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Thursday, January 26, 2017

A Kate Appreciation Post

Even though I am very comfortable with farm the Ts came from, it's always a good idea to quarantine any new animals for a bit just to make sure, if nothing else, the stress of moving didn't cause any problems that would need addressing.

Normally I would just put new sheep in the side field, but for the winter I have the 'not quite as old as Jester and Ford' sheep in there.  The best option I could come up with was one of the horse stalls.  I didn't want to keep them locked up for week though with no grass and no room to play. so I decided I'd see if Kate and I could take them on excursions to the front yard.

Keep in mind that I am a complete rookie using a trained stock dog so I may be talking about something I don't know enough about to be talking about.  Still, from what I have picked up, Jacobs are not easy to herd, lambs can be tough and sheep that have never seen a working dog before need special handling.  We have the trifecta!

Our first trip out I cheated and carried a feed scoop in case we got into trouble.  The girls obviously had no idea that a dog could tell them what to do and were a little confused, but Kate was very kind and quietly approached them and everyone stayed calm, cool and collected and we made it out to the yard and safely back in.

Now, three times a day we go out for some grass and gamboling.  The first couple of days I stood out in the yard with them so when they started to get themselves in trouble, Kate could "bring the sheep back to me".  Today I sat on the porch, out of the wind, and let Kate run things on her own :-).

I don't really care where they go in the yard as long as they don't go to the house.  I'd also prefer they stayed out eating, rather than goofing around in the driveway.  Kate would prefer they stayed in the barn or a field because "Any idiot knows sheep should not be loose in the yard!"  

Once we get out of the stall, down the shed row, through the gate and somewhere in the yard, I ask Kate to stop.  As long as the girls are staying out of trouble, she should stay put.  Once they head off somewhere they shouldn't, I ask her to go bring them back (her favorite part :-).  You saw that on the video yesterday.

Here they are starting to work their way back up to the driveway.  She's watching them like a...Border Collie.

Tavia, Thelma, Tabitha, Tessa, Tara

Now she's brought them back to the grass.  Tessa, Tavia, Thelma, Tabitha.  I'm not sure where Tara is in this picture. I know she's close by, because they all stick together like glue, but if someone's going to be an explorer, it's Tara.

And here she is!  Kate is trying really hard to ignore her, hoping she'll do the right thing and back off.

You can tell Kate is really not happy about this situation, but is being patient and kind.


And Tara backed off ;-).  This whole scene was just a couple seconds long and I would never expect Kate to tolerate being disrespected.  I'm guessing she knew Tara was just being curious and not aggressive.  I've seen her handle a threatening sheep...much differently ;-).

I've had some questions about Kate, who trained her, why she's retired...  Kate came from Fetch Gate Farm in New York and a friend of a friend hooked us up after we lost Iris a few years ago.  Here is the post introducing her back in, yikes, 2014.  

As I mentioned above, I am not an experienced stock dog person.  I definitely needed/still need an experienced dog to bring me along rather than the other way around.  The plan for years was after Iris passed, I'd get a dog ready to slow down a bit and then we'd take lessons from one of the top trainers in the nation...who just happened to live right down the road.

Sadly, this never happened.  Vergil passed away a few months after we got Kate.  I'm sure we all knew that was going to happen, but Heather trusted me to take Kate anyway.  I will be forever grateful for that as Kate has far exceeded my greatest hopes and expectations as a friend and a working farm dog.

Working with Kate and these new sheep over the last few days has been a blast.  To have a job that needs doing and being able to put together a safe and sane way to do it (while sitting on the porch no less :-) well, it's an honor. If that makes sense.  I so appreciate the things people (and dogs, horses, sheep, cats, birds...) have done for me, shared with me, taught me.   

Today was fun.  Thank you.

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