Herding Cats

Today’s guest post comes from Edith.

I’m sure most of you have heard the phrase “herding cats” referring to “a task that is extremely difficult or impossible to do, due to one or more variables being in flux and uncontrollable” according to Wikipedia.

Well, in my house, there lives a Sheltie aka a Shetland Sheepdog. Shelties are derived from dogs used in the Shetland Isles for herding and protecting sheep. I don’t have any sheep, but when we first got our dog, youngest daughter was still fairly young, and occasionally the puppy would try to “herd” her. Dog didn’t try to herd the larger members of the household and now that youngest daughter is well along in her teens, there isn’t anybody around here small enough to herd.

Until late February 2011, that is. That is when the dog found a CAT in our yard. Being excitable, she barked incessantly until I came out to investigate. Long story short, the cat is still here and is now a member of the family. The dog and the cat sometimes play with each other, chasing and wrestling, with both doing pretty equal amounts of chasing. But sometimes the cat is very definite that he does NOT want to play with the dog. But as he walks around the house, the dog decides he should be going somewhere else…so she herds him. Or tries to. She tries to nose him in the “right” direction, but the cat just keeps going where he wants to go and pays no attention to this bigger animal trying to push him in a different direction.

It’s quite amusing watching the dog put so much effort into something that is so futile. That is, it’s funny until I start to feel like it’s a metaphor for my life.

What have you done, or tried to do, that you could compare to herding cats?

109 thoughts on “Herding Cats”

  1. Morning all. Thanks for your fun story… I’d love to see the sheltie trying to herd the cat. Neither of our dogs are the herding type and I don’t think Zorro would allow himself to be herded either. He is definitely the alpha over both the dogs.

    OT. I typed this into yesterday’s blog earlier this morning but want to make sure Clyde sees it:
    “Clyde – don’t apologize and don’t stop. This is exactly what we all love about this blog – being able to connect to our little baboon troope – to share what’s going on. Saturday some of us are going over to PJs to do her gardening since she is still not fully recovered from her accident. We wouldn’t have this kind of opportunity if we didn’t know it was needed. I hope you continue to update us!”

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    1. About PJ’s garden day — Maybe planning around weather forecasts is kinda like herding cats. When have the forecasts been reliable anyway??? Sherrilee, Linda, Edith, Lisa, Barbara, Margaret, check your emails and get back to me with your thoughts. Snow or no snow, it WILL get done, PJ. Never fear. :-)

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  2. My kids grew up with Franklin, a pure white long-haired cat, and Eleanore, a pure white long-haired Samoyed cockapoo cross. One move and three years after the death of both we were still picking white hair off our clothing. The cat had the run of the house, as if you could teach a cat not to have the run of the house. The dog was allowed in the kitchen, back hall, and the kids’ bedrooms, which was a rather separate part of the house. They often wrestled until Franklin got tired of it, long before Eleanor did. So Franklin would go sit in the living room, where Eleanor could not go, about three feet from the dog and stare at her, with that complete indifference that is the way of cats. Eleanore would whimper and whine about it, but never went onto the living room rug. Periodically you could see the cat just proving to the dog in other ways that she could go where the dog could not.

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    1. Clyde — one of my dogs is a Samoyed — I completely understand how you can still be picking white hairs off things!

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  3. Good morning. The whole experience of interacting with other people and even domesticated animals is more or less like herding cats. Wild animals know that they should stay away from people. Every once in a while people understand that they should cooperate with each other and somehow they cooperate enough to do what is needed. Some times I am tempted to follow the example of the wild animals and stay away from people, but, like a fool, I always hope that people will change and start being more cooperative.

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  4. my cat herding simalarities come with my children. raising 5 kids is exactly like herding cat. i nudge them in one direction and they nonchalantly go about their lives wondering what i am doing.
    sad news yesterday. zeke my wolf dog and one of my favorite was diagnosed with kidney failure and is going to be put down in 20 minutes. ill be back after with a tear or two spent i am sure

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    1. Sorry to hear this. I was through this same thing not so long ago, and some friends of mine just lost one of their Shelties. You’re doing the best thing for Zeke; he’d thank you for not letting him suffer, if he could. It’s not much comfort, but it’s something to help through the loneliness after they’re gone.

