I realize I'm not the first person to realize this, but learning seems to be a lifelong pursuit. Everyday, if I'm paying attention, I notice something new. In my professional life - is shepherding a profession? - I seem to learn something about communicating with my dogs all the time.
I think many of us have the assumption that our communication with animals is somewhat one-directional - we expect them to learn to associate our words or sounds with certain actions. Yesterday, I learned (maybe re-learned is more appropriate) the importance of paying attention to what Ernie, our youngest sheep dog, is trying to tell me. His communication is much more subtle than mine - so subtle, that I have often missed what he's trying to tell me.
With help from our friend Ellen Skillings, I am trying to be more attentive to the cues that Ernie gives me. We worked the sheep again this morning, and I think I made progress in listening to Ernie - which built his confidence (in himself and in me).
I've said this before, but I was reminded yesterday that learning to work a dog well will be a lifetime journey for me - I'll always have more to learn! Paraphrasing my favorite author, Wendell Berry, from one of my favorite novels, Jayber Crow, it may take a lifetime to learn; it may take more than a lifetime!