Sunday, July 24, 2011

On the Road – Days 12 & 13: I Pick Up a Hitchhiker

The route: Colorado to Missouri
The mileage: 730
The time: A blur; something around 13 hours.

Tip: Colorado Hwy 10 should be traveled with a full gas tank and an empty bladder.

Saturday, July 16, I started home, and had a full day’s drive ahead of me. I got on the road before 6 am, and the drive through southeastern Colorado was pretty, in a high-desert sort of way that was different to the central mountain areas near Aspen (which has been receiving more than their share of rain this season and was lush and green). There was a great opportunity for another “Not in New Jersey” shot of elk crossing road signs, but I missed every one of them, unfortunately!

The Spanish Peaks are volcanic mountains about 85 miles from Alamosa.
They were a significant landmark on the historic Santa Fe trail. 

I drove through eastern Colorado, Kansas, and into Missouri as that section of the country was experiencing a terrible heat wave. It was 91 degrees in Lamar, CO before 10 AM, and 106 when I was east of Dodge City, KS…and it wasn’t a dry heat. The further east I got, the more humid it got. It was also quite windy, which I suppose helped, but just felt like the heat waves rolling out of a hot oven. Considering the wind and open space, I thought I’d see more wind farms, but I only saw a few windmills. Maybe they are at too great a risk of being destroyed by tornados.

Kind of cute in western Kansas.

Some sort of fence decorations for sale? I don't know what they are. 
They lined the road frontage of a property in Kansas.

I don’t forsee myself ever desiring to move to southwestern Kansas, unless the alternative is unemployment. The first little bit where I was still somewhat in high desert near the border with Colorado was kind of interesting, though greenery was only found in planted, irrigated fields.

Some of the walls of underpasses near Wichita, I think, had very intricate and interesting designs. The first one or two I noticed were much prettier than this, but of course I wasn't ready with the camera phone.

Somewhere in central Kansas...

The closer I got to Missouri, the better-looking central Kansas became. 
More rolling, and more green. Much more inviting to me. 
And so was this:


Sunday morning dawned very humid and just gross; the sort of day when you walk outside and it’s so muggy that you can hardly tell if you’re sweating or if it’s just the moisture in the air settling on your face and body. Gah!

Jack and Kathy Knox have a large farm with a large flock of North Country Cheviots (I think he said). The barns and house sit on the highest points of the property with a beautiful view all around.

As usual, no one available to photograph my lesson. We worked in a small field, an acre or two, just right. A common theme at Jack’s clinic’s is (basically) make the wrong difficult and the right easy. He usually chooses to let the dogs make a decision about how they are working, and correcting them when they make bad choice, as opposed to what comes more naturally to me; trying to prevent something from going wrong. It’s hard for me to let go and let that happen, but I can see how letting the dog make the choice and then showing that there are consequences for the wrong can make a bigger impression on a dog than always trying to step in and MAKE the right happen.

Seamus was being a little goofy, but with Jack backing me up, we were able to get his head on straight and working pretty well for me. Another suggestion from Jack was to take pressure OFF the dog when asking them to go wider. So, if I wanted to send Seamus to the right (the direction he doesn’t like as much), I should lean or step left as I send him. He feels this releases the dog and frees them up to go wider, and it does seem to work. It seems to make sense to me that coming into the dog’s “bubble” would make the dog more nervous and tense, just as when the dog comes into the sheep’s bubble.

Jack himself worked Seamus a bit more, and was able to get some very nice work from him. Once again, I’m inspired by what I know he CAN do, and can’t wait to get myself there as a handler!

I don’t recall which dog I worked next but it was probably Dare. Between the heat of the day and the week that has passed since then, I am having a difficult time recalling details about working Dare, but I do recall that part of what we worked on was similar to Nyle Sealine’s approach; getting her to come around wider at the top to fix the top and her inside flanks, and she responded well to this. I think because I trust her the most of all my dogs, and I know she’s not going to make a mess of things, I tend to let things slide, and she doesn’t mind taking advantage of doing things the way that seems easier for her.

When I worked Bran, we had a bit of an interruption; Seamus had gotten out of the crate, and come across the road to the field, discovered the group of sheep waiting to be worked in the courtyard area, got in, and started chasing. I was so mad at myself for not securing his crate properly! Of course I didn’t recall not securing it, but I’m sure he didn’t magick his way out of the crate…so there I go with my first and hopefully last loose dog experience. I’m so glad that their road/driveway was absolutely devoid of traffic. I leashed Bran and was just reacting without thinking, trying to get through all the gates with Bran on my arm, to get to Seamus. Jack called Seamus over to the fence and he came, so Jack just lifted him over the fence and chained him up in the field where we were working. I hated that Seamus learned that busting out of his crate could have some really fun results, because he’ll probably keep testing his crate from now on. The up side to this is that he had to watch quietly while I worked another dog.

Little miss independent Bran can be quite hardheaded about doing things with her own agenda, but she is also a sensitive dog. This is part of what makes her difficult to work, and it was especially so when I was trying to get her started. I often feel like working Bran is a lot more work for me than it is when I work the other dogs. But, she really seemed to like Jack’s pressure-off method, and responded to me quite well when I was able to step back and ask for the lie down. This was really, really hard for me, as I always feel she is going to resist it every time, and I have basically become conditioned to stepping towards her to enforce it. If I can break that habit, I think she will work better for me.

The takeaway: Take the pressure off.


The route: Missouri to Kentucky
The mileage: 643 miles
The time: About 12 hours

I picked up a hitchhiker in Butler. His name is Knox.

This little pup is from one of Kathy's current Open dogs, Imp. Clint. His dam is Peg, who is Imp. Jake x Faith, who is by her 1995 Finals Champion Ettrick Bob. He was sold to a gal in Maryland. It just so happened that the gal has a friend who lives quite close to my stop in Pennsylvania, and the friend was planning to go to Maryland that weekend. So, I agreed to take the pup with me, if we could fit a crate on my front seat. My car was packed so full that it was the only place left for a crate.

Jack found a crate, which fit just right on the seat, gathered up some puppy food to hopefully avoid any tummy upsets while traveling, and even provided a towel for the pup’s crate. The bolts for the puppy crate could not be found, so ultimately, we zip-tied the crate together, and I got on the road rather late. Little Knox may be the most perfect puppy I’ve ever traveled with. He was totally quiet and content in his crate, although he’d probably never been in one before, only whimpering just a little when he really had to stop and potty. He was not bothered by having to potty on a leash, either, and I’m sure he’d never been on a leash. When we got to our hotel in Kentucky, I put his crate between the girls’ crates, thinking he’d find the presence of the two dogs more comforting than mine, but he fussed a bit. I brought his crate next to my bed and he settled down and slept through the night (about six hours due to our late arrival). What a good puppy!

Knox in Appleton City, MO.

 Next: Working with Vergil Holland.

No comments:

Post a Comment