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    2. I’m so sorry to hear about Zeke, tim. I only met him once, but he’s a sweetheart. It does leave a zeke size hole in your heart even knowing that he had a wonderful home with a family who loved him. Each one is special.

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    3. Oh, so sorry to hear about it, tim. I’m sure Zeke will be in the happy hunting grounds now. It’s so hard to lose our best friends.

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    4. thanks all. it is a reflective day. life compressed is a pet in your life. 10 years bam. but a nice 10 years. good til it wasn’t. wish i could say that about more things in life.

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  5. There is a name for a person who herds cats: editor. For nearly seven years I was an editor who had never had a relevant course in editing. The magazine I edited was remarkably mostly for how comically amateurish it was.

    Magazines mostly compensate writers and photographers in one of two ways. The better ones send a check to the contributor when they agree to hire him or her. The worse ones wait until the magazine has been printed, at which time they send contributors a copy of the magazine along with a check. The WORSTEST ones don’t send contributors anything until about seven to nine months after publication, and then only after the contributor has called and wept on the phone or threatened to sue to get the promised compensation. Guess which policy my magazine had.

    That meant I didn’t dare work with professional writers or photographers, as they would run to the national association monitoring such things and blow the whistle on us. Instead I worked with illiterate fishing guides, shoe salesmen who had never written anything before and beginning photographers who weren’t sure what all those buttons were were supposed to do.

    One of my frequent writers, a big guy from Saint Cloud who would flunk most high school English classes, wrote stories laced with references to the times he “hoovered” over a fishing hot spot in his boat. He meant “hover.” Thus, I had an early start in the art of reading tim’s posts!

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    1. I’ve seen that “hoover” for “hover” mistake before and it always makes me think of a vacuum cleaner.

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    2. My wife, in one of her former jobs as a textbook editor, found one of her authors cutting and pasting Wikipedia blocks into his chapters. Verbatim. Wikipedia. School textbooks. The author didn’t see anything remotely questionable about this.

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  6. Rise and SHine Baboons!

    The family reunions on my mother’s side of the family are always an experiment in cat herding. The numbers of people are large (there were 8 children–with 4 having died now and 37 living grandchildren, with hoards of descendants beyond that). They seem to get stuck in ruts and routines. Then if you need to make a decision in which maybe a change is needed, getting them to sit down and listen, then actually take a vote is impossible. People get engaged in new conversations–off topic of course, Uncle Leo pouts about the latest situation in which life done him wrong, and no one wants to make a decision, even about how they should vote.

    IT is an exercise in futility. I have given up and just eased out of the event. The herding takes too much effort for the results.

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  7. Lovely post, Edith. I think I have written before about our terrier’s perpetual struggle to dominate and control our cats. I am thankful that our terrier has at least some tolerance for cats, as many terriers simply can’t be trusted to not seriously harm cats.

    My own personal experience in herding cats is probably the time I was a participant-observer at a large bridal shop in Fargo when my daughter-in-law, her attendants (including my daughter), and her mother, were trying to decide on bridesmaids dresses. I tried to stay in the background as much as possible. It was interesting to see how hard it was for everyone to keep focused. Everywhere you turned was a new vista of distractions. Shoes over there, tiaras and jewelry and veils at the back, wedding dresses and bridesmaids dresses everywhere you turned. I swear I heard several of the young women mutter “Squirrel!” at intervals. I was thankful the color was already chosen. There were 5 bridesmaids with 5 vastly different sizes and shapes, all who lobbied for the dress that fit their shape the best. They arrived at a final decision without any bloodshed or tears, so it was a successful trip.

