All About Navarre

Discouraged about Haku, he continued to be off after last Sunday, same issue. It’s hard to know how to proceed, though I’m certainly glad we did do a full workup to know there isn’t anything more serious going on. Short term, we have a couple events coming up he will (hopefully) be doing, which is the herding clinic (at least part of it) and the AKC trial with Carol (which is not super far distances). Right now, I just put him back on rest this week and he’s mostly back to normal. He, of course, would much rather be doing things.

So the plan is to take it easy, get through our two April events and then decide if I want to try another extended rest period (longer this time) or just manage the issue by somewhat limiting his activities to try to find a balance between keeping him active but not overdoing it. Either way, our fun year of herding is definitely curtailed. There is a Novice clinic and trial in Idaho in May that sounded really fun, but, once again, Haku may not be up for it.

We did go herding later in the week at Ian’s, but just did two tiny outruns and then just drove across the field, trying to get him to stop lying down. It’s not just me, he’s obsessively lying down about every 3-5 seconds. He was a LITTLE bit better and not lying down constantly after our drive-o-rama, and that’s pretty low key movement wise, so I think that was a good thing. He was certainly happy! But, yeah, need to decide what my plan is with him, other than wishing he was perfectly fine (which is he is not, unfortunately). He NEEDS to do things, and he WILL go full out no matter what the activity – but we need a compromise here where he doesn’t lose his tiny mind, but doesn’t break himself either. Hm.

Now, for whatever reason, when we pulled into Ian’s this week Navarre was a screaming maniac without even getting out of the car, which is not normally his thing. And, yeah, he was SUPER HIGH on sheep. I was a bit surprised as he was doing some nice thoughtful work last week – but there was none of that. I didn’t work him, and there was much arguing with Ian. Which makes me feel better when he doesn’t listen to Ian either. I find it amusing when Ian is always saying things like, “The good ones always think they know best.” I told him that Navarre must be REALLY good then.

Navarre got to learn about waiting to actually listen to the commands before just immediately bolting off to do what he feels is the best option for that situation. So Ian would use nonsense words to see if Navarre was actually listening or just reacting to jump to whatever he wanted to do as soon as Ian said anything whatsoever. So that went as well as expected to start, but, by the end, Navarre was no longer responding to the non-cues and actually thinking about the actual cues. And when you can get his tiny little brain engaged, he was much more thoughtful all around.

So, yeah, interesting observation, in general Navarre tends to start horrible at Ian’s, and end up at the end in a good place, while with Dave Navarre tends to start pretty good, then gets sloppier by then end of the session. I do think since Dave takes much less crap, it’s just mentally much more difficult since Navarre has to be thinking constantly with Dave, while with Ian there is a lot more ‘wheeee!’ and then he kind of settles into a good space without as much pressure.

Navarre’s whistles are better in general, but I think he’s in that space where he’s not entirely sure about any of them at the moment. And, of course, Ian’s whistles don’t sound like mine really. We’ll keep working on them, I’ve only used his flanks in logical situations so far, we need to work the inside flanks to see if he really understands them (which I don’t think he does).

I do find it rather amusing that my two dogs keep diverging with their training, we spent the entire time with Haku getting him to STOP lying down, and then Ian spent most of Navarre’s time getting him to actually lie down. I don’t think I like either problem, can’t I have a nice middle ground dog?

Part of the reason herding continues to intrigue me is that I just never know what to expect. Navarre was a nutjob at Ian’s, yet was actually calm and listening at Dave’s this week. Now, as to why – I have no idea. The sheep were squirrely and not easy, and my expectations were low. But we went with my current plan, bringing down both boys and starting with me and Navarre, ready and willing to take him out if he was doing his own thing. But he really wasn’t, suddenly Navarre was being all thoughtful and relatively responsive. ‘Relatively’ is the key word here, Dave was all, “He took five steps before he downed!” and I’m like, “OMG, HE DOWNED!” Successive approximations. Today Navarre decided to include me, and when I feel like we were actually working together, I’m okay that it’s not perfect – it’s a calm, relaxing start. We can work on precision later as long as we’re not butting heads the entire time.

We ended up actually working on things, though my focus remains just remaining calm, clear and consistent. The herding part can be total shit as long I feel like we’re working together. Outruns weren’t great, but I chose not to pick on those as long as he would lie down at the top on whistle, WHICH HE DID! Every time! Okay, maybe not immediately, but I’ll take those five steps to start with. That’s a hell of a lot better than not responding at all. And we worked on some driving where he was taking his flanks (verbal) really well … just not stopping as quickly as he should of, so we didn’t get much in the way of straight lines. I felt better when Dave didn’t have an easy time with these sheep either in that regard with Navarre, so it’s not just me.

Today, at least, I feel optimistic we may get our shit together someday. Navarre has a LOT to thank Haku for, as I certainly wouldn’t have pursued it with Navarre if I wasn’t already coming out anyway to work Haku. Never would have guessed Navarre could eventually do some things. And, yes, it is nice to have a dog with more power behind him sometimes, as long as he’s using that power for good rather than evil.

I ended up working Navarre for maybe … 10 minutes? Before he started getting pushy and I pulled him for Haku. It was a pretty good session though (relatively speaking), I’d love for that Navarre to show up more often. As for Haku, really trying to not do much, we looked at driving and getting him to not lie down and not let the sheep dictate where we were going. So, yeah, if Navarre is actually listening, driving is easier with him than Haku – point to Navarre.

Haku was trying and responding to everything I asked, and he was super happy to be there. He’s also very cool with just being tied to the fence and watching without being a maniac. I don’t know if Navarre could do that, I have never tried – I’m just assuming he’d bark (Dave isn’t about to put up with any barking if he’s holding Navarre, naturally). But if they’d just stay quiet when it’s not their turn, that would make the whole switching thing better. I like having both of them out there, makes it easy for me to feel like I have something to back me up for working with Navarre and to give Haku lots of breaks. Win-win. Dave and Navarre looked really good together this week too, much better than Navarre and me, but, hey.

