Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Retirement Lessons (Or an Old Dog can Teach a Human New Tricks)
I hadn't planned to work Mickey on sheep today. The ground was frozen, and the nearly 12-year-old Border collie with the arthritic feet gets sore working on frozen, hard and uneven ground. Plus, she's had this nagging cough that isn't responding to antibiotics.
I'd only planned to work the young dog today.
But when I pulled on my hat and grabbed my whistle, Mickey whined.
"Okay," I said, as I watched her bounce, puppylike, outside.
I retired Mickey from herding competition last month. She is slowing down, her hearing is diminishing, and some of the sheep are discovering that they can outrun her. But on our farm, the sheep like Mickey and don't question her authority. They don't care about her speed. So a light farm workout couldn't hurt, could it?
Without a command or whistle from me, the old Border collie gathered the sheep and headed to the practice field. I asked for a short outrun and then asked her to drive them away from me. And she went to work.
On the hillside, she stopped, perked her ear and looked at me. I whistled. She looked at me, waiting for a command. I stepped sideways. Reading my cue, she began moving the sheep again. We worked a few more minutes, then I called, "That'll do."
She came running back to me, bouncing, spinning, grinning, pleased with herself.
Kneeling down, I rubbed her ears and told her what a good dog she was. And, as we walked back to the barn, I realized that she still has some things to teach me.