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    1. Good one, Renee. As a former groom and former wedding photographer, I have been highly critical of the way that planning for the typical American wedding puts stress on everyone, especially the young couple. A young woman I know (Annie) who has low self esteem recently agreed to marry a real creep. Everyone watching this was sick about her choice. But the tensions of the wedding prep caused the creep and his mother to go ballistic with nastiness toward Annie and her family. Annie has called it off. This was a marriage that was doomed to fail painfully, but instead thanks to the terrible stresses of wedding planning the ceremony will never happen! :)

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      1. That’s the first time I’ve heard of wedding stress having a good outcome! I’m sure Annie is devastated, but I hope she comes to understand what a narrow escape she had. Best of luck to her in learning to value her true worth.

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      2. I also think a good test of the viability of a relationship is if the couple can successfully and amicablly put up and decorate a live Christmas tree.

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        1. My erstwife and I did two home improvement projects together. Once we put up a picket fence along the back of our property. The other project had us putting together a cabinet and sink in the cabin. Any fool watching the tensions caused by those projects could have predicted our divorce, although this fool did not! I used to think that any couple applying for a marriage license should be required to take a two week trip in the BWCA during bug season. If they still were speaking after that, they should be allowed to marry.

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  8. Sorry to hear about the loss of your dog, tim. At one time I had two dogs and a cat. When you have two dogs, at least in my case, they don’t play with the cat, they chase it. However, dogs can’t jump up on tables and counters like cats can and it could always get away from the dogs. Some times the cat would walk along a wall and give the dogs a look that kept them away. Maybe the dogs were just chasing the cat for fun and didn’t want to hurt it. The cat was not taking any chances and made sure that the dogs didn’t get too close.

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  9. Dealing with actors can be like herding cats – which is why I can count the number of shows I have costumed on one hand (sets don’t require too much interaction with “the talent” – phew). However, unlike cats, you can get some actors to “sit” and “stay.”

    Elementary classrooms can be a bit like cats and puppies – some will sit, but not for very long, all will eventually get restless, and you may or may not be able to get them to follow you. Well, maybe puppies and goats. There is that jumping thing they do sometimes, kind of like goats. I get to go play puppy and goatherd again tomorrow morning for a bit – glad I only have to herd for 45 minutes at a crack a few times a year. I don’t think I have it in me to teach all day, 5 days a week

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  10. I was taught the secret of cat herding by a Druid. The secret is for you to go where you want the cats to be, carrying a can of really tasty cat food and a can opener. Then just open the can and watch the cats come running! I’m not much on the whole authority and leadership trip, so I don’t have much experience in getting people to do what they don’t want to do in a timely manner. Mainly what I try to herd is paper, both at home and at work. Slippery stuff, paper. Keeps on piling up when I’m not looking, and the books keep on migrating from shelf to shelf and room to room. Unfortunately, paper does not respond to the Druid method.

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    1. I can relate, Crow Girl. I’m not very good at managing people and telling them what to do. My mom is at the point where she needs some strong guidance (she is a hoarder and wants to move by next spring) but I find it very difficult to tell her what to do. In fact, my whole experience this past weekend in going to help my mom was a lot like trying to herd cats without the benefit of tasty cat food or a can opener. We sorted through some containers of old medications – some were at least 20 years old, other maybe 40 years old. It makes me want to tear my hair out.

      And I definitely know what you mean about herding paper…that is extremely difficult, and in my mom’s case, impossible.

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      1. you can get a real different buzz on some of those old medications man. i remember going to the dentist when i was a hippy type and had a real good buzz on from some hash. he was drilling and poking and he was looking at me and said “are you on medications?” i said “you mean like perscriptions?” he said ” yes” i thought for a moment and said “no” then went back into my drift mode and let him finish his diddeling in my mouth. i’ve never done storebought meds much. break a leg or a shoulder…tough it out. turn on the doors or jimi hendrex, dont bogart that joint my friend.i hear the medicine cabinet street values are pretty good.maybe put a coupeof botles on ebay. oxy cotton, morphine and the always popular uppers and downers could make you mildly wealthy. maybe have a yard sale and post it on craigs list. could be groovey

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  11. “What have you done, or tried to do, that you could compare to herding cats?”

