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©Katherine Dunn.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Marcella and shepherdess confrontation

Marcella at this gate this morning, ready to start over, as am I.

{Update- Marcella has moved on, so have I. We had a great working day yesterday and all is well. Chalk it up to life.}

Marcella and I had a confrontation yesterday. I failed her in a big way. I made a mistake and I am disappointed with myself because I knew the second I was doing it I was pushing her too far.

I got up Saturday all ready to get my flock into the barn to begin the job of giving them spring shots, trimming their feet and deworming them. I would have 32 ewes to do and it would be good day of work with my flock even though it would also be tiring. Tasks like this can clip along at a nice pace, or one snafu in the barnyard can set things off track. I have to bring the flock into the goat barn, but first I have to put any Misfits, and the dogs, into stalls so I can have my sheep in the front two stalls and isle. I herd a few sheep at a time out of the stall into the isle, halter one at a time and work on them; after each one is done, they get sent out to the barnyard so I don't get confused. Much easier than keeping a list like I did in the early days.

I arrived at the barnyard gate in the morning ready for action.

Hmmm, no dogs. No goats, or pigs. It was raining, but that never stops Marcella. I sensed a barnyard mischief session was going on somewhere.

As I got to the goat barn, Marcella stuck her head out. She looked happy. Happy in a way a kid looks after he just stole the entire cookie jar and ate it before mom came home. The goats were standing around looking like they knew something wasn't quite right but weren't able to pinpoint what it was. And Benedetto, sweet Buddha Benedetto was lying in the corner, staying out of all of it.

There in the isle was a white bucket, a white bucket I had hung over six feet off the ground. I had left it there last week, high up on the wall, after I had wormed and trimmed the goats. It had stayed there safely and I thought it was safe from Marcella. I don't know why I didn't take it into the hay barn where I now keep all my meds in safety from her, but I didn't. Marcella loves to chew on plastic, she is getting better with age, but still does it if given a chance.

She had taken the new jar of dewormer that was in the said bucket and dumped it by chewing off the top. I had just bought it. All the needles I had used to give shots the week before were strewn about, fortunately I always recap them, and she had chewed anything that was plastic-all the syringes and wrappings. Thank goodness it was Valbazon and not Ivermectin, the latter is much more lethal in large doses and the wormer had soaked into the straw bedding underfoot.

I was livid. We had a financial snafu this past week , right before my birthday. We will work through it in time, not looking for pity, but the timing of it stunk, like most financial surprises. It put a damper on an already emotional birthday. I was having to really scramble with juggling money and when I went to the feed store to buy supplies, I made a big sigh when I saw Valbazon was up to $50. It seems to go up and up every year. Ah well, all is well, things will be okay, suck it up.

So, besides the fact my day of routine was now altered, $50 was down the drain, and that is a lot of money to lose when you are trying to break even on a small flock.

I scolded her, and she went on her side, submissive. But I'll be brutally honest, I sort of snapped. Maybe from the financial stress, or the emotional issues of grief and loss that came to a head over my birthday, I don't know, but I over reacted. Marcella got up and went into the front stall to be away from me because I was still mad. I followed her and just asked her why she had done that, and went on and on how hard things were right now. But she was up against the back wall, and I was walking towards her as I spoke in an angry tone.

That was so stupid of me. I'm ashamed. My anger got in the way of a good training moment with my working partner.

Of course she took it as a threat. This is not a pet dog. This is not a pug, or a lab or any other non guard dog. This is a breed that for centuries has been bred to protect. And I was in a stall with some of her charges - Victor and Sophie- and I was acting threatening with my tone, and was walking toward her when she was backed up to a wall.

She jumped on me, growling, and latched onto my arm. I had a coat on, and it was a soft latch- but it was to tell me,

"Look, I'm not going to take your threats, stop it."

I turned my face from hers and relaxed and she let go. And I walked away. But it didn't end there.

I took her into the hay barn to feed her, and did other feedings. Eventually I went back to the hay area and I kneeled down about 10 feet from her, and called her over. She came right away, submissively, tail wagging and head down. I petted her and told her I was sorry, that I had done that all improperly, and I went to lean my head near her, onto her shoulder which I often do. I had my big, floppy hat on. I don't know why, but she let out a soft growl at me. Then stopped when I moved my head away. I thought maybe it was my hat, but I got up and went about my business. She was not ready to trust me yet.

Not long after, I was doing more chores in the barnyard, and Benedetto was hanging out with me and over comes Marcella. She leaned her head into my shoulders ad we just sat together for some time, in silence.

I told Martyn about it and I told him how I had really failed out there, I snapped in anger. I wasn't even mad about what she had done, it was all the other stuff that happened that week and I let it take over. They always tell you not to ever get in the arena to train when you are mad. This is so true with any kind of teaching of any creature. I know this, and somehow I didn't have the skills that morning to walk away from my own anger.

It deeply saddened me that I failed her that way. But today, was a new day. I will strive not to fail her again.