Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Bella and the Sheep
Bella goes to "Yes School", which is perfect for a little, red, woolie Siberian that has never heard the word No. Well, maybe once or twice, but not from me. Bella is one of many Siberians, known collectively as the Sweeties, which were rescued by some good people, from a bad person in Eastern Wa. There were 32 of these Sweeties, youngsters, quite young, that had been kept in atrocious conditions in a hellish place, barely surviving horrendous conditions. Due to the heroic efforts of these good people,including those of SNO-Siberians Needing Owners, these dogs were saved and placed in forever homes. Such a hard beginning makes it very difficult to tell these sweetie pie dogs, NO! This can be problematic, as in, "Oh, look at Bella chewing on the coffee table. Isn't that cute?" Or, "look at Bella chewing a hole in the couch. Isn't that cute?" Our Bella is a foxy lady, sky blue eyes, in a dark red face, surrounded by a halo of long, wooly hair. She is a large red bundle of love and sweet. One big ball of fluff with a plume for a tail. Although, I call her little, she is 55 pounds. But somehow, she just seems little to us, as she has these short, little legs. Most puppies, as they mature into adult dogs, change in their looks, but not Belle Belle. It was just as if she expanded into a bigger version of her puppy self. Think of blowing up a balloon. Bella has a huge personality, she spins until you are dizzy, she has no upper incisors, due to a severe underbite, and Bella has to wear a basket muzzle, when she is outside in the yard, because Bella is a rock eater. Something, you really don't want your dog to do, as this causes you a great deal of pain in the wallet, as each surgery for rock removal takes place. Besides the constant worry of your pal running around with the mask on her face, pretty much defenseless. The first time she ate 3 rocks, I thought it was a fluke, the second time less than a month later, she ate 5 rocks, and I ordered the muzzle, the third time, she slipped outside without a muzzle and within 10 seconds , 4 more rocks had slid down her gullet. These rocks are 2-3 inches in diameter. I have other dogs here that eat the pea gravel which passes through, but these big rocks are dangerous. Bella is all Siberian bitch, loving a good brawl, and very bossy. She whams that muzzle around, poking and punching in her own form of roughhousing. Bella must be watched carefully, never allowed to be outside,where she always wears her muzzle, without supervision, and never placed in a situation where she would not be able to defend herself. She lets me know when she wants it removed by rubbing it vigorously on the couch or on my leg or face..ouch..if I am lying down. Bella is studying to be a companion dog for me on my visits as an Animal Assisted Activities volunteer at Providence/St. Peters Hospital in Olympia, WA. Aurora began that training with me, but it was determined she needed some maturity. Aurora went to Military School, that is, old school pinch collar and command training, which was held at a very good facility. I am the weakest link there. Aurora did well. As previously mentioned, Bella goes to Yes School; yes, treat, yes, treat, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. Bella is not learning her lessons very quickly, as she is not food driven, and she is much more interested in the Sheep at Fido's Farm where we train in Olympia. Bella does well in my basement where there are little or no distractions, other than the Christmas decorations, which is another story as why the basement is so empty. Think of an indoor swimming pool.
Fido's Farm is loaded with sheep, and sheep dogs. Every field has Border Collies, Aussies, and many sheep engaged in their particular form of work. That is the dogs are working. Maybe the sheep are working also, at how to avoid the dogs and how to practice Sheep Mesmerism, which involves having each individual member of the herd, practicing Watch Me at the exact same moment. The dogs practice chase, down, dart about, chase, down, dart about, as they practice their own form of Sheep Mesmerism. Truly amazing to watch sheep dogs work. I love to watch any working dog, doing their job. Last Sunday, besides being hot, me being sick, and Bella not wanting hot dog treats, there was the additional distraction of The Sheep. One lone individual, it stood in the next field over, large wads of wool hanging off of it, smelling very sheepish, and doing sheep things, like eating grass. In Yes School, there are words like threshold, behavior chains, and loading, but to Bella there was only Sheep. Two of the other dogs in class; one a Border Collie and one a Lab mix, were fixed attentively on their Mistresses, who happen to be friends of mine. The dogs were sit staying on their mat, down staying on their mat, recalling, saying hi politely, while Bella was attentively practicing Watch Me on the Sheep. The instructor thinks this is not a good idea. I think that Bella likes Sheep. It is wooly like her, has blowout like her, is tubelike in shape like her. I do not look like that at all. Food bits do not compete with Sheep. Siberian world vs Border Collie world. I said to my friend, "Sadie is not interested in Sheep."" Oh, but she is," was the reply. Okay then, I thought. Obviously, there is something else going on here. A good On By would take care of this on the trail, but on a hot day in a green field, my little Bella's blue eyes were not shifting from their fixed stare on The Sheep. Maybe she would prefer lamb treats.
One more thing, when I am told that an area is completely fenced, I do not believe it. I have Siberians. Completely fenced means hot wire, top and bottom. Sure enough, when released from the leash, where did my little Siberian go,but to the gate, specifically the hole under the gate. When that was blocked, she jumped on the gate, nearly getting to the Sheep, except for my lumbering, scramble to get there first. I tied the gate shut with the leash, no longer attached to Bella, so then she went to every other gate. Then she peed in the little cooling off pool. Yes, Bella, yes. No worries, we will be a great therapy team, assuming they don't have Sheep there.