Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Reliving The Past (Four Weeks)

So it has been a week since back in McCord - back to the old grind.  Lambing is in full force, so the dogs get to work everyday - which is good for them.  Of course, I don't bring the young guys out - the old ewes can be quite the dears at this time of the year. 
During the time in which I am waiting for lamb bottles to warm up, I thought I would reminisce of the events of last month.
Kelly met her niece at Louanne Twa's - a striking family resemblence does exist.
 On slow days of the clinic, I would take the phone and the dogs and go train - this day was at Jerry Kubatoff's
 Louanne and Michelle Bryan was there that day as well.
Louanne being bossy.
I had brought the young dogs out to go through their paces - backup was needed.
 These shoes were made for walking.
 But a nice walk it was.
 A photo opportunity existed at every moment.
Very keen students.
 Louanne and Gus - showing off.
 On one weekend I was asked to judge the Highland Stockdog Trial - there were a lot of new faces and dogs present.
Then of course, there were the old faces.  Oil of Olay Chris....Oil of Olay.
But the old farts showed the youngsters the way it was done.
 Another old fart - Jill Brodie.
 Corey Perry was there - he paid me enough to allow him to win the day. 

 Louanne and Isla, showing how it is done.
 The famous Stormy Winters, showing us.... how to pen into the exhaust pen.
 Doug Finseth came out with Maude.
 Louanne made sure that she brought her favorite sheep for Meg to do her runs.

Naomi Shields and Nim came out to play - it is always a good day when your dog doesn't grip the sheep. 
On one of the last days while in Alberta, I went to train at Louanne's, and she showed the secret weapons of a trainer.  Behold, the scary flag.
 As you can see, the flag helps in keeping the dog out of the sheep...and in this case...out of the picture.
 If the flag doesn't work, then the next step is the paddle.  And barring that, the shovel - and if you hit the dog hard enough, you can use it to bury him.
 The youngster that Louanne was working with, needed a little paddling.
 I did not stick around for the shovel exercise.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Have Vet Licence - Will Travel

So I have this gig that I have been doing for the last 10 years or so, doing locums at various vet clinics.  I have found that it works out quite well - people don't get sick of me and vice versa.  Since moving to Saskatchewan, I have found a more permanent home at Poplar Valley Animal Clinic at Mankota.  My old dog Fly gets to come to work with me - and she spends a busy day sleeping under the desk - a clinic dog if you will.  I barely see Alan the boss - while I am there he is off doing what has to be done at his own place.  The same goes for me - when I am not working, I am doing what has to be done - whether that be working sheep, working cows, working dogs, or working at getting the gumption to clean the house. I recently renewed my Alberta and Saskatchewan licences, since you have to have a licence in each province you work in.  I have only a few demerit points on them...oh, that might be my driver's licence I am thinking about - easily done when you drive the miles I do. 
There has been a clinic in Alberta that has been a regular stint for me.  The owner and his wife make their way for their annual winter holiday for a month in Hawaii as I look after the clinic, and their dog Kiera.  I have been doing this for the last ...oh my gosh....9 years!  How time flies when your having fun (paying bills).  When doing a locum, sometimes the clients will question your abilities, or be leery about making an appointment.  As I get older, it gets easier, since I look older and obvious with age there should be experience.  Then there are the clients that try to pull the wool over your eyes, stating that "Dr. So-and-So aways gives me a discount." or "I came in two years ago for my dog's ears, and I can get medication at anytime." If I could have got paid a dollar every time I heard these comments, I probably could have retired already.  Sorry people, I worked very hard for my licence...I follow things to the letter.  Next time, ask your pharmacist if you can pick up some antibiotics without seeing your doctor - I am sure you won't walk out with any medication either-unless it is Chapstick and Preparation-H (please read directions on how to administer-don't want to mix up the ends).
While I was here, the excitement started when when I woke up and just about stepped in Kiera's diarrhea - yup, the little dog was upset about her owners leaving her.  I practiced my placing intravenous fluids on her, and a few days she was as good as new (as new as a 12 year old, blind Miniature Schnauzer can be).  Puppy vaccines, spays, neuters, a fluke infested Catahoula hound, preg checking, a horse that got killed by a kick to its head by its pasture mate, an exciting hour of trying to castrate a horse (which ended up having enough drugs to drop and elephant, but not enough to drop this pig), and a week of caring for "Maple", the 13 year old Cocker Spaniel who got ran over by her owner and broke her pelvis - she is trucking along quite well now-it was all in a days work.  James Herriot eat your heart out. 
As I worked in Alberta for this month, I have decided it will be the last year I will work away from home.  Nineteen years of going to clinics away from home can be placed in the annals of history for this vet.  It has been a ride, but I have run out of gas.
One bright note - I bet I won't get any speeding tickets going to Mankota from our ranch!

