Sunday, October 12, 2008

Saturday's trial

Yesterday I got up super early to go to a sheepdog trial. The trial hosts were Sue and George MacDonald. You can not meet two nicer people in the world. I can blame them for setting me along this*Path of sin*…oops, I meant *Path of sheepdog trialing. It was over 9.5 years ago, when I arrived at their farm, wet behind the ears and with Tess in tow. They had set me up with Scott Glen for a lesson and then two runs of Novice at their trial.

The rest is history and through their kindness over the years, has helped to shape me to the handler that I am. I call them my trial mom and dad. They have tremendous ethics, wonderful, honest people and host many trials. They have helped many a handler who has stepped to the post with their words of encouragement and hugs as you leave the field.

They have hosted a Winter Series for years. It is a set of trials that are low key and are local Open Handlers as the judge. You run your dog and you use all of your time. Sometimes you use your run as a training run when you leave the post. This way you can work on the errors on the field and as a result, you and the dog improve. It’s a great series for upcoming handler to come out without feeling the high pressure that you would have at a big trial.

Everyone is laid back and low key and we all laugh and hang out and just enjoy the company. They also provided (with Border Collie Rescue), hot lunches for a great prices and hot coffee and tea and cocoa all day. Sue has an infectious laugh that you can hear clear across the field and you wonder what funny story she is telling or hearing. She brightens up your day with her wide smile and George’s quiet and strong demeanor lets your know that you are safe in case you need a shoulder to cry on.

Yesterday was no exception and as I rolled in, I could see Sue and George putting the finishing touches on the course. This was my second trial since the surgery and I had let Sue know that I wanted to run but was not able to set sheep and might have to leave early if I was feeling bad. As usual, she said “no problem, just show up” and so I did.

I really needed to get out as I needed a boost. On Friday, I was feeling bad and not being able to do my normal activities at the level that I was used to was starting to dragging me down. A quick hug from Sue and George set me on the path of feeling life was grand again.

Jim Cooper was the judge and he has judged several tries. He is a guy with a huge heart that loves his dogs. He recently lost his Nell. Nell and Tess both started to trial at the same time. His Nell was a tiny dog while Jim is a well built handler. They had a unique and loving bond.

The day was foggy to start but later cleared up and it was sunny. The Open course was a straight fetch but the first drive panels were tricky. There were two first drive away panels then the cross drive panel. The first panel on the right side, was a panel and the other side panel was a tree. As soon as the sheep cleared that panel, then they had to do a hard left turn. Then the tree was right panel and a second panel was on the left side. It was about 135 degree turn. Imagine a tree in the middle with panels on each side.

The cross drive panel was set so if you were off, you went high. It was a very tricky drive.

The shed was next, a single from a set of three sheep and then a pen. The opening of the pen was facing the exhaust and if you did not line your sheep up correctly, they would turn to the exhaust; it was a tough course but very fun.

Tess was third dog up and the fog was very thick. Her set ran back around forth at the top and she could see that they had gone to the left of the setout through the fog. The fog prevented her from seeing that they had moved right to the setout spot.

She was keyed on the far left spot, sure that the sheep were there since she had glimpsed them through the fog. I sent her on an away and she started to arc over but I stopped her and gave her a redirect. She took it, although she must have thought I was an idiot. She flanked out and found the sheep at the top. I didn’t give her any more commands as I could not see the sheep.

I waited and then a sheep jumped up from the set out. They had been eating grain and so I guess Tess gave them a boost. I honestly don’t know but the sheep came down the field. She might have come on strong as she will do that.

Her fetch was fast and she settled the sheep and away we went to the drive. The prior runs had problems with the drive as they tried to do that quick turn at the two drive away panels.

The sheep were very heavy and hard to move. Tess leaned on them and moved them slowly and steady up the first leg and put them perfectly through the tricky turns. I was amazed on well she did!! The cross drive was spot on and she pushed them hard but honestly to the shedding ring. The sheep decided they had to be Velcro buddies and refused to give me a gap. Tess would get very close and be almost on top of them trying to get a shed. She would run hard when they would break away and didn’t let her age slow her down. We timed out in the shedding ring and as a result didn’t get the pen. She ran her heart out for me and I was very happy with her. She lost only 4 points on her drive and I was impressed at her driving.

