This past weekend, I took Phenom to a sheep farm for a herding instinct evaluation. I also brought Piper and Vega along to have a turn as well. Piper has worked sheep twice before and Vega once – several years ago. At the time, they both showed instinct, and so I was excited to see what Phenom would do.
Well – Phenom was definitely interested. She was focused on the sheep from the moment we arrived.
Then – wow. Once on the sheep, she was so intense – and fast. This was the first time I had actually been out there with the sheep. The previous times with Piper and Vega someone else took them out. So I know I was probably confusing her. And then later being alone in a pasture with a crazy red dog chasing sheep up behind you with your back turned – well, it’s not for the faint of heart. Deep breath. Deep breath. Keep walking – okay start running!! Wow – shepherds make it look so easy. And I’m pretty sure I was doing a lot more running than I’ve ever seen in sheep herding. I was clueless, but I tried to be as calm as I could in between spinning in circles, running backwards, getting dizzy, almost falling in a water trough and sliding in the mud. I really admire those who do herding. It’s definitely a dance. While I know I was probably hindering Phenom by my lack of understanding, I was still so impressed with what she was able to do in her first time working sheep. She was young, excited, impulsive and learning. I think – pretty much as you would expect and also similar to the first time Piper met sheep. I was also learning along with her – which was hard too – for both of us. Learning new things is tough. Worth it. But still often a struggle.
Vega also got a couple turns. Just as he is in every day life, he was pretty serious about his work. At 10 years old now, he was much more steady and calm than in his younger days. He was also more sensitive to my movement and knew much more about what he was doing than me. He still wasn’t completely confident, but more so than when he was younger. It felt smooth. Connected.
Then it was Piper’s turn. At eleven years old, she strided out through the pastures as if those were her fields. She got to the area with some other people milling around and started barking – like – “Hey, I’ve arrived – take a look at me!” We walked in the ring, let her go, and she stole the show. Prancing toward her sheep. Smooth, calm, confident, totally sure of herself. Nothing in question. Even if it wasn’t right, she made it look right. All while avoiding most of the mud – in true Piper style. She was glowing. And everyone that watched her was beaming. It was pretty incredible to watch. It just goes to show that with age comes wisdom, confidence, power. And with all that on your side, the best is definitely yet to come.
Thanks so much to Kelly Martin at Findley Vue Farm for being so patient and helpful with a very clueless handler and for videoing so many great moments for us. Also thanks to my Mom for coming along to cheer us all on and hang out. Here’s a video of some of my favorite moments. We all had a great time.