The herding clinic is next weekend – I’m glad I did dedicate this month to trying to get Navarre ready, as I think he’ll be getting a lot of the action, but I really wish I felt more confident with him. He CAN do everything Haku can though, and probably more, considering he has whistles and much better driving distance and confidence. Just because he CAN doesn’t mean he WILL though. He’s going to be sad that his Winter of Herding is over, we’ll go back to our regularly scheduled herding lessons after next week. But that’s okay, with Haku’s lameness I’m pretty much accepting that we’re just going to go with with what we can do now and not worry about progressing unless he ends up looking really sound again. Without any training goals we don’t really need to be doing much. And Navarre has all the time in the world, we don’t need to try to cram with him. I did want to actually attempt to work with him this month, and I’m glad we did, it wasn’t exactly fun, but we did make some progress. One step at a time, truly, if it were just Navarre I would have quit herding long ago! But now he loves it so much, even if we’re always a total hot mess, he gets to still play – it makes him so happy.

We’ve also been gearing up to go back to some agility trials this summer, and the dogs look good in practice. Not too many knocked bars and most of our mistakes are just my sloppy handling. Bright reads my mind these days, Navarre does not, of course. Damn honest dog making me actually cue things correctly. We played around with some fun weavepole stuff this week and Navarre got to run with Robert again, which he loves. Both Bright and Navarre just love their agility, I’ll admit I’m ready to train a puppy again! I love that baby phase where everything is new and you get so excited when your dog just does one piece of equipment. Still, 2020 is the plan for Year of the Puppy, though I am open to opportunity at the moment. Very much excited about Dove’s puppies, but I do want to wait another year. In a perfect world new puppy could do agility, herding and obedience – but I’m open to whatever the new dog decides they want to do. I’m looking forward to attempting running contacts with a new dog, and I have lots of ideas of what I’d do differently with my next dog. They all teach you so much.

My dogs are all still relatively young right now though, we have things to do! And we currently have a long term goal of AKC Nationals in Reno in 2021. PROBABLY not with Bright, who will be 10 at that point, but it’s possible she may still be running well in Preferred. Navarre should go though, and I did have fun at the last one – and it’s within driving distance, which makes things so much easier. He’ll be 6, which is a good age. The qualification period for that doesn’t start until the end of this year though, so we don’t have anything much we’re working on this year. Navarre is now in all Masters in USDAA, we just haven’t been to a trial to run in it. Maybe two USDAA trials this year?

And not to mention Navarre (and I) will continue to try to figure out herding, with a long term goal of actually being able to run in some USBCHA trials, but not until I feel real confident with our skills. No rush with Navarre though, he’ll get there when he gets there. I’d also like to at least get Navarre’s Novice obedience titles, and would be nice to get his Open as well. Then we’ll see if I finish training utility or not.

Suddenly, it’s SPRING! Just the most beautiful season in Oregon, everything is an unreal shade of ultra green and things are growing like mad. Where do all the bugs come from? Everything is just happier in the Spring, that’s for sure.

 

A New Hope

Haku got to herd again! OMG, it’s SO RELAXING, I have missed him so much. Oh yeah, herding is actually FUN, it’s so frustrating with Navarre sometimes I had literally forgotten why I found it enjoyable. Haku brought it all back, we are out there together and that makes all the difference in the world. Just a breath of fresh air, we didn’t do much but it was super fun for both of us. Okay, I will admit, after driving Navarre around with all his PUSH, working with Haku who has NONE feels really weird. GET UP THERE AND PUSH, Haku!

We mostly just looked at driving, where the sheep were SO CALM – what a difference when Ian’s sheep weren’t scattering to the four corners of the universe! Haku lies down when I ask, flanks beautifully and is trying very hard to hold a line. Such a good boy, but, yeah, WALK UP, get up there and move those sheep! STOP LYING DOWN FOR NO REASON.

With Dave I ended up running Haku more than I anticipated, funny enough the sheep were squirting off far more, so I had to send him more on long outruns than I had planned. Have I mentioned how relaxing it is, he actually goes OUT … well, then comes in too tight, but it’s just a whole different feel. Nothing is going to explode with Haku, it may go a little wonky, but there will be no explosions. And Haku, who has almost no whistle practice and nothing lately, he was taking his downs – with the whistle he wasn’t even taught on! Oh, not arguing with your dog makes all the difference.

Of course, the consensus by those around me is not that Haku is better, it’s because I let him get away with anything and just smile and tell him he’s perfect. Because it’s true. There was much, “Why does Navarre get in trouble if he doesn’t respond immediately but you’ll ask Haku 6 times and never get upset?” And the answer is, because I CAN. You can’t let Navarre take an inch, but you can give Haku a mile and he’ll just bring it back. Because he’s awesome and easy – and perfect. I may have missed him just a little bit.

Anyway, so he pretty much seems exactly as I left him, only way easier because I’ve been trying to work Navarre for a month. We didn’t do much long distance stuff, which is what we struggle with the most, but anything under 100 yards, no problem. Driving was good, outruns were good, too fast on the fetch but would lie down. Now, keep in mind that while I thought he was perfect, no one else did. “He didn’t take your flank, aren’t you going to fix that?” and I’m like, “Naw, he knows what I actually meant”. So perfect.

I’m not entirely sure where this new found politeness came from, but now our issue seems to be he just keeps being way too polite and lying down all the time! We went up to Brigands to work on whistles, but got pretty much no whistle work done because I never had a chance to actually ASK him to lie down, and any whistle I did he just takes as a down whistle. So, no whistle practice for Haku, mostly, “Yes, walk up, keep going – walk up, WALK UP. WALK UP! Go! Stop lying down!” Certainly NO problem with being pushy on his fetches, he was too busy lying down. Admittedly, this was all relatively close up, he usually loses his downs at farther distances. But, yeah, he may need to lose the down for a little while, was he always this polite?

