Border Collies came from Necessity
Moving to South Dakota in 1988 I lived on the edge of the sand hills.
Beautiful, breathtaking country, wide open spaces. There I began to learn about livestock working as a vet tech and living on a ranch.
Bought 4 bottle lambs the spring after I found a lone lost ewe wondering down Hwy 20 toward Valentine, NE. ( I will get to that story at some point, trust me)
Four became 10, and then 20...I raised 40 bottle lambs that year while working a full time job in town.
The addiction began innocently you see.
That fall I bought 8 bred ewes and kept some ewe lamb from the bottle babies. I continued to add ewes while raising bottle lambs. My flock grew quickly. TIRED of 'calling' sheep with a bucket of grain then getting run over, tired of being pushed and shoved out the way by a mob of ewes. Tired of walking behind sheep bringing in stragglers, tired of trying to catch sheep by myself only to have them evade capture...Tired of trying to do it alone.
I found myself in need of Good, WILLING help; emphasis on the willing part.
I had worked with dog since 91 as a vet tech, helped owners with behavior problems and owned dogs surely I could train a dog to help with sheep. I bought a Border Collie pup from a dairy farm in the spring of 2000 - LUKE entered my life - chosen because he had an obsession with my shoe laces. I had NEVER EVER seen a dog work stock. You would have thought I would be deterred, oh no I am stubborn you see. Luke made a better cattle dog than a sheep dog, always biting hard, but his presence changed the attitude of the ewes. We both were treated with RESPECT immediately. Four years later with only mild success I began to understand that I needed help with this herding training thing I was attempting.
Luke was a wonderful companion, he was never far from me. Although his commands were "Luke, look the sheep are out" and "Go get the sheep" we got the job done. The National Sheep Dog Finals were in SD that year, I went to watch. Eye opening to say the least. Luke and I didn't look anything like those dogs I watched. Now on a mission, I began looking for some help.
I met Laura Hicks, she and her husband ran a ranch in central SD using dog to help them manage both cattle and sheep. One look at me and Luke and she suggested I buy a fully trained, experienced dog. Enter ' my main man' LAD.
Would not be where I am today without that dog, he taught me more about stock and stock dogs than I could have ever learned without him. TRULY One of a Kind.
Lad had worked more sheep in his life than I have even to this day. When I asked him to do the wrong the wrong thing he simply sat looking at me. Only when I asked him to do what He deemed correct would he carry out the task. He knew I didn't know a thing when he first came. If you could ask him I bet he would say I was a slow learner but learn I did. I knew I was making progress when he began to do as I asked without giving me that "better think again" look of his. Ok so maybe the look was more "You've got to be kidding me."
Wow I miss that dog. Wonder what he would think now? I am sure he still could teach me a thing or two.
So you see my Border Collies came from necessity.
WHERE WE ARE HEADED
In the following years my sheep flock has expanded, decreased and is now expanding again. My Border Collie family has done the same with ebbs and flow of life. I seem to be drawn back to these dogs who are smack at the center of daily life on this farm. I could not nor would I want to try to mange livestock without them.
These three began Clearfield Stockdogs and are the reason I continue with Border Collies
My sheep are the focus of life here, everything revolves around them. Without the sheep I would have no need of Border Collies. It is the collies that enable me to continue breeding and raising sheep.
It is a toss up what I enjoy more - lambing, building the relationship with my dogs and trusting them to help me with everything or the training. Training the dogs, yes but also helping livestock producers learn to use these amazing dogs, helping them become partners to accomplish their production goals.
There is nothing better than seeing the natural talent in young dogs. A switch flips transitioning them from puppies one second to working dogs in the blink of an eye. With good breeding and the right rearing the dogs posess all they need. Our job is simply to provide the opportunity to learn and gain experience with a bit of input from us.
It is very rewarding helping people along their lifelong journey with stock dogs. I often lay awake at night trying to figure out how to get them to the next step in a never ending walk with their dog. After tons of work together I witness those AAHH moments when they get another critical piece of the puzzle that will have a profound impact on their relationship with their dog and their work together.