Monday, March 18, 2019

Goodbye Jack

Jack arrived in the summer of 2016 when I was struggling to figure out sheepdog herding.

He was 8 and knew so much more about sheep and dog trialing than me.

In those first six months, I watched in awe as he gathered sheep and moved them around a trial course.

Eventually, though, I learned to become a participant, and we became a team. We started placing in trials.

And, in a storybook moment, Jack and I tied for first with Kay (his former owner and trainer) and his son, Bubba.

We qualified and went to the National Finals in Virginia in 2017.

I kept plugging away at learning more about sheepdog herding, and I started relaxing a bit and having fun.

Jack kept showing up at ever trial, finding the sheep and maneuvering them around the field. I called him my Steady Eddy.

When he qualified for the 2018 National Finals in California, both my friend Kay and my husband encouraged me to go. Jack was 10 then. His hearing wasn't as sharp and he was slowing down.

I went, driving across the country with him and two other dogs.

Although I'd retired Jack from competition last fall, I still used him as a farm dog, I could count on him to move sheep quietly and assertively, even in tricky situations.

This lamb somehow got a bucket around his midsection. Jack quietly walked the flock into a corner where I could catch the lamb and remove the bucket.

Some of my favorite times with Jack were visiting his home place in Texas and working Rambouillet ewes and lambs.

On his final visit to Texas a few months ago, we needed to move some sick sheep around a pond and to the barn. My friend Kay suggested we use Jack for the task.

"You do it, and I'll handle the gates," I said.

Just like that, Jack went back to work for her and I watched in awe as he walked the sheep toward the gate. When one ewe turned her head to the left, he quietly, instinctively, took a half step to the left, and that was that. The ewe continued forward and through the gate.

Throughout the winter, Jack kept working sheep, and I made plans for spring. Maybe we'd do a trial on a smaller field. Maybe I'd use him to set out sheep at a trial.

But that wasn't meant to be.

On Saturday morning, he stumbled out of his crate and just wasn't himself. His gums her pale and cold. A trip to the vet revealed a large tumor on his spleen, and he was bleeding internally.

And so I said good-bye to Jack, the best sheepdog I've ever had.

Jack's puppy picture.

Jack and Emma staring at the cat.

Thank you Beth Murray and Patti Sumner for the photos, and thank you Kay for giving me such a great dog.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Square Meals and Round Bowls

The dogs that run get the round bowls; the one on crate rest gets the square mat.

Sometimes this sheepdog thing doesn't go as planned. Sometimes a fence gets in the way of a very fast dog.

Over Thanksgiving, Gael, the young dog hit a fence during playtime and broke her femur and tore a knee ligament. After undergoing surgery for the broken femur, she had knee surgery last month. So, I've spent most of this winter rehabbing a dog, going on many long, slow dog walks, and acutely feeling the wind, the rain, the mud and the bitter cold.

But, if there is a bright side, it's that Gael may be the best patient ever. She's rather patient and compliant about heating, icing and massage, and seldom complains about her confinement.

Maybe it's because she can't read, and doesn't know that she has at least six more weeks of rehab.

Or maybe, she's quite happy about being fed out of Kongs and snuffle mats, rather than bowls.