Working Dog Diary

Working Dog Diary is a series of essays which reflect on the stockdog journey of Kay Spencer, the owner of Working Aussie Source. Previous chapters are located at the bottom of this page:

2005-2006      2007      2008     2009     2010     2012     2013     2014

Chapter 207: Holy Ground

For a long time now, I have been wondering where the spaciousness in my life went. I can remember when I lived in San Francisco and nominally attended art school, sitting in a caffe in North Beach, nursing my double cappuccino — back when Americans by and large didn't know what those were — and writing slowly in my journal, watching people go by. I didn't have to be anywhere.

I used to often take day hikes, accompanied by a dog, carrying a sweater, a bottle of water, and a peanut butter and jam sandwich. I'd leave in the morning and come back perhaps at dusk, footsore and hungry, sometimes wet, always dirty. On occasion I had a map but I never had a plan.

I also passed some years where I did very little besides hole up in my tiny writing studio and write stories and novels. I'd come out, blinking in the sun, wondering what time of day it was.

All that open-endedness has utterly vanished, replaced with endless responsibilities, each acceptably sized and innocent, even joyous, of itself. But slowly they have bred, produced offspring, set up sprawling complicated households in me, until now they approach the quality of nightmare. The kind of nightmare which seems so ordinary at first, then slowly the color and tempo change, darken and tighten inexorably until . . . well, until you wake up.

It has taken many years to entangle myself so thoroughly in these habits and burdens. Most days I stumble exhaustedly through a triaged endlessly revised list of what can't wait any more. I periodically have tried to "fix things". But I always fail, because I have looked at it all with the same vision that got me here to begin with, peering only through the If Only Lens. If only I had a mudroom, or a sheep pasture, or a stockdog which lacked the faults of the dogs I have now. If only I could refinish the floor, replace the rotting deck, fix the latch on the gate, rescue that garden bed. Then I'd have time to walk the dogs on the beach, write letters on cream laid paper with my vintage fountain pen. Travel. What a delusion.

Somehow, I have come to a stopping place. The big empty. I see with a degree of finality that there is no end to If Only. I see that there is no path back to spaciousness, not on this road. I have to step off the road. And stand there for a while. Without starting again.

It took me a couple decades to get here, it's not going to be simple or quick to get out. And, if once I get out, what am I going to do? Ah!

Nothing. Spaciousness, remember? I am going to wait upon God. There is a deep resonant stillness in the heart of things which only is available when the mind's busy officious chatter is allowed to drift into inconsequence, when there is nowhere that must be gone. This stillness is extraordinarily elusive, it cannot be put on a to-do list or budgeted for. It has to be wooed and waited for, in an empty place.

Today I had a stockdog lesson with George. I was a little chagrined to realize that Hope and I have already developed similar issues to Bonnie and I, and Ty and I. Wonder why that is? Could it be that I have training handling habits that are going to have to somehow change? That I can't do the same things over and over and not get the same results?

Driving home, I thought of something that Ron Green (a man I have never met, but who seems to have the right attitude about stockdogging) recently said in an online discussion group: "Remember that when you step out into a field with your dog, you are walking on holy ground."

That's where I want to walk: on holy ground. I won't be able to find it unless I stop looking for it, that is the mystery and challenge. When I am aware of walking on holy ground, I can honor everything appropriately. I can let the universe show me its goodness. I even know what that feels like in a field, with my dog, and some sheep. It feels timeless. It feels sufficient.

Archives Through 2006

Ch 1: That'll Do Ch 28: Pigs With Feathers
Ch 2: The Good Shepherd Ch 29: Stockdog Book of Virtues, Part 1
Ch 3: The Original Aussie Ch 30: Stockdog Book of Virtues, Part 2
Ch 4: Finding Bonnie Ch 31: Perseverance Furthers
Ch 5: Grit Ch 32: Duck Wars
Ch 6: The Border Collie Snob Ch 33: Baby Driver
Ch 7: Of Hobby Herders Ch 34: What Is A Breed?
Ch 8: Sherry Ch 35: Getting My Goats
Ch 9: On The Road Ch 36: Tule, Melba, and Snowdie
Ch 10: Green Dog, Green Handler Ch 37: One Morning
Ch 11: Out of the Playpen Ch 38: Quiet and Slow
Ch 12: Cows Ch 39: Hard Times
Ch 13: Trial Watching Ch 40: Rethinkings
Ch 14: Other People's Sheep Ch 41: The Not Boring Day
Ch 15: Taking To the Hills Ch 42: Being There
Ch 16: When Show Dogs Herd Ch 43: The Fate of the Farmdog
Ch 17: Back With The Cowboys Again Ch 44: Further Adventures With Goats
Ch 18: Bonnie Gets A Job Offer, Part 1 Ch 45: The Wasps
Ch 19: Bonnie Gets A Job Offer, Part 2 Ch 46: Taking Time
Ch 20: The Joy of Panels Ch 47: Sheep Shopping
Ch 21: Circles Ch 48: Me and Time Magazine
Ch 22: Ad Astra Ch 49: Trust
Ch 23: Sheep Church Ch 50: Bonnie Gets Another Job Offer
Ch 24: Be Prepared Ch 51: Fourth Clinic
Ch 25: The Point Ch 52: Right Dog, Wrong Dog
Ch 26: Ranchette Blues Ch 53: Winter
Ch 27: Post Mortem Ch 54: Versatility

