Fun on the Farm

I love unexpected afternoons that end up on a positive note.

Last week we happened upon a dog training farm in Duncan (located in the District of Cowichan Valley) on Vancouver Island complete with sheep, lambs, ducks and one wily border collie.

And, as I happened to have one Shetland sheepdog in the hatchback of my car, I thought it a good idea to see how she would respond to the little lambs that were silently grazing behind a fence. Especially since knowing that the breed (sheltie for short) are herding dogs that originated from Scotland’s remote and rugged Shetland Islands. Known to be easy trainers and world-class competitors in obedience, agility, and herding trials, I was dying to find out how she’d react.

We took Layla out of the car and held her as she watched and sniffed, all the while appearing calm and disinterested.

Anyway, before we drove off we stopped by the farm which goes by the name Ash Farms and has been in the family for generations as we learned from Linda, the owner, who came out and greeted us.  As luck would have it, she’s a dog trainer with a specialty in training them to herd sheep and ducks.

A light went off!  After chatting with Linda for several minutes I decided to take a trial training run from her to find out if Layla has what it takes.  Even though I don’t live on a farm and don’t plan to buy sheep anytime soon.

My imagination led me to believe that Layla would start chasing them around the pen in circles while nipping at their hind legs and I expected that it might get out of control.

So Linda, with the help of her very smart border collie Jock, was more than patient to find out if Layla has a natural instinct. Jock helped to show Layla a few tricks. They showed us that there’s a method – and it starts off slow with an eye to follow the sheep.

 

We learned a few things. 

For instance, we found out that instinct to herd is largely inherited, not learned.  Like ballet or piano, it’s better to start them off young.

Therefore, instinct is a response to stock that no amount of training can create. However, the greatest instincts are not useful without a willingness to work with the handler. Trainability is as important as good instinct, so the greater level of working accomplishments by the parents, the higher the likelihood the offspring will achieve these skills. Without attention to this in breeding, it is all chance. 

Ahhh…makes sense now.  Her parents never herded farm animals.

So we took a chance.  It was worthwhile nonetheless.  Layla needs to be more wolf like in her approach so that the sheep are afraid of her.  They were not.  They kept their eyes on her though.

 

Layla has potential but seemed distracted and would need more lessons without me hanging around.  For now she’ll go back to chasing squirrels and Canada Geese – something she prefers.

Besides…Layla has her own little lamb.

Photos: d. king

well that was weird

 

 

 

Chemainus: small town; big charm

It’s easy to see why this open-air art gallery draws visitors from all over the world. 

This is only a splattering of photos taken with my Samsung phone camera a few days ago.  See story below.

Like many others right now during this pandemic craze, I’m tending to stick closer to home.  Well maybe not always too too close; but close enough.  At the very least I’ve been discovering places in the province where I live that I have either never been to and wanted to visit, or haven’t visited in such a long time, that I can’t even remember when I was there last.

Such was the case a few days ago when I took the ferry from Vancouver to Vancouver Island with my boyfriend Paul and Layla, my sheltie.  The reason I decided to go in the first place was to look at the possibility of getting a companion dog for Layla.  I was very interested in getting another male sheltie who lives on the island. However, without going into detail it sadly was not meant to be, at least for now…so we decided to make a little holiday out of the situation.

We took the ferry boat one way going there and another way coming back with stopovers in some quaint little towns…Ladysmith, Chemainus, Duncan and finally ending up in Victoria to take the ferry back to Vancouver.  The weather for November was excellent and the scenery very picturesque.

And speaking of picturesque…I was aware of an abundance of story-telling murals in Chemainus as I had been there once before, but I had no idea that it is known as Canada’s Mural Capital. And I don’t remember seeing nearly as many as I did this time around.

I was blown away by how this proud seaside community shares its heritage and celebrates its history through art on the sides of stores, restaurants and private homes. The creation of one mural and sculpture after another which began in 1982, has turned this tiny town into Canada’s largest permanent outdoor art gallery.  And might I add… when was the last time you stood in front of a “Subway” sandwich shop or “Canada Post Office” in admiration?.

You can follow the yellow footsteps (like the yellow brick road) on the sidewalks to locate all the murals.  Although we did it by chance and decided to spend the night in a hotel there so we could enjoy the town the next day.

Town History:

When Chemainus was established in 1858, forestry was the principal industry, and it is still central to its life.  The townspeople were concerned about the future of their one-industry town so looked to economic diversification as a way to thrive.  As it has a natural beauty setting to begin with, it made sense to expand as a tourist spot so The Chemainus Murals Program was born. 

The subject from the beginning has been the community’s heritage, reflecting the history of the First Nations people and their life here, and the unfolding story of settlement by the families and individuals who built the community. 

World renowned Vancouver Island artist Emily Carr’s legacy is depicted in a special Emily Carr Mural Series.  It’s really beautiful.

The name Chemainus is believed to have come from a legendary First Nations shaman and prophet who survived a massive wound in his chest to become a powerful chief.  Tsa-meeun-is (Broken Chest).

If you’re looking for The Mural of the Story…

Going by the official mural guide I can look through and tell you by number what each mural means, however I think it best you go there and discover for yourself… if only because it really is worthwhile.