Welcome To Smokin J Border Collies

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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
I've trained working border collies for over 14 years and trialed in USBCHA, WCDA and AHBA events. My partner, Mike Franklin and I work dogs in Calico Basin, Nevada. This blog is solely for the purpose of sharing my love of working border collies. I do not have stud service or puppies available. Please contact me at smokinjbc@msn.com and I will be happy to share my recommended working breeders. If you are interested in teaching your dog to be a sheepdog in the Southern Nevada area, please feel free to contact me.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Today's blog is going to ramble a little bit, so bear with me. What can I say? I'm just lacking in focus (and employment) right now.

The following picture is a good example of what happens to good old sheepdogs when they retire. They go to the Las Vegas Farm Festival, and despite blowing off every whistle during the sheepdog demo, they receive a pet for every sheep they've ever looked at. Literally.

These little girls were very polite and asked me questions like "Is she a fox?" or "Does it bite?" Honey, if she did bite, asking me in the middle of giving her a huge bear hug is probably a moot point. If she was going to do it, she would have by now.

This is another one that is not a biter. Despite appearances, this is the biggest marshmellow posing as a viscious Doberman that you'd ever meet.

He may have big teeth but the only thing lethal about this dog is his ability to clear a room with his farts. Unfortunately, he also loves to share the couch with me so that poses an occasional problem.
One more random pet pic and I'll tell you about Nano. Warning.... the cuteness....it burns.

Pretty adorable huh? And he's only our second cutest cat. The current cutest cat holder is Le Petite Kitty Claire, who has not allowed herself to be photographed in her full awesomeness. As soon as I procure a picture of the ruler of the house....I mean Kitty Claire, I will share her extreme adorability with you. It doesn't just burn, it's a nuclear holocaust of cute.
Ok...so what is this NaNoWriMo thing?

NanoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It starts November 1st and you have 30 days to write the equivalent of a 200 page novel, which is about 50k words. You are supposed to start with a new idea, not work on previous material and you "win" by submitting your word count to Nano by November 30th. There is no judge of your material, just an automated word counter to verify you did the work. You could probably cheat and write one word 50K times, but where's the fun in that? If you "win" you get a nerdy winner's badge, you can see my badge from last year in my sidebar.
2008 was my first time participating in Nano and I had a great experience. Just the satisfaction of completing a novel, or at least the first draft of a novel, was incredible. Although most of the work you do is solitary, there are local Nano writers groups all over the country and this year, I will participate more in the group and at least go to the Kickoff Party. Even if you don't participate, the NanoWrimo.org website has great writing forums where you can share tips, discuss frustrations and find inspiration.
I hope some of my friends from the Border Collie boards, so many of them excellent writers, will participate and earn a Winner's Badge too ( I admit, I bought a coffee mug to match!). I am very excited this year, I suppose one benefit of being laid off is that I won't have to cram in words before work. If anyone is interested in doing this together, feel free to email me at smokinjbc@msn.com or just check out the Nanowrimo.org website.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Laid Back (Off )Days

I have not been keeping up on this blog- just so much has changed since my ironically optimistic last post in June. What can I say? Things just have been in the toilet recently.

However, there is nothing like hard times to re-think your priorities and realize how much importance you were placing on things that, in the end, matter not nearly as much as your family, friends and your own well being. So although I am still grieving for a job I loved, the opportunity to start again is not completely unwelcome. At least I keep telling myself that.

The best part about not being employed (the worst part being way too much time to obsess over the last six months) is how much time I can spend with the dogs. Rhett & Leary no longer have to cross their old-lady legs waiting for me to get off work, Nellie is THRILLED that I'm available for pets and only has to see a crate after she rolls in something unsavory and gets a bath and Jet is becoming a little hardbody from plenty of sheepdog work.

The other good part is that I've seen alot more of my family too. My sister, brother and I took a little hike last week and Lindzay took some great pics which I thought I'd share with you all. Lindzay is a landscape architect and she's in the same boat I'm in- what can we say, the Vegas economy is in the pits!

Here is the start of our hike, in Red Rock Conservation Area. If you have been to Vegas and not visited Red Rock- you've really missed out on the best part. It's still unbelievable to me that Red Rock is only twenty minutes from the strip.

I kinda like the sepia tones for these first two pictures, old-timey which is appropriate because we first stopped at this little homestead ruin.

Right in front of the little homestead was this lush green meadow (ok, swampy wash- we take what we can get, meadow-wise in Vegas). Jet and Nellie were the official guides for this hike and they thoroughly approved of the homestead stop.

Nellie is 9 years old and Jet is just barely 2 but they so far have been really good pals. I keep expecting that to change but I will just enjoy it while it lasts.
Let's get going lazy humans!

