for DNA for Whiskey.

I had been waiting and waiting so was very excited when it finally arrived. Tearing open the package, I did a double take. The DNA kit (that cost something like $35 US) was a piece of paper. A bit confused I flipped around, finally settling down to read everything included. Basically, I need to tear off the top part, sign and date it then send it back to AQHA confirming I've taken the DNA. The bottom part includes a sticky section. Now I knew I'd need to collect a hair sample to send. What I didn't know was that I'd need to collect 50 mane or tail hairs with the root attached. 50 hairs seems like an awful lot. I'm envisioning a bald spot and an irritated horse. Then I fold up the paper, stick it in an envelope to go to a lab in California. Of course because I live in Canada I have to fill out an additional form certifying the health of the horse, put this in a second envelope, tape it to the first labeled Health something or other.

It's all seems rather complicated. Tomorrow I'll go out and do the two mares as I haven't received Buddy's stuff yet. I was rather disgusted when I realized Buddy's mom was a descendant of Impressive as I normally avoid those ones. Of course the HYPP (a genetic disorder) one cost more ($75 USish). I wonder if it'll be the same as the mares or different.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Just a Cowboy

Through out my life I have been blessed the opportunity to ride with some very skilled horse trainers. I am one of those lucky people who grew up in prime horse country. A recent survey put my county at the highest horse per capita rate in Canada. Within an hours drive of my house there are over 30 different stables - that I know of.

Growing up, my grandfather instilled two truths that have stood me well. The first being that a good horse is a good horse. He never did care much about color or breeding just what the horse was capable of doing. The second being 98% of horse problems are human problems. Don't blame the horse blame yourself. I lived a half mile from an elite Arabian trainer and his stable. He and his staff always welcomed me into his barn. From Mike I learned other wisdom's like letting your ropes or reins drag on the ground as you're leading the horse into the arena because you don't want the horse to spook if you ever drop a rein or something drags off the horse. My mom's greatest wisdom was the belief in riding bareback. Ironically, bareback is now considered "unsafe", but I never rode in a saddle until I was close to 4-H age. She believed that you developed a better sense of balance and seat without the saddle with the bonus of having nothing to trap you if you fell off.

As an adolescent I was coached by a few great horsemen/women teaching me skills from a variety of disciplines. But the greatest trainer I have ever rode with I didn't meet until I was well into adulthood. Grant is a cowboy. At one point he trained and showed on the reining, cutting and some of the stock breed show circuits. He is now at the age when most people are comfortably retired. Grant is still riding. The unfortunate thing about Grant is he's an alcoholic. One night when I was fretting around him, he told me "Andrea, don't worry about me. I'm just an old drunk and I'll die an old drunk." This is likely true. However sober, he's a horse wizard. Drunk, he's still a better horseman than most people I've seen.

Grant gave me the opportunity to ride a variety of horses, to sharpen my skills, to learn from a cowboy's perspective. Grant would "give" me horse to care for and ride in exchange for board. My string would rotate with what the season was. All the horses from the young to the old would eventually go out with him when he hired out to the various local ranches. All the horses were for sale. After all, this was his business.

From Grant I learned how to create a good working horse. From ranch, roping, cutting, reining, and starting a baby, to basic round pen activities. He gave me the opportunity to try, learn, succeed and sometimes fail.

When I left Grant's I was tired. Tired of the stress of being around an alcoholic. Tired of being around hard core cowboys. Tired of having to be twice as good as everyone else. But as time passes I realized I miss him. I miss sitting in the office (the only heated part of the barn) and shooting the breeze with the cowboys. I miss the high jinx the guys sometimes got up to. And I miss the feeling of belonging.

Next month, Buddy heads to Grants to get his start, and I'll belong again if only for a short time. I'll get to visit, ride and enjoy the cowboy life once again.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Dog Food Debate

I have been driving myself crazy trying to figure out what is chicken meal versus chicken. Internet search after Internet search turns up conflicting information. Is chicken meal a good source of protein or not? I must admit the longer I own dogs the more interested I get in canine nutrition. Why? As a trained coach and athlete (I use that word loosely these days.) I know what a major impact nutrition has on human performance. I don't view animals any different.

