I wish I could snap myself out of this funk I’m in. In part I think it is because of the ‘holidays’ – which aren’t really going to be much of a holiday for me, given all the work I have to do. And also because I’ve just been working too much lately and not spending enough time (hardly any, actually) just relaxing and having fun. I enjoy my work, but I need to regain balance. When my dogs haven’t been out for a run in 5 days, I know my life has spun out of control.
Fortunately, as of today, I am officially on “vacation.” I put this in quotation marks because I have to grade 180 exams by the end of the day tomorrow, and still have roughly 30 hours of grading left for another course (not due until the first week of January). Then there’s the 100+ hours of transcription I need to do for my research, if I ever want to write it up and graduate. Which I desperately want to do. So desperately, in fact, that I’m leaning very heavily towards skipping Christmas and just working for the next two weeks. The thought is actually quite appealing. I just worry that I might get really depressed. I’m a pretty independent person, but I need a certain amount of human interaction to keep my batteries charged.
Today I finally got the dog out for some exercise. I was too tired to train, so I just took them for a hike. I knew they would be higher than kites so decided to run them in pairs. On the weekend it is more likely that I’ll run into people also hiking their dogs, and the last thing I need is for my four insane lunatics to charge up and mob someone else’s dog. The only one I worry about in terms of any aggression is Ross, but Mira will alarm bark at other dogs, and most people get at least a little worried when a pack of dogs comes charging towards them. So I try to avoid letting that happen. My other concern is that Hannah really ranges when she is this full of beans, and often will take off on me for short periods of time, which I find quite stressful.
Today was also the last pick-up for my fall CSA (Community Supported Agriculture – where you pay a farmer a fixed amount of money at the beginning of the growing season and then get a box if nice organic veggies every week for a set number of weeks. My farmer even farms with horses!). I brought Hannah and Kestrel with me as they get along with everyone, and took them for a hike at the farm. This farm is over 100 acres and has a nice big bush for hiking in, and a bunch of pasture fields.
The owner was training a new draft horse so I wanted to keep the dogs far away from the team when he went by. Both girls are quite fascinated by horses and want to work them. I have to keep a close eye on them around horses, and generally just leash them when in close proximity. On our hike, however, I thought I’d just make a wide berth around them and let the dogs stay off leash. That worked fine in keeping them from zoning in on the horses, but as we walked to the back of one of the pasture fields, Hannah clearly spotted something in the woods. I gave her a lie-down whistle, followed by a recall whistle. She completely ignored both. Bad dog. I called her back, but instead of coming, she took off at full-speed into the woods. She must have seen a deer.
True to form, Hannah disappeared after the deer and was gone for some time. Oh, I was not impressed! I absolutely hate when she does this. I think taking off after deer is pretty much the only thing I dislike about Hannah, so I guess I shouldn’t complain too much. But when it happens it sure leaves me cranky. Of course while she’s gone I’m worrying that she’s going to get hurt and stuck in the woods somewhere I can’t find her, or follow the deer across a road and get hit. So by the time she gets back I’m usually really happy to see her. But I’m also fuming.
It is never a good idea to punish a dog for coming to you, even if what it did prior to that recall was really, really naughty. Of course, I don’t like the idea of “punishing” a dog at all, but I would love to find some way to get it across to her that I am really unimpressed by this behaviour. I have spent a lot of time trying to figure this out, and the only thing I can come up with is that I need to just not let it happen in the first place. After all, I knew it was possible that she would do this today, so why did I let it happen? Why didn’t I spend time doing some training with her, or playing fetch, or otherwise doing something intense with her that kept her close until she was more tired?
I did think about it, I swear. I was simply too tired. Too tired to train; too tired to ride a bike along side her; too tired to even play fetch. I just wanted to walk quietly and let the dogs run.
Fortunately she came back after a few minutes and stayed pretty close for the rest of our walk. She obviously had had a good run and was then content to mouse in the pasture fields as we ambled along. Kestrel and the farm dog that came with us also got into mousing, so I stood for a while and watched the dogs try and hunt. Hannah is really striking when she mouses: she arches her neck and pricks up her tail, and then pounces with all four feet in the air and lands on her prey. She looks just like a fox! I need to try and get photos, but this is what I mean:
Tomorrow I’d like to do some training with the dogs, even if it’s just a few minutes with each doing some foundation agility work or something. I learned quite a few little fun exercises at the agility seminar last weekend and I really should get practicing. I actually should set myself a few simple goals for the next two weeks with respect to the dogs and see if I can stick to it. That will make me feel a lot better.
One goal I have set for myself is to find a way to get sheep this spring. I really need to make it easier to train and that means having stock nearby. There is a farm just 5 minutes up the road from me that has put up a for sale sign. The farm is long and narrow and runs between the road and a very tall cliff down to the lake. There was a recent article about how they are going to have to move the road soon because the whole area is falling into the lake. I guess that’s why they’re selling, but who in their right mind would buy? I expect it may be on the market for a while, and they have a fully fenced field that has sat empty since I moved here. I may stop in and inquire if they would be interested in renting it come spring. There is even a falling down shed that would serve as a good windbreak for any sheep. The field is long and narrow and not ideal for training outruns, but it would be fine for close work and it sure would be better than drivign 1.5 hours every time I want to train. I could save that for when I want to work on outruns. Well, something to think about anyway. For now, the dogs are sleeping and I think I am going to call it a day early and do the same.