Friday, March 25, 2011


Luke posing this week after the snow storm- see the 5 gall. bucket behind him?   It's spring, for goodness sake. 

Such a handsome dog!
When Becky had her litter, in 2000, my mom and I were planning to each keep a puppy- she wanted a male and I wanted a female.   I picked Cinder and I picked Dash for my mom as the male pup with the best conformation.   Luke had front feet that turned out when he was young, which ended up straightening out by the time he was an adult.   When the puppies were about 3 months, maybe a little older, and I still didn't have the right home for Luke, I took them to Missouri and we tried them on sheep.    Luke did so well, even backing down a grumpy ewe that didn't want to play, that my mom said "You can't sell that puppy".   I really didn't want to keep two at once so she said she would raise Luke but I would be his official owner.  

He turned out to be a major handful on sheep- he was more suited to cattle with his natural style and toughness- and eventually when we moved to the farm in Wisconsin we decided he needed a tougher trainer (me) and I took him.   At that time he was three years old, had a good stop and knew several commands, but he had the "pleasant" habit of flipping sheep- he'd grab one just right and flip it end over teakettle.     He did that exactly twice with me and the wrath came down on him, so then he decided he could give it up and just be a good dog.   It took quite a bit more training than that of course, but after about 6 months he was ready to trial.    He did really well trialing,  qualifying on most of his runs to finish up his WTCH when he was 5 years old.  That was a memorable weekend because Kip finished his WTCH the same weekend- they both needed the final advanced duck legs.  

In 2006 Luke qualified for the stockdog finals in cattle- I hadn't really planned that but he had several good runs over the previous year and I went,  even though I wasn't sure we were ready for that level of competition.  Actually I was pretty sure we were not, but it ended up being worse than I thought.  If trialing has it's most embarrassing moments, this was surely mine.    It was course B, and the cattle came running out of the pen straight toward us.   Luke just did not have the miles to settle the cattle quickly and he decided that taking charge was the thing to do with them.  Unfortunately, he did not really have me included in this plan and he got a bit wild.  He was trying to bring one steer back from the repen side and I should have seen it was getting agitated and stopped him, but I did not have the miles to realize it, so let him keep trying to do it on his own.   He scared the poor beast into jumping at the gate and knocking it over.     We got a "thank you CATCH Your DOG!"  and I was so embarrassed I could have just died right there.  

I'm sure other people have worked all year to get their dog to finals and then have had the first run go disasterously wrong, but this was literally the first "thank you" of Luke's trial career. 

Later that week he had the opportunity to win back my good graces as I was helping to set out sheep and they were being more than stubborn about going down the chute.  It was set up so they were single file, and the first sheep in line felt like she was being pushed out alone into an arena with a dog, so of course refused to budge.  Me and the other sheep handlers tried our best to make it easier, but the sheep knew what was ahead and weren't having any of it.   We were having to bodily lift each sheep forward down the chute.   That was getting very tiring, so I went and got Luke.   He hadn't worked a chute this way before but I pointed out the feet under the sides and told him which one to push and soon we had a nice system down that did not involve any more sheep lifting.  

Luke was an excellent dog with ewes and lambs- he was firm and persuasive without causing them to fight.  Once he figured out how to go wide he would make the same nice outrun every time out in the big field, and bring the sheep at a nice steady pace.    He is retired now due to a shoulder injury, but he is still an excellent companion and friend.   

There are a lot of good Luke stories.   When he was a pup he would manage to get bones away from the older dogs by his persistence.   He'd walk right up to a dog chewing on a bone and put his foot on the bone.  They would growl and he'd look down but his foot would stay on the bone.  He'd inch closer and closer until he had his mouth on the bone.  The older dog would always give in eventually and let Luke have the bone.

Another time I sent him out to the pasture to bring in the cows at my parents' farm.  I didn't realized the mother cow was still very protective of her baby.  He got too close to the baby and the mama cow got mad.  She and several of her steer buddies tried to charge and stomp Luke into the ground.    He gave them all a good bite and brought them right up to me.    I guess that's not how you're supposed to move cows and calves- the slow and easy technique works better with less stress, but Luke's way got it done.  

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