1. What five things can't you live without?
Can I list chocolate five times? No? Alrighty then...
1. Chocolate (it's gotta be first anyway)
2. Fizzy water (seltzer water)
3. A to-go cup (that one's for you Laura! Hee.)
4. Sleep (and I never seem to get enough)
5. My critters (I can't imagine a life without them)
**And a bonus item**
6. Books (Seriously. I'm pretty much never not reading one.)
2. How do you transport your dogs? This question suggested by several peeps, including Mara.
I, too, am the Queen of the Van Dogmobile. Mine is a newer, slightly larger model than our intrepid TMT leader's, but then again, I spent like a gazillion more dollars for it. It's a 2005 GMC Safari mid-size van. A dinosaur. The last of its kind. The seats are probably in pristine condition sitting in the hallway in an old farmhouse in Elizabeth City, NC, where I lived when I got the van. It's stuffed full of crates and the other necessitites of a (formerly) semi-nomadic life, including baby wipes, batteries, toilet paper, and a rain suit (and much, much more!). When the border collies started spontaneously multiplying, I realized that carrying them in a Honda Civic wasn't the most practical approach, so I found a used Astro van. I drove it into the ground, and it died on me (um, Laura, it was the transmission...) in the middle of nowhere between Raleigh and Windsor at night, full of dogs, on the way back from a sheepdog trial. Fortunately I had AAA and I was within the 100-mile tow range (just barely). The dogs got to ride in the van on the back of the rollback; I rode in the cab. And there was a very nice policeman who parked his car behind my van, with lights on, until help came, since I hadn't quite made it off the highway. Yep, those were the days. I plan to drive this one into the ground, too, though I'm not putting as many miles on as I have in the past. And that reminds me that I must check the oil before heading to the land of no cell phone service and no houses within walking distance this weekend (also known as Donald McCaig's Highland SDT).
3. What role does obedience play in your training or running of your dog(s)?
One reason I like what I call a natural and thinking dog is because, well, the dog thinks for itself. Sometimes that works against me, but more often than not, it saves my butt. I'd rather know that I might have to have a, ahem, discussion with my dog about why it really should take the command I'm giving than have to worry about telling the dog what to do constantly. That's really been the toughest adjustment about working Ranger: He prefers to be an obedient dog who does what he's told. Most of the time anyway. But I don't think he has a greatly developed sense of thinking for himself, which is strange because I try to train all my dogs in a way that encourages that. Of course it never helps when I end up laughing at a dog who is doing something disobedient (that would be you, Pip). Like Laura noted with Nick (still thinking about that flank you insisted on at Donald's?), I have on occasion insisted that Twist take a flank, always with a bad result and a dirty "I told you so" look from my dog.
4. At what point do you start putting commands on your dogs?
Some people would say my dogs don't have commands. C'mon, it's because they're such good, natural, thinking dogs that I don't have to tell them what to do, ever. What? You don't believe that? I start with very few commands because I don't want my chatter to distract a youngster from learning to feel and really work the stock. If I just use my body pressure and the pressure/movement from the stock, I can get a lot accomplished without ever saying a word (okay, except for the somewhat commonly used "Hey!", which can mean anything from "What the hell do you think you're doing trying to pull that ewe down?" to "Hello? Anybody out there?"). In fact, my youngsters probably think "Hey" is the main command needed to work stock. Anyway, I never really think about when I start using voice commands. It really depends on the individual dog. If the dog is very natural and sensible right out of the box, I might add commands sooner rather than later. But really I don't have a formula for when I start putting commands on--it just kind of happens.
5. Do you talk to strangers in elevators? Question posted by Laura #1
Well, that depends. I won't just strike up a conversation for the sake of doing so, but back when I actually lived a life where I could find myself in elevators with strangers or barely acquaintances, I'd talk to someone if the circumstances seemed to encourage it (say, we were attending the same meeting or had some other connection, however artificial). As a corollary to that, in some situations I might even have felt compelled to make conversation, for example, if I was on the elevator with one of my company's clients and that person knew I worked for said company, but that's one of those non-spontaneous command-performance kind of things (as in, if I want to keep my job, must make nice to the clients!).