Tess has been my right hand for eleven years on the farm. Many times, I don’t have to said a word to her, but a simple nod of the head and she knows what to do. Gate sorting is easy for her and all I have to do is open and shut the gate. Picking a single is a joy for her, as I point to the one I want and she does the cutting horse moves and brings the lamb to me. we have done thousands of hours of work on the farm and I have taken her for granted. She has been retired but I still use her for the special chores. If I have a time constraint, I grab her.
However, she is getting older and I have using the other dogs to fill her shoes. Roo and Nan have been doing a good job but I don’t have the special connection that I have with Tess. I decided to use Rainey as she needs to be stronger as she is weaker than I want her to be. She has a lack of self-confidence and more noticeably on the drive. I have been working with her quite a bit in the stalls and sorting. She has learned to come into a flock with no open hole, splits the sheep and holds one set. She will fly in like a missile, shed the group and hold steady. She has been getting stronger on this and she really enjoys it. I have been having her shed the group down to a single and drive the single away. She really enjoys this and leans forwards into it.
Her drive has been getting stronger and stronger. With time, she will be a good driver and over the last six months, she has blossomed. She has a delightful outrun and may stick at the top with her eye, but with proper management, can finish it the outwork well. She is very biddable and has a real desire to please me. As the months go by and I do more work with her, I am really enjoying what she has to offer. She doesn’t give up and tries to do as I ask.
She can push the sheep now up the field, with a few walkups but doesn’t stall. She has learned to grip on command and that has helped when she stalls out. She does like to grip so I have to be aware of that but does it when asked. It is not s stupid grip but one that means intent and a quick release. The sheep will then move and you can see her confidence grow. Sometimes I will give her a grip command, she goes forward to grip, and then I stop her as she is going and the sheep move. It’s fine line to be able to stop her just before she grips and now she moves forward with intent to the sheep and it has been a success.
She will swim in the marsh to get the sheep and will go out on blind outruns and flank in whatever directions I ask of her on the fly. Sometimes my sheep are scattered in many directions so she will have to do four or five blind outruns to get them all. The marsh grass is higher than the sheep back and all I can see are the tips of their ears. When I send her, I see the marsh grass move and so then, I can direct her.
I have been using her more and more as she is steady, kind to her sheep and doesn’t upset them. In addition, she needs more work to build her confidence up and each time I see more improvement. Rainey is trusty of me and doesn’t hesitate when I ask her to do something beyond her means. I do see she struggle sometimes but she doesn’t give up. She is honest dog that gives me her heart. Each time I work her, I see some of her mother in her. She has her sire’s strong eye and need to be the center of attention. She has her dam’s biddablity and kindness to sheep and she has a great bland of stock sense from both of them.
She thinks she should be doing all the chores, aside from the poultry work. She refuses to acknowledge the poultry. As a puppy, she tried to kill a chicken and I scolded her heavily for it and since then she refuses even to see them. She leaves that lower class of work to her brother Roo and to her mother, Tess. She runs in front of me, with her tiny tongue hanging out sideways, as if in a playful laugh and dances at the gate. We have bonded very deeply and she leaps at any command that I give her. She is also moving up in the alpha bitch role and will put the youngsters in place. When I sit by the barn at night, she will sit next to me, her eyes gazing at my face and her slight body leaning into my leg.
I work her each night doing chores and building her confidence. Sometimes I push her beyond her limits but she is a game little dog and tries and tries and won’t give up. I help her as needed and the next time she comes out stronger. She is starting to get her sire’s attitude of “I know” and it reminds me of when I used to do chores with Scott.
I ran her in a ProNovice trial in June and it was tough for her. She ran out clean, got to lift, saw the people and was unsure. I gave her a hard walkup and she cam behind the sheep and had a nice turn. Since her drive was the weakest part, I really encouraged her with a lot of whistles on the drive. Her firs leg was very nice and the first half of the crossdrive was tidy. She began to be unsure of herself on the last half of the crossdrive and I was slow to flank her to cover, had to shout her out to go out and we missed the panel but she took my commands. She got strong on the last leg and I had to hold her back and she penned the sheep with ease. I was very happy to see she had placed I was surprised she had placed 11th our of 52 or so dogs. As I was reviewing the scoreboard, I saw that most of the PN dogs had lost over 20 points on their drive and she had lost nine. I was very happy with her and since then she has gotten stronger and more in tune with me.
