Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sheep, Skunks and Chain Saws

A week after my cataract surgery, Dr. Henderson released me to resume normal activities.  Rue and I immediately began preparations for the Texas Herding Association trial scheduled for February 28, March 1 and 2.  We worked several times a week with our herding instructor, Sheryl McDonald of Shertom Kennels in Leander.  We had a lot of work to do.  Rue has only been working sheep since November, and we were in Port Aransas for the entire month of January.   And, although I did herding with Nickie for several years, I am by no means yet an accomplished handler.  Sheryl said we were ready, though, so I entered her in the trial.  Here is a photo of Rue demonstrating what a “walk-up” is supposed to look like.  

I can’t say our runs were pretty, but we got through them.  Rue earned her Pre-trial Test title and took two blue ribbons in AKC Course A Started Sheep.  That means she needs only one more leg (or qualifying run) to advance to the Intermediate class.  We would have had our third leg, but unfortunately “handler error” caused us to NQ (or have a non-qualifying score).  We managed to get through the course, but at the end I penned the dog along with the sheep, which is a big no-no in the sport of herding.  I’ll try to do better next time, Rue!  (Rue likes herding sheep...or cattle...a lot better than she likes posing!)

The first two days of the trial we had good weather.  Since Rue and I did not compete until Saturday, I took some photos of our friends and their dogs herding ducks.  

On Sunday a strong cold front blew in just as the trial was getting underway.  Most of us were under-dressed because the weather guessers had said the front wouldn’t arrive until mid-afternoon, and that the really cold weather would come later in the day.  That’s the last time I’ll believe those guys!  Another down side to the cold weather was wardrobe-related.  In all the putting on and taking off hats, hoodies, ear-muffs, etc., I lost one of the diamond earrings John gave me several years ago.  I found the earring back, but unfortunately the earring is still awol.  We continue to look.......

Sunday wasn’t the only cold day, though.  On Monday morning the trees in our yard were sporting a sparkling coat of ice and the wind was still bitter.  

Fortunately, the ice wasn’t heavy enough to break branches and it melted by mid-morning.

We have lots to do here at the farm, and are planning to spend March here catching up on chores.  Even though the weather is colder than usual (and still very dry) we’ve made a good start.  Last weekend Brian came up for a couple of days to cut wood and help us widen the walking trail across the top of the mountain to the east and south.  Here are photos of him and John making some progress on that project.  

We hope to soon have the trail widened enough so we can get the 'gator to the top of the hill and all the away across so we can do fence maintenance and haul equipment to the back side of the property.  

The dogs have had a wonderful time.  Every morning when we go out, Kota grabs a stick and races madly around the yard to signal "It's time for a walk."  

She learned "the ritual of sticks" from Nickie, and sees it as her job to announce our daily walks with flair.  Of course, it's an extra special day when we are joined on our walk by Cousin Molly, my brother's Brittany Spaniel.

The Bagley dogs have a long-standing hunting tradition, encompassing everything from fine, fat rats to bunnies, squirrels, a turkey tom, a feral hog and a whitetail deer.  On Saturday the three of them teamed up to catch this unwary squirrel.

Though we didn’t see who killed it, Kota emerged with the trophy.  On the way back to the house she slipped away, and returned without it.  I don’t think she had time to eat it, so we assume she buried it somewhere close by.  I hope she forgets where!

That wasn’t the end of the hunting, though.  On Monday Colt showed he is a hunter as well.  He found a mouse nest in the yard and both he and Kota had a mouse snack.  Colt was very proud.

Not to be outdone, on Tuesday Kota tried for a skunk with predictable results.  Fortunately she didn’t fully engage the skunk and only got a face-full of “skunk juice.”  After a good scrubbing and treatment with Nature’s Miracle Skunk Odor Remover, she only exudes a faint skunk odor.  

We'll be here for another couple of weeks, and look forward to more adventures, but hopefully not more skunk encounters.

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