The Real Time Canine II

After spending 2 years writing the Real Time Canine, the adventure continues with The Real Time Canine II. Read along as I look for just the right puppy to continue the experience. After false starts with Tim and Jed, I am currently training young Tam, and Spot, which are both off to a strong start. Please visit the RTC II to read about training sessions as they occur.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

How did you get started?

How did you get started in dogs? As handlers, we hear that one a lot. I was given my first border collie while I was living on a cattle ranch in Northeast San Diego County.
The San Felipe is 16,000 acres, give or take and we pastured yearling steers with care. Caring for steers isn't so tough, but, on a ranch like that, gathering them can be. There was a pasture we called the Sentenac after a guy who had built an old homestead on it. Actually half the pasture was called the Sentenac. We called the other half the desert which was appropriate. Nothing over there but cactus, rocks, sand and the critters that live in country like that including the biggest black-tail deer in the area. The homestead was a ruin, the pasture was a section (640 acres) and the water wasn't very good. There was one spring that dripped all year, but it would only support about 15 head. So few steers can get wild quickly in a pasture that size because there's no way to see them, or them you, often enough to get them used to being seen.
The cattle got wild, waspy and stupid and it was time to round up. After 3 or 4 attempts we had only gotten a few and the rest of 'em had gotten 2 neighbors away. It wasn't frustrating, it was ridiculous. We had gotten some help from pretty good cowboys we knew and still couldn't get 'em so we decided that what we needed was the biggest, meanest dog we could find. All we wanted was a dog that would head cattle and hold 'em up until we could get there and get a rope on them. We didn't get a dog in time to help that year, but we did eventually end up with Hector.
Hector was useful. He wasn't pretty or a registered border collie, but he was stout, flat-coated and black and white with a burning desire to hold up wild cattle. We didn't know enough to put commands on him except for sic 'em and get back God damnit but Hector put out a lot of dog tracks catching wild cattle before we lost him in an accident. When I was a kid I had a friend who had trialed a bit. She died young, at 30, but I knew her all her life and when a friend gave us a registered border collie that wasn't going to make it on the ranch, i thought of my friend, Leslie Love and dog trialing.
Rooster had been raised in a condo in Newport Beach, CA. Some well-meaning individual gave him away after he went crazy in the condo. The bad news is that it took her a couple years to figure it out. I took enough lessons from an exceptionally poor sheepdog trainer to understand that Roo wasn't going to make it on the trial field either. He ended up as a hospital therapy dog. Perfect.
By that time we had puppies on the ranch off Hector and out of another solid ranch bitch that, like Hector, was a border collie type. MaKayla could really cover the ground and go all day and she too put out a lot of dog tracks on that ranch. From that litter I got Chica. What's in a name, right? Like her mother, Chica had no idea how far she could go or how fast she could get there and she had her father's size. Chica was an athelete and fit the ranch like a a pair of 7's on Catherine Zeta-Jones. We used to play hide and seek in the mesquite when I was a-horseback. She'd run up ahead and I'd try to run and hide. I was never successful. No matter how far I let her out, she'd come a-runnin' before I could hide. Chica liked to play with the coyotes. We'd be out in the pasture and they would try to bait her into the brush. She'd run circles around them with her tail tucked, her head back and, I swear, a smile on her face. The coyotes would try to cut her off and she'd hit another gear and laugh harder. Unfamiliar with roads, Chica got hit by a car after I had to move to town. I really miss her.
If Chica was the genesis then Price is the hook. If you're reading this, you know who Price is. We are perfect for each other. He has given me a love for sheepdog trialing in full measure and I owe it to him to make winning available. How did I get started? I needed some help on the ranch.

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