Having performance animals it makes sense to pay attention to their nutrition. As I travel around I like to ask the different handlers what they feed their dogs and why. Having grown up on a farm and seen what dogs eat when given the opportunity I never bought into the meat only diet. Dogs are by nature omnivores, meaning they eat everything. If you've ever seen the elimination from a coyote or wolf you would notice most of the turd is berries.

I had been feeding Origin, a high end dog food that was grain free. The only reason I was feeding a grain free dog food was because it was the only brand in the store that made a puppy food for large breed. Logically, that remained the food I fed my dogs. (With the exception of Tessa who has food allergies and gets Wellness.) You can imagine my dismay when the vet tech at the rehab place and I were talking about dog food and she commented on how all the puppies coming in to the clinic who were eating this brand had low blood sugar. I'm hypoglycemic so I have a very good understanding that low blood sugar is not a desirable thing for performance.

So the search was on. I switched to Acana which is made by the same people as Origin but it has grain in it. Grain being a carb, and carbs helping with blood sugar. A month passed by and I was happily feeding my dogs their new food. When one day I sat down and began to read the ingredient list a little closer. The leading ingredient is a "meal" protein. Trying to remember whether this is good or bad (bad like "by products"), I started my search. And still no answers. Why do I care if my dog gets a mildly substandard protein? Because I invest a tremendous amount of time and energy into them, they have a high cash value, and I want them to live long and healthy lives. The whole link between pet food and pet cancers does make me nervous.

I think my next visit in with my vet I just may ask what they think, after all they're the ones with all the schooling. I just want my dog to have a balanced, healthy diet. Like all athletes need.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Gong Show

This afternoon I went out before chore time to let Reba have some freedom. This blistering cold has been hard on her because it forces me to keep her cooped up (she get's cold if left in her dog run). Creating a hyper little Border Collie. As the temperature had creeped up to -25 I thought I'd give her a quick work.

Reba's one sided and needs some help going around the sheep. We had been doing awesome but the weather and lack of daylight has caused an erratic and inconsistent training schedule. Currently Reba wants to run back and forth with random crashes into the sheep. The plan for today was to get her circling both directions and quit. We were doing great when Reba crashed and two sheep broke off, and made a run for freedom. Reba had started out after the upstarts only to circle around behind me.

With my foggy and frosty glasses I thought she was still after the sheep. After all I could see her under the panels where the farm implements are kept, moving to cut them off. When suddenly the sheep behind me surged forward. Swinging around I see Reba behind me. If Reba's behind me who is in front of me? Someone had let Tessa outside. Of course nobody bothered to tell me. Let the gong show begin.

To put it politely, Tessa is fresh. She has not been able to work, run or play for the last 4 months. Only being allowed outside to use the facilities. Nothing else. This has created a hearing impairment. All those commands she knows - magically disappeared. You could literally see her thinking "Yeehaw! Get em!".

As a sheep runs by with Tessa flapping off the side I'm yelling at her to "Get out!", meanwhile Reba's thinking is "What the? Yeah, let's get em!" The sheep are scattering every which direction, which of course riles up Buddy who had been enjoying his grain. He starts running around like a wild thing. This winds the dogs and sheep up even more.

With some speedy maneuvering I manage to get Tessa stopped and recalled to my side. Looking up I see two sheep being pursued by Reba across the field. I decide to send Tessa to collect up the sheep, or at least get them heading in the right direction. Off she goes. And only one sheep comes back in front of her. Thankfully the remaining sheep realized it's buddy was back where the hay was and it came bleating in on it's own.

Lying Tessa down in the straw I begin the process of getting a wound up Reba stopped. Of course the moment I turn my back Tessa is up and moving back into the fray. With a deep breathe I call her off. The added bonus was her listening. Taking Tessa back into the house I try again with Reba. Buddy's racing back and forth is understandably driving her nuts. Change of plans. Get Buddy stopped and calmed down. Once accomplished, I refocus on Reba. All in all, it took about 5 minutes to get her calmed down and listening. The sun disappearing my sheep lesson is aborted for the day. Reba and I go for a quick walk in the field, then back to jail she goes.

