USA 2013: San Martin, California


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“Here they are! Now what?”

First, I would  like to thank everyone who has been reading my travel blog and asking the question “are you still blogging?”   Well, yes I am!   And this post is especially for you!

Second, for the reminder of 2013, my DH and I have no big trips planned.   However, come spring we plan to be off again so stay tuned!    In the meantime, we have taken little journeys around the Bay Area just because it is so pretty here!

For the last few weekends, we have been taking our dog Zoey (now a wonderfully active and cute 15-month old Australian Shepherd) to sheep-herding lessons in San Martin, CA.    We had to find something to challenge Zoey.  We were beginning to think she was just… pretty.

We found our trainer and her flock of sheep via some other Aussie parents we met at a dog event in the area.  At this event there was a sheep herding demonstration with a Border Collie (a close cousin to Aussies).   Zoey could not take her eyes of those strange and plumb beasts that moved like white clouds over the green grass.   The Border Collie would zig and zag behind the sheep to push them closer to her human who was walking to the pen where the sheep would eventually stay.  The Border Collie was intense in her work.   Zoey was fascinated.

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Hmmmm, fascinating!

After a couple of lessons on the farm with the sheep, well — what can I say?    We learned that Zoey is more than just pretty — she’s a freaking herding machine!   Zoey took to sheep herding like an Aussie takes to sheep herding!   Her instinct kicked in and Zoey could move the sheep to her human (in this case, my DH) and hold them in one dusty spot.   By instinct, she knew how to read the sheep and be in the right place at the right time to keep them in a tight group up next to the fence.   She would then slowly and calmly pressure the sheep to move to where ever my DH stood.  She ran  in graceful arches around the sheep, barking when necessary to remind these sheep who was boss.   Although a couple of the big sheep challenged her, they quickly relented  to her authority.     Here are a few pictures:

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A split herd — that’s not good!

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Oh boy! That big white one is trouble!

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Oh boy! Those two big sheep are trouble.

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Zoey has no fear! She tells that sheep to get with the program!

Seeing Zoey do what she was born to do is amazing!    The mental concentration required to herd sheep is huge for a dog.  After her first class, she slept for eight hours straight!  My DH and I are so proud!

Last week was different, however.   Apparently everyone wants their dog to herd sheep.   When we arrived at the farm, there was one dog in the pen and three others (including us) waiting our turn behind the fence.   Zoey was excited by the sheep.   She was barking and yanking at her chain.   For 50 minutes Zoey had to watch the other three dogs dance with the sheep.   Mostly, the training time was spent with a German Shepherd who stalked (I mean herded) dinner (I mean sheep).

Because the German Shepherd and a Border Collie were having such a hard time focusing on the job at hand, the trainer decided to run two dogs at a time as a way let dogs train dogs.  Frankly, this did not help in my opinion — that German Shepherd was still stalking dinner!   When Zoey finally got her go at the sheep, she was overly excited and ran into the flock, scattering them to all corner of the pen.   Her partner, a cattle dog with more experience, quickly corrected Zoey’s error.   Zoey stood there in the dust stepping side to side as if wondering “What do I do now?”   Unable to figure it all out, Zoey just watched the other dog run lazy arches around the sheep.   After a minute or so, Zoey turned around and strolled to the gate where I stood.  Zoey looked up at me with those soulful amber eyes,  she wanted out.    The trainer released Zoey from the pen and  said “Zoey just does not want to share!”    “Oh yeah, it’s Zoey’s fault, right!”  I did not scream.   I just lead Zoey to the water tub for a drink.

So, after 60 minutes on the farm, Zoey got only one sad 5-minute run with the sheep.  When the trainer announced the line-up for the second herd-of-sheep-in-waiting, Zoey was now fourth in line — things had gotten worst!   Unwilling to allow Zoey another 50 minutes of barking, yanking, and frustration,  my heart broke as my DH and I decided to leave and walked Zoey to the car — she did not have fun today.

Sometimes things just do not go your way, even for dogs.   After our 40-minute ride home, we took Zoey directly to our local dog park.  At the dog park, Zoey ran like the wind with her buddies — a yellow Labrador that slobbers, a black/white spotted mix with long legs and floppy ears, and a 6-month old  Aussie puppy that Zoey let climb on her back.  Zoey was having fun!

Yeah, yeah, yeah — I’m being oversensitive, I know.   But I  make no apologies for going ga-ga over Zoey.   It is our job to make sure that Zoey has a good life and we take that responsibility seriously!  We will find some more sheep for her to herd in the spring.   With winter rains on the horizon, we plan to try some indoor agility training.   After all, Zoey is more than just a beautiful dog — she is a wonderfully smart and beautiful dog!   We are lucky to have her!

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