All in all, the Betty Williams Cattle Camp was a satisfying experience. Betty was a lesson in judiciousness and calm as well as an encouragement to keep on with cattle work. Because I neither own nor have easy access to cattle, and have never spent a lot of time with any bovines except gentle, hand-tame dairy cows (I actually rode one tolerant Holstein in my youth), I have to really exert myself to shoulder the expense, the ingenuity, the learning curve, the everything, necessary to becoming even moderately competent with my dog on cattle. Just as I did on sheep, come to think of it. Not that I am so spiff on sheep either, but when I reflect on where I've come from, it heartens me a little.
On the third day of the camp, we humans had a miniature vacation in the form of a cross-country pickup truck ride to the 'back of the ranch' during the hotter part of the afternoon. My, it was pretty. The hayfields near the barns and house were visible as a faintly different colored slip of green far below us. Elk, deer, and bear live up there in the aspen thickets and windswept hills. It felt wild and strong.
All the dogs at the Camp, and probably, all the handlers, advanced quite a bit from where they'd started out. There was, however, an arc noticeable in some of the dogs, including mine, where they started out rather uncertain, progressed to an obviously more confident place, and then, at the end, began to waver, showing the strain of working so hard mentally over the space of four days. Ty certainly lost a bit of the ground he'd gained, by day four.
Still I came away, as I think we all did, inspired to strive to put everything I'd learned into practice. Of all the clinics I'd attended, this one had the most evident feeling of mutual support, a bar by which I intend to measure any future clinics. We all vowed to improve out of recognition, and show up next year at the Grizzly Trial and clean everybody's clocks. Perhaps we'd wear our yet-to-be-designed Team Camp2010 teeshirts.
All good things (as well as all other things) come to an end. Eventually I packed up my blue car and my blue dog and drove south and south and west and west, like a maniac frankly, arriving home buzzy and sleep-deprived two days later without remembering any of the vast landscapes through which I'd passed.
Despite my desire to do nothing whatsoever for about a week, I wasn't lucky that way. Family events, like work days at my folks', and putting my daughter on the plane back to college, followed one after the other, so it took awhile before I could even get back out to Kam's, where I needed to do some livestock rearranging. The goats, which I had boarded there for the duration of my trip, were easy; just walk them to the truck by their collars and hoist them in, where they settled down philosophically for the ride home. Ah, goats. They aren't sheep.
The other interesting chore, moving the sheep and the donkey back to their arena home, across an open field, I had doubts about. I had never moved these animals outside of a visibly fenced area before. First I had to sort off Kam's stock, which ranged from bottle lambs and tame dairy goats to wily non-dogged ewes. I used Ty for this, and the main challenge turned out to be figuring out different strategies for all the different sorts of draws and pressures each group exhibited. Ty was patient and exceedingly helpful despite our many little failures before we finally got everyone sorted.
Next, I lured the emus out of the field, with green weeds from the garden. Had I happened to have one on me, I could have used any shiny metallic object as well, especially one with red paint on it. Emus are not the sharpest spoon in the drawer. Once they were safely closed in, so that I wouldn't have to deal with them on our journey, I decided to go for it with Ty. In spring, Ty and I had tried to move sheep from Kam's home paddocks to the arena, and it was a 100% failure. The sheep were too wild, my strategy was too poor, and Ty was too excited. Now, it was a non-event. Ty just gathered them out of the paddock and we fetched them across the dry meadow. Except for No Spots who always is angling to rush ahead and needed her nose whacked a few times, there was no excitement at all.
As for Molly the donkey, who had been ranging free, I cleverly coaxed her into the pens with a bucket, managed to get a rope on her against her will, and led her across the field to the arena with her protesting all the way.
And we were all, more or less, finally home.