This here bringer of the pooper to the fun party

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.

  • Anna

    Made me laugh out loud. Not fake internet LOL, but really laughing out loud. With a migraine. Thanks!

  • I love your dogs. I think I even find them more interesting than my dogs. Haha…

    Only joking.

    Go Obama!

  • LOLDEARGODTHANKYOU!! I’m dying right now, because of laughing so hard on top of the heartburn I somehow gave myself at dinner, but it’s so, SO worth it.

  • At least – AT LEAST – the sheep did not chase you and slap your ass. There must be some dignity left in there. I’m not sure how much (I think they’re using the metric system to measure dignity these days) but some, surely.

  • Anonymous

    If that isn’t love, WHAT IS?

  • Dooce. Lady. Chica. Woman. You did all this, and NOBODY thought to record a video? What kind of a husband have you been raising?

  • Video. We need video.

  • LizAndrsn

    Sheep move faster when chased with knitting needles. And a drop spindle.

    I’m just saying….

  • Our Border Collie herds the kids and stares down any ball that moves in our house as if it were an active live thing she has to keep penned. She probably wishes we live in Utah. I understand your glee.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • murphy

    Yup, brilliantly described. I have Aussies myself, and years ago (1998?) I took my girl Murphy (my internet name is in her honor) to a sheep herding clinic. I’ll never forget when it clicked in her brain that she could move the sheep. She LOVED it! Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to do it again (it’s either a lack of time or a lack of money), and she passed away in her sleep this year at the ripe old age of 15 and almost 1/2. But that moment is in my brain like it happened last week. It’s so cool

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Traci in GA

    I am laughing out loud! I knew the Coco with the sheep story would be great. As the owner of a Shetland Sheepdog I sooo understand. But can’t say I have every chased sheep myself…

  • Oh wonderful! Thank you, I totally needed this excellent story. Now I can call it a day, with a smile on my face… and the image of you herding sheep! =)

  • To Coco, you, Leta, Jon and possibly even Chuck are her sheep. Mine walks around the house in circles just checking on us all dam day. Makes her crazy that we don’t all just stay in the same dam room.

    I’ve always wondered what Lilith would do with sheep.

  • The thought of Jon recounting the story to his friends is almost funnier than the actual story. Priceless

  • Kim

    It is one of life’s greatest shames that Jon did not capture that scene on video, though don’t think that kept me from laughing until I cried anyway! You’re a sport for having done that. I would’ve REFUSED.

  • Anonymous

    Hilarious!

    I just had to share that I sympathize with the anal gland thing – I work at a vet clinic and all it takes is s mall fright for some dogs to become keenly aware of their anal glands ;).

    Good for Coco – sounds fun!

  • Brian

    Please oh, PLEASE in the name of Joseph Smith, the Nauvoo temple and the 12 year old boys carrying the sacrament, please put out a calendar next year of nothing but you wearing Disney Princess diapers.

    On your head, as a bikini, as your temple garments whilst being babtized, I don’t care I just want that as a Christmas gift for all of my beloved family members.

  • the niffer

    God, woman, you are funny.

  • kate

    My ex boyfriend’s mom had a collie. She’d FREAK OUT if we weren’t all in the same room and she’d try and push us all into a little herd. I could never figure out where she learned this as this all took place on Staten freakin’ Island. Blood will out, I guess!
    Unrelated to the sheep but related to bee sting Tweet: I got stung by a yellowjacket last Friday. The damn thing still itches. But, I learned a valuable lesson: If it was a bee, use something basic/alkali (epsom salts) to soothe it. If a wasp/yellowjacket/hornet use something acidic (vinegar, lemon juice, etc….)

  • Heather, I have to tell you… There IS a movie about vindictive sheep! It’s awful and hilarious and you should rent it immediately. The title is: Black Sheep (no, not will David Spade, it’s the other one). It’s set in New Zealand.

    Oh, and the sheep are vicious.

  • Alayna

    Laughed so hard I cried. Thanks for that.

  • PS: not *will* David Spade = not with David Spade. Gah.

  • Erin

    Crying, CRYING with laughter. And off to bed. You truly rule.

  • Erin

    I wish we had sheep when I was kid. Then maybe our insane sheltie I had as a young girl (who was probably reincarnated as Coco) wouldn’t have burned holes in the rug from running in circles or maybe wouldn’t have shattered the sliding glass door (completely unharmed). It’s amazing to see what they were born to do, and even more sad to see them when they’re kept from it. Thanks for your post – I had a terrific laugh. : )

  • Amy

    It is a sad testament to my emotional unstability that through this awesome post all I could think was “ohhhhh – it is so sad that Coco is going to be so happy and then never get to do this again.” My glass is half-empty the part that is left is cruddy water, not beer!!!

  • Kathy

    And is there not video evidence of Heather chasing sheep and slapping said sheep’s asses for the internet to witness????