As for physically, it’s hard to say. This week we worked up to running in the arena, then running in the park, and then more running at herding this week than I had intended – it was supposed to be a shortened hike day this week too. I decided to skip the hiking after we did more running  in herding though. I continue to use his Assisi Loop, heat and cold on the wrists and range of motion stretches after activity. He FEELS so much nicer as I move him throughout his range of motion, his wrists have a lot more flexibility and his whole front is much less tight and restricted.

I still see the limp when he gets up from sleeping, but he’s been doing a lot of full body stretching on his own, which you don’t realize they’re not doing until they start doing it again. So if he comes off the couch a little off, he stretches all the way front and rear, creaking and cracking, and then he walks normal – often still crackling away as he moves after rest. The cracking started after we started doing laser, which I was told was the joints getting more lubrication and movement after being locked up for so long (or something like that). He was off today in action after herding and romping in the field. I have not seen more of the off movement since we started doing more activity, it’s remained about the same even after doing more. I was a bit bummed to still see the lameness at all, but not surprised as we did pretty much decide that it was related to arthritis, which is never going to go away.

We continue to gradually add more activity, trying to keep him from doing anything stupid. He doesn’t have a gentle speed though, so we’ve already done some fairly aggressive running without total breakdown, so I’m tentatively pleased that at least we did some good over the past month. However, he obviously lost a lot of muscle mass during his break, his little back legs are shaking after exercise, which never happened before. It’s a double edged sword, rest, but I think we made a good compromise. He needs to get back in action and we’re back to working on rear end conditioning at home as well. God I love that dog, I hope he can continue to do everything he loves for years to come.

As for Navarre, we continue to implement our new herding program. So far, it’s made a big difference overall. Compared to last week his entire demeanor around sheep is so much more thoughtful not only for me, but for the guys as well. He’s being downright polite for them! For me, he’s listening and much calmer and more thoughtful. I’m sure it helps that I’m calmer and more thoughtful, it’s amazing what having an actual appropriate response will do.

Oddly enough, this worked better with Ian’s sheep than Dave’s (who are more sedate), which Dave explained as when Navarre is actually listening and not pushing through everything being ‘good’ means that the sheep actually stop moving so much so Navarre feels like he’s not doing his job right. So Navarre was more willing to listen at Ian’s than at Dave’s. At Ian’s I switched dogs probably … 5 times? And Navarre got to work quite a bit before getting ejected for not lying down when requested. At Dave’s Navarre would get like 30 seconds before I removed him, as he would often just blow me off the FIRST time I asked. Hence why Haku got a lot more work than I intended.

I think Dave is more on board with the program than Ian, partly because he takes no shit from the waiting dog (aka, Navarre), unlike Ian who was not thrilled to be holding an obnoxious worked up Navarre. Ian is okay with the concept, but wants to put the dog away where they can’t see or hear the action for 30 minutes, which doesn’t work well for my sheep schedule. I am also more willing to completely eject a dog if they really understand what the rules are. While Navarre is grasping the concept that there are suddenly rules involved to stay in the game, I don’t think he really understands exactly what they are and that they apply ALWAYS. Ejecting him just once without letting him come back I think will make it hard to show him what exactly he needs to do to be successful.

We practiced our new plan again at Brigand’s today, and it continues to go better with us overall. If Navarre would actually listen he really would be fun to work with. But while he’s better, he continues to try to herd ‘through’ me rather than with me. And I still don’t think he really understands why he’s being ejected, and that it really has anything to do with him and not responding. And the hard part is that Haku was being perfect, but I didn’t want to do overdo it with him, so I felt bad for trading him out.

A work in progress, Navarre was still too fast and excited today, but there were moments of goodness. He was taking his downs at the top of his outruns (in a small area), which he wasn’t doing. But as we were near a fence getting him not to rush the sheep flanking near the fence and lie down there was hard for him. Oddly his lack of responding to his down was in flanking today. He likes to keep it interesting. However, his whistles are getting better. So we now have a pretty solid stop and walk up, and, at least in a logical situation, he’s getting his flanks as well. My whistles continue to be erratic, but, hey, I’m trying. And it keeps me nice and neutral and unemotional.

We’ll keep working with it, I want Navarre to step up to the plate and work with me, as I would be so much easier on him. Herding people are not into successive approximations of success, poor Navarre is pretty much ALWAYS wrong no matter what they’re asking, and he’s trying hard, but I think that’s just what herding is. I get being consistent, but this whole training by negatives is not one I think I’m ever going to get on board with. If I could find a way to get Navarre to actually include me in his herding party, he could play with Fun Herding Heather, who has much less rules and much more forgiveness. Still, Navarre continues to love herding and holds no grudges towards anyone, he’s not complaining. His favorite thing ever.

2 more weeks until the herding clinic, then we’ll cut back on herding again. I considered going up to the herding camp at Fido’s, but it’s so long, expensive and they want you to camp at the site – which is so not my thing. We’ve been getting a lot of exposure on our own this year, and Haku’s journey is a little different than what I expect with Navarre – and I don’t want to take Navarre, that’s for sure. Maybe next year.