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Archives 2007

Ch 55: Wool Ch 79: The Glorious Unknown
Ch 56: Hot Fences, Steep Pastures Ch 80: The Good Breeder
Ch 57: Reading Stock Ch 81: Something Comes In A Box
Ch 58: The Black Day Ch 82: L Bar J Oya Ty
Ch 59: Goatwifery Ch 83: Center Pen Novice
Ch 60: In Search Of Ch 84: More About the Boy
Ch 61: Mediocrity and Its Discontents Ch 85: Limiting Factors
Ch 62: Gambling Ch 86: The Tale of Tails
Ch 63: Lent Ch 87: More Fun With Livestock
Ch 64: Conservation Ch 88: The Tortoise
Ch 65: Ranch Trial Ch 89: Adventures With Ty
Ch 66: If Wishes Were Horses Ch 90: Center Pen Tantrums
Ch 67: The Holy Quest Ch 91: Learning the World
Ch 68: A Sea Change Ch 92: Homeliness
Ch 69: Long and Winding Road Ch 93: New Pasture
Ch 70: First Do No Harm Ch 94: Dog Games And Choke Chains
Ch 71: The Silver Bullet Ch 95: Cat Tails
Ch 72: Getting Serious Ch 96: Coyotes And Decisions
Ch 73: The Superior Horse Ch 97: Oor Bob
Ch 74: What's In A Name? Ch 98: Ty Goes To Kindergarten
Ch 75: The Grindstone Ch 99: A Little Help
Ch 76: We Head North Ch 100: Pygmalion
Ch 77: Olympia Trial Day One Ch 101: Healing
Ch 78: Bonnie Wins A Big Ribbon

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Archives 2008

Ch 102: New Year's Resolutions Ch 119: Rehab
Ch 103: Stepping Out Ch 120: Freedom
Ch 104: Stormy Weather Ch 121: Goats and Wildfire
Ch 105: Sacrament Ch 122: Ty's Progress
Ch 106: Stop and Stop Ch 123: Kelley of the Triune
Ch 107: Living In The Past Ch 124: Timing
Ch 108: Sheep At Last Ch 125: Gratefulness
Ch 109: The Five Stooges Ch 126: Cool Stuff
Ch 110: Greener Pastures Ch 127: Helper Dog
Ch 111: A Day Out Ch 128: Goose Wrangler
Ch 112: A Peaceful Heart Ch 129: Partnership
Ch 113: Teen Angel Ch 130: Teachers
Ch 114: First Kids Ch 131: Courage
Ch 115: Disaster Ch 132: Our Cougar
Ch 116: Nervous Nanny Ch 133: Widening the Circle
Ch 117: Pushing BackCh 134: My Posture Improves
Ch 118: Milk and EggsCh 135: The Seeds

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Archives 2009

Ch 136: Intention Ch 145: Carter Clinic, part one
Ch 137: Following Fear Ch 146: Carter Clinic, part two
Ch 138: Ty Junior Ch 147: God Talks About Wool
Ch 139: Being Nice Ch 148: Sour Milk
Ch 140: Don't Shoot Ch 149: They're All Collies
Ch 141: Carpe Diem Ch 150: O Canada
Ch 142: Chore Dog Ch 151: My Sad Happy Hat
Ch 143: Dream of Green Ch 152: The Lovely Bonnie
Ch 144: Ashes and Grace Ch 153: Romantics With A Cause
  Ch 154: Leaving Home
  Ch 155: Conclusions

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Archives 2010

Ch 156: Who's Talking? Ch 172: Bits and Pieces
Ch 157: Animals In Time Ch 173: My Other Dog
Ch. 158: One Sunny Day Ch 174: Travelogue Part One
Ch 159: When To Fold 'Em Ch 175: The Drizzly Jamboree
Ch 160: The Forgotten Ch 176: Cowdog 101
Ch 161: Doglessness Ch 177: Top of the World
Ch 162: The Quotidian Ch 178: S.M.S.S.
Ch 163: Inklings Ch 179: Covering
Ch 164: Dreamfarming Ch 180: Bonnie Hero
Ch 165: Smart Sheep Ch 181: Ty and Jay
Ch 166: Teachings Ch 182: Goats and Gates
Ch 167: Big Blue Progress Ch 183: Good Night
Ch 168: Virtual Herding Ch 184: And Thank You
Ch 169: Temperamental Journey  
Ch 170: North and Back  
Ch 171: Animal Family  

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Archives 2012

Chapter 185: New Directions Chapter 192: The Right Breed For You
Chapter 186: The Half Inch Chapter 193: Ruthlessness
Chapter 187: House of Corrections Chapter 194: Tova The Belpie
Chapter 188: No Fear Chapter 195: See Saw
Chapter 189: Setbacks and Sorrow Chapter 196: The Corner
Chapter 190: Music Lessons Chapter 197: Floating Observer
Chapter 191: Just Some Stuff  

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Archives 2013

Chapter 198: Spring at the Farmette Chapter 201: Following A Feel
Chapter 199: Hope  
Chapter 200: Hope Grows

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Archives 2014

Chapter 202: Invitations  
Chapter 203: Reminders  
Chapter 204: Hope is One
Chapter 205: Finesse  
Chapter 206: Control the Feet  

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