After a nice, pine lined walk and then a grueling rock scramble from hell, we finally got to our destination, Fern Canyon. Remarkably, it actually still had water this time of year and Jet was the first to find the little waterfall.
Hmmmm, it's like a hose. Coming from a rock.

I'll have to consult with the water-pro on this one....

Nellie knows exactly what to do with waterfalls, she's cool like that.

What can I say- the dog has issues! I hope I'm as spry when I'm the equivalent of her age.

Well, the dogs had a blast, we were all beat but in a good way. I really liked this picture of these old ponderosa (I think) pine roots and the rocks. We don't have much in the way of trees and water in Vegas, but what we do have is worth admiring.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Where We Work Dogs and finally..Brice!

Every chance we get, we try to take the dogs out to the open desert to work on our outwork. Our sheep live in Calico Basin, which is just in front of the beautiful Red Rock Conservation area.

These are some examples of my view as I'm setting out sheep for Mike & Brice.

There are alot of hazards the dogs have to overcome during their work. The rocks are brutal, and the cactus and thorns are everywhere.

I tried to get Jet to pose next to one of the hazards.... but made the mistake of saying "See Sheep?" to get her ears forward. Here is what happens when you use those magic words during a Border Collie portrait:

So... I had to find some examples of the dreaded thorns our dogs routinely have to negotiate without the aid of a sheepdog.

That picture is bad enough- but by far the worst enemies of doggie paws and sometimes underbellies are these dreaded Jumpin' Jacks. They do exactly that- anything gets within striking distance and they will latch on. A few months ago, Brice was outrunning and suddenly jumped straight up into the air and then refused to move. We ran up there, thinking maybe he had gotten snake bit. But instead, a cluster of Jumpin' Jacks were stuck between his leg and armpit. Needless to say, part of our working kit includes a pair of tweezers.

We had another beautiful cool day, with dark clouds over the mountains. The sheep even got a chance to pose against the backdrop.

And I finally got some pictures of Brice. Problem is, the little dude moves pretty dang fast. So did not get as close up as I'd like. This picture would have been pretty good except I was a second too slow to get a clear head shot.

Brice is a good driver, although if you underestimate his sneakiness, he might slip to the head. But for the most part, if he's steady enough, he'll hold a line real nice.

Brice doesn't have alot of eye and he has a nice way with his sheep, although he can get a bit tight at times and likes to be about two notches too fast. He is young and enthusiastic, and incredibly willing.

We had one little visitor to our working day... actually these fat little lizards were all over the place today, must have liked the weather too! Luckily, we don't have rattlesnakes in this area- they would have found the rocks ideal for sunbathing.

After her good work today, Jet was finally tired enough to pose for me by this pretty cactus.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Good Morning's Work

This morning was as nice a day to work dogs as we can expect for a long, long time. So we took advantage of the cooler temperatures and got up early to work dogs out in the desert.

Mike & Brice usually get stuck with the long walk from the barn about 3/4 mile down the road and into the BLM area where we work our dogs. These pics show Mike this morning, suiting up for the walk. He likes to bring his old army water bag for the dogs, that's that green thing on his back. Then he can pretend he's back doing field work in Germany for the Army AND work his dog. Once he's set, Brice takes control and they start their hike. Jane, Jet and I get to follow in the truck (someone has to bring the ice box).

Jane and Jet waiting patiently for the sheep to arrive. Jet is squinting because the morning sun is BRIGHT, but luckily we had some moisture move in and a nice breeze so the temp did not go far above 80 degrees. Next week, I doubt we will be so lucky.

Jet has been doing so well this week, we had a rough day a week or so ago but once we got over that hump, she's starting to open her flanks up and listen well. Here I'm asking her to come into the sheep, she is a little more relaxed and not so much WHEEEE! now.

For some reason, her driving side of her brain was in top shape today, she did some short drives and she did not get too flanky or bust through her sheep. This was a good group to work because they would move off all of the dogs but not stop/start all the time. They are nice and fit too, even the twin lambs kept up well.

I planned to get pics of all the dogs working. I seem to have a curse on the camera whenever I need a pic of Brice. But he did some really nice outruns and drives and as always, helped cover for the younger dog when we got a little braver about outrun length. Jane helped bring the sheep off the hill and Brice took over and brought them home again.

We all had a good time, even the sheep seemed to appreciate the spring grass and didn't mind the outing.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Jane- Sold- Will be going to her new home in CT soon!

For Sale- 6 1/2 year old, ABCA registered female. Spayed, trained on whistles, driving, sheds, etc. Asking $1200- special consideration given to a permanent home where she can work sheep regularly and remain a house dog.

