Recent visits from family and friends provided an opportunity to observe and evaluate Boo’s social behavior and interaction growth over the past year.
Boo demonstrated the ability to make the proper decisions and kept the escalation factor low. She released the pressure on herself by grabbing a diversion Kong barbell before approaching a guest when she needed to or instituting a game of roller ball that she would either play by herself or bring in to a willing foot to kick or hand to throw and wait patiently.
She even curled up and napped several times during both sets of visitors – a first.
Confidence in our work and a higher level of trust that Boo will make the right decisions has allowed me to let it be and ride with it when it is go-time.
All of our Boo Life 2018 and years prior work was reflected in Boo’s behavior.
She was amazing.
Recently we’ve entered new territory on our walks, encountering unfamiliar dogs, distractions and surroundings. Despite being reacted to by several dogs, there has been minimal to no reaction from Boo.
Raising Boo is very much like farming. We’ve been bent by strong winds, washed down arroyos in flash floods, successfully harvested only to lose all our carefully tended crops in the stroke of a moment of a bad decision or a mitigating factor out of our control and endured the stark heat of days that plunge into frigid nights of the high desert, leaving us feeling busted and hopeless.
Through our journey we have chosen the high tides of our successes to be our sustenance and let go of the failures. In concentrating on the good, we have grown the fruits of love, trust, confidence and commitment and at this moment they taste pretty damned sweet.
During the first four months of Boo’s life with us it became obvious that she was not like other puppies. As time played out her erratic behavior escalated and presented in ways I desperately searched to explain.
I began to believe I could never provide what Boo was going to need from me.
We brought Boo home two weeks to the day Sadie left us after nearly fifteen years. My physical and mental states at the time, broken heart, lack of knowledge and confidence and self-induced catapult from a senior dog left me ill prepared to raise a puppy that needed special handling and training.
Three and a half years later – here we are and I wouldn’t trade one second of Raising Boo for anything.
In review of Boo Life 2018 we chose S-I-M-P-L-E simple as can be to guide us in 2019. Our intention is to trust the process and to cease to assign something to every little thing – in other words, just Let It Boo.
We stepped into January 2019 with all of the keys gifted to us over our journey polished up and jingling on our ring.
The most recent key gifted to us from our friend and mentor Laurie in Boo Life 2018 has evolved into a master key that fits in every door.
Laurie’s gift was the golden Key of Confidence. It has made Boo and me strong.
Our 2019 return to Draxen Farms and our Farm friends has us sharing spectacular Florida winter days and three not-yet-dog-broke sheep.
The new sheep are a really big deal.
On a particularly busy recent Monday Mike wasn’t planning on working the new sheep with any of the dogs or students that day and let a few of us take them up front.
It was huge for Boo and me to be included for two reasons.
It was the first time we would work away from Mike’s supervision.
The second was a simple sentence Mike imparted to me before we headed down front:
“The new sheep aren’t sheep for Boo and you.”
I nodded my understanding to not only what he said, also to what he was leaving unsaid.
It felt something like a primal rite of passage. Mike’s words sparked new tinder in my soul and definition of that moment escapes a proper adjective.
I looked at Boo and grinned – we were going to be working sheep that were not “sheep for us” – without Mike there. He entrusted me to make the right decisions for Boo and me. Our Confidence Key burned in our pocket. It felt very, very good.
We got this, I told Boo.
Boo laid her ears back and wagged her tail, those look-straight-at-me brown eyes reached deep through mine to encircle my heart and bind it to hers.
My soul filled and I was pretty sure I might spontaneously combust right there on the spot – which happened to be on the area of the burn pile.
It’s okay if I explode, I thought to myself – if this is how it all ends – I’m good.
Lisha suggested Boo and I drive the sheep to the front on a line and she would walk with us.
This was another really big deal.
I saddled up Boo and whispered to Liam I would be back for him once the sheep were secured down front. The Coyote Red Dog felt my buzz and raised his muzzle to give me our special look – punk grin playing about his lips, head held back and that look of slightly surprised assessment in his eyes – and winked. I winked back to him as Boo and me joined Lisha at the pens.
I can’t think of Jane Goodall without thinking of Lisha. Like Dr. Goodall, Lisha has an exceptional metaphysical ability to observe and sense animals, translate their behavior and fluidly communicate to humans and to animals. A natural conduit of animal-think, Lisha’s gift reaches far beyond learned science. It is obvious her soul has moved as and with animals through many lives.
Lisha joined the congregation of the Church of Sheepherding via the baptism-by-fire route several years before me. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from her – she gives me hope and makes it real – she also helps me to laugh at myself.
It’s very cool to learn from someone who spent time falling down in the round pen, crying on the drive home, living the frustration and the replays and contemplating quitting as much as I had. I respect Lisha immensely – I am grateful for all I learn from her and I feel a sort of a blue-collar-rodeo bond with her. There is a lot to be said for the opportunity to learn from someone like her.
When we got up front we missed our first opportunity to put the sheep in the A Course field and then got them through the next gate which is the open area to the A Course field, the PT field and the round pen.
Boo was feeling the pressure of the tighter quarters and nervy sheep that were not dog broke. Lisha sensed it, talked us through and explained the reasons behind the behavior Boo presented as it unfolded and directed us.
The sheep drew to Lisha at the gate and Boo pushed them through by sight, holding her lie-down – no tension on the lead. Boo was governing herself, stuck to the ground and did not rush the gate when she saw the sheep go through.
Line still loose, upon recall she chose to come to me instead of predetermining we were going to work the sheep – or – blasting through the fence for a patented Boo Rowdy-Billy Jack-free-for-all that we would not be able to work back from for the remainder of the day.
It may have only been a moment, though it was one that was the result of three years of work. Boo looked at me and I felt her pride spill from her soul – our eyes locked in unspoken communication. My Girlie had done right – she knew it, too.
Hugging her tight, I sent a prayer of thanks to God for deeming me worthy of His gift of Boo.
On our last run I dropped Boo’s line and we worked the new sheep around the A Course for over twenty minutes without Boo escalating or making a move without me. She began to “check in” with me by throwing me a glance while holding the sheep at various points – this was new. When we ended, “that’ll do” meant just that and she sailed to me on recall.
This past week at the Farm we penned three dog-broke sheep in an ex-pen in the Big Field for wagon wheel exercises for ourselves and another team. These sheep know what is expected of them, still – Boo showed a new maturity in her ability to resist, restrain and follow my direction.
February 2019 finds us leading off in the batting order – we’ll ride it pitch-by-pitch to see where this thing goes.
“If it’s meant to be, it’ll be, it’ll be,
Baby, just let it be.
So, won’t you ride with me, ride with me?
See where this thing goes.
If it’s meant to be, it’ll be, it’ll be,
Baby, just let it be.