Lessons from a Shepherd: Eager to Learn

Written by  Lynne Green, Seattle, Washington Thursday, 23 February 2012 21:00

February began with a really fun event that I had looked forward to for quite a while. Periodically, there are a group of us that have the opportunity to learn from a world class trainer of border collies, Kathy Knox . Kathy has been training these dogs for twenty years and is excellent at communicating with both dogs and humans.

She and her husband Jack, one of the first shepherds to come from Scotland to America, give clinics all over the US. She is also the first woman to have ever won the Nationals with her dog Bob. He was reserve champ three years ago along with Jake, the dog that is my dog’s sire. This February my co-farmer hosted a clinic with Kathy. February is a good time to do this kind of work, because it represents a short lull in the rhythm of the farm: the winter work is done; you are just maintaining feeding and livestock management. The busy spring - with shearing and lambing - is just around the corner. It is a good time to take stock of not “the stock” - but the handler.

I am amazed at how far people will drive to get good help. Some drove over 8 hours (from Southern Oregon) to have the opportunity to learn from Kathy about themselves, their dogs - and also to learn from others.

At these clinics everyone gets about 10 minutes to work their dog as they normally do. While working the dogs, Kathy is watching and sharing with the group issues she is seeing in either the dog or the handler. You then get Kathy’s response - and others will ask questions too. Over the two days, you have 4 opportunities to get this input, and Kathy will even come out and stand with you and assist if you need or want her to. It is a time of openness and growth for both the handler and their dog.

This was a good clinic for me this time. Lexi, my young dog is doing well and progressing nicely. I was pleased with the positive feedback I received. There have been many times however, when I have left a clinic in tears and frustrated with myself or my dog. This kind of assessment is crucial if you want to grow.

As shepherds and trainers, those who attend the clinics are desperate to grow and learn. Seeing how far many were willing to drive to get help, the question occurred to me: How desperate am I for spiritual help? How far will I drive to get help from a sister that is more experienced than I in a particular area?

Even the dogs listen hard so that they can understand!

It struck me that in the church we need to increase our desire for help. Kathy takes her time and energy to fly to Seattle and give help. Many drive hours to get help. That is just for dogs! How about in my spiritual life? Do I want to grow badly enough to put my life out there - and get help not only from one person, but also from a group that really is just trying to learn together. Will I bury my pride and independence and seek help?

Take time to evaluate how your Bible Talk is functioning as a peer group to help one another. How are you doing in getting help with your life?

Did I say February was a lull time? Ha -- just when you think that, problems arise. Yesterday, there was bitter cold and snow, especially in Snohomish County where the farm is located. I had to transport a new guard dog to the farm in anticipation of the increased number of predators during lambing.

When I arrived with the dog, I planned to pen her up at night with her new flock so they could get well acquainted. I put all the ewes in the round pen and counted. There were only 17! I counted 5 times, and sure enough, there was one missing! Fearing the worst, I began to walk the field looking for my lost ewe.

I soon saw a snow covered lump. The lump had a leg that wiggled as I approached. She was down and had snow atop her -- but she was alive. A tractor was needed to scoop her up to move her. She was very weak. I was heartsick. She was a nice big and healthy-looking ewe -- I would hate to lose her and her lamb. I needed to get extra medical supplies, treat her, and also make sure all the ewes had grain, hay, and water. What I thought would be an easy month had become more difficult. When I checked on her the next day, she was still alive and looked better. I continued to treat her, and hoped for the best. After consulting a vet (because we had another one that looked sick), I ended up having to vaccinate all 18 ewes and the 18 yearlings as well. The sick one we had caught in time, but the one that was down was buried on March 1. This is the hard part of shepherding. There are victories and there are losses.



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