I've had Jane since she was a pup- she's got lots of style and good listening skills. Was an easy dog to start and handle, sheep like and trust her and she is careful at the top. She likes driving and is a natural outrunner. She would be a good teacher for a novice handler, or a reliable helper on a hobby/farm flock.
Jane does well in arena and smaller courses and at home can work long distances where she is comfortable and confident. She travels well, is a well mannered housedog with a sweet nature. Gets along well with most other dogs and is our "cat protector" (read..fun police :)!).
I am selling her because she has not been happy trialing at Open level distances and I think she's too young to be a couch warmer.

Here are two short videos (apologize for the quality and doggy sheep!) of Jane at work.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Blustery Day for Sheep

We had another blustery day in Las Vegas. In local news, despite wind warnings, some window washers decided to chance it. This resulted in a broken rig, several smashed windows and I imagine some very relieved families when fire fighters finally got them down. Every time the wind blows here, there is someone who doesn't take it into consideration.

Despite the winds, I managed to make it out to work dogs this morning. Still, only two ewes have lambed- not sure what the hold up is but with the horrid weather, I'm sure these ladies are just waiting for the least opportune moment.

They look and move a little like hungover elephants right now.

This one is especially enormous. I'm a little worried that she has a dozen in there...

Here are last week's newest additions, Moo was next up to lamb and did so with little fanfare.
Here is my favorite lamb, so far- a little ewe lamb dipped in white. For now, just calling her "Fancy Pants". Yes, I get a little goofy about lamb names.

Her brother is almost identical to Moo's ewe lamb last year, Moolita. He has a enormous head though- so we'll call him Big Head Todd.

He's too busy to show off his stately brow. Hopefully he doesn't have some dread lamb disease that I'm making light of. Seems pretty sparky though.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Rough Start

I was lucky enough to get off an hour early from work this St. Patrick's Day and once I drove the 40 minute commute home, I was even happier that I had lamb stew ready in the crockpot, Captain Morgan ready to be poured for cocktail hour, and 8 dogs that were thrilled to see me.

Then.... just as I was sitting on the couch....the phone rang. It was my sheep land lady.

"Got some blood and string like discharge on one of the ewes." Uhhhhhh...what now? Ewe was eating, acting normal and not in labor. In 7 years of lambing seasons, my easy keepin' sheep were about to throw me a curve ball.

I've never lost a lamb, not in all that time. Nor a ewe either. Our lambing "problems" could be summed up in one previous ewe that required an injection to stimulate enough milk for her twins. She was promptly sent down the road. I cannot live with the sheep, they must be able to raise lambs with little human interference.

But now I was faced with a decision. There were three scenarios, as I understood it.

1. It could be normal discharge and I should receive a call soon that there were lambs on the ground. Obviously, the best case scenario.

2. A lamb could be stuck and need to be pulled out. Oh dear.

3. One or all the lambs could be dead. That could be very, very bad.

Hint: If you are getting a little frightened for the sheep now, read the label of this post..it all ends mostly o.k.

Here is a sneak preview if you don't believe me...

Feel a little better? Good.... my blog is not meant to raise blood pressure or cause Kleenex stock to go up. If things really were that bad, I'd keep it to myself. Promise.

So, after much debate, some online hunting of lambing problem literature and good help from Diane (who asked alot of good questions- most of which I had to guess at, as my ewe in trouble was 45 minutes away), I called my sheep landlady, Jonna, and we discussed the option of interfering vs. the "wait and see" approach. Everything I read, so far, had DIRE warnings about interfering unless ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. Every instruction on pulling lambs first underlined that you needed to be very, very sure that you really needed to do it.

As someone who works for a vet, I also know that the "wait and see" approach can be a really stupid way to go. However- the fact of the matter was that ewe was not in distress and if a lamb was dead, it would still be dead in the early morning daylight. If things were just slightly off and labor was just around the bend, I'd be greeted by a ewe and a lamb or two when I got there first thing. Jonna promised to listen for sounds of distress and call me if there were any changes.

Still worried and feeling a little helpless, I switched shifts with one of my employees so I could have an extra two hours to deal with any crisis that might occur.

I woke up at 4 a.m and headed out to Calico Basin, coffee, oxytocin and antibiotics in hand. It was early, and still dark, so I could not expect Jonna to let me know if there were lambs on the ground. I just had to see for myself.

About half way there, the phone rings again. They observed "something sticking out" of the ewe, no lambs. Damn.

Stopped at the store nearby, bought a few supplies I did not have. Imagine the looks one gets when she buys K-Y jelly, soap and dish towels at 5 in the morning.

