Brandy and Ace

Fictional story, a part of the novel I am currently writing.

The loft room was actually a very small studio type apartment above the horse stalls in the barn. There was a small couch, a bed, small table and cooking area with a separate room containing the bathroom. All the comforts of home. Brandy unrolled her bedroll on the bed, and prepared for bed and sleep.

“Ace, you are sleeping on the floor tonight buddy. I did not get your blanket out of the horse trailer.” Ace circled three times and plopped down on a rug beside the bed. Ace was Brandy’s constant companion, her border collie dog. Brandy turned off the light and both were sound asleep.

Brandy awoke seeing two large brown eyes staring and a black nose breathing in her face. Ace was awake and ready for the day. Brandy had purchased Ace as a twelve week old puppy. When he grew big enough to jump on the bed, he started starring at Brandy to get her up every morning sharply at 5:00, which was ok as Brandy gets up that time each morning, unless she is sick. Who needs an alarm clock when they have an Ace? Unlike an alarm clock there is no snooze button on Ace, if Brandy was not awake from his warm breath, his jumping on the bed and licking her nose and face would wake her up. When morning arrived for Ace, it arrived for Brandy. Healthy or sick, when Ace woke up, Brandy woke up and had to get out of bed.

Ace danced in circles as Brandy dressed for the day. He acted like such a puppy at times. Eager to start the day and work, Ace would run ahead and back to Brandy as they went down to the stalls to feed the horses before heading to the ranch house for breakfast. Since Brandy could not take Ace to the ranch house, she put him in an empty stall with food and water. Ace’s eyes showed he was hurt by having to obey his master and enter the tall.

“It is only for breakfast. I promise I will return and we will go for a ride.” Brandy reassured Ace. Ace laid down in the stall, and placed his chin on his crossed front legs, looking upward at her with his sad looking eyes. Brandy turned to go to the ranch house. Not everyone appreciated the bond of a border collie with their person. Ace was housebroke, but shadows Brandy’s every step. He thinks if the furniture is for Brandy, it is also for him and will sit or lay on the couches and chairs. During meals Ace sits watching Brandy put every bite in her mouth. Perhaps Brandy had taught Ace to watch her eat, as they shared meals most of the time. Ace never offered to eat off a plate or get food from a table or counter, but Brandy would hand him food from her plate as she ate. Brandy understood that Ace could not be with her when she went into other’s homes. When Ace was not shadowing her, Brandy felt there was a part of her missing.

Author’s Note: I have spent years raising and training Border Collies to herd. Border Collies are very intelligent and affectionate. I train using praise as their only reward for doing well. A Border Collie knows when they do well, and expect the praise. Border Collies are also very high energy dogs. They require a lot of exercise and mental stimulation each and everyday. A Border Collie is not for everyone. When considering a dog for a companion, please consider your established lifestyle and pick a companion that will match your lifestyle.

The post photo is of my partner, MHT Hank, the best hand I have on the sheep farm.



Mental Pressure

I raise sheep as a business. I have help when I handle the sheep, my best hands, my border collie dogs. The border collie was bred to herd sheep. Generations of selective breeding has created a dog which works very hard to please their person.

Border collies choose their person, as much as the person chooses the dog. We have five border collies. Two of them I use daily in handling and feeding the sheep. Three of the dogs are in training learning to do the job of sheep herder.

A dog whose training is “complete” or finished is a beauty to watch work. The dogs are not finished in a matter of months, but in a term of years, at least one but more like two years. Two years of working side by side with the handler and the sheep, to learn how to perform their job with grace and beauty.

I have one dog that is finished, my top hand Hank. When we work together, my dog reads the sheep and situation, there are very few commands. My other working dog, Annie, is not finished, although she tries very hard to please and a strong drive to herd, she will not be finished as she can not handle the mental pressure of commands and herding.

When training a dog, even for obedience, the handler must watch the mental pressure being put on the dog. The really good handlers/trainers can gauge the amount of mental pressure on the dog, and keep the mental pressure low and not break the dog with training.

I was not the first person to start Annie in training to do herding. The other trainers “broke” her mentally. When we received Annie, it was to take care of her and her pups for my husband’s son, who owned her at the time. He had decided she would never herd anything, but her bloodlines would produce good puppies to use and sell. It took a couple of months for Annie to develop a bond with us. After a second litter of puppies, my husband’s son decided to sell her to us, since she would come when we called her, and he had no use for her, even to raise puppies. We gladly took Annie.

We started her by letting her work with Hank. When two dogs work together, the dogs will often fall into a dominant herder and balance herder. Meaning one dog will do the actual herding, the other dog is support and responds to what the dominant dog is doing. Letting Annie work with the sheep, with the mental pressure coming from the other dog and not us, helped Annie to learn to handle the mental pressure of herding. With patience and a lot of time, Annie can work the sheep alone. When the mental pressure gets too much, Annie will find a water trough to jump into and sit for a spell, relieving the mental pressure she feels. Annie does her job well, but she is not going to ever be a finished dog, or top hand. Annie is limited in using her full ability and talent as a herding dog, due to not being able to handle mental pressure.

There have been times in my life, I was hinder in how far I could go in a job because of mental pressure. The mental pressure I put on myself. Like Annie, I would let mental pressure I put on myself, freeze my actions and decisions. Learning to gauge the mental pressure we put on ourselves take experience and years to learn. Mental pressure left without a release will break us.

When the mental pressure starts to get to me, I find a release, I look for my “water trough” to release the pressure, then I am able to return to the task. My “water trough” is sometimes breathing, or prayer, or a short break from the task.

Taking care of ourselves is our job. We can not depend on others to take care of us, as we are the only ones who feel what we feel. Others can see symptoms of when things are not right with us, but they do not know all the thoughts or feelings we are dealing with at the time. Since we are the only ones who know all the is going on with us, we have to take care of us. Part of taking care of ourselves is to gauge and release mental pressure in our lives.

I know I have a much higher expectations for myself than I do for others. These higher expectations, put mental pressure on myself when I am not meeting those expectations. When the job I am not doing is not perfect, then I put the mental pressure on myself to make it perfect, although it was not capable of being a perfect job.

An illustration of high expectations, and the job not capable of being perfect is the work I am doing refinishing an old dresser for my daughter. The old dresser is made from red oak wood, but it is old. There are dings, that I am not going to be able to get out by sanding to remove the ding. To remove the ding would require the board to be sanded to depth that is too thin to use. I can only sand so much of the wood, before I start damaging the wood, and the dresser. I have to talk to myself and accept the imperfections that will be in the dresser. I am not using new wood and materials, I am repairing and refinishing an old treasured dresser. It will look great, but it will not be perfect. It will be unique.