Playful, elegant, and not above the judicious use of the word “shit."

Rounding out her resume

A few weeks ago the owners of Coco’s parents asked if we’d like to join them for a two-hour session of herding lessons up in Huntsville, Utah, about an hour north of here. We’d been thinking of looking into something like this for Coco, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to check it out and see if this was something all of us could handle. All of us, that is, except Chuck because we left him home. For a couple of reasons. One, he’s not a herding breed and would be as lost among those sheep as I would have been at sixteen inside a sex shop, all, um, what is that long stick there with two balls on either side? Is that some sort of fancy back-scratcher? Two, he’s terribly unpredictable when confronted with animals not of his own species and has been known to suddenly discover his anal glands when in the presence of horses or cows.

So one gorgeous Sunday morning we packed up a lunch, hooked both Leta and Coco into the backseat and headed north. But not before stuffing a bag full of books for Leta to read and flip through. Because when we told her we were going to see sheep she asked, “Will those sheep have books I can read?” Granted, that’s the first question she asks when we get in the car to go anywhere. Do they have books there? Can I read their books? Which I will admit is sort of cute in the sense that it’s obvious we’re raising a nerd, but it’s sometimes frustrating. Because even though there are books at the grocery store, Leta, I don’t want to spend twenty minutes over there in that aisle, not when the only reason I made this trip was to pick up a gallon of milk and a package of earplugs. Because today Apple is announcing new products and Daddy is going to be doing A LOT OF TALKING.

Hunstville is a quaint, scenic town just up from Ogden Canyon, and when we pulled up to the ranch for lessons we immediately met Coco’s parents, Lucy and Willie. I’ve said this before, but it was such a strange experience to meet a dog related to my dog, let alone her parents, because we have no idea where or under what sort of circumstances Chuck was born. And because we haven’t had any of his DNA checked out we have no idea what sort of breeds could be swirling around in there, and for all we know a cat got freaky with a deer and out popped a creature who can balance a beer bottle on his head.

And it occurred to me that meeting Coco’s mother was probably a lot like what Jon experienced the first time he met my mother and was all, oh. Now I get it. The Crazy is hereditary.

Since all of the dogs in attendance were beginners the trainer talked to us all about what would happen, how one of us would accompany her and the dog into a pen about 1/10 of an acre big, and then when inside she’d show us techniques as to how to encourage the dog to chase the sheep. At this point Leta was sitting on a grassy spot and reading books about twenty feet from the group of us, and Coco was interested in nothing but her whereabouts. WHERE IS SHE? WHERE IS SHE? WHERE IS SHE? Coco, Leta is fine. She’s right there reading books. Chill out. BUT SOMETHING COULD HAPPEN! SOMETHING COULD HAPPEN! SOMETHING COULD HAPPEN! Nothing is going to happen, calm down. DOES. NOT. COMPUTE. MUST. CRY. WILDLY. Is that not totally heartbreaking, though? That Coco is so interested in the well-being of someone who, if gifted with only a slightly more advanced vocabulary, would tell her to fucking suck it.

I volunteered to go into the pen with Coco while Jon and Leta had snacks on the grass, and I’ll tell you what. Sheep are scary. First of all, they’re way bigger in person than on television. And then one of them had this crazed look in its eyes, like it was going to charge me at any second, and I don’t know enough about sheep to know if it could cause any real damage if it went ahead with that plan. But I had faith that this trainer knew what she was doing and had not put me in contact with a homicidal farm animal. Although I think that’s a great idea for a horror movie: vindictive sheep. Or at least an episode of Dr. Phil where he tries to convince them to be more forgiving.

Coco eyed the sheep suspiciously, but other than that she had no interest and ran to the side of the pen to make sure Leta was still alive. So the trainer asked me to start chasing the sheep myself. And then she tacked on to that request an addendum that I would like to use as a warning to every single person out there who ever plans to marry. You might want to make sure that when you take your vows that somewhere in there is a clause that says, “If I am ever asked to run around a pen in pursuit of a sheep so that I might slap its ass, you are not allowed to recount what that looks like to any of your friends.”

Internet, I chased sheep and slapped their asses. And after a few seconds I totally forgot what it ever felt like to have any dignity. Coco watched me for several minutes, dumbfounded, and when the trainer pointed out that her attention had shifted from Leta to me she asked me to start yelling Coco’s name in a high-pitched voice. Because the whole situation wasn’t already ridiculous enough. This was exactly what my nightmares look like, except in those I’m usually wearing nothing but a Disney Princess diaper and have just been told that tomorrow I have an exam in a French class that I forgot I had signed up for.