Drove up to the gate, and I can see right away that the ewe has seperated herself from the rest and is standing alone. There is a dark spot on the ground next to her, but it does not move. Is it a shadow? Keep in mind that it's still, very very dark out. I pulled in and glanced over to her again. The shadow flicked an ear...

An ear! A lamb, thank God! A tiny red ram lamb.

Jonna saw me pull in and headed down the driveway, ready to help me with our little emergency. Even she had not seen the lamb yet. Once I pointed out the little guy though, we both sighed our relief. We decided to give momma ewe some privacy and take a little closer look when the sun came out. Headed to the house for coffee.

When we finally had some light, I went down again to check. Was an awfully tiny lamb considering how large the ewe had been. Then I made a grim discovery.

My first lost lamb, a still born. And probably a blessing- an underdeveloped lamb that never had a chance.

I told you it was only "mostly" ok. Since by now, over 30 minutes had gone by, I did not expect anything more to happen. I gave momma ewe a antibiotic injection, she was mothered up to her lamb nicely and then I decided to go up to the house and finish my coffee.

Good thing I hung around because one lamb became two...

A nice little dark brown lamb was born, another ram lamb.
So although we lost one lamb and had to get up way too early for civilized people, it was worth it. Hopefully I will go through another 7 years with no problems and not have to learn anything about pulling lambs. Not that I would shirk from the task, it's just nice to know that your ewes have it covered!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Simply Awesome

Well...no lambs to report, Jet is up to her usual kinda good badness, and the only news is it's dang hot already! So, in case you haven't caught it on Sheepdog-L or You-tube...here is a great video of very creative shepherds.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Back from the Sheep Races... I mean Dog Trial.

We just straggled in last night, way too late, from the March Madness trial in Tonopah, Az. This was a fun, casual trial and the weather could not have been better. A friendly club they have down there, with lots of novice people who are enthusiastic about dogs. We ran on a farm flock of saintly sheep- they were well used to dogs and it was a challenge to keep them from drawing to the exhaust and setout.

Unfortunately, someone (not me!) forgot to charge the camera, so there are no pictures to share. But here is the Jet-Date and other reports.

Jet-date: Did o.k, a little wild on day one but found her sheep and once I got control of her bad-ness, she did ok. Day 2: No comment.

Brice: Very proud of Mike and Brice. After a fast first Pro-Novice run where there was not nearly enough steady but they did get an ok score, they came together nice yesterday for their second field run and got the best score they’ve had so far and a placing (I think 4th or 5th). Would have been a better placing had someone been watching their pushy dog, who brought the sheep back out of the pen before the gate could be shut. He did well in the arena too and I’m especially jealous because someone (same person who did not charge the batteries) has not been practicing nearly enough to have put down that nice of a run.

Jane: Found her sheep! 3 times! WHO HOO. Only lost them twice…hmmm. We’ve had a little trouble adjusting to Open level, Jane and I but I think we are making progress. The outrun was small but the field was tricky enough that several dogs had problems making the outrun. Jane’s outrun was beautiful and got better each day but two of her runs, she got confused at the crossdrive panels and I had to go help her. But the middle run, she did get a complete course, a little trouble with driving but nailed the outrun/lift, shed and pen and we got 5th place.

We drove back through Wickenburg, Az and the beautiful Joshua Tree forest. Especially pretty when it’s not 100 plus degrees!

ETA: Whoops- Poor Nellie! Forgot all about her stellar arena run. I have not run Nellie for over 2 years, but she did great. It was a time trial (not points I guess, the scoring was a bit unusual) and we were not as fast as other dogs but we got each obstacle with no time faults. It was a blast running Nells again, she always did the best in arena trials- fast and accurate girl!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Final Countdown

Since lambing season is upon us, I thought I might take this opportunity to introduce you to the sheep. I really was not expecting lambs till early summer, but as the bag above illustrates, it's going to be a bit sooner than that. No complaints to the ram department this year! Busy young bugger....
I thought I'd start with the oldest sheep, Timex.
She's the only "original" sheep left from the small flock I bought in 2001. That makes her, I think, about 10 years old. She got her name from an incident that happened soon after I purchased her. A group of dogs got in and attacked my flock, killing two sheep and the one sheep left had several puncture wounds over her body. That one lone survivor I placed in a horse stall, thinking she was safe. Came out the very next day to doctor her and just in time too, since I found a dog attached to her throat. I came very close to putting her down, her injuries were catastrophic. But my friend noted that she was still able to stand and breathe, and said I should give her a chance. She not only survived, but thrived over the years, giving me the best lambs every year and the only lasting effect was that she lost her ability to baa! The name? Well... she took two lickin's but kept on tickin'...
I learned valuable lessons about making sure your sheep are in a dog proof area and I preach it to every new owner of sheep I hear of. Nothing is more important with sheep than good fences.