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Oh, and Brightypants played with sheep – voluntarily! Up at Brigands we went over to watch Carol and Demi work and Bright was all, “Let me in there!” and I laughed and decided to just let her run around a bit while Demi was working. Funny enough, turns out that Bright would actually follow and circle the sheep and walk up … just behind Demi. Okay, she was probably just herding Demi, but for Bright to actually voluntarily go near sheep has never happened. But she does ‘know’ her flanks as we play that game for exercise, and she was very brave … right behind Demi. Never would have guessed she’d do that, but she had SO MUCH FUN, and she so wanted to go do it again! We’ve tried having her out with my dogs while they were working, but she didn’t do anything like this – just hid. I don’t think she trusts the boys to protect her, but she totally thinks Demi can handle those sheep and was right there backing her up! I hope we can do it again some time, not because I think Bright will ever actually herd, but she really did enjoy it – and Demi was surprisingly patient with her little border collie sidekick.

Meanwhile, back at agility I have decided on our first trial back in April, which will put our trialing break at about 6 months. We have still been playing around at the arena and I feel pretty confident in our skills. Maybe I shouldn’t, when it comes to Navarre, but he’s almost 4 and Bright’s at the perfect age where she just knows it all. Soon we will ride again! And we should have a mix of UKI, USDAA and AKC trials this summer as well. Hopefully some fun courses, I do love agility.

And, OMG, I totally need to practice with Navarre for his obedience trial! Apparently I’m planning to cram the week before. But I do have in my mind I want to ‘finish’ our herding experiments with the herding clinic, and then move on to obedience.  And a lot of our herding this summer will depend on how Haku holds up, I’m a lot more cautious about what he’ll be able to do, and Navarre isn’t ready for prime time. (A long, long way from Prime Time …)

A New Plan

Never would I have guessed that Navarre would eventually become my ‘class dog’. He regularly runs every week with handlers of every level from absolute beginner to advanced and is totally focused and connected with them – and happy no matter how it goes. He tries his very best, he saves butts, he always makes sure not to hit anyone, even if they are blatantly in his way, and he makes everyone look damn good. The boy has skills, and he really understands and responds no matter who asks, no matter how off their timing is – he never gets frustrated or impatient. He, uh, may not always let go of the toy when asked though. 😉 He finds being the class dog to be SO MUCH FUN and everyone adores him who works with him because he’s such a sweetheart and tries so hard for them.

So, yeah, he’ll be four next month – the Magic Age, Navarre has finally grown up. He is such a wonderful dog, such a kind soul, so sweet and very fun. My giant snugglebug, I’m so glad he came into my life – he has been such an easy choice from the time he was three days old – meant to be. Just my kind of dog, I have loved his energy from day one. And, let me say, he is HANDSOME these days, I don’t think of him as the big goober so much, he really feels like a DOG finally.  Excited for his future, he can do ALL the things, and I haven’t really had that in a dog before. So we shall try all the things!

Though, OMG, I don’t know if I’ll ever want to handle him in herding – he drives me NUTS. I feel a little more justified though. Ian decided we would start with me handling him, with the sheep he said were something like, “pretty wild”. And, yeah, I could tell you right then how this was going to go. I double checked of all the things I was supposed to do to fix it when Navarre inevitably fucked things up, I had a plan and went in feeling like I was going to try our best.

Our best was TERRIBLE. Sheep were super high and bolting everywhere, Navarre would not slow down even a little, I had nothing. I tried my things I was supposed to do – nope, nothing helped. I handed him over to Ian – who, I felt justified to see, had the exact same issues and argued with Navarre just as much. Ian asked how old Navarre was, said he was acting like a 2 year old dog that felt he already knew everything there is to know. That sounds like Navarre alright.

After Ian worked Navarre for a while, and he was a LITTLE more calm, he said I should try again. I declined, and therefore didn’t feel too bad when Navarre then lost the sheep out the gate, scattered in four directions and some even ended up on the ROAD. Good lord. I almost think he did it on purpose. Navarre went out for the sheep and Ian corrected him for, once again, being too fast … so Navarre just stops and gives Ian a look, while the sheep get away. I think he made his point.

Our other issue, well, among many, was Navarre leaving sheep behind. To be fair, they were not at all interested in staying together, but you could see Navarre look at the escapees and decide not to collect them and just focus on the group instead. At one point Ian was trying to get Navarre to pick up a single that had gotten all the way back to the gate and I was surprised to see Navarre could not get that sheep back, and did not seem to be even trying. I don’t think Navarre knows how to work a single. Then on his drives he would flip and bring back the sheep again, which is also super annoying. Ian discovered Navarre doesn’t have a ‘there’, which, once again, is not my responsibility, I didn’t train him – it’s nice to be able to say ‘get working on that’.

Yeah … crazy sheep and Navarre is not such a great combination. When are these sheep going to grow some calming fleece again? He (and I) definitely do better with more sedate sheep. We can screw up things on a more manageable level.

Navarre got a crash course in listening with Dave (again). With some relatively sedate sheep and a handler that was taking no crap, Navarre was actually trying very hard to listen. And immediately went back to partying when I attempted to work him – ha! So I handed him back over and wasn’t at all sad about it. Navarre is doing just fine for other people, me, not so much.

I feel like I gave the different methods presented a good try, they weren’t comfortable for me, but I feel like I honestly tried to do as instructed. But I don’t think either yelling or physical pressure is how I communicate with my dogs – just isn’t. Works for Ian and Dave with Navarre, but I can now say I need to go with a different approach if Navarre is going to work for me effectively.

So I’ve been thinking about it, and I think I back up my positions with my dogs by being clear with and consistent about what’s expected – and having a calm, unemotional response if that doesn’t happen. At this point, with Navarre (and probably Haku too) the only thing I feel is fair for them to actually KNOW in herding is a lie down. I feel like, at the very least, we need to be able to agree on that to be able to continue to herd. So this is the plan:

  1. I will not yell or raise my voice beyond conversational, unless it’s for long distance purposes
  2. I will let the dogs know if something is incorrect (softly!) and attempt to block access to sheep, and if they don’t change, I will ask for a lie down
  3. If my dogs lie down when requested, we continue to attempt what we’re working on
  4. If my dogs don’t lie down I will immediately go to wherever they are (no matter how far), leash them up and remove them from the field and swap them out for the other dog

It’s a calm, unemotional and clear response with a cue that they should easily be able to respond to should they choose to. It should be easy for them to be successful, and obvious when they are wrong. I am very forgiving of the rest as I am just as often to blame when things go wrong as they are, we can fix it as long as we’re working together. So that’s my plan, which Dave is okay with – which is good, as I’m hoping he’ll keep the non-working dog from being a total barking nutcase, which is the flaw in my plan.