    Tried to instill a sense of rhythm into 5th grade band students who have absolutely no sense of rhythm. Do you remember the scene in “Mr. Holland’s Opus” where he’s trying to teach the kid how to play bass drum (I think) by having the student put on a football helmet, then pounding out the beat on the helmet with a timpani mallet? On more than one occasion I would kneel down on the floor and literally grab the student’s foot and raise and lower it in time to the music to help them feel the beat as they played.

    Seems ludicrous since we all have an innate sense of rhythm (if you don’t believe me, have you ever seen anyone walk in an erratic tempo (unless they’re drunk, of course). When anyone is walking somewhere with a purpose, they walk in a steady rhythm. So how come I got a dozen or so band students who were clueless? I hope they’re not still walking around in a rhythmless way. Maybe a teacher better than I figured out how to help them. :-( *sigh*

    Chris in Owatonna

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    1. Chris, I sympathize about the rhythm thing, having done some folk dance teaching! There is a saying “if you can walk, you can dance.” The easiest dances to teach begin with a walking part…

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  12. Wow, what an appropriate day Dale picked to post this. (By the way, Dale, sorry I didn’t send you any pictures…I was working on trying to get a pic of the cat and dog together, but I was out of town without them, then they didn’t cooperate.) Started off with a call from daughter in Philly – she is sick and trying to get her final work for the school year turned in and could I find a clinic there that she could go to? So I’m trying to sort through the online listings of doctors in philly in our network, and wake up youngest daughter to go to school at the same time, and then I find that the dog had gotten into a large bag of dried cherries that my mom had given me and had trouble controlling her bowels so there were little piles all over the dining and living room. And the cat was telling me he was starving and to feed him Now. And I’m realizing I haven’t eaten breakfast and I need to go buy groceries and wash my clothes…and i will be babysitting granddaughter in the afternoon. Not exactly herding cats but pretty crazy morning.

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    1. Edith – we’re having mirror days. My Irish Setter has had a unset tummy the last couple of days and I THOUGHT she was slowly moving toward better. I was wrong… when I got up this morning it looked like a murder had occurred in the back bedroom. I sent the teenager downstairs with the first set of laundry from the mess and something was in the covers that got stuck in the drain so when I went down w/ the second load, the laundry room was flooded from the overflow sink. Then when I let the dogs out a second time I noticed that now my Samoyed has the trots as well. I’m counting each dog as a separate crisis so that w/ the flooded basement, that makes three. I should be done now, right? (Vet says everybody will be fine, despite the overnight carnage.)

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  13. Teaching kindergarten comes to mind – first job there were 40 of them. Especially if they need to go from our room to somewhere else, imagine getting 40 of them to line up! And as Anna said, in elem. school they are still fairly spontaneous, which you don’t want to stamp out of them… some of them were very much like goats!

    And then there are the relatives. Husband and his brother are co-executors for their mom’s estate. She died almost two years ago; family of eight, and it’s been herding cats all the way. My family is easier, with just two cats to herd.

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  14. Nice post, Edith, I have a fun mental image of your pets in my mind’s eye.

    The annual St. Patrick’s day ceilidh at the Czech Hall in St. Paul comes to mind. Gather together 200 people of all ages and all levels of dancing experience and try to teach them the various Irish dances, and controlled chaos ensues. A friend of mine does the teaching, and I help direct traffic, if you will. Some people just can’t tell their left from their right or have no sense of rhythm, and some are inevitably heading in the wrong direction (that’s where the directing traffic comes in). The more experienced dancers are surprisingly patient with the dancers whose main attribute is enthusiasm, and Anne, who does the teaching, is a saint. It’s a fun event that I was sorry to miss this year due to my hospital stay.

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    1. Dance teachers I know use the phrase “the other left foot” a lot. Hats off to Anne, she sounds wonderful.

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  15. Mostly OT: How do you folks listen to Radio Heartland? As I understand it, there are three ways: 1) with a HD radio that receives signals over the air if you live close enough to the broadcast signal, 2) with an “internet radio” that communicates via WiFi to a computer connected to the net, 3) directly from a computer with speakers. Bill Kling used to tell us we’d all be buying HD radios, but VERY few models exist.

