I took the dogs for a lesson in stockwork today. Kipp is a whirlwind and Kenzi in a bit of a spaz and these combinations are not conducive to beginning work in my set up. But I need a chore dog. I haven't thought about it for the past several years because Missy was just there. Ready to help when I needed it. The sheep respected her and it made routine chores go smoothly. She knew the sheep, knew their quirks, knew what I needed and was delighted to handle the job.
Once you're used to that, it's really hard to make do without. I don't expect the other two to become her, but I still need a chore dog. Trying to deworm a dozen sheep on my own drove that point home. I was crying at the end out the combination of frustration of trying to do it myself and the hurt of missing my girl like crazy.
Watching Kipp today reminded just why I love that little dog. He has stretched me, frustrated me, blown me off, scared me half to death. But he tries everything I ask him to try. He figures it out, he doesn't quit. He has drive and work ethic. While he can make the journey pretty, umm, interesting, he can deliver in the end.
I've seen and appreciated it in SAR training. But the place where all of those qualities mesh the best is on stock. He hasn't been on stock in 11 months. Today he went into the round pen and started out tight in and in overdrive. By the end of the session he was giving the sheep a nice amount of space and becoming a team player as opposed to a one track "must control sheep" mind. He'd take a correction, learn from it and keep right on working. I have a really nice working dog in that little package. Now to mold it and shape it.
Kenzi wasn't quite as stellar, but I was pleased with the way her lesson went. She had good, sustained interest (much better than last fall) and was starting to get in the grove of wearing the sheep to the handler by the time she was done. Time will tell with her, but at least today was a good start.