As for Navarre, hoping that he’ll go back to being back up dog mostly worked by other people. We learned a lot this month, but I don’t feel ready and we need a better herding partnership before we can actually attempt this. So I’m going to work him just a little bit in the beginning, just so I can then kick him out for not listening, then go focus on Haku, with occasional breaks to give Navarre a chance to listen if he wants to. It may take a while, but that’s my new requirement.

We actually practiced it a bit of our new plan at Heidi’s, though I wasn’t as black and white as I could have been. What I was was really relaxed and calm since I had a proactive plan. It helped we were just using the babydoll sheep and in a relatively small area as well. Though those babydolls just do NOT want to stay together, they are free spirits. Navarre kept deliberately leaving them behind when they would split too, which I don’t know what that’s about but he would look at the escapee and then go, “Eh, not my problem.” That happened a LOT, so something to work on.

We got to practice our whistles, as that’s what I tried to mainly use so I couldn’t get emotional with my voice either. It was good to know it was just as hard to get Navarre to lie down on a tiny fetch in this small arena it is in the huge open fields at this point. So, yes, something we can work on! I am good with come-bye whistle, I can’t for the life of me get that stupid away whistle out in a hurry. I have struggled with it from day one, I can do it somewhat in practice, when I need to do it on the fly – it’s like a strangled goat noise. I don’t know, I think it may be time to think about a different Away whistle, I just can’t seem to get the hang of it..

Navarre got kicked out a few times, less at first, more often the longer we went. We traded out for Dove the first couple times, then he just got a little time out. But we actually ended on a fairly good note. I felt calm, I felt like we were at least marginally out there together. Progress, I think!

As for Haku, we shall see how consistent I am with him, as he’s special and perfect in every way, of course. It was a hard week for Haku, he had been being pretty patient for all of this rest and rehab, but when I would leave in the mornings he started giving me these horribly pathetic howl whines as I closed the door behind me. And at our last rehab appointment on Friday he was just a fidgety mess for his laser. However, we did ultrasound on his shoulders twice this week and he thought that was pretty awesome.

The good news, I haven’t seen any limping this week. Nothing at all that makes me go, ‘Hmmm …” I’m feeling cautiously optimistic that maybe he really is better. And probably a wiser choice would be to extend his rest, but he just seemed to make it clear that he’s done. He’s been patient, he’s been good (other than treadmill pooping), we shall give it a go and see what happens when we move back to activity. It certainly wouldn’t surprise me to see the limp immediately come back, but that won’t actually change anything, we’ll continue to do things. They found no signs of actual injury, just want to keep him reasonably active, comfortable – and happy.

We went on a celebratory walk around the park several times when we got home, I gave him a frisbee and he had a great time prancing around shaking that thing the whole time. Though he REALLY wanted to go steal the soccer balls from the team practicing at the time. But, yeah, Day 1 of coming back we kept it easy, mostly trotting, a little running, but nothing hardcore. We did some fitness exercises on the giant fitbone tonight as well, he looked VERY balanced doing all his leg lifts and waves on that. Surprisingly better than the other two, actually! I didn’t see any signs of favoring or discomfort. He was high as a kite, naturally.

Fingers crossed Haku gets to go back to being a normal dog! We did a bit more running around when visiting some puppies, and he was SO HAPPY to be out and about. Nothing hard core though, we want to be as gentle as possible as we gradually add activity. We have more warm and dry weather, we’ll add a little more every day and see about doing a little bit of herding the end of the week if everything goes well. His entries for the April AKC trial with Carol are off, I’m hoping he’ll be good to go for the Karen Child clinic and the AKC trial. We shall see.

Ah, AKC Nationals – it is fun to go to a big event as it really is the only time people actually run ‘for real’ in the US. Even then, the cumulative aspect of AKC really makes for much more caution even at this big event. All the trialing and qualifying and travel and money and time … for one trial a year where it’s actually AGILITY. There has got to be a better way. And so many people I know that have been doing agility for a long time are disillusioned with trialing these days. No real point to it, just a lot of money and time to go run courses that aren’t interesting to try to get Qs to go across the country for one big event a year. UKI certainly isn’t the answer, USDAA is a dying venue – AKC is the biggest venue, but it gets harder and harder to have any interest in trialing.

I still love agility, but I can just run it at the arena for much cheaper, with much more interesting courses and I’m already there anyway! It’s fun to have motivation to actually be a better handler, to be faster and more proficient – but there is nothing out there that is inspiring me to do so. I like agility for the fun aspect anyway, but hobbies are the most fun when you have that passion to improve. So, yeah, I think if a venue could find a way to inspire that sort of agility on a local basis, they’d have a good following. Once again, UKI is not it – the courses can be anything from terrible to boring, the levels are stupid, and the training in the ring just makes it … practice. And people just go, once again, to qualify for nationals, it’s just more of the same.

Still, it’s fun to follow everyone at Nationals, Laura with DareDevil (Bright’s puppy) had another fantastic showing, just a couple knocked bars from perfect and some amazing runs every time from challengers to finals. Love that boy, they are just such a team at this point. Hard to believe the Sparklepuppies will be 5 next month! It’s a good age, and DD looks fantastic, super proud of him.