Monday, February 18, 2013

February Foto

Okay, time for picture of the month. If you aren't a regular to this blog - SHAME ON YOU!!!  This year, I am putting a picture of old derelict things I find in southern Saskatchewan.  At first I thought I would put this picture up...
 ...but I then remembered I was going to go for old barns, and other old relics.  So, here is the picture for this month.
The caption - I Feel Like I Am Dragging My Ass.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Toughest Road Of All

I have been in many roads in my life, some roads are quite winding - you never know what is at the end of the curve until you finish it.  My trek to become a vet had its road involved - an eight year travel which saw me wind my way through a B.S.A. degree in Saskatoon, followed by a stint of driving on the opposite drive of the road in England for a few months before driving my way to a chicken plant in Wynyard (I can tuck a turkey tail in less than 10 seconds - you had too, that was how fast the line was going), then to a feed company in Saskatoon for half a year before the Vet college allowed me to park my vehicle outside its hallowed halls.  The trip through vet college had quite a few late night drives - either driving back from studying for the next exam, or driving from a dance on the weekend, or driving from my friends after a night of "Supper and The Simpsons" - and The Simpsons is still on television, as is my friendship with Dr. Dave and his wife Penny - 23 years and counting-a long trip.
Some roads can be bumpy at times, such as that road of marriage.  First it is full of fun hills and sharp curves, exhilarating at times, then for many miles it can be a flat drive, where there are no curves, or hills in the horizon, and you can put the vehicle on autopilot.  Often, there are the bumpy bits- some more bumpy than others-where you have to slow down, take off the cruise and maybe even stop to determine a better route for your destination.  There may be some discussion on the best route to take - you may have to take a road that you may not think is the best route, but since your spouse is sometimes in the driver's seat, you let them take the wheel.  Sharing the driving is important so that your partner does not get overtired.  As well, you don't want to get too distracted and hit the ditch - so know when it is time to allow your spouse to take the wheel-and be prepared to take the wheel if your heart is not in it to drive- we all have to take turns.   Sometimes the marriage vehicle you drive may have a complete breakdown - and it has to be put in the shop to have it fixed.  It may be a minor fix that takes little time- or it may be a major fix which takes months -but often it takes the two of you to get it done, sometimes with the help of a mechanic.  Often when you're driving with your spouse, you may go on a road that you have been on before-sometimes they may be the fun hills - and sometimes they may be routes that lead to the same familiar, bumpy trip- in which you know the exact bump which can be hit which causes a slight case of whiplash.  Yes, a pain in the neck it can be.  Sometimes you are smart enough to drive around those bumps so not to test the shocks, and other times -you get forgetful-and find yourself riding those same bumps again. You try to remind yourself not to repeat that trip again...but once in awhile you have that urge to go on that same, bumpy route - testing those shocks again.  And once again, the neck brace comes out.  You would think you would learn.
 For a few marriages, you may get into separate vehicles and drive your separate ways for awhile - not that you want to, but because you have to.  The road may not be the same road, but may be a parallel road - and you meet up again miles in the distance - ditch one of the vehicles and jump in together again travelling again on the road of life. There are other marriages where spouses jump into separate cars and make their own trips, and their roads never converge again - each taking different journeys that lead to different places.  Unfortunately, the insurance policy runs out on these marriages and the vehicle is left on the side of the road-with the engine out of oil and a few flat tires.  Often a new driver gets the engine going again, and a new trip is planned, and a new journey is taken.

This is Chris and my 20th year of driving -the anniversary will be this August.  We have driven many miles together, some bumpy, some smooth.  There have been a few separate trips which we have made - a few that seemed to have been provinces apart for a period of time, but mostly we are in the same vehicle.  We have had to top up the oil, overhaul the engine once and fix a few tires along the way - but the vehicle is still running fine.  I don't expect this vehicle to mile out until we have miled out ourselves.

For new couples starting this journey, remember a few things.
1.  Occasionally, you have to drive on the bumpy roads to get to where you have to go.
2. If you get on a bumpy road - slow down and save your teeth.
3.  If you are on a highway, you may want to slow down and enjoy the view.  Heck, stop and take a few pictures along the way.
4. Whether you think you need them or not, don't forget the tune ups -they are needed to keep that vehicle going.
5.  Renew the air freshener often, you may have to cover the stench once in awhile.  The Pine Tree Air freshener or Febreeze - it doesn't matter which one.
6.  If it seems like the same stench is smelled time and time again - make sure there is not a dead fish caught between the seats.  If there is one, throw it out the window and clean vehicle interior thoroughly.
7.  If you are the one driving, you may have control of the radio and the air conditioner - within reason of course.
8. Check the air in your tires.
9.  If you hear a squeak - don't turn up the radio to tune it out - find out what it is.
10.  Don't worry if you have to stop and ask for directions along the way.  If you don't, you may find yourself hopelessly lost.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Special Days of The Calendar