But that’s when something magical happened, and I will never forget this. I swear to God, suddenly Coco gave me this look, and I promise the look was in perfect English. It said: YOU HAVE GOT TO BE SHITTING ME. YOU ARE ACTUALLY ENCOURAGING ME TO CHASE THOSE ANIMALS?

And that was it. All it took was a nod of my head, and her DNA kicked in. All of a sudden we had a sheep herder. An honest-to-God herding dog. She showed glee and exhilaration and skill that I did not know she had in her. For the next hour and a half as she took turns with the other dogs, she would sit outside the pen with both eyes fixed like lasers on the sheep inside, letting out a tiny moan when one of them would move. Jon and I would exchange knowing glances, like here was our dog doing what it was born to do, and isn’t it magnificent? And that’s when I suggested we adopt a herd of sheep, our backyard could fit maybe six or seven, we could harvest the wool and sell handmade clothes on Etsy. He said he would consider it when he’s dead.

  • mogsie

    oh dear… I laughed so hard my coffee came out my nose ~

    “Consider it when he’s dead” ~ HAHAHAHAHAHAHAA!!!

    But Jon, what about all that free fertilizer/dog food???

    Hmmmm???

    🙂

  • Seriously, this is the best thing you could have done for Coco. She’s bored out of her mind and needs this kind of stimulation. She’s probably thrilled to have something to do.

    My dog is currently hanging out with his mom and dad right now. He’s the splitting image of his poppa. Unbelievable.

  • I’d just like to know where Jon and his fancy video equipment were when the sheep-chasing was under way.

  • Jennifer

    Aww, at least Jon is considering it.
    From the grave yes, but compromise is the name of the game in a marriage. 🙂

  • Am I the only one who thinks Coco’s papa is one handsome devil?

  • Carla

    Sheep are insane! I lived in Africa for a bit and worked as a veterinary technician. We had fifty sheep on the farm. Towards the end of my time there we had to take some sheep to market which meant catching them. Catching a sheep is not fun…this species in particular can jump over your head (I am 5’5” by the way)! Needless to say, my friend ended up in the hospital that day because she broke her finger by trying to catch a sheep in mid air. Good times….

  • Elizabeth

    HAHAHA this post seriously MADE.MY.DAY. When I was reading about you chasing sheep and slapping their asses…I was literally picturing that in my head and I couldnt stop laughing. I am not kidding. I was laughing out loud, by myself, for a good five minutes straight. Thank you so much!!! And the picture of Chuck and CoCo reminds me of my two beagles. They never want to chew their own bone, they have to have the one that the other one has. Once they get the others bone, they want the original one and around we go again!

  • If it looked even 10% as funny in real life as I imagined it in my head, I’m not sure how Jon was able to keep his shit together while you were in sheep ass-slapping mode. Dear God, that is hilarious.

  • Alexandra

    i’ve been reading your blog for a while now

    i just have to say:

    . you’re amazing.
    . you’re hilarious.
    . this blog put a huge smile on my face!
    . thank you!!

  • isn’t it amazing how they just know how to herd? no one teaches them…they just do. my aunt and uncle had a border collie that would herd their other dogs (cocker spaniels). each time the other dogs would get up and go down the hall the collie would get up and follow them keeping them in line. it was almost ocd-like. he didn’t have to herd but he HAD TO HERD. 😉

  • Joe

    And none of this is on tape? No Stills.
    Another great adventure well told.

    Thank You

  • wait, i can’t stop laughing! dooce, you’re awesome.

  • Well, today’s your lucky day! There just happens to be a film already in existence entitled Black Sheep… where “an experiment in genetic engineering turns harmless sheep into blood-thirsty killers that terrorize a sprawling New Zealand farm.” You should make Coco study this film, should she ever be faced with a similar situation.

  • It’s fantastic that you are giving Coco the chance to do her “work” of herding and Chuck the chance to do his, sitting quietly and balancing. My sister has her dog at the lake right now, a chocolate lab doing what she loves too, swimming and retrieving.

  • The movie Black Sheep is excellent for a horror zombie sheep movie. Lovely accents! W00T!