A beautiful birthday weekend, it’s suddenly spring and the cats were really happy to hang out outside for the first time this year. I got to hang out with puppies, which can only make you smile. Looking forward to little Dove puppies next month too – it’s going to be a year of puppies! Marvin was oddly digging in the hall closet after the cat carrier backpack we used for hiking, maybe he wants to go again this year?

Ramping Up

Haku had his vet appointment today at the vet clinic my rehab vet also works at, and she got me a very good deal on basically full body x-rays. The good news, no sign of osteosarcoma and really, other than his wrists, pretty much normal arthritic progression for an almost 10 year old border collie without a middle gear. There was nothing that stood out in terms of causing the ongoing lameness issue. Spine looked great, hips looked great – so he has that going for him. We could scope his shoulders for more information – but as I am not likely to put him through any sort of surgery if we found anything, really not a lot of point.

So really the question has been through this process, is there an injury that we can fix, or are we working on making him more comfortable with an aging body? At this point, signs are pointing to just doing our best to make him as comfortable as possible so he can do the things he loves. Keeping inflammation down while increasing his flexibility, mobility and strength. Looking at using NSAIDs for when he has days of heavy activity and supplements and treatments to help him stay active and comfortable.

I’m okay with this, assuming we can keep him functional to do things he would like to do without too much wear and tear. It’s not unexpected with his physical limitations as he ages, but I wouldn’t have felt comfortable returning to activity without exploring all possible explanations for his lameness. Rest has not really helped him much, so returning to activity will make him very happy.

Maddy worked on him today at the arena while I was teaching. Apparently when I’m not around he’s MUCH more relaxed – ha! She said he felt better, still some trigger points in his shoulders and back. We have two more laser appointments this week and then the plan is to start slowly returning to activity. We’ll keep up with his stretching and rehab exercises, and keeping his wrists as limber as possible. Hopefully we are ready to start looking at coming back to real life, you can’t keep Haku down for long.

It’s official, I entered Navarre in THREE days of his first obedience trial. Because it’s so close to my house I figured I might as well. I’d also like to think he could pull off finishing his novice title in one weekend. He CAN do the things, whether he will … that’s another question. We have not been practicing, and we really need to work on the long sit/down. I’m not entirely sure of the rules in novice at this point – hey, I’ve got a month or so to figure it out.

While Navarre SHOULD be more precise than Haku in obedience, he’s also way more outwardly focused, so I’m not expecting grand things. But we’ve trained it, I feel like we should give it a go and that show is a lovely trial, 10 minutes from my house and on his birthday weekend! Though I’m sure he’d prefer to do herding instead. Our goal this month is to work on polishing up his skills, he has always been weak on his fast in heeling where he acts like a total spaz. Also work on straighter fronts, we’ve only been working about drive into position on recalls recently, and the stays (so he won’t sit-pretty while we wait). Need to actually practice on leash, which we never do. But, yeah, as ready as we’ll ever be, I imagine.

We finally worked on Navarre’s whistles on sheep. It went … about as well as expected. But by the end he was responding as much as he does to my voice … which is not nearly what I would like. To be fair, we were working with the non-dog broke sheep so they were just running everywhere. I was trying to be consistent, trying to move when he didn’t respond, but I felt like we were arguing just as much as always. I do think Navarre thinks ‘hey!’ just means ‘lie down’ at this point.

Anyway, a very baby start where it’s rather hilarious how I couldn’t even get my stop whistle to be consistent in sound. I can do it in practice! Not so much when I really need it. Navarre seems to be forgiving with my ever changing pitch – I think when he didn’t respond he just didn’t want to respond rather than not understanding the whistle. He is less sure of my walk-up whistle, but got it a lot of the time. I sent with my flank whistles a little, mostly just for me to practice. I just cannot get the hang of his away, which is high to low, while low to high I have no problem with. I can’t explain that. You have to start somewhere, we’ll keep working on it.

Having Navarre on these very exciting sheep running willy-nilly everywhere, I was more focusing on getting whistles than actually moving sheep – I can’t help be recognize that Navarre has come a LONG way. Once again, Navarre’s Winter of Herding has made a huge difference. Today I am cautiously optimistic that once I can actually get him to respond the FIRST time that maybe we can do this thing.

Meanwhile, all over facebook were people at regionals and agility trials over the weekend and I do very much miss it. I think we need to start entering some trials again. Bright very much agrees. I’d like to get Haku squared away first though, then maybe I’ll look at what’s happening in April. So far we actually have a fairly exciting April already, our herding clinic vacation weekend, Haku SHOULD be going up to an AKC herding trial with Carol in Washington, and Navarre’s obedience debut. Oh, and PUPPIES! Dove told me she’s most definitely pregnant, the ultrasound is on Wednesday. I am optimistic I’ll be able to resist getting a puppy this time around, but I am still very much looking forward to meeting Navarre’s nieces and nephews!

I’m a very bad pet owner, I still can’t seem to find Marvin’s papers that he came with – I honestly don’t know his birthday. I know that folder is around here SOMEWHERE, so that will be an exciting day when I find it all. Still, his first birthday was last year, like in November maybe? He’s such a ridiculously cute little thing, he just makes me smile. He never quite recovered from his rabies vaccination, his personality completely changed after that. But he’s not quite as, uh, autistic as he was for months after. He’s been a wonderful addition to the household, though I’ll admit I still miss the cat he was before the shot. Never had anything like that happen before, really freaks me out. I had bad luck with vaccination reactions last year, that’s for sure.