As the year starts to fly by, important dates come and go - big important events.  It is about this time of year when I bring out my calendar, look up the stockdog websites, pick up a pencil and start pencilling in the trials I would like to attend during the next 10 months.
Over the years, there are trials I like to try to get to every year, since they are well run, and are fun to attend.  I also try to make a few that I have not been to before - I always want to see different dogs, different handlers and different country.
So there are two lists - the list of trials that most likely will be reported about later, and then the other list - the trials that I really want to go to, but more than likely will be erased off the calendar.  Within the first list, there are a few more events that I normally don't do - judging and going to a few clinics.  I will have to check my closet to make sure I have enough hats to wear for trialing, judging and clinics. 
So, currently the events that can be written in ink will be - Clock, Stock and Barrel in Calgary for April followed by a Scott Glen clinic a week later, a demo at Pet Expo in Regina on May 5th (hopefully no ducks will lose their feathers), the Sheep River Classic on the May long weekend at Okotoks, a trip out to Paxton Valley, BC to judge (which reminds me, I had better get my eyes checked),  the Slash J and Clear Creek trials in Wyoming (in which will be a whirlwind trip, getting off the plane in Regina from Paxton Valley, and then speeding my way back home to pick up Jamie VanRhyn and flying - in Dora the Explorer - down to the Wyoming trials), Wildrose Classic in Bowden in July, followed by the Stampede (have to polish my boots and don my hat), Dawson Creek trial in British Columbia (great field, and a great long trip), a clinic with Alasdair MacRae in early August at Chris Jobe's place, the Shaunavon Classic (in my backyard) in August,  the Western Canadian Finals/Canadian Championships in Manktota (literally in my backyard), Meeker Sheepdog Classic in Colorado for September....and if enough points .....USBCHA finals in Virgina for October.  Guess that trial will have to be in pencil if there are not enough points for the girls. 
There is a trial I will have to give up this year - Kingston Sheepdog Trial ...sorry, the party will have to happen without me this year.  I would like to go to the Free To Be trial in New Mexico this year...never have been there.  We will see I suppose-but it may have to be plans for next year - as they say, there is always next year.
There is another clinic that has to be done as well- a fund raiser for the CBCA Championships.  The illustrious Norm Sommer and lovely wife Bev and I and possibly Peter Gonnet will put on a clinic at Sommer's place - this is still in pencil.  Damn you Julian and your calendar, you didn't put enough weekends in the year!
So who will be the ones who will run this year? - well, Gin and Floss for sure in the open - Mitch will be thrown in the pro-novice and possibly open to dabble his toes in those classes.  I have two upcoming youngsters - Nan and Kelly - if I do have them running they would be in nursery for 2 years - there is one glitch in this thinking - they have to be trained first. 
I guess I better get on the training on then....time will fly by and summer will be here.  I will keep their entries printed in pencil.
Then I look on the calendar again at yet another important date - Happy Valentine's Chris, the main cog in my wheel of life! 
Which reminds me, Chris, can you check my dog trailer's tires before I go this spring?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Happy New Year!!!

Well the new year, Chinese New Year that is, was brought in with a bang.  No, there were no fireworks or the sorts, nor was there shots fired - just wait ....there was. 
My weekend started when I stopped at Louanne Twa's and did a training session on the young girls - Nan and Kelly -who are my working partners this month while I am in Alberta.  The shots were about to be fired by Louanne's husband Kyle at visiting coyotes, but the plan was thwarted as he got stuck in the field with his truck.  The coyotes lucked out on this one.  My next stop was at the owner of Randy's Real Rooster Ranch at Bowden, Alberta.  I do believe Randy was mistaken in thinking it was the year of the Rooster (it is the year of the Snake), since it was discovered that in his hen house, some of the residents came out of the closet, or nest that is, with bigger combs than some of their comrades.  Yes, the four egg per day production was correct - the other seven could only join in the production through a crowing rendition of Sonny and Cher's "I've Got You Babe."
Don Grant stopped by with his dogs, Gem and Cher (Sonny was nowhere to be found), Abe Marshall bought his Tell and Cap, and along with Randy's Kate and Ben (Kelly's older brother), Jocelyn Dye and her dad's (but would rather be with Jocelyn's) Sweep  and my two gals, we thoroughly made the sheep happy for the light to be turned off later that evening.  Visiting was done after, with harrowing renditions of hunting expeditions experienced by Randy and his family and friends (in which I don't think I would have the guts to handle - swollen rivers, steep cliffs, jackknifed wagons and runaway horses seem a little to much for a day of riding).  The next morning, a few more sessions were done, I said my goodbyes, and I and my travelling partners stopped one more time at Louanne's.  Last Sunday was the first time Louanne saw the girls, and the first time I witnessed Louanne's Gus (Kelly's brother) doing large outruns, driving, and doing all his flanks.  The next on the learning agenda for Gus would be whistles.  Last weekend, Louanne (and Naomi Shields) witnessed Nan not wanting to stay put as a very short outrun was attempted, and Kelly showed she did not have a good feeling about walking up onto her sheep. This afternoon, I believed Louanne was flabbergasted (I do believe "WTF" was mentioned)  after showing Nan and Kelly's driving skills (there is plenty of walk up), pretty fair outruns (no 20 pointers for sure, but at least 10 pointers), some off balance flanks and an inside flank from Nan.  I have decided by next weekend the girls will be fully on whistles, there will be shedding and look backs,  and next Monday, Gus and the girls will partake in a double lift.
More likely, several backward steps will occur, and they all will forget their names (but that would be totally my fault, since I have been calling them every name under the sun except their own-perhaps the Year of the Snake is allowing my memory to slither away!)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Trial Hosting 101

