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18 July 2014

Restoring Order With Red: Recovery Journal, Vol. 24. My Chest

Regaining Control

Regaining Control

The major element of my recovery right now is protecting my chest, which was cracked open during surgery and then put together again with metal plates and stainless steel wire. It takes a couple of months at least for the chest to heal and for the metal to fuse with the bone and if one is not careful, the chest can Рand often does -  open, especially if you are a large man with big shoulders and a large chest. I have talked to people who have opened their chest, and that is a hellish thing, I am not going to do it.

After two or three months, the bone fuses with the metal, and you can pretty much do as you please.

My chest is the major reason I can't lift heavy objects, drive, ride a mower, push or pull things, lift my hands over my head. The heart is also healing, I should add, and I need to go slow and protect it as well, but it the chest they seem to worry the most about right now, my heart is looking strong.  I am acutely aware of where the metal is and of the healing going on in those wounds, it is a strange and heavy feeling, and sometimes painful to breathe, but getting better all of the time. So I am wary of sheepherding, because if one of those ewes plows into me, I will be back in the hospital in a flash and will know pain and suffering.

The sheep have lost all discipline. Between lambing and my surgery, we have not worked with the sheep and the new lambs for months. The lambs are blowing off Red and the ewes have been defying him. Sheep don't like to be herded in warm sun, they can get belligerent and the past couple of days I didn't want to push things, it can get rough. I've been knocked down way too many times not to take it seriously. The sheep have simply defied Red, refusing to move. He has handled it graciously, but not easily. I have held him back.

But I couldn't quite settle for this chaotic state. So we went out to the Pole Barn today, determined to get things in hand. The sheep were dug in, it was warm. I sent Red in and he tried to move them head-on, the lambs ignored him, the ewes lowered their heads and just blew him off, a couple butted him. I gave him the get tough command, "get 'em up," and he went in low and nipped Ma on the nose. She moved out, pulling most of the ewes and lambs with her, Susie and Pumpkin defiantly stayed behind, I sent Red behind them in a "come bye."

Solitary sheep are not brave, these two both bolted the barn and joined the others.

The flock kept trying to return to the Pole Barn, I moved Red back and forth to head them off, he is stellar at this, he backed them out into the pasture and by the water feeder. Success. I backed up about 15 yards to stay out of the way, my heart was beating enthusiastically, I love herding sheep with Red, he is such a pleasure to watch.

Red has great force and authority, you can see it in his stance. He is also a professional, he does not ever overreact. I admire his patience and purpose, once he understood he had the go-ahead, he got it done quickly. It will take a few more days to get things fully in line.

The sheep lowered their heads and accepted Red's authority, he gave them his best and most focused eye and I saw him regain control of the herd. I called him off and went inside to rest. I think we will do this every day, I will take it slowly and carefully. I think Red is getting the idea of keeping the sheep away from me, he kept them in line today. More later. So great to be back at work with him, it is a profoundly healing thing for me.

Recovery is many things for me, I believe in recovering one step at a time, one day at a time. We took a big step today.

Posted in General
24 June 2014

Red At The Gate

Red At The Gate

Red At The Gate

Whenever we go outside, Red runs to the gate and lies down, staring intently through the slate, he is absolutely convinced that we will go inside and work with the sheep, his faith is unshakeable, he will sit there for hours staring inside, he will not move or be diverted. I reward him as often as I can.

Posted in General
22 June 2014

Touching Red: Open House

Touching Red

Touching Red

If you doubt the importance of animals in our world, come to the farm during an Open House and see the pleasure, love and healing dogs, donkeys, cats and even chickens can do. Red is not one dog but two, the fiercely focused and businesslike herding dog, the sensitive and affectionate pet and therapy dog. Here, Beth Heffern of the Open House reaches out to touch him, as hundreds of people did this weekend. Without animals, our connection to the natural world will be broken forever.

Posted in General

Parable: Red And The Lamb. Open House.

Parable: Red And The Lamb

Parable: Red And The Lamb

The first Bedlam Farm Open House of 2014 ended today, I think we had more than 500 people over both days, I can't be certain. Each day Red and I put on some herding demos, he and the sheep are tired. This afternoon, he took on the final lambing challenge, getting Ma and Deb to move with the other sheep. Deb doesn't get herding yet, and Ma won't leave her, so we had a good and long stand-off. Deb butted Red in the head, then Red decided to lie down and just pressure the pair into moving, which they eventually did.

Today was quieter than Saturday as Sundays are, Maria and I expect the October Open House to be a bit more intense. This was one great fun, genial, continuous stream of nice and interesting people. Maria sold a bunch of art, Simon and the donkeys have bellies full of carrots and apples, I got to meet a lot of people I have not seen before – local people, people from other phases of my life, people from the Open Group at Bedlam Farm. It is hard to be the object of so much interest and attention for two days, it is not usually the way I live but Maria and I got a lot of neat ideas for the October Open House. More later.

Posted in General
18 June 2014

SOS For Red: Showdown With A Ram

Showdown

Showdown

As was inevitable, Red got into the ram's face, and he charged at Red, butting him hard in the head – I heard the thud loud and clear from 20 feet. It was a hard hit, but Red shook it off. He is resilient.

Our dog-broke sheep would never get to close to Red, would not challenge him, these sheep had no fear of the dog, when he got close they all tried to charge him.

Red got down low, came up suddenly and nipped the ram in the face, the ram was startled and backed up. The people at the farm were taken with Red and asked if we could come back to god-break the sheep. That could be great fun, we'll find a time to do it. Red did beautifully, he was calm, intuitive, he was forceful without being aggressive, he grasped the task and help everyone get the sheep where they wanted them to go. I think they would have figured it out without  him although the sheep were refusing to take grain and had been panicked by the wild dog.

It worked out well, is all that matters.

Posted in General