    I use a computer with good speakers because when I tried to set up a WiFi it was a disaster. For me, the Radio Heartland software is buggy. It crashes a lot on my system. I get a great signal when I use RealPlayer to connect to Folk Alley, another excellent full-time folk station. That never crashes and I can turn it on or off at will, knowing it will come back instantly when I click a button.

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    1. I have an app that I downloaded from MPR that streams the station on my iPod. When I’m at work, I listen with earbuds, at home I have a little speaker set up I plug the iPod into…it occasionally loses its connection, but it’s easy to restart.

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    2. Two ways for me. I have an HD radio in my bedroom – bought it the first week we heard the news that LGMS was going digital. Also have a HD receiver hooked up to my stereo downstairs. And at work I stream it directly from the mpr.org site.

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      1. I stream it through iTunes and it works pretty well. Even at home on our slower (WildBlue, not quite ‘dial up’) it worked fine.
        At the college, I have the computer wired to a stereo. At home I just use the laptop.

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    3. Owatonna’s not close enough to pick up the HD radio signal, so I stream on my computer. I agree, Steve, that I lose the connection a lot. Not as bad as it used to be, but still lose it a few times a week if I listen for more than a few hours a day.

      Chris

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  16. Thanks for the nice guest blog, Edith. There are times when you can herd people and they don’t even know that you are doing it. One time I was able to make arrangments to have lunch with two people who probably didn’t notice that I was the one who made the arrangements. I wasn’t a close friend of these two, but I knew that I would enjoy having lunch with them. I quietly guided them toward a place where we had lunch without them giving any indication that they knew what I was doing.

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  17. Yes, animals and family usually come to mind when thinking about “herding cats”. Whenever we would introduce a new animal into the house, they would occupy separate parallel universes till they eventually worked out a pecking order among themselves. The cat would leap from piano to table top to book case while the dog would just snuffle around at ground level till the novelty wore off. We could learn a lot from them. If we refrain from interfering, they eventually sort themselves out.

    Edith, your comments were timely for me, too. Family is another can of worms for sure. Just spent the last 12 months sorting/downsizing/moving my mom (and a lifetime of books, papers and Japanese art and mementos) and repairing/selling her home. I have two wonderful sisters, but one lives 2-3 hours away from Mom and the other crushed her foot last October and is just recently ambulatory. Another sibling, who was living with her, has mental health issues so moving him on and working around his obstruction only complicated matters. This all involved hundreds of hours of driving back and forth, and negotiation / pleading / groveling /frustration/physical labor, all over and above our daily work schedule and babysitting. Husband’s mother is also declining recently.

    Any of us who’ve worked in community theater or schools know that there’s a core group of volunteers who are the fall back people in a pinch. So both of us being eldest children, Husband and I are “The Usual Suspects”. :-) Trying to help both parents and children as well as keep our own tiny boat afloat.

    There are some situations where you can make a decision not to participate in a crazy making situation (like the bridesmaid’s dress dilemma) because it’s not really your domain. There are other situations where you want to participate despite the crazy making situation (like costuming for a cast of 50 teenagers each with several costume changes because they’re a fabulously creative and talented bunch of young people and you love love love them). And there are the situations where out of love or necessity, you plow through the crazy making situation because no one else can or will step to the plate.

    I guess that’s life, but I wonder how much birth order shapes how we each herd our own cats? I know the serenity prayer mantra about doing what you can and leaving the rest to spirit. The hard part is figuring out what that line is between what you can and can’t influence. The hard part is the wisdom to know the difference. And of course there’s the other chestnut about taking care of yourself first or you’ll be no help to anyone else. There was a post a while back about time – maybe adding an extra day here and there or slowing time down somehow. I want the extra days, but I want them to be SECRET extra days. Just for me. :-)

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        1. And speaking of herding cats, we’re off to your neighborhood Barbara to herd Zoe and Quinn for the rest of the day/evening. Two totally different little girls with two totally different agenda. Even with two of us, we’re outnumbered :-)

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      1. Robin, I can’t believe that with your very full plate you’re still willing to work in my garden, that’s amazing and very generous. Some truth to what Lucille Ball once said: “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.”.