I really did go out with the best of intentions...
In the photo: Reba on the stalk.

The Mysterious Minds of Dogs

When Tessa first had her leg splinted I took her into PetSmart and had her "try" some dog beds out. Why did Tessa need to try her bed? Because Tessa is a picky dog who thinks she's human. This means she scorns things like dog beds in favor of my bed or my chair. We found a lovely blue velour covered foam mattress with a built in pillow that she would sit on. So I bought the bed and brought it home. With some coaxing and snuggle time with me sitting on her bed she gradually started sleeping on it beside my bed at night.

Five years ago my mom had bought her a deluxe bed filled with cedar chips, fluffy and cozy. Tessa has refused to sleep on this bed. Ever. Until now. For some unknown reason Tessa has decided this bed is now okay and for the last few weeks she's been using it for her naps. Why now? If I had the answer I'd likely be rich. Last night she even spent part of the night on it. I'd love to post a picture of her curled up on her bed because she's just so cute. But she despises getting her picture taken. Oh well. Some days I wish she could talk...

Friday, January 2, 2009

Crazy Talk

I'm not sure if it's the cold weather. I'm not sure if it's the fact I've got the flu. All I know is the last week I've had this intense urge to call up a girl I know who is selling her dog and ask to try it. This would not be a big deal if I didn't already have 3 horses, 3 dogs and a cat. However, the paycheck has been stretched a bit thin these past months because Tessa's surgery put me into the red. In addition, the simple time factor needs to be considered. I only have so much time to devote to my animals, and I have strong feelings about just leaving things sit.

But Tell is a really nice dog. Really nice. He's one of those dogs that's pretty quiet and honest. He seems to give his best effort each time out. Granted he was well handled. But he's still a nice dog. He's also got a $3000.00 price tag. Sigh. I keep thinking I should just sell Buddy (horse) who's a very nice horse. But is going to be big (should mature around 16hh) and I was wanting to move more into the cutting end of things. I do think he has a wicked amount of potential, plus he's flashy and bred well with a brave and honest nature. However, he doesn't fit my program.

In February Buddy goes to my trainer friend Grant. I'm thinking depending on how he develops I may see if I can unload him. If I get the right price then I just may go look at Tell (even though I'm not really into male dogs). But then again perhaps I won't. Crazy talk I know.

First photo: Reba and Bella playing. Second photo: Buddy

Thursday, January 1, 2009


As people around me reflected on their 2008 and made plans for 2009 it got me to thinking about resiliency. What makes a person or animal more resilient? What makes a person stay positive through tough times? New Year's Day is within itself a fresh start. A clean slate if you will. Even though I consider myself a positive person a lot of negative things happened in 2008.

What I have learned from the negative things that have happened:
  1. Pet Insurance is not a bad thing and something to add to the 2009 to do list.
  2. Life never follows your plan. Just when you think things are good something will happen to derail things.
  3. An animal's heart or desire will trump what you believe they are capable of. Tessa finished a dog trial running on a broken foot with nary a whimper or limp.
  4. What goes around comes around. Reba's owner sold her because Reba's mother jumped off the tractor while doing chores, got her foot stuck in the ladder and broke her leg. Reba's sale went towards the massive vet bill. Two months later I realize Tessa has a broken foot which forces the acquisition of a major vet bill.
  5. Just because someone calls themselves a trainer doesn't mean they're a skilled trainer.

Wish list for 2009:

  1. No more major vet bills!
  2. Breed Whiskey for a May baby.
  3. Take in some local horse shows with the babies.
  4. Trial Reba and Tessa.
  5. One litter of pups from Bella - then off the vet she goes for a spay, tattoo and microchip.
  6. Develop website for my stock dog training.

Now whether or not the plan works out only time will tell. One can hope, think positively and work hard towards making the plan become reality.