  • Val

    The line “This was exactly what my nightmares look like, except in those I’m usually wearing nothing but a Disney Princess diaper and have just been told that tomorrow I have an exam in a French class that I forgot I had signed up for” made me laugh out loud. Thank you for sharing this, Heather. I had a less-than-fun-filled day at work and this gave me one of my first laughs today. 🙂

  • So THAT’S why you were humping the dashboard– you already lost your dignity on sheep. Kidding! I’m kidding. Teasing.

    Sheep are so sweet and docile! We have some down the street in a friend’s very large yard. I very much want my own now. You city girl, you… afraid of sheep! (Sheep eyes CAN be googly and awful, though, I’ll give you that.)

    N.

  • Okay, your smile in that photo is really cute, Heather. The way your teeth are just coming over your lip a bit? Cute.

  • At the end of this month we are taking Luke, our 8-month-old Pembroke Welsh corgi puppy to a herding instinct trial in Northern California. Since I heard (herd?) about this trial I have been atwitter with anticipation. After reading this post I am now dying in anticipation. Cannot WAIT to see my little puppy running around after sheep. Of course, it may turn out to be a Lack of Herding Instinct Trial, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. Like Chuck, our terrier Bo will need to be left at home. When confronted with another species, his first instinct is to kill it, and failing that, to hump it.

  • Bex

    Haha! So hilarious to read about someones reaction to sheep. I live in New Zealand where the Sheep to Human ratio is 10 to 1. There are just over 4 million people in New Zealand. Anyway, vindictive sheep- see Black Sheep. It’s a New Zealand movie. Doesn’t take itself too seriously. Haha, I am still laughing at you being scared of sheep. They’re so like… fluffy. and have about 4 brain cells. They will charge at you if you get between them and their lambs.

  • JoY

    and speaking of dogs and dog lovers:
    Are ya sick of politics? Take a break.
    If you get the National Geographic Channel, and haven’t seen this yet,I highly recommend you watch or tivo Dogtown: “Saving the Michael Vick Dogs”. You won’t be disappointed. This is one of the most heart-wrenching, infuriating, BUT MOST OF ALL heart-warming documentaries I’ve seen. It is only showing ONE more time….this Friday the 12th at 2:00pm on National Geographic Channel and their HD channel. I guarantee that you will be glued to this story about 4 of the dogs that were rescued from Michael Vicks dog fighting compound. The trainers at Best Friends Animal Society are amazing.

  • i loved EVERYTHING about this.

  • alternately, you could procure more dogs. We had a herding dog to herd dogs. it worked out well. You could look out the window and see this big swirling mass of fur with Pickles orbiting around it. They would return inside exhausted and Pickles would be smiling for hours afterwards. I have a min pin that could use some herding. I think he will fit in an USPS overnight box.

  • Kristi

    I have had a completely shit day. The day where your kids don’t listen, your husband doesn’t call, the car breaks down, you burn yourself and the 22 year old person who is supposed to help you on an occasional basis so that you can do fun things like go to the dentist has HER MOTHER call you to quit the job.

    Thank you for making me laugh and realize that my dog is the center of the universe. If only I’d listen to her and stay on the couch, none of this crap would happen. Please pass along my Emily-dog’s best to your Coco.

  • I, too, am commenting to beg for footage of this escapade…

  • I’ll buy handmade clothes made from Coco-chased sheep, but only if the clothes are ridiculously overpriced. Believe it or not, I do have standards…

  • junewell

    Funniest thing I have read in a long, long time. Brought tears to my eyes. Thank God you have a blog so you could share this with the world.

  • samantha

    i’d buy that wool… seems perfectly reasonable to me!

  • Rachael D.

    So, last night I thought of Coco when my husband and I streamed (online streaming from netflix is great) NATURE:DOGS.

    It is a PBS special, 4 out of 5 star rating, about dogs.

    One of the first dogs featured is a border collie. And the first snippet is a family deciding if they should get one.

    It made me think of all the stories I’ve read here about Coco and made me chuckle 🙂

    Go check it out. Its within the first 5 minutes of the show.

  • I’m thinking that Coco is secretly awesome!

