Sunday, February 25, 2007

my life outside of Autism

Pictured at left is the new pup I mentioned, taken at 8 1/2 weeks. He's a Smooth (short-haired) Collie from a very dear friend who lives and trains Collies in Kentucky. He's very closely related to our other two Smooth Collies.

I have been thinking for a little while now that maybe it was time that I started to share a little more about me on this blog. I mean, things other than being my kids' Mom and educator and personal therapist. Bev C requested that I talk more about our new puppy, so I'm taking that as the springboard to talking more about me, who I am, what it is that I actually do outside of Autism remediation.

Well, to start with, I'm a dog trainer. That's both what I do, and who I am. I can't really say I do it "to make a living", because nobody could live on what I'm making (!), but I do get paid, so that officially makes me a Professional. (Incidently, it IS possible to do just fine on a dog trainer's salary, if you're working enough hours. It's just not possible for ME to work enough hours to make a living on it at the moment.) Technically I work part-time (about 20 hours a week on a good week), but I am a full-time dog trainer, as I don't just train dogs, I live with them too. Same way there's no such thing as a part-time mother (something that has always cracked me up when someone refers to themselves as a "full-time mom", as if there is any other type of Mom!). I teach herding lessons to owner/dog teams on my farm, I train other people's dogs for stockwork on occassion, and I teach dog obedience classes and lessons at a local dog training facility a couple nights a week. I also work for a dog agility trial secretary, running agility (athletic doggy obstacle courses) trials on a much more part-time basis, but that's just for a little additional income, it doesn't have much to do with what I see myself as "doing".

I have a sheep farm. Well, WE have a sheep farm. The Map Man (who's other nickname is "The Accidental Farmer") wasn't raised in a family with a history of farming the way I was, but he would have made a fine dairy farmer if he were more interested in cattle and less interested in bridge design -- talk about a work ethic! He certainly pulls his weight around here, especially this time of year with so much water-hauling and ice-chopping to be done. So the fact that I'm the driving force behind living the way we do doesn't make it my farm. It's definitely ours.

I used to have a wool business -- I raised Angora rabbits, and sold their fiber along with my sheep's fiber to other hand-spinners (using a spinning wheel to make yarn, which I also do -- er, well, I CAN do, I haven't exactly found much time for that sort of thing lately). But when Autism made an appearance here, and my time started getting eaten up with the accompanying therapies, etc, I disbanded my business, sold all my rabbits, and switched from a wool breed of sheep to a hair breed (which doesn't need as much care). As much as I loved being involved with fiber animals, training dogs has a better pay check. So our farm has since converted primarily to a stockdog training facility. I'll slowly be converting it back to a fiber farm (at laest partially) once my time is not so occupied elsewhere.

When I first started in sheep, I needed a dog to help. So I got a Collie, a big black hairy Rough-coated (think Lassie) male. Prior to that, I'd been in sporting dogs (and was an avid hunter for years, another hobby that's fallen by the wayside, and another story entirely), and had trained my dogs as gundogs. My first Collie made such an impression on me, and I enjoyed training him to herd so much, that another Collie followed. Then a Border Collie. Then a whole litter of Collies. Then some more Collies. You get the picture. I currently live with 7 dogs -- at times I've had twice that many, but as I finish up a dog's training and working career and retire them, I start keeping my ears open for a family with a wonderful home to give a well-trained dog, and I give the dog away. At first that was hard for me, as I'm quite attached to all of my dogs, but it would be selfish for me to hang onto a dog that wasn't going to get the benefit of a lot of attention from me (which the dogs I'm working do). I do have a couple of old retired dogs -- one ancient hunting companion from long ago, and that first Collie I mentioned above -- who are perfectly happy with retirement and will be here for the rest of their lives, but in general if the dog will benefit from being a family's only beloved pet, I will let them go on to fulfill another destiny after I'm done working them.

In any case, our new pup is my next up-and-coming working star, as well as a fun diversion for us and the kids. And other than being a Mom, that's the biggest part of who I am right now. Of course, I've not always been this same person. But that's probably enough about me for now.


At 4:02 PM, Blogger Kathy Darrow said...

So Shel, When I finally get a puppy ( I am hoping to hold out till the fall :)) I can have you train it and then I will come get it, LOL! I would settle for some pointers on teaching the dog to NOT take off! Of course my two doggies who are now in doggie heaven never went anywhere since for about 4 years we lived in an apartment, and I had no kids so I had time to train them LOL......
But my fear is that I will get a puppy for the kids and it will get out of the yard and take off!

So we will have to chat when the time comes!!! LOL


At 9:01 AM, Blogger Karen said...

What a cute pup! We just passed the one year mark with our Westie and she knows four commands in sign language. We're having so much fun with her that I wished I had a dog years ago!


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