This has been a challenging week - a disease outbreak in the ewes, a child and a wife under the weather at home, costly repairs to my truck, and a dismal weather forecast for the rest of the fall. Even with the Giants winning the National League pennant last night, this has been a stressful stretch of time. This morning, however, brought some measure of satisfaction - thanks to Ernie, our youngest (and most challenging) sheepdog. I'll take little victories wherever and whenever they come!
Those of you who have relied on a canine partner in your sheep or cattle operations have probably all had a hard-headed dog or two. Ernie is 4, and he's been a challenge all along. I've been using him regularly for about a year, and the steady work has been great for him. He finally understands the other side of tired.
This morning, I needed him to gather a group of ewes and bring them into a holding pen so I could move the electric fence. He's done the work before, but he usually works fast and close to the sheep (which makes the sheep move too fast). The ewes were about 75 yards away (a short distance for a well-trained dog, but a long outrun for Ernie at this stage). I sent him to the right (an "away" flank), and he actually took a wide route around the sheep (unusual for him). Several times, he started to dive in towards the ewes, and each time he took my correction and bent himself out wider. He settled in behind the flock quietly - and even took my "lie down" command at a distance. The sheep walked nicely into their holding pen - and Ernie let me call him off (sometimes he'll get so excited once the sheep are through a gate that he wants to do it again!). Later, he even brought some wayward ewes back into their paddock - mostly on his own.
Sometimes these little victories only seem like victories because of the frustration that's come before. Sometimes I have to remind myself to look for them. Thanks, Ernie, for your help today - and for reminding me to look for the positive!