  • Slonik

    I burst out laughing at work and nearly let out a fart when I reached the vows bit. Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    Cute story! Thanks for a peek at something most of us might never experience. While I’m at it, I’m one of those folks who has been dead set against the sharing of young children’s experiences and photos coupled with their real names on the Internet, but lately, and I’m not sure why–maybe just because everyone IS doing it–it’s ceased to bug me, so I would like to say I’m sorry for previous critical remarks. I apologize, and you go! I enjoy your blog a lot.

  • I love the idea of packing up and driving for an hour to herding lessons. I’m so there. The things we do for our dogs!

  • Terra

    Honestly, I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon. Unless there were also alpaca involved (they look like the Ramones with their bangs, and all).

    Go, Coco! My golden retriever has no natural instinct for her breed. I’m pretty sure she’s afraid of ducks, and doesn’t really get the bringing it back part of retrieving.

  • So funny, so so funny.

  • If you ever need help boosting Leta’s vocabulary, let me know. My kid has the word “fucking” absolutely nailed, right on down to the context. You’ve never seen anything as surreal as a two-year-old playing with an alphabet shape-sorter who yells “fucking!” as he struggles to jam the “A” into the “B” slot. Well, then again, maybe you have. Since you’ve herded sheep.

  • Anu

    Well…now that you’ve described your version of your sheep chasing, ass-slapping experience, Jon is free to give us his version. I hope there is a post very soon (more graphic details please) about the sheep ass-slapping on blurbomat 🙂

  • Oh, you guys are totally Doggie Whipped.

  • Janet

    I have been waiting for this post since you posted the pic of Coco herding a few weeks ago. It is the coolest thing to see that ancient instinct kick in, isn’t it? I have two sheep crazy corgis, who unfortunately are stuck living with me in the city, and only get to see sheep a few times a year. See my cute little 6 month old puppy getting her first introduction here: http://www.tennlamb.com/index_files/Page856.htm

    She also herds ducks, which I find are much more my speed and very cute.

  • Meg

    Go, Coco! 🙂

  • Elizabeth

    Thanks for writing that — it DID make a great break from everything else — even better than I had imagined! My breed’s so-called natural bred-for talent is cart pulling… I’ve had some that were naturals and others that were positive the cart was out to get them. In spite of that we’ve titled at dog-cart pulling in two countries. Also wanted to add that OUR zoo-going experience, one of those “let’s do something wonderful as a family” events?? EXACTLY LIKE YOURS, including the face down on the ground screaming hissy fit. Because he needed a drink and in the process and got a drop of water on his shirt… Because there was sunshine. Because the french fries were actually near a potato in the recent past (and so had some skin on one edge)… Because they didn’t have fizzy water…

    Kids are NOT for the faint of heart. I would NEVER, ever encourage anybody to do it… I would be whole-heartedly excited and supportive of anyone who DID decide to do it, but would never suggest that someone do it if they hadn’t come to the conclusion they wanted to already. And I also think you should have to get a license… Just to show that you are doing this ON PURPOSE.

  • Ok I almost never laugh out loud when I’m reading blogs but this is damn funny. Please god, let me come across someone doing this. I live just north of Huntsville. My odds cant be that bad right?

  • OMG! Dooce handspun sheep’s wool & Coco fur mittens on Etsy? I WOULD TOTALLY BUY THAT!

  • That must have been cool to see Coco take to the herding. A friend of mine has a herding dog that’s herded me into a corner many times – I will trust that her dog is just ‘advanced’ and that I don’t look like a crazed sheep. What an opposite Coco must be to Chuck, who while obviously not cool with sharing his bones, seems a little more laid back. The fact that you can get him to sit with a blue wig on – or a beer bottle or treats – amazes me. So cute. I know it’s all about Coco, but I love Chuck.

  • And my question to Jon is:

    DUDE – WHERE ARE THE PHOTOGRAPHS???

  • Hahahahaha – posts like this make me giggle like a banshee. Cheers for sharing the experience!

  • marty

    Funniest damned post ever! Thanks!!

  • Laughing out loud. Literally. Wonderful post.

  • E!

    I know this has nothing to do with this post, but I think your new header is my favorite one and I’ve been reading this site for a loong time. 🙂

  • “Because today Apple is announcing new products and Daddy is going to be doing A LOT OF TALKING.”
    Wow. Now I know how my husband feels.

    Poor Coco, wanting to protect a being that would rather she went of to herd sheep forever. And yes, you are raising a nerd. It’s pretty charming. (Says the parent who is the one reading to their kid on public transit every day.)