Morning came too early and the sounds of sheep and dogs and people rustling about made me turn over in my bed. Tess’s wet kisses were the final prompting and I climbed out of bed. I was wondering why I felt like I was cramped in the bed and realized that three Border Collies were stretched out and I had been squeezed against a wall. Sigh, I guess Tee, Nan and Lucy might be a wee bit spoiled.
Nursery was the first runs and the course had been switched about; the drive was reversed and the fetch was in a different position. I watched some stellar runs and marveled at some of the very promising dogs that were on the course. There were about eight dogs that ran on light hair sheep and you could see how they adjusted from the heavy sheep that they had run on the day prior.
It was not as cold this morning as yesterday and the sun had not peeked out yet. For Open, they had a dogleg fetch, then the Maltese Cross, the drive was reversed; the first leg of the leg was up a long hill and quite a distance. The outrun was not blind but set up so your dog wanted to do a straight fetch so you had to down your dog at 2:00 to start the dog leg fetch to 10, then between a tree and a rock, then through the fetch panel and then straight to you. The Maltese Cross proved to be very difficult as the hair sheep did not want to go through it. The first leg of the drive was long and then a tight turn to be proper on the crossdrive. The crossdrive faced the nightly pasture so that was a heavy draw. The last half of the crossdrive was blind and if you didn’t set it up correctly, the sheep would go into the gully and bypass the panels. Then a tight turn to the pen. The pen was an open sided pen and the handler was about 15 feet away and had to hang onto a rope. The rope was about 4 feet so add the handler and a crook and any side you picked to cover still had an opening of one foot for the sheep to slip through. The post was near to the exhaust side and it was obvious by the end of Open, that the pen was impossible to do and the team of Bob/Mojo was the only one to complete this obstacle. The second drive panel was tough to see and you could see your sheep as they were in front of it, or as in most of the runs, as they were off to the side and missing it completely. The course time was set for 7 minutes.
Tess and I were the first one on deck so we had no runs to analyze before we went. We did our country western dance before we stepped on the course so she was pumped up and her eyes were gleaming. She burst off to her away side at a fast clip and then at 2:00, slowed down and I blew an away whistle. As usual, she ignored me and slowly walked to the sheep and did a nice lift. I downed her and she stopped and took the fast come bye flank to start the dog legs fetch. She brought the sheep down and did the dog leg quite nicely and then first part of the cross and then as I was setting the sheep up for the second cross, she sliced and they exploded near me and we had to go on to the drive. She pushed the sheep up the hill and had a nice tight turn at the first panel. Then I set her and the sheep up for the crossdrive and crossed my fingers that when she was in the blind section that she would hold the driveline true. I couldn’t see them and blew walk ups and then at the last second saw the sheep a but low and gave her a come bye and she ignore it and the sheep slid next to the panels, missing it by a hair. We had the sheep lined up at the pen but they snuck past the opening at the handler’s side and we had several more attempts before we timed out. After my run, the Judge Rob Lewis came out and asked me if I could see the last half of my crossdrive and I told him, I could not but just guess where the sheep and dog were and hoped for the best and he told me it was a nice crossdrive and if Tess had took that come bye flank, we would have hit the panels! Outrun 6, Lift 0, Fetch 2, Cross A 0, Cross B 10, Drive 6 (missed panels!!) and Pen 10 for a score of 76 out of 110.
Lucy was next around 10 on the morning and I sent her on the away side. She ran out clean and wide and stopped when I asked her to. She had a nice soft lift to the sheep. The sheep started to come down straight so I flanked her on a come bye to start the dogleg fetch, and had an extremely smooth fetch, dogleg and all. I had the sheep lined up for the Cross, she took the flank she thought she needed and we I tried to get her in the right position she flanked out wide, and as a result, we missed both crosses. She had a hard time doing the flanks I asked of her on this section. Her first leg was nice and strong and she got the first drive panel and dead on the crossdrive, had a nice turn at the second panel, and was coming to the pen when we timed out. It was a beautiful crossdrive and again the judge complimented me on the drive. I was very proud of Lucy on the drive as it was very tough and part of it, she had to do blind and believe me. Outrun 0, Lift 0, fetch ½, Cross A 10, Cross B 10 and Drive 30 (time out) and pen 10 for 49.5. If we had gotten the drive, we would have gotten in the high 70’s.
Tess and I went and set out for a bunch of runs in Open and she is a great setout dog. She handles the sheep well and it was enjoyable to set with Sue M. we took a break for lunch and then I had to run Nan. The open runs went quickly at 7 minutes and it would be nice to be done early.
Nan was amped up since she was at the trailer all day and had heard me working the other dogs. She spun around and danced with joy. She is such a silly girl sometimes. Getty had arrived so he has to tape my run. Nan was ready to go and scanned the field for the sheep, her back stiffed, and then I knew she had seen them. I sent her on an away and she raced off, sending little tufts of grass in her wake. At the top, she stopped when I asked her and laid down a brilliant fetch to bring the sheep to the mouth of the cross. I had to slow her down, as the hair sheep were trigger-happy. I had her walk them slowly into the cross and she set them up for the second cross when they spun next to me. We had to finagle a bit but got them through and it took a bit of time. The first leg was true and we had a wide turn and then an excellent crossdrive. She held the line, the sheep appeared and flowed through the second panels, and the turn was tight to the pen. She was marching them to the pen when we ran out of time. She had a brilliant run in my eyes and one of the best she has ever done and even though we had timed out, I was very pleased with her. The judge came out and was bumming with me that we had timed out. Her crossdrive was the best that he had seen all day and had we not time out we would have won. Outrun o, Lift 1, Fetch 0, Cross A 0, Cross B 2, drive 30 and Pen 10 for 67. I did the math and we had lost two points in the drive when we timed out so if we had not timed out; we would have only lost a total of 15 total for a score of 95 than the 67. Alas, but that is trialing and the time at the Cross cost us dearly but Nan didn’t know that; she knew that she had done a great job for me and that I was very happy with her. She raced off to soak in the water tub and then to shake the water off on me and look at me with her eyes all gleaming. I gave her a pet and told her that I was very proud of her and she walked off the field held high and chest puffed out with pride. Even though Lucy and Nan both timed out on the drive, I was very happy with their work as the drives were excellent and they did everything I asked of them, even in the blind crossdrive area and the trust was there. I don’t know how we placed but we didn’t get in the top five.
Tess at almost 11 years old, ran brilliantly for me plus set out sheep for both days and never faltered. She has carried me on her broad shoulders and made me the handler that I am today. When the judge complimented on my handling he should have thanked Tess for making me the handler that I am today. Without her taking care of me all of these years, I would have not had such good runs and I love her for her loyalty and partnership over the years. She will run in a couple more local trials and then retire and it will be a huge loss to me but she is ready to turn me loose of her apron strings and I hope that I can make her proud. I have Lucy and Nan now to be my partners and they are doing great but it is your first Open dog that will always have huge part of your heart and that will carry you to become a better handler. I will miss the look she gives me in the shedding ring just before she come through; the look that tells me that she has hold of the sheep. I will miss the look that she gives me when she spies her sheep and then looks deeply into my eyes as if to say “we can do it” and I will miss our country western dance that we do before each run. I will miss her dearly but each time I go to the post, a piece of her is still in my heart and I with pride inside, know that she has done all she can to make me who I am now. Bless the Open dogs that have carried all of us to be the handlers we are today. I love Tess for being Tess and am truly blessed to have her in my life.