Mira gave me quite a scare tonight. I went to the farm to train, bringing all the dogs. I am very careful about them getting too hot, always keeping the car fully open with all crates pointed outward so they are getting air directly from outside. I park in the shade, fill their buckets of water and make sure I don’t put them back in their crates until they’ve cooled off after working. Fortunately this summer it hasn’t been that hot. Living by the lake keeps things even cooler, and allows me to exercise the dogs in fairly cold water when the temperature starts to rise.
I think this might by why Mira appeared to have overheated tonight. That is, perhaps she simply is not acclimatized to the heat we had this evening, moderate though it was. Then again, neither of the others overheated and they both worked longer.
I worked Mira in the round pen with the weather for about five minutes, then I put her away and worked Hannah for a good long stretch on the main flock. Hannah had to work hard and she was breathing pretty heavy by the time we were done. Briefly, I worked on her driving the big group around, and then shedding them over and over until we were down to one ornery ewe and her two lambs. This ewe would stomp at Hannah and we had to work for a while at getting Hannah to walk up on them and turn her. Hannah tends to only get so close, and then if the sheep don’t move she freezes in place, waiting, waiting, then lunges at them. She does not grip, but rather lunges to give them a start. This definitely gets them moving, but it also scatters them. It’s not a good habit to get into so I worked at just having her walk up slowly and turn the ewe and move her. By the time we were done, Hannah’s tongue was around her knees. I started to note that the air was quite humid and that it’s probably a lot hotter for the dogs working than I realize.
I kept Hannah out for a while and let her just walk around and cool off before putting her back in her crate. Where I used to train they had a tub for the dogs to jump in, but they don’t have anything set up here. Mostly it’s been cool when we’ve been training and simply lying in the grass for a few minutes while lapping a cold drink has been sufficient to cool the dogs.
After Hannah I worked Kestrel. I’d had her in the round pen for about 10 minutes early on. She’s doing really well. She has really natural balance and moves beautifully around the sheep. She has no trouble peeling them out of corners an off fences and just marches calmly right into them, and they move. This is what I wish both Hannah and Mira could do, especially Mira. Hannah can lift sheep but she’s stressed about going in tight. Mira is extremely stressed. She blasts in, pulling wool and busting the sheep up, scattering them every which way. Not Kess though – she’s just steadily walks into and then around them and peels them off. It’s really lovely to watch. Perhaps I’ll try taking a video next time to post.
I worked Kess in the small field and tried to get her wearing. She really is a heat seeking missile and so things become rather action packed. I am torn about putting too much control on her – I love her keenness but she’s also running the sheep over me constantly. My feet are bruised from being stomped on, for example. She also seems to be able to take quite a firm correction (with my voice or blocking her with my body) and pop right back up instantly. No sulking, not getting sticky, no running off. She just hits the deck and waits for me to release her or step ever so slightly out of the way and wham! she’s off again.
After Kess I brought Mira out. I am trying to do a little more farm-type work with her so I had her help me put the tired sheep away and bring out fresh sheep for her to work. Unfortunately a shoot door was open and the tired sheep ended up mixed in with the fresh ones. I then had to put the whole group out into the holding pen, with the intention of gate sorting them.
Mira helped scoop them out of the barn and down the little channel into the holding pen outside. I had her wait in the channel while I closed some gates in the barn. While doing so, one of the big ewes outside decided she wanted to come in. She put her head down, charged and plowed right over Mira. Mira was rolled several times and dumped in heap! Oh, no, I thought, worrying that she’d been injured or frightened. But no, Mira jumped up and went after that Ewe, overtook her and chased her right back out into the holding pen. She then proceeded to take her temper out on the whole group of them! She was clearly pissed off. It was interesting to see.
I had Mira work the sheep in the small pen, moving around and around them until she could do it calmly and confidently without teeth or blasting and busting them up. That took a few minutes, maybe 3-4. Then we put the sheep into the field and did some work there. All I did was have her wear them around for a while, and then work on some driving.
Mira worked fairly well, and I was pleased with her progress. We did a little driving, which she did well, so I decided to call it quits and finish up for the night. We were maybe out there for 10 minutes, perhaps 20 at most. Keep in mind that I’ve worked this dog for an hour in the past with no problems. It was humid out, but it was evening and maybe in the low 20s (70s). Muggy but not overly hot. Yet Mira started to get wobbly. She was dragging her hind right leg and stumbling. Oh dear.
I picked her up and carried her back to the car, where the owners of the farm were standing talking to some friends. Fortunately they have a formal kennel set-up, complete with elevated bathtub and grooming area. We carried Mira to the bathtub and filled it with cool (but not cold) water. Her ears were burning and her mouth and tongue were scarlet. At one point she started flopping over a little and I thought she might be starting to seize. In hindsight I think she was just slipping on the bathtub surface.
I kept her in the bath for a good 10 minutes. By then her ears had cooled and her mouth turned a normal colour. Her pupils were back to normal as well (they were extremely dilated). When I put her down she was walking fine and seemed totally back to normal.
Seeing her staggering around reminded me of what she did when she was a pup after running around and playing ball. Especially the dragging of the back legs. I had thought there was something wrong with her hips, but perhaps she’d also been suffering from heat then? It would only happen after she’d been running around a lot. Tonight is the first time I’ve seen her do this since I started chiropractic treatment with her. Or… perhaps being run over by that ewe threw her back out and is causing this problem to flare up again? Once home she came over and wanted me to give her a pretty intense back massage. Hmm…. the chiropractor won’t be coming for another month. Perhaps I’ll give her a homeopathic remedy (which one… arnica for bruising? Ruta or Rhus-t for sprains? I’ll have to give it some thought…) and see how that helps.
Now that we are home she is behaving perfectly normally, other than wanting her back rubbed. But I’m going to have to watch carefully and see if I can figure out what’s going on. This is a dog who’s normally able to out endure any of the others by a long stretch, so overheating like this is not normal for her. Tomorrow I work all day so the dogs won’t be doing anything anyway. She should sleep well and benefit from the rest.