He’s a fun, sweet and adorable little fluffball and I adore him to pieces. I’m full up for cats for many years (hopefully they all live into their 20s!), but I would certainly consider another ragdoll when I am in the position of looking in the future. And, knock on wood, all three long haired cats have needed very minimal grooming. They need brushing when they shed twice a year, otherwise they are good to go. Though, to be fair, they leave giant clumps of fur everywhere. Thank god for my robo-vacuum, I can’t tell you how much I love that thing – how did I ever live without one before? I get so annoyed when I come home and my house isn’t freshly vacuumed. How quickly we are spoiled …

Accident Prone

You get to learn about the mysterious world of sheep when you do herding. Well, I’m learning more than I knew – which was about nothing. I now know that when sheep are sheared they’re much more difficult to work with. Apparently they feel much more vulnerable, and especially since these are all rams, they don’t want to bunch up together and get stabbed with a stray horn – which was less of an issue when they had big wooly coats. So the now very tiny rams were just scattering everywhere and Navarre wasn’t helping. When sheep go faster Navarre wants to go faster and closer – but he needs to go slower and give them more space to calm them down instead. He does not agree, however. By the end of our lesson he was actually figuring out how to handle these ‘new’ naked sheep, but it took a while. I declined to work him today, I was just not in the mood to handle that hot mess.

Ian and Navarre also worked on standing up to sheep – which kept happening because Navarre kept pissing them off by being too close and pushy – and newly naked rams were grumpy and not in the mood for his shenanigans. I don’t know if Navarre will be good at standing up to sheep in general, he’s just a big softy at heart. I think both Haku and Navarre are probably too polite for their own good. Navarre hasn’t really been challenged enough to make a sweeping statement though.

Ian says that Navarre is now in the stage that he knows the behaviors, it’s just getting him experience in different situations. Which was the goal before I got involved, though I still feel like I’m not ready.

However, in Molalla the sheep were much calmer and while Dave talked about them splitting, they had nothing on those crazy sheared rams, they seemed quite sedate by comparison. And Navarre was much calmer and things went much better. Naturally, things went well with Navarre and Dave, but things even went better with me and Navarre than we had been doing. It’s funny how often both Ian and Dave have to comment on how much better Navarre is at this than Haku. Today Dave said that working with Haku would drive him nuts. Good thing I think Haku is just perfect, but I’m always surprised when just about no one agrees with me. It doesn’t surprise me at all that Navarre is much better at being ‘precise’, as ‘precise’ is not something Haku has ever done well. Though it’s been said many times if I were as precise with Haku as I am with Navarre (aka, not letting him get away with everything), Haku would be a better herding dog.

I’m just not much into arguing with my dog though, which is what I mostly feel herding lessons are about these days – how to more effectively win an argument with my dog without throwing a tantrum about it. I have been reminded many times to move my feet when Navarre is incorrect, somehow it just doesn’t seem like the right response – especially if Navarre is driving and far away! I’m much better at it when I know my movement will get me a response, not so much when he’s WAY in the distance and I’m pretty sure he’s not going to respond anyway. You know, when he needs me to be consistent the most.

Still, today I felt better about our very baby teamwork. A step in the right direction. And did I mention how ridiculously happy Navarre is about this whole program currently? I like making my dog happy. Someday we’ll get on the same page.

Haku was limping this morning, same as always, it’s very discouraging. Once again, it’s not a huge limp, but it’s definitely there. And then he pooped in the water treadmill again. No freakin idea what that’s about, but I fired him from the treadmill. And the rehab vet wants me to get xrays to rule out osteosarcoma – which never even occurred to me and was REALLY not want I want to hear. But, yeah, he’s done absolutely nothing for weeks, and even if we hadn’t been doing the rehab stuff, it’s really weird that the limp remains the same. So we’re going in on Monday and, hopefully, rule out some bigger issues. Haku’s sire had osteosarcoma. So, yeah. Though Zing’s still doing well after amputation, years later, which is not at all the norm.

And no new pictures from me for a while, I managed to sprain my wrist somehow and I can’t lift things. So I’m learning to be left handed and wondering how long this is going to take to heal. You’ll just have to imagine our hike today, which was lovely with still some snow on the ground and it was snowing while we were there! To be fair, the dogs all just looked like drowned rats though, so you’re not missing the best pictures. We went hiking with an almost one year old female border collie – and Bright thought she was great and super fun, as did Navarre. Though Bright did enjoy getting to be bitchy, until finally she got told off. But even then, Bright was fine with that. I don’t know what’s with Bright and girl border collies, but they had a great time with their guest hiker today. Girls.

Hey, Look, Winter!

I don’t think I should be allowed to work Navarre on sheep without supervision. We went out and practiced at Molalla last weekend and, OMG, just so much not getting anything done. Still, while we couldn’t seem to do a damn thing on my homework list, somehow Navarre has managed to become a useful herding dog at least. Maybe it’s not perfect, maybe he thinks he knows better than me how to get it done, but he gets it done none-the-less – and without worrying the sheep. And I never thought he would be at all useful. We felt a hot mess, but it’s a bigger, more impressive mess than I thought he’d ever be able to manage.

Couldn’t work much on driving because he just would not slow down and kept spreading out the sheep, and you can only lie a dog down so many times before he starts just ignoring you. I felt like his outruns were better, which I was trying NOT to practice – but as we kept grinding to a halt butting heads trying to drive, we did a lot of it. Not listening to flanks, too fast, too close – and today he was back to sliding around and bringing me back the sheep on his drives whenever he could … and then pushing them past me once he finally did. Why keep bringing me sheep if you’re just going to drive them other direction?? He had no answer to that one. And, yes, I literally asked him that – I don’t have long conversations with Haku when we’re working sheep – I have a lot more to say to Navarre, apparently.

Still, you have to start somewhere – no place to go but up, right? We were also going to look at putting his whistles on sheep at Heidi’s place over the weekend, but didn’t end up going down there. Navarre was most definitely NOT responding to any sort of whistles in Molalla with the exciting sheep. I COULD get him to lie down when we walked far enough away from the sheep, but not so much when he was actually in contact. So screw the whistles for now, we have other issues. Our goal remains to feel somewhat like a team for the herding clinic in April. We still have time, thankfully.

