We haven't had much to do for the last several days - mostly just routine things like feeding guard dogs, moving sprinklers and so forth. Today, we moved 75 ewes into a new paddock and expanded a paddock for the lambs. Ernie was helpful in all of these situations!
Sometimes when we feed guard dogs, the sheep will overwhelm the dog and eat all of the dog food. When Mo and/or Taff are with me, I have them hold the sheep away from the dog food. This was a pretty good test for Ernie - it requires a lot of "eye" (controlling the sheep without a lot of movement) and a great deal of confidence. Ernie wasn't sure about it at first, but ultimately he was successful. He also held the ewes away from the fence while I unloaded protein tubs.
Today, I needed him to gather 75 ewes and bring them to an opening in the fence (and onto fresh feed). This required a short outrun (around the sheep) and a quiet fetch (which involves bringing the sheep to me). Ernie did pretty well - he missed a group of ewes that were shaded up under a tree, but when he came back around, he picked them up and gathered the whole bunch. He brought them to me and then took a "lie down" command to let them come through the opening calmly - he was great!
Even with these successes, his joker personality comes through - I think he's related to the mythical Coyote trickster of Native American lore! On Thursday, he chased a jack rabbit nearly a half a mile - almost catching it! He also jumped out of the truck before I left one of the ranches - which I didn't realize until I arrived at the next ranch. And whenever we change sprinklers, he makes sure to check each one once they're turned on!
Today I realized that much of what he needs is my confidence and patience - confidence that we can do what needs to be done, and patience when the work doesn't go exactly as planned. Even though our work in the last 3 days has not been physically demanding, he's been exhausted when we get home - thinking must wear him out! We'll see what this next week brings - tomorrow or Tuesday, I'll need to load lambs without the benefit of a set of corrals. It'll be a good test!
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