It's been a good 9 months since my last post. Pregnancy, childbirth, and newborn/pre-schooler rearing will do that to a gal. Now that life has returned to it's new normal, at least for a little bit, I hope to be better about posting.
I added Havana, my now 3 year old smooth collie, to my life knowing that she was a working dog who needed a job. I figured that wouldn't be a problem. (Oh how very, very naive we can be!) I fully planned on working her a lot on sheep these past few months, but, well, I haven't.
Last Wednesday the stars finally aligned and I was able to get to Portage to work sheep. Havana was understandably excited. A car ride, time alone with me, and SHEEP! What more could she ask for?
She worked amazingly well - I was so proud of her. Since she's shamefully out of shape (not unlike her owner), she needed frequent rests. The first two times she did a beautiful job getting the sheep out of the corner and bringing them to me. The last time she was all geared up and didn't want to stop when I made her take a break. I debated ending the lesson there, but she was whining and begging to go to the sheep, so John and I decided she would be fine.
She would have been fine had I used an ounce of brain power. Just because she'd calmly worked the sheep before didn't mean she'd do it again. I let her take off all the way across the field and by the time she got to the sheep she wasn't thinking about herding, she was just plain bowling. After I got her downed, freed a sheep's head from the fence (Havana didn't cause her to run into it, she was eating through the fence and couldn't get out), and the sheep grouped up again I thought about what I could have done differently. I called out to John "I guess I should have been between her and the sheep, huh?" He stopped laughing long enough to agree with me. Since Havana was so amped up I made sure to down her frequently both to keep her under control and to give her and I a chance to plan our next move. The lesson didn't end quite as well as it began, but it was better than that little part in the middle.
While DH and I joke that dealing with our kids is like herding cats, maintaining a calm Bug and keeping Havana from bowling sheep isn't so different. I need to have a thought out plan and know what I'm doing before I get there. This could explain why I often have scattered sheep and a wild child.
For example, I recently co-hosted a wedding shower at my house. I knew Bug would be excited - the guests were pretty much all her favorite people. My only thought was that she not steal the spotlight from the bride and drive everyone nuts. I didn't actually think about *how* that was going to be accomplished. The more excited and worked up she got, the more tense and stressed I got.
After growling several warnings in Bug's direction, I finally remembered what I've slowly been learning in the pasture. Yelling and threats don't work - they pretty much only show that I've already lost control. So I did what I do after I've lost control in the pasture. I took a deep breath, assessed the situation, removed the subject (i.e. Bug) from the situation, then redirected her.
I picked Bug up off the gift table where she was trying to rip open the bride's gifts for her. In another room I quietly told her that she was having a hard time letting this be the bride's day (we spent a lot of time talking about that beforehand) and what would she like to do instead of watching the gift opening, since that wasn't very interesting for her. She gave it some careful and deliberate thought and decided that she would like to play a computer game. My computer is set up so she could still see the guests and sort of be a part of things, but be focused on something more appropriate to her level. The rest of the shower was wonderfully relaxing for me.
With that event in mind I carefully packed a bag for the wedding. In addition to a change of underwear, extra tights, a sweater, and pajamas, I also packed some of Bug's favorite books, a Magnadoodle, a coloring book, and a card game. I let her know that we had these special things and if she needed a break or some special attention from someone to let me know and we could help her out. It worked amazingly well. (Well, that and having my family around to dote on her during the reception.)
Taking the time to carefully plan activities and alternatives is time consuming and tiring, but so is having an out of control child or dog. And I figure in time it will get easier to be one step ahead of both the dog and the child. At least until the next bend in the road...