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        1. Well, PJ, I’m happy to do it, especially because working in a garden is one of my favorite things to do and that meshes perfectly with what you need at this moment in time! I think “herding cats” reflects the sense we all have from time to time when our lives seem to tilt towards having less control than we’re comfortable with. This past year has been like that for me and people around me. But we stick together. And there’s no rule that says we can’t have some fun together along the way, yes? I’ve tried (not altogether successfully) to keep the time with my mom as positive as possible as we sift through all of our memories together and try to sort the meaningful things from all the accumulated stuff of a well lived life. :-)

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  18. What have you done, or tried to do, that you could compare to herding cats?
    My day job.
    Every. Single. Day.

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  19. Recently back from the second grade music concert at Daughter’s school. The music teacher referred to getting the kids set up on the risers as “trying to get a whole bunch of cats to all do the same thing at the same time.” Clearly today’s topic was apropos. :)

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    1. Oh, thank you PJ! And I believe the second part of this fits here:
      (from the Glossary)
      Brace (of pets) – Two animals. “We have three cats… A brace… refers to a pair of objects, so I have one and half brace of cats.” Larger numbers may be spoken of as the number of “head”, as in “I asked an old Indian in cowboy land one time how many cats he had. He squinted a bit and said, ‘Oh, maybe 30 head!’ ”

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  20. My son is a video game producer, right in the heart of Silicon Valley. He works with and tries to get on the same page the technical people (programers, systems analyists, systems administrators, software specialists such as those who debug), creative people (designers, graphic designers, artists, musicians, voice actors) and money people (his bosses, accountants, business managers). He develops with them a creative clear vision and plan which changes every day or so and tries to keep everybody on deadline and willing to accept change and the needs of the other folks.
    Right now they are doing something very creative, of which I am allowed only a glint, but I have enough of a sense to know it is very new, creative, and technically-challenging.
    Would that be cat-herding?

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    1. Absolutely! The first time I heard the term (it was so hilarious the first time) was in regard to computer programmers (of which I am one). Independent and clever, each person’s way of doing things was the “best” and people would try to out-clever each other.
      Betwen them, the business consultants and the end-users, getting consensus on a plan of action was mighty difficult.

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  21. Nowadays, people are so busy that trying to arrange a get-together with more than one person is extremely difficult, especially if you try to do it by email. I’m in a Movie Group and unless we’re physically present with calendars in hand, it takes a slew of emails to get 11 people (7 units) to agree on a date. Once we get a date, another slew follows with who will bring what comestibles.

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  22. As I recall, last year in August when I volunteered to arrange a theater outing to the Guthrie to see HMS Pinafore for interested baboons, I wasn’t quite prepared for the logistical nightmare of trying to coordinate the details with people, most of whom I hadn’t yet met. I think I told BiR in an email, that it was like herding cats, trying to find a date and time that worked for everyone. In the end, we managed and had a wonderful evening.

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    1. …and we’ll be eternally grateful, PJ. Without you I never would have seen the Pinafore… I remember thinking at the time “I hope she knows what she’s getting into…” :)

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    1. thanks
      is crewed up and buried him as soon as we got him home with 4 of the 5 kids here. the missing one is sad. the others feel good closure. the one who didnt think it was a day he could take off is needing some help. we will get together tomorrow and try to help him. when its out of the blue it feels a bit surreal. the other dog wandering around confused, the retired dog food bowl, small stuff but kind of like my dead dads sweater smelling like him and setting off memories. zeke will do that for a while now im sure. thank you all for the nice condolences. it is appreciated. tough day. nice to have some kind words. like herding emtions

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  23. I guess I have a pretty quiet life – except for my job and Rock Bend.

    I have to do quite a bit of cat-herding at work, especially when the guys are turning in their purchasing statements or expense reports. One long-standing problem for me is simply knowing where the guys are. We are responsible for the fisheries resources in nine counties office and I never know where they have gone! The problem was more challenging before they carried cell phones, but it would be so helpful to know where they are. It has improved enormously just in the last couple of years though, and I really have nothing to complain about.

