Well, what do you know… internet access. It’s everywhere! I won’t write much because I really prefer not to be at a computer when I’m on ‘vacation’ but I needed to log in to get directions to where I am going later, and print the conference proceedings etc. And so a quick update…
Yesterday morning I packed up the dogs and managed to get off at a fairly reasonable hour. I drove nearly 5 hours to get to my first destination, the farm of a friend I made trialing last summer. I arrived at 2pm, and was welcomed with a bowl of hot soup and a cup of tea. I was immediately struck by the beauty of the land and home, as well as the gentle calmness of their five border collies. What an idillic life.
The farm is set on 150 acres of gently rolling, small hills. The house is on a hill overlooking several fields they had cleared by hand over the last few years. What a lot of work! When they bought the land, there was nothing on it but bush. Prickly, thorny bush. Now there’s a beautiful house, barn, shorkshop, rabit house, several fields and several corrals for sheep. And of course, sheep.
The snow was too deep to train, but we spent several hours hiking the dogs around the property as I was given a very thorough tour of everything that is there, and everything that is to come. It was sunny and just gorgeous. I could have stayed much longer! It was really cold (-15), however, and I was frozen nearly to the core by the end of it. I’m sorry I don’t have any pictures, but the batteries in my camera froze and died within seconds of me taking it out and I didn’t get a single shot.
The dogs had an absolute blast. My three (mising my poor Ross!) instantly fit in with their five, and off we went with the pack. Border collies are like that – they seem to recognize their own kind and instantly get along. Even reactive Mira didn’t respond a peep to five new dogs coming up to her. She just hopped out of the car, looked at them and said “which way to the sheep?” She then trotted after them down the path like she’s always been there. Funny dog. Her response to the guardian dogs was much different!
Hannah of course got along with everyone, but she always does. The real test was Kess – and she passed with flying colours. She was a little submissive with the new dogs, but that is smart for a puppy. She ran with the pack, always checking back with me every few seconds. There’s no chance this puppy ran away from her original owners – she watched me like a hawk, not wanting to get lost.
After the hike we went to the barn to see the sheep. Ahh… sheep. How I’ve missed them. So did my dogs. Hannah was beside herself that she couldn’t work them. Mira alarm barked at them, her usual self (or perhaps it was at the guardian dogs, which she also was barking at – but I think it was both).
We had a long discussion around breeding: here is Mira, daughter of a UK national champion, alarm barking at sheep even though she’s been working them for a year and was brought up around them. Then I have Kess, of unknown background, with head and tail down, staring and ready to work, even though she’s likely never seen sheep before. Pedigree really means nothing. You can have the best breeding in the world, and still end up with a quirky dog. (actually, Mira’s quirkiness is well known in her lines, as I discovered long after aquiring her…live and learn!)
Kess continues to show me that she is a good old fashion sheep dog. Calm, sensible, focused but not obsessive, very interested in working, but easily called off. The dogs on this farm were all very much the same. These are real border collies. Mira’s reactiveness, which I have grown accustomed to, stood out to me like a bright light.
Today I received notice that a very good entry-level agility home has an application in on Kess. It sounds like a very good prospect, and I am sure she’d make a lovely pet and agility companion. Thing is… Kess was clearly born to live and work on a sheep farm. While my gut has told me since the day I brought her home, yesterday I had clear evidence of it. This is what she wants to do with her life, and this is why she came to me. I am going to have to make some tough decisions this weekend. Well, maybe it won’t be that tough…