Herding is definitely less fun without Haku, I must say. Good thing Navarre really likes it, and I like making him happy. Both Ian and Dave seem to think Navarre can do everything Haku can at this point – and maybe he can, but it’s not the same. I miss Haku. Down in Scio this week Ian got to explain that, yes, you do need to lie down for whistles – even when there are sheep around. So, a little progress is that department – but definitely not one of Nature’s Whistlers. Then I got to work on driving, and did poorly as I just was not super focused. Even got my flanks backwards and everything. Ian says I’m making Navarre anxious when I get frustrated with him, which makes him do obnoxious things, which makes me frustrated with him. Yeah, that’s a tough one to fix. Have I mentioned I miss Haku?

Out in Molalla Navarre did much better with his outruns, which is mostly what Dave worked on with him. It was nice to see that Dave had the same issue with Navarre where he would keep bringing sheep back when driving though. Still, Navarre can do some pretty cool stuff … for other people. I love how gentle Navarre is picking up his sheep, which, funny enough, Dave doesn’t particularly like. Ha! But I have no worries that Navarre won’t push when asked, so I have worries about him being TOO gentle. Gentle is good with Navarre, for me anyway.

I remain frustrated with Navarre when I try to work him, not a fun phase we are in, so I’m just not really wanting to work him at all. But you don’t get past this phase without working through it, so I need to just be zen about it and do it. I don’t like arguing with my dog, and EVERYTHING is an argument with Navarre at this point. Heck, just lining up next to me is an argument. Apparently Navarre is even too pushy there too, that he’s just, once again, trying to get past me to the sheep.

Dave says that if I can get Navarre to give space to me in every day life, he’ll be better in herding as well. Which is kind of interesting as Navarre is my only dog that doesn’t scramble to get out of my way, he’s very trusting like that. Such as when I’m in the kitchen, he’ll just sprawl out in the middle and I walk over him. So, yeah, apparently, not at all down with the concept of giving to my pressure. So we worked on correcting Navarre for not responding and trying to get him to respond without me having to go ALL the way into him to fix it. Fun times.

We also got homework from Dave for whistles, as at the distances Navarre’s now working he needs it. So, it’s on the list, just need access to sheep that won’t go anywhere and I can look at getting Navarre to respond to whistles around sheep. Which means I should probably practice my whistles, it’s hard to go from yelling to whistling one after another, let me tell you. I feel fairly good about the whistles when I’m just practicing them by myself. That is not what comes out under pressure though.

Meanwhile, Maddy has come out to work on Haku twice now, who is just crazy hyped up these days. He whines continuously the entire time, so I have a hard time trying to say if he’s uncomfortable or just spun . She found a lot of things on his back, specifically shoulders, I think it’s really helped. We’ll get to see her again next weekend as well. We continue to stretch, Anne made up a fabulous new long cornbag to help with his heat compresses, we also do ice and heat on his wrists. Started the new food, supplements are now all on board – including finally his elk velvet. Oddly, I think it may actually have made a difference! We use his Assisi loop at least twice a day and we have his back on track coat and wrist wraps on when I leave him. Haku is finding every hidden toy in the house … and then I take them away, poor guy.

We had his … forth rehab appointment, I think it was. He was a little calmer, I think because we were the only dogs in the room at that point (usually there is one dog being lasered while the other dog is in the treadmill, so lots of dogs and people). And his fifth appointment … he pooped in the water treadmill. OMG, I never thought I would have THAT dog – it’s the worst thing you can do, they have to drain and disinfect the entire thing. What a nightmare, I felt so bad! As to WHY, I have no idea other than he’s had zero action so maybe it just really got things moving. But obviously the goal is to make sure that NEVER happens again. I tried my best to get him super excited at home, but not doing anything physical, before his last appointment – and, knock on wood, no pooping. He will forever be a treadmill pooper in my mind though, ugh.

I see less off movement with Haku, so maybe we’ve turned a corner. Most of the time I see nothing at all, but it’s still there. I honestly don’t expect it to ever go away, the consensus is that it’s not an injury, just a byproduct of his arthritis in his wrists. We can, however, make him more comfortable and be more proactive. The goal is to see what improvement we can make doing everything I can think of this month, so there isn’t a constant question about it all. Poor guy, hard to leave him out of the action like this. It’s not forever though, we’re about halfway through.

Meanwhile, I helped with a sheep shearing last weekend, which is not something I’ve seen before or knew anything about. And, no, I was not very helpful – but it was interesting experience. Crazy to me that they haven’t found a less physically difficult way to shear sheep at this point. Other than the invention of electric shears, it’s still done the same way it was since the dawn of time. So incredibly hard to be holding on to these giant sheep and bending over ALL DAY LONG. It takes a lot of skill and a lot of strength, I can’t imagine doing it for a living. Shearing sheep is not for the weak at heart.

I also know nothing about fleece or wool, so I had zero idea what they were looking for in the different fleece types they collected – or what they did with them afterwards. I am definitely not a knitter. Sheep are really dirty though, especially when they live at Ian’s, which never seems to dry out. Something like 175 sheep, and an awful lot of rams, maybe like 50? Once the more experienced shearer got into a groove, he was down to about a sheep every three minutes. The less experienced guy took a lot longer. It was really rather fascinating to watch. I helped a bit with fleece sorting, sweeping and wrestling escapee rams back into the chutes. I imagine it must feel good to be a sheep and have a big old fleece removed – they were all grooming their sides and scratching and feeling good. Probably less into it at night considering the continuing unseasonably cold temps we’ve been having, poor little guys.

Oh, and Broken Leg Sheep is doing fine, he was hanging out with his buddy, Other Broken Leg Sheep. Sheep are accident prone, apparently, but they had little splints and seemed to be doing okay. Made me feel better.