The other "senior" member of the flock is Gretchen. If Gretchen looks a little stretched, just ask yourself how you would look if you'd twinned or tripletted every year for 7 years. She is a bit short legged too, so gravity has not been kind.

Poor Gretchen, I just realized when I was putting this together, that she is my only older ewe with no family. I just haven't held onto any of her daughters. Pretty sure she's got a granddaughter or two in there too, but it's not the same as a ewe lamb she raised herself.

Here are Timex's daughters- Moo and Moolita. Both of them are a good example of what Timex throws. No matter what ram I put her too, she always has big (for scrubby hair sheep), frame-y lambs that have good leg. She and her daughters also stay fresher longer than the soon to be introduced Dorper family. You can count on Moo to keep a dog honest at the pen, she will squirt around it if given even an inch of an opening. Moo's on the left, Moolita the right.

The Dorpers are my favorite. The best mothers, the calmest sheep in the universe. "Dorpers" might be a misnomer. Only Maggie, who is my best ewe overall, is 1/2 Dorper. But she puts such a stamp on her kiddos that I just automatically think of them as the "Dorpers". The lambs come out dog broke and none of them cause a spot of trouble. They are ideal puppy sheep, but can make fetching long distances a bit tortuous for dog and handler alike.


Susan- Mike's Favorite (see the post on Mike/Brice- she's the little grey lamb he's holding)

Bracelet- She's got these cute little white marking on her feet. I'm also laying money out that she's first up to lamb this year.

All three of of these are just the sweetest girls imaginable. Which is a real problem- might be time to get fresh sheep when you have all your training sheep named!

Watch this blog for play by play action of lambing season. Knock on wool... this year should be twins galore!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Jet-Date: March Madness Trial Preperations

See this little dog here? Doesn't she look like she's saying "what next, Boss?"? Don't let her fool you, this one may be Satan incarnate. One moment, she's clever, flanking nice, putting her best foot forward. Next minute, she's got sheep wool dripping from her mouth.

This dog may be the death of me.

A glutton for punishment, Ms. Jet is entered in the Tonopah, Arizona March Madness trial as a non-compete run. Like our previous Ranch run in Snowbirds, we are going just for the experience of getting Jet to new places and having her listen. I've never done that before with my other dogs, but I have a feeling that this one will need good trial experiences. Since her outrun/fetches are pretty decent, I think we will retire as soon as the sheep are at my feet, that's the plan anyways.

I think she gets bored easily too, so having a goal to work toward and challenges suit her.

Jet's outruns and fetches are doing great. She flanks easily on the fetch and takes her downs well on balance. We haven't really worked on "steady" yet, which has become a problem as we work on driving. I think she will be a good outrunner, if she starts right, she doesn't cross and kicks out nice when she gets to her sheep. If I do not down her at the top though, it will be a race to my feet. She is still very young, so as long as she will down for me, I'm willing to let her come into her sheep.

But the driving work may kill us both. She can handle it for about 30 yards, she has a good amount of push on her drive. But she's bound to push a little too hard, split a sheep off, and then the rodeo is on. Time to take a few steps back and get a little better feel for her sheep I think.

My plan is to hopefully run Jet as a Nursery dog next year. I am trying to set her up for success all year this year. With her birthdate being in September, she's a good age to give us lots of time to be ready for the big leagues!

We will need every precious minute, as she is reminding me now- head on my laptop and saying "Time for work!".

Edited to add: Not a bad practice- down still negotiable, but only one sheep/Jet altercation and several opportunities for bad-ness which did not follow through to their logical conclusion. Plus- got my hardest sheep to pen in the trailer. But she's still a Devil Dog!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mike and Brice

The picture above is Mike with his favorite lamb- born a few years ago and now one of our best ewes. On the right are that lamb's triplets from last season.

Mike and I work dogs together, trial together and support each other through the ups and downs.

Mike's main dog is Deltabluez Brice (Scott Glen's Pleat X Diane Pagel's Tess), a coming 4 year old male. Brice and Mike have gotten along great, both are very pushy and stubborn.

Brice has become a reliable helper, we trust him to bring sheep down the road to our practice area.

Mike is now also working my Nellie, they are learning to adjust to each other's working style. Nellie is learning to listen a little better, as Mike is not as much of a pushover as I am, and Mike is learning to adjust to a more sensitive dog. They are doing well and we hope to see Nellie join Brice at sheepdog trials.