On Friday, my neighbor needs his sixty sheep moved to my barn that need to be sheared. There were in two different pastures. I took Roo and Rainey. Roo has brought the sheep from the pasture before so it was familiar to him. I arrived at the farthest field and sent Rainey while I waited by my car, She scooped them up and put them through the gate and sent them down the road to the second field. They ran down the road and we followed. The first flock waited by the gate and I held them off with Rainey. I sent her into the second pasture and noted that the sheep were in three separate parts of the pasture. There was the main part, then next to it was the ditch pasture, then a smaller pasture. There were gates at the far end so sheep could go about in all three pastures. Rainey ran down quickly and got the first set of sheep and began to bring them and suddenly she realized there were sheep behind her in the adjoining pastures. She stopped and looked at them and then at me. I gave her a look back and she spun and ran along the fence lineuntil she found the first gate. I whistled her a big comebye and she went through the second gate to pick the farthest sheep. While this was all happened, the sheep that were in my leased pasture came running up. She could see them as they were next door. She flaked out wider to pick them up but I stopped her. I called her with a ‘here, here” and she did look worried about leaving the sheep behind, she came towards me. She could not see the sheep that I wanted as they were tucked in the shed. As she came towards me, I gave her a few short flanks and she took them on good faith. She found the hidden sheep and I directed her to bring them to the second gate. She pushed them in and then I stopped her to flip back and go down the ditch pasture to pick up one stray. She did go and get the ewe and then brought those two packets to the first set. She gathered them all together. It was tough but she took every command that I gave her and willingly. I had her join the two flocks together and put her in the car as she was hot. It was a very hot evening and I didn’t want to wear her out.
I took Roo out and he drove the flock back to the barn. The sheep didn’t want to go down the barn aisle and into the stall. I had Roo pushing hard but they wouldn’t budge. I took Rainey out of the car and set her to work also. I told both dogs to grip and Rainey flew in and did just that. Roo was more selective but Rainey was working her heart out. With the tag team of Roo and Rainey, the ewes decided the stall was a great place to be and they rushed in. I turned to my dogs to see Rainey spit out a huge piece of wool and looking quite satisfied. Rainey gave me her all on this last job. I expected it with Roo as he is seasoned but it was nice to see a young dog dig in and do her best.
I still wasn’t done as I had to put the llamas in the lambing corral with the sheep to be sheared. I got the female llama in with no issue but the male llama dug his heels in. I put a halter on him and he refused to move. I was pulling but was losing this battle. I called Rainey in and asked her to take hold. She heel gripped him and he decided that following me was in his best interest. He did try to stop a few times but the short grips from Rainey changed his mind.
I still had to put the chickens away and when Rainey saw me open the chicken gate, she ran to the barn. Roo stepped up to the plate and put the poultry all away. We had a Bald eagle take our chickens so I have to put them away at night. Soon, we were done and we took a break and sat to watch the last bit of the sunset. I gave both dogs a treat for their good work and we all went to bed, knowing we did good work for the day.
Rainey bounded up to the house, her tail gaily wagging and full of joy. I told her that I was pleased. She trotted into the house and was full of herself. I invited her up on the couch to take the covet spot on the couch and she settled in. I went to get a drink and when I gave back in, she was passed out in a deep slumber. Her tiny mouth was open and her snores filled the room as she dreamed of her adventure all over again.
I smile and sat next to her, it reminded me of the many times that Tess, and I had done the same. Rainey pulled up her bootstraps and filled her mother’s shoes quite well. I am happy with the little dog that believes in herself now. I believe in her. And most of important of all, we believe in each other.