So, even though we are in the midst of winter, many dog handlers are checking their calendars, seeing what trials they can make during the year, and making sure they can get holidays to correspond.  Those that host trials are also looking at calendars - making sure that there are no conflicts so that their trial can be the best it can be.  For those that haven't put on trials - it isn't really hard - really anyone can do it.  You just have to remember the important things.
1. Sheep - lots of them if you can.  Hairless, wool, Serta - whatever you can get your hands on.
2. Judge - ask for his/her most recent eye test.
3. A field to have it -if you can have it on a golf course - even better.  Apparently there are dogs out there that don't work in grass higher than their knees.
4. Scribes.  Ability to add and subtract is optional - there is always a backup person with a calculator checking the scores anyways. 
5. Setout people.  There are many people who want to set sheep for those whose dog is just not quite ready.  They always need the practice to run after a dog hanging off of a sheep.
6. Cheese - for all the whiners.
7.  Water.  Tubs for the dogs, tubs for the sheep, and if you can swing it, tubs for the people.
8. Two way radios.  When the going gets tough, make sure you can tune into your favorite music.
9.A stick - to draw the line in the sand.  What you say goes, and don't back down from your decisions.
10. Toilets - not that you will have time for you to use them.
11. A stiff one.  Drink that is, you won't have time for anything else.
12. Calculator - so you can work out the payouts quickly, even when three different people have dropped a class, added a dog, and cross entered. This exercise keeps your brain in practice.
13.  Another drink.
And the last requirement to host a great trial,
14.  A good sense of humor - laughter is the best medicine.  But don't overdose on it - you may find yourself in the loony bin (since all trial hosts have to be touched in some way since a normal person wouldn't go through all this for just a dog sport!).
For all trial hosts, after your trial, please look in your telephone book for your closest A.A .meeting.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

What A Weekend

Well after a full week at Nanton working, I spent the Saturday with my best friend Penny.  It was only last weekend that we spent a day at the spa - I am afraid that the money spent did not last.  Sad, very sad.  Obviously the drying air of Alberta requires a lot more cream spread on the skin.
Penny however, got a cute little haircut since the facial.
 And this is Roger - the dog.  I do believe he is need of a dental.
 This is me - I think I need a cucumber for the lines around my eyes. Or maybe a rest from all the running around.
I had a good sleep and got well refreshed to go out to Louanne's for a little dog training.  Naomi Shields was there, a full year older since it was her birthday- somewhat looking like me in the picture above.   Unfortunately, my battery was dead on my camera, so no pictures were taken for proof - either of the dog training or the fact that Naomi looked older-that may be a godsend in hindsight.  Hopefully a few more training sessions will occur in my time in Alberta - hopefully with pictures.
Please believe me when I say the night's rest did wonders of good.  Really, a miracle.
I don't feel so much like the walking dead.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Forcasting The Weather

Weather forecasting - a very exact science, using highly accurate instruments to forecast the next major cyclone, high and low pressures.  I am sure the pressure of being a weatherman has its ups and downs - the (barometric) pressure of giving the public the next days forecast, right down to the probability of precipitation - it must lead to many migraines.
Every year on February 2nd, they bring out the biggest gun they have to predict the next 6 weeks - a long range forecast.
Marmota monax is the secret weapon needed for this highly accurate prediction.  There are only three areas in the world that I am aware of that has this equipment - Pennsylvania (Punxsutawney Phil), Ontario (Wiarton Willie) and Alberta (Balzac Billy).  According to stats, they are correct about 39% of the time - slightly higher than the weatherman seen on the television.
McCord had its own spring weather indicator - a slightly smaller model - McCordian Marmot. Unfortunately it was damaged when Dora the Explorer drove over it during last summer.
It saw the shadow of Dora's tire before it ran over it's head.  As predicted - no spring in the near future was seen.