After my run, I sat under the handler’s tent and chatted with Lynne Green. She made this delicious Focaccia bread that had cheese in it. It just melted in your mouth. We had a good time talking and I really enjoy her company. She is a very strong woman that had recently won a battle with cancer. Seeing how she handled it during the difficult times, gave me inspiration to be able to do my battle. She is a very sweet person that shows enthusiasm for life. It was a great way to spend the rest of the morning before my run with Nan.

Nan has been really clicking with me and trying to be right with me. We have really bonded since my surgery and has been near my side and my constant companion. I have gotten really attached to her and she is one of my heart dogs. Tess and Nan are best friends and are inseparable.

Nan is totally opposite of how Tess runs on the field. Tess is a nice steady sedan (unless she is on the muscle- then watch out) while Nan is like driving a sports car with hair trigger brakes. We went to the post and she was gazing at me. I sent her on the away side and she went off with a flash. She stopped at the top when I whistled her. Her lift was dead on and she steadied on her fetch. She managed the tricky drive way panels and on the cross drive took a flank very fast and pulled the sheep off the course. We missed the cross drive panel and she brought the sheep into the ring. She was leaning hard on the sheep and was hard to steady her. The sheep were snuggled together and didn’t want to shed. I had a tiny sliver of a gap and Nan came in and had an awesome shed and held the ewe off from the rest.

We lined the sheep up at the pen and they all marched in but at the last minute one ewe flipped out. As we were trying to reset the sheep to pen again, the exhaust dog came over and tried to gather the sheep. The sheep bolted around the pen with Nan trying to hold them to me while the exhaust dog was trying to take them away.

The dog was finally called off but then the sheep were too spooked to go into the pen. The judge asked me what I wanted to do so I said to go on. At this point, there was not much else to do. We timed out at the pen but Nan tried her hardest to pen the sheep but they were too frazzled and just wanted to run. Ironically, had we got five pen points we would won the trial. We didn’t get any points but managed to place fourth and still got points towards the National Finals. I was happy that she preserved and ran her heart out for me.

The exhaust person was appalled but stuff happens and you have to deal with it. It’s part of life and Nan and I did the best we could. When Nan and I were at the exhaust, her eyes were bright with a job well done and you could see that she was happy. She lay on the ground looking at me, her tail wagging and her pride showing through. I knew that we were a team; a real team. I beamed with pride knowing that I had two dogs that gave me their all.

The Open runs were quite nice and there were some good work. It was a challenge but fun. Everyone had a good time. We had several large flocks of pigeons and crows land on the field during some runs which made it interesting. You got bonus points if you could work them around the course with your sheep!!

We broke for lunch and we ate hot, toasty cheese sandwiches with chili. Audrey, Neal, Brian and we all hung out in the sun. The lunch crowd was enjoying the hot meal and it was a nice break. The cheese sandwiches were a hit and I sure hope they do that again. Neal had Dan on the leash and looked like a chick magnet. My brother many years ago took Shiro for a walk around Green Lake and she was a chick magnet I am sure he was wondering why all the women would stop and talk to him.

I was feeling good and volunteered to scribe for PN. I didn’t take a pain pill and my chest ached but it was not a sharp pain. Sitting in a chair helped it. The PN course was straight forward and the sun beamed down on the runs. It was nice to see the young dogs come out to run. Audrey’s Dan was the first dog out and placed well. On one run, a ram had squeezed out of his pen and joined the ewes on the fetch. He was quite happy to join the ewes but was even unhappier when he got put back into the ram pen.

Lynn Green had a great run with Zap and beat Brian Ricard. Apparently the bet was if she beat him in PN, he would go to Church. We all laughed as she tried to talk his way out of it. We shall see it he lives up to it.

At the end of PN, I will still feeling ok. But I was getting tired and my chest was starting to ache more. It was still early so I wanted to stay and watch the Ranch and Novice runs. Audrey ran Dan in both classes and Dan was on the muscle. In the Novice class, he had a nice outrun, lift and fetch but pushed hard at the pen. Audrey made him listen and it ended well.

The day was still sunny as I left. I got home as it was dark which is what I wanted to do and did my chores. I took a quick nap and then woke up later to have dinner and spoil the girls. As they munched on their pig ear, I reflected on how a wonderful day it was with good friends, a good trial, good runs and enjoying the things that I like to do.

That is what life is all about. Enjoyment. Enjoy your life. Do the things that make you happy and that make you feel alive. Don't let the past hold you down from living.

1 comment:

sheepkelpie said...

Great post. Thanks. You have hit the nail on the head. Life is for living.