My poor dogs! I am writing from campus, where I have been working today, and the last two days as well. I work the next three days too. This is quite a shock to my system! I haven’t had any work since May, and now six days in a row. I wouldn’t complain except I am only being paid for about 5 hours of the 30+ I am putting in (plus 12 hours of commuting). But that’s another story…

Last night I got home at 7:30pm after a 12 hour day, totally exhausted, to find four wired-for-sound border collies locked in my bedroom. My room is actually the size of a 1-bedroom apartment, complete with balcony, so it’s pretty spacious. But they still were not happy, and I can’t blame them. In fact all three of the adults slept wanted to sleep on the bed with me later that night, despite the heat (Kestrel sleeps in a crate). It’s not typical for Ross or Hannah to want to sleep with me and they each have their own bed which they prefer. I let them up while I read – they clearly missed me and were stressed by me being gone so long. They are not used to it anymore.

Fortunately the lake was extremely calm last night so I threw the girls into the car, drove the 2 blocks to the beach (I wanted to maximize exercise time) and let them run and play fetch in the water. I hate playing fetch for any length of time with my dogs, due to concerns about them becoming overly obsessive or injuring themselves. But the swimming is good exercise and at least eliminates the second concern. Plus it’s a great way to tire them out in the heat. In fact they are looking far more fit than they ever have, so the swimming seems to be good muscle building. That said, they are all becoming increasingly ball-crazy, and I’m not crazy about that.

It was dark by the time I got home, and tired as I was I still had to exercise one more dog. Ross won’t swim so I put him on a long line and walked him around the community and along the beach. It’s so peaceful to walk in the dark on the beach. By dark there is usually no one there, but I keep him on a leash anyway because I just can’t see him! Plus I don’t want him chasing skunks or other small animals and getting lost (or sprayed)

Today I will also get home around 7:30. Tomorrow I don’t start until noon (which means leaving at 10:30am) but Satuday and Sunday are likely to be 13hour days. Ugh. How do people do this full-time? I seriously don’t know how anyone could sustain such a schedule. It’s horrible. Fine for a day here and there, but working 5 10-12 hour days a week (including commute) is de-humanizing. Yet so many people live that way. No wonder our society is riddled with health problems.

I am farm sitting this weekend as well. Well, not really farm sitting, per se, but farm watching. I will be dropping in every day (on my way home) to feed the sheep (the lambs are being fattened on grain for market), give water to the cows and feed the dogs in the kennel. I’m glad to be able to do something in return for them letting me train there, to earn my keep so to speak. I would like to do more, to be more useful and also to learn more about sheep care. Actually I am hoping to help with an organic sheep farm near where I live. Their sheep are kept on a rotational grazing system based on Joel Salatin’s model developed at Polyface Farm. Fascinating stuff and a method I will be considering when I have my own farm. Whenever that may be… hopefully soon.

Did I write about my last training session? I don’t think so. I went out a couple of nights ago and worked the dogs. It was hot, and considering Mira’s apparent overheating (which I believe is linked to her back being hurt when she was run over by that ewe), I took it very easy on the dogs. Especially Mira. It’s actually good to train for 5-10 minutes and stopping. I have a friend who often trains that way. Just takes his dog out for 5 minutes, does one or two things, and then quits. He can do this because he lives on a farm and has his own sheep, so they are always right there. That’s not typically an option for me, but that night I decided to pretty much just do that, despite the 1.5 hours it took to drive there and back.

Each dog had two 5-10 minute training sessions. Everyone worked very well. Hannah is really improving on her flanks, which is making me very happy. She still reverts to old patterns when she gets tired, so working her for short intervals is good for reprogramming her. It’s so cool to watch her figure stuff out and mature before my eyes. Her turning three seems to have made a big difference as she wasn’t working nearly this well last fall.  Then again I think I am getting better too, so perhaps we’re just a becoming a more trusting team.

Mira is making small steps. I am still working her in the round pen for a few minutes every time we go out, then I put her in the big field. The round pen is just to keep things calm and let her work off some of her edge before I take her in deeper waters. She shows me a lot of tension when working close to sheep, and I need to get her to listen and relax with me up close before I try and do any distance work with her. I think I am going to give up any thoughts of trialing her in October. Same with Kestrel. I don’t think either will be ready enough to run well, and I’m not interested in flushing money down the toilet or putting my dogs in over their heads. There’s always next year.

Kess continues to impress me, and even impress the owner of the farm. She is making rapid progress and we’re wearing now, albeit it’s a bit wild and wooly! I haven’t really started clamping down her although I am demanding some stops once she’s worked a little and shaken out some beans. She’s not showing me any of the problems that Mira had, which is nice. Kess has been an incredibly easy dog to raise and now to train. She continues to be quite a delight.

I really don’t have anything of substance to say today, and I’ve rambled on long enough. It may be a few days before I find time to write again. Hopefully the dogs won’t die of boredom over the next three days.