  • CJ

    Dang, that was funny. But have you ever seen sheep balls? I kid you not – they are MASSIVE. (I’ve been to the Iowa State Fair).

  • Alison

    Heather, never move to NZ. The sheer (haha i’m so funny) number of sheep would give you a heart attack.

  • Laughing so hard at the situation of sheep ass slapping. Great great post. Glad the dog got it in the end 🙂

  • Ely

    So that photo of Chuck balancing a beer on his head? Hilarious. But what makes it that much funnier is the title. I go to the University of Wisconsin and something tells me that later this weekend I’m going to get my roommates to balance beer bottles on our heads. Then we’ll take pictures. It’ll be epic.

    Thanks for making me laugh on a super shitty day filled with studying.

  • Katie

    This has to be the BEST.POST.EVER.

  • Anonymous

    OMG I think I just pee’d a little…..that was freakin hilarious…I could just see you slapping the wool……too funny….thanks for making my day..

  • #99

    So….what about Chuck?
    Did he get treats when you all got home?

    Certainly hope so!

    Go Coco!
    Go Leta!
    Go Heather!
    Jon, you and Chuck might have to have a boys night out!

  • janet jackson

    oh my god i love you.
    thank you for making me laugh so much.
    best. writer. ever.

  • Jan

    I need to know where you took her. Please?!?! We have a crazy sheep dog who needs to chase something too.

  • Thanks for letting me live vicariously through you and Coco. I always promised my Shetland Sheepdog, Tyler Gable Katarungan that someday I would get him a sheep to chase so he could be a REAL dog someday, and not an L.A. apartment-bound, only-knows-the-dogpark kind of pup. But alas… it never happened and he’s gone now. So happy days with Coco — it was great reading (and seeing previous pix 🙂 — thanks!

  • Congratulations on raising a nerd! That’s fantastic!

    Since it’s too late and you’ve already admitted to the Internet that you’ve chased sheep and slapped their asses, I think we deserve to see a video. What could it hurt?

  • It hurts to laugh when I’m this pregnant, but it was SO WORTH IT. The image of you slapping sheep in a Disney Princess diaper? Fabulous. We’ve got an Aussie (not a mini which would be SO NICE in our tiny rented home) and I would love to see him get to do something like this. My husband got him in Delta, UT (yup, born and raised in Bountiful, both of us) and we’ve always wanted to take him back and watch him do his thing.

  • Emily

    For some reason, in my mind’s picture of you herding the sheep, you had a purse. Like a canvas tote bag purse type thing. It was distracting.

  • Carolyn

    Damn I love it when dogs just instinctively do Dog things. I’m actually glad there isn’t any video cause I would likely get some secondary embarrassment.

    And I’m not sure if anyone else said this, but sheep are dumb as a box of hammers (after all the time spent butting each other), and would hurt your silly self if they decided to butt you. So, if they should start looking at you, and backing up, then it’s time to run. (Though the thought of you being chased by a sheep, being chased by Coco, is damn funny, and would require video…)

  • Don

    Heather,

    It’s stories like these that keep me coming back. You’re like the crazy sister I never had. Well, scratch that, I already have three, but you’d fit right in!

  • There are classes for dogs? That don’t involve sitting or fetching…that’s kind of cool actually. I want my cats to take a class too! I’m all for continuing education, maybe they could learn under-water welding. I hear there’s good money in that…

  • Anonymous

    Baaa ram uuuuu Baaa ram uuuuu
    to your flock your kin be truuuu
    baaa raaam uuuu

    that should have done it.

  • Aimless

    I am laughing so hard I am crying!! I sooo wich there was video of the ass slapping with high pitched ‘Cocoooo’ howl.

  • Heather

    Love it! I hope coco appreciates you! Thanks so much for the laugh it came at just the right time!

  • JeanMarie

    Re the horror movie idea: You should totally watch Black Sheep. It’s a movie from New Zealand about homicidal sheep (for real).
    You’re probably glad I’m telling you this now- after you’ve dealth with the scariness that is sheep.

  • Anonymous

    Are you ever going to post the Wii winners?

  • For the record: I have been reading (and enjoying) this blog for two years. I don’t think I’ve ever commented. But still. For two years I have been, silently, to myself, giggling (also, I’ve been cheerleading, supporting, and loving it, all to myself). But. Heather. Today. This night. After only one glass of wine and on plenty of sleep. . . Tonight I laughed. Out loud. Often.

    I’m so happy that I might just have that second glass. Thank you.

  • JeanMarie

    Okay now I feel like an idiot cos I commented before reading the comments and then when I read the comments I realised just how many people beat me to the Black Sheep reference. Dammit.

  • I used to live with a boyfriend and his herding dog, who had The Crazy. To cope with a solid lack of sheep to herd, he went and bought her a dozen soccer balls, dumped them in the yard, and that dog herded those balls around the yard for hours on end.

    It nipped The Crazy right in the bud, let me tell you.