Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Jillie-Bean: A Little Cowdog with a Great Big Heart- Part 5

A New Start...A New Dog
Our first day didn't turn out as expected.  We needed a plan.  Luckily Sharon had room to take Jill in for training. I left Jill with Sharon that day.  My goal was for Jill and I to compete in stock dog trials and while there was no guarantee, I knew Jill had a lot of try and perhaps some of my mistakes with her as a pup could be corrected.  I wasn't ready to give up just yet! After all...look at that face!
Sharon did quite a lot of experimenting to determine how much "fixing" Jill could take.  When Sharon tried to slightly move Jill to the calves, she would leave the arena.  Sharon would bring her back and start again. Sharon practiced with Jill using a rope so she couldn't leave.  She figured if she could keep her on her feet, she could condition Jill to take direction without leaving.  At about the 3rd or 4th week, Jill was getting past some of her inhibitions.  Sharon could see Jill wanted to work and once Jill understood that she was supposed to stay in the arena and work the calves, Sharon started to see progress.  Jill was on her way.


Several months later and a good deal of Sharon's effort, Jill did change. She was a happy, more relaxed dog, playful and ready to work. That translated into how she worked the calves and how confident and decisive she was. Jill was a different dog.


For as sensitive as Jill was, Sharon's direction was black and white. As she explained to me, there was no grey. Sharon made it clear to the dog what was expected and she was consistent.  Sharon directed Jill and when Jill balked, Sharon asked more of her.  She pushed her to succeed. She didn't baby Jill or let Jill quit, just the opposite.  Sharon put the needed pressure on Jill to make the effort to try and succeed.

Today, I use Jill to gather in the hills and in the pastures. While I am still learning and have not yet made it to a Dog Trial (it's on my list), Jill is now a confident, capable, hard biting, and loyal working dog.
She is... a little Cowdog with a great big heart!

To learn more about Sharon Edsall's Stock Dogs. (clinics, lessons, pups and sale dogs) email her
Never watched a cowdog in action? Attend a Stock Dog Trial.  They have them in many states.  Here are two of my favorites:


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Jillie-Bean: A Little Cowdog with a Great Big Heart- Part 4

Jill Gets a Start...

It was a perfect day for working.  Jill looked excited and eager and I anticipated great things. Of course she was going to be great..Right? 
As we got started,  Sharon had her other dogs bring the calves into the pen.  She suggested that I start by walking through 
the calves and have Jill come along.  I figured Jill would just follow me.  Well, I was wrong.  Jill stayed on the outside. Not only did she stay on the outside of the calves, she left the pen all together! Dang! I called and called.  But, she wasn't budging.  She hugged the outside of the pen as if she was stuck in cement.  There was that intense stare, but an obvious avoidance.  Oh Boy...not good.  At this point, Sharon took over.  Thank goodness! Now we'll get somewhere.

Sharon put Jill on a rope and walked into the calves. Jill didn't know what to do with herself.  She had always been taught to stay out of the pen with the horses, so now with the calves, she was unsure. Sharon worked with Jill patiently that day.  But, Jill was having none of it!
This was a surprise to both of us and I could tell Sharon wasn't quite sure what to think or say.  It just wasn't what either of us expected. There was something not quite right.  
Sharon agreed to take Jill and see what she could get done.  She seemed certain that there was an ambitious and eager stock dog buried in there somewhere. She just needed the time with Jill to figure things out.  "Let's give her a month and see where we are" she suggested.  In addition, she thought it best that I didn't interact with Jill for that time.  It made sense.  She didn't need to be any more confused. 
That day wasn't the day I expected.  I was disappointed.  I knew we both had a lot to learn, but I figured we'd have a better start.  Wow.  I wondered what went wrong.   Did we wait too long to get started?  Not sure.  No answers.  Nevertheless, I did know that I wasn't ready to give up.  After all, where was the "grit...no quit" attitude? 

Next time...Part 5 - A New Dog!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Jillie-Bean- A Little Cowdog with a Great Big Heart-Part 3

Jill, from the start, was a little shy. A smart pup, she was sweet and loyal.  I liked how responsive she was and it was a joy to teach her basic manners.  
Huck and Jill
She was fun and easy to take along on walks. 
But, Jill was far more sensitive than Huck and busy minded. The difference in the two was obvious from the start and I know now, that I should have paid more attention to those differences. 
Jill "on the watch"
Jill quickly showed interest in working, which was a good thing. But when she wasn't kenneled or with me, she started to work the horses. Not realizing my mistake, I let her wander around just like Huck. When I caught her watching the horses or sneaking a bite, I called her back. Jill connected the dots quickly and knew it was not allowed, but would sneak right back every chance she could.  I kept her out of the pens and arena which I figured was the right thing.  However, she was so interested in working that she would sit and watch me ride. Jill's focus could burn a hole right through cement!  
Walking with Zeb
When Jill was about 5 months old, she developed a habit of turning circles and barking in her kennel. Oh boy...that wasn't good.  I would stop her whenever I heard her but I thought it was odd. She got plenty of exercise and wasn't kenneled for long periods so it didn't make sense.  Both her parents were talented, well- adjusted dogs and both seemed easy going.  Her behavior took me by surprise and I wasn't quite sure what to expect.     
Jill's Mom "Tab"
Jill's Dad "Smart"

Nevertheless, I knew:  It was time to start Jillie-Bean on cattle. 

