Merry Christmas everyone!  As I type, the dogs are outside in the yard and the cats are in here with me by the fire.  It is not terribly cold out – in fact they are calling for rain later this afternoon and all day tomorrow.  Yuck!  Just when I thought we were done with mud for a while.  Fortunately it’s supposed to freeze again by Saturday night.

This year I decided to take it easy for the holidays and not join my family in their trip down to Ithaca.  I will miss spending time with my brother and sister-in-law, but I really need to get my life into better shape.  After hitting the deer in early November, my body started to really fall apart.  Back pain is the biggest problem but fatigue and other things too have been becoming a really big nuissance.  I have long been wondering why the accident happened, and I am now fairly certain it was a big kick in the pants for me to start taking care of myself. 

I have gained 10 pounds since last spring, have no muscle tone or endurance and am generally falling apart.  Once upon a time I used to be tremendously athletic, but after 10 years of focusing strictly on my career, I’ve become a complete slug.  Time to make my health a priority and get back into shape.  Step one is to get caught up on my sleep, and also my work.  Step two is to do something athletic every single day.  Be it simply 20 minutes of yoga and some situps, or going for a vigourous jog or hiking  or whatever, I will do something each and every day.  Even though we’re not quite at the new year, I’m starting this regime today! 

Yesterday I took the dogs out to my friend’s farm and met another friend there to train.  We did some work with the dogs, which was really great to get back to.  I think it’s been over a month since I’ve worked my dogs on stock!  And of course it showed.  They were all higher than kites, with hardly a listening brain cell between them.  Kestrel was pushy, pushy, pushy!  She kept driving the sheep over me and almost knocked me down several times.  I even brought out my whip to try and get her to remember her pace, but she hardly paid any attention to it.  I had to call the session short because I was worried about getting hurt (my back screamed every time the sheep slammed into me), and also I was losing my patience with her.  It’s never a good idea to train when you get cranky.

Next I brought Mira out and boy was she ever on her game!  Yesterday was one of the days when I watch this dog and think that she could really be terrific.  She was doing beautiful outruns, perfect lifts and walking straight into the sheep’s heads like they were bowling pins instead of sheep that might charge her.  I have never seen her so confident and excited to work.  It was really inspiring!  If only she was like this every day. 

Just a little aside, if you’ll recall, about two weeks ago I gave Mira a new homeopathic remedy: Pulsatilla.  I had never considered it before but some new information I read about it made me think twice, and then decide to give it a try.  Within 24 hours she was clearly much, much happier and more relaxed than she’d been in months.  Then about a week ago I found myself noticing a strange energy coming from Mira.  I caught myself thinking “Mira really wants to work, I should do something with her.”  I have never felt this energy from her before.  Yet her performance yesterday definitely fit this.  Not only did she really, really want to work, but she did so beautifully!  I sure hope this continues and that we can move forward a long last! (yes, I am the eternal optimist)

Last I worked Hannah.  Good grief!  I need to work this dog regularly.  She’s like her mother that way – if she doesn’t work regularly she gets so keen that you can’t control her.  She hardly listened to a thing I said the whole time and worked the sheep like it was a rodeo.  I called her off several times to try and make an impression on her with no luck.  I actually just took her off the field and put her up she was being so naughty!  It’s going to take a couple of times out to get her brain back I am sure.

By that time it was getting dark and the owner of the farm needed some help with evening chores.  Specifically the cows needed to be moved from one field to another, as did the rams and the ewes (each group into a separate field).  At night he keeps his livestock in small paddocks with very high fences to keep out predators since he doesn’t have any guardian animals.  He gave me some very good advice on how I could set myself up without having to get a guardian dog.  I am hoping to rent a field this spring and keep a few sheep, but am not interested in getting a guardian dog until I have a farm of my own. 

He asked me to use Hannah, and since she had already worked a fair bit and was hopefully somewhat tired, I decided she could do the job without making a mess.  She did very well, although the stock was moved lickedy split!  She wasn’t keen on moving the cows but she did so with my help.  Once all the stock were in their proper places, there was one last chore to do: grain one last group of sheep.  The owner asked me to have Hannah hold the sheep off him while he popured the grain, but Hannah did not understand this at all.  She absolutely refused to listen to a thing I said and did the opposite of what she was supposed to do – she held the sheep to him instead of off of him.  What a brat!  She was being so bad that I couldn’t even call her off the stock and had to go over and pick her up and carry her out of the field. 

I really have to work my dogs more often!  Shame on me.  However I didn’t get upset.  I expected the dogs to be high as kites and didn’t blame them for their misbehaviour.  Instead we just had a lot of fun and enjoyed being out again at last.  I hope to train quite a few times this week and next to make up for the time we missed. 

Once chores were done we were invited in to warm up by the fire and meet the new puppy, a lovely little tri-coloured smoothcoated border collie.  He’s four months old and just full of beans!  Sweet and very outgoing, and overall quite lovely.  We stayed for dinner and chatted well into the evening to wrap up a most enjoyable Christmas Eve.