    Rock Bend is truly amazing (but you already know that)! There are perhaps a hundred volunteers who need very little guidance and everything always falls into place. There are no supervisors, no one to report to, no one in charge. Everybody just does their thing and we have a great FREE festival every year. If somebody has to stop doing their thing, someone else just picks up where they left off. There should be cat-herding, but there isn’t. Some of us do work ourselves to exhaustion with it, but it’s worth every minute and I’ll always treasure my experiences in it.

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    1. Krista, aren’t you glad you’re not in charge of The Secret Service? Don’t know that there’s much comfort in knowing that someone else has problems worse than your own, but sometimes it helps to put things in perspective.

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  24. I don’t know which is harder: directing 4th and 5th grade choir or trying to get 5 members of a bluegrass band together on the same night for a rehearsal. In any case, we need to listen to Frankie Laine this evening.

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    1. That must be tough, Clyde. I feel that way with my mom (though, thankfully, I don’t live with her). She has a hoarding problem…but won’t admit it. Any sorting or organizing we do hardly makes a dent in it. I can go up to “help” her but come away after 2 or 3 days feeling like it was all wasted time.

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  25. Edith, nice animal observation and writing.
    I identify with the “feel like it’s a metaphor for my life.”
    I learn over and over to give up on the illusion that I have control over anything or anyone but myself. I watch the yippy, Jack Russell Terrier next door bark at everything from people, cats, dogs, squirrels and the wind in the trees. I don’t know if he is really bothered or if he enjoys his futile efforts. He is rather annoying. I wish he would just relax. That is exactly what I tell myself when I get caught up in trying to “herd” parts of my life—just relax.

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    1. Like your stories so much, Edith and Nan :-) and the gentle reminder to stop trying to control what is clearly beyond my control. I have an oldest kid’s tendency to be bossy and need to ease up on the reins. Somewhere between the busy Sheltie/frantic Jack Russell and our catatonic Golden Retriever might be a good spot to aim for.

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      1. Robin, Yes! I was the oldest of 5, plus several foster children. My mother was abusive, I felt it was my job to protect the little ones. Not only did I have that eldest bossy thing but my instincts were to want to save everyone. ahhhhh. As an adult, lots of deep breathing and repeating of an Eastern mantra—“Let it pass through me.”

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        1. :-) Now my job as a grandma is to enjoy the grandbabies and let my daughter be the boss. She’s a natural. I guess the nut doesn’t fall far from the tree.

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  26. WE had a Border Collie named Mac for 15 years and his youngerf days he herded me every day as I returned from our mailbox, We have a long drive way so he would lie in wait, trembling and giving me the “sheep dog stare” as I walked back. When is was jsut the right distance from him he would ;pounce and circle me nad nip at my heels…..he needed “work” badly because we did not have sheep either (earlier when he was a pup we did have sheep and he worked all day keeping them in a circle. He also went to “get the cows” in the woods when we had a few of therm. He would bring them thundering back to the feed trough and I had to get out of the way quickly because he was so efficient in rounding them up that I barely got the feed into the feeder.
    I still miss him so much even after 10 years since his death at age 15.

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    1. Those little border collies and sheep dogs are such incredibly focused and diligent little creatures, aren’t they? So earnest. And so programmed for their mission in life :-) My husband and I take every opportunity to watch them do their thing, they’re so amazing — Scottish fairs, Shepherd’s Harvest in Lake Elmo. I’ll bet all of us have an animal friend we remember forever. Our first golden retriever, Teddy, didn’t have a “mission” other than daily devotion and reducing fireplace logs to kindling and, oddly, he never barked until finally one day at age 5 he barked and startled himself as much as us. I guess he found his voice and it was loud. He died young at age 7 and we still miss him 20 years later. There was just something about him. You’re one of the lucky ones who live on a farm with a big animal family. :-)

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    2. Welcome, Kay! Sounds like you had a pretty smart dog in Mac. I miss my Bailey too. He died in 2009. You never forget them once they have made their little nest in your heart.

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