Next time, Jill goes to training.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Jillie-Bean: A Little Cowdog with a Great Big Heart-Part 2

Reno Stock Dog Trials-June 2011
I became interested in the idea of a good cowdog after watching them work at different dog trials.  I admired the partnership between dog, horse and rider.  For the ones that did things correct, a simple whistle or the position of horse and rider was all it took for success. I was inspired.  I wanted to learn more and figure things out so that I might enter a trial myself.  But the ultimate goal was to work together outdoors in all types of country, where the cattle weren't fenced.
 I got my first Border Collie pup free from a friend and named him Huckleberry.  Huck was smart, easy going, a little lazy and a good family dog.  When he was a year or two old, I found my way to Sharon Edsall who lived at the time in Oakdale, California.  She started working with Huck (and with me).  Huck was the easier of the two of us to train!  For Huck it seemed black and white.  For me, it was well... a bunch of grey matter! What seemed intuitive to me, ended up wrong most of the time.  I began to realize how much it took to make a really good working dog and how little I knew.   After a year, the opportunity came up, to get a pup from Sharon.  I figured this will be great.  She will be easy, perfect.  She was from proven working parents.  It was a sure thing...right?  Nope!
Jill as a pup

Stop back again and read more about Jillie-Bean!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Jillie-Bean: A Little Cowdog with a Great Big Heart-Part 1

OK...Jillie-Bean is not really her name.  It's a nick-name, but it seems to suit the smooth coated Border Collie with radar ears, a side-ways tongue and a wild curl in her tail.  She's little but fearless and thanks to my good friend and Montana stock dog trainer, Sharon Edsall, today "Jill" is a smart, dedicated working dog.  Jill's transformation from a shy, tightly wound pup, to a confident and capable dog, with the heart to match, is a story worth telling.  Visit again to follow her story.  How can you resist that face!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

110 lb Weight Loss truly an All Grit...No Quit Story

Just last week I found an email I received from a lady I met at the Cowboy Christmas event we attend each year in Oakdale, California.  A tall, slim woman, she was looking at an All Grit…No Quit shirt to buy and simply asked about sizing.  As she made her decision, she looked at me and quietly said, “Sorry, it is taking me a bit to decide.  I am just not sure which size to go with".  We talked more and she shared with me that she recently lost 120 pounds.  120 pounds! You would have never known.  I’ve heard of and seen the weight loss stories in the news, but I never had the chance to meet someone in person who had such great success. I was amazed.  I asked if I could share her story and she agreed.  Although, I will not mention her name. 
Today, the 5’ 9” woman, now in her fifties, weighs 140 pounds but, just a year and  half ago, she weighed close to 260 pounds!  She was admittedly a compulsive eater who ate fast food for lunch every day and just couldn’t quit with one sweet. (I can understand that!)
She grew up a horse lover and as a young girl she spent her time riding horses, mules and even driving teams of ponies.  At one point, she even lied about her age so she could harness race.   At home, she had a horse and like most horse loving young girls, she spent most of her free time riding. After high school, she sold her horse, went to work and moved on to other things.  Nevertheless, she kept her saddle and knew that someday she would get back into horses and riding. 

As time and life went on, she struggled with her weight.  But then one day, she received some startling news.  She had 100 % blockage in a heart valve and on the 17th of that month, she had surgery to put in a heart stint.  It was a wake-up call.  That very day she knew she needed to make a change.  Within the week she started walking. She decided to change her eating habits too.  As the weeks and months went on, she did not give up.  She walked every day, rain or shine and soon went from struggling to get up and down the stairs, to walking a minimum of an hour a day.  She made the choice each day.  By the end of the year, she had lost nearly 100 pounds!  When I visited with her on the phone, she told me there were no surgeries or drugs and most important, no excuses! She now sits in any chair she chooses and is happy to shop for new clothes.
 Even with Asthma and difficulty breathing, this woman has only missed walking a handful of times.  A little over a year ago, she could not even picture herself ever riding a horse.  Today, she is actively looking for a new horse.  Here is a lady who, simply made a choice and, succeeded one day at a time, one step at a time.  Her story is amazing and is just one example of the all grit...no quit philosophy that is a Cowgirl's Promise. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

California Cattle Gather

Well, I’m back in the saddle, how about you? I pushed my Gone with the Wind hero, Scarlett O’Hara’s words out of mind and got my all grit...no quit on instead.
For me, there are more things to do in a day than the hours allow. But to be outdoors, horseback is one of my greatest joys. Over the past few weeks I spent many days gathering cattle. That is a highlight for me. I love it and wouldn’t trade those days for anything. It is the perfect opportunity for me to get my horse, Cisco, out of the arena and on the trail. Even though the country is steep and rocky and Cisco has to work pretty hard, I think he would agree with me, the days spent gathering together are good ones. At five years old, my little horse can start out fresh, but he settles in quickly and we go along, most of the time, low headed and peaceful. To gather the cattle, you must first find the cattle. Now you might just be thinking (like I did)…how hard is it to see a cow? Well, in the steep, brushy, tree covered country, it can be pretty tough and in such pretty country, some days it’s hard for me to stay focused. I look for anything that moves; coyotes, bobcats, eagles, deer, pigs, oh yes…and cattle. In the end, I see more logs and branches that look like coyotes, and rocks that look like calves than anything else. 

There are days when I am absolutely convinced the big granite rock in the shadows is a cow and the blackened log on the hill, just below, is her calf! After several bluff sightings, I've learned not to say anything too soon. When I see cattle (real ones, not rocks!) before anyone else, I’m thrilled and I sit as tall as John Wayne! Yep…for just a minute, I’m the Duke. But, the minute goes by quick as I am suddenly faced with the task of gathering those I spotted, keeping my herd moving in the right direction and making sure I’m in the right spot to hold them at any given time.
It’s a great day when the cattle end up in the corrals!