Monday, December 21, 2009

Dec 12th trial update

As you all well know, I am so not a morning person so when the alarm went off at 0500 on December 12th, I slowly rolled out of bed to get ready for the trial. Nan and Tess followed me out to the kitchen where I got my coffee and finished packing. Loaded up Roo, Nan and Tess and headed down the road. Tess was the chief navigator who promptly fell asleep.

We had a few days of cold weather, in the range of 6-10 degrees and our well pipes and well pump had froze. The roads were slick and one portion on the way out, the water from a ditch had overran its banks and had flowed out to the street and turned into 4 inches of frozen ice on the road. I drove my truck and it crossed the icy barrier easily but you could see where other cars were not so fortunate by the tires marks on the side of the road when they had slid off to the side.

I could see my sheep were huddled in a tight mass and the thick winter coats on the horses were frosted. They stood by the gate at my far pasture as I drove by and didn’t lift their heads up. No one in his or her right mind should be out so early and also be moving about when it was so cold.

I guess I am spoiled by our winters as they usually are mild by most standards. Yes, we get snow for about a week and the temperature hardly dips below 30 for any extended amount of time. So when we were hit with single digits temperature for almost two weeks, everyone was unprepared.

The road crew in last year’s snowstorm had done a poor job and they were determined to do a far better job this year when it snowed it but when we had frost and low temperatures, that was a new challenge for them. Numerous places had frozen pipes which had burst, highways were slick and no one ventured out unless they needed to and that included me. The only place I went to was work and to my far field to feed my sheep and horses.

Roo was the first dog to run at the trial and it started at 8:00 a.m.

I gave myself extra travel time in case that Highway 18 at the summit was snowy or icy. It didn?t have snow but the roads was slick and at one point my truck slid to one side. We got to the trial without any issues and I scoped out the course. It was a standard course and we had a class of 18 or 19 dogs but several handlers could not make it due to the weather. We were short on Open dogs so a couple of us entered extra dogs to help the class. I entered Tess and she would run at the end. She was still fast asleep in the truck, after she woke up enough to have part of my breakfast.

Roo ran out nice, deep, and stopped at the top as I asked. His lift was nice and he was a bit pushy on the fetch but did as I asked. I was vey happy to see him to continue to work well on our partnership. He only lost two points total for is outrun, lift and fetch. His drive was straight to the first pane. The last few feet of the first panel was in a gulley so you had to have a straight line to it and you would only see if you made the panel when the sheep popped out on the other side of it. They did indeed, pop out but Roo tried to head them back on the first part of the cross drive but we got back online. The second panel was dead on and the line w as straight to the middle of the ring. He lost 10 points for his bobble at the first drive panel.

He came in clean at the shed and held them proper for full points. He marched them into the pen and I was shutting the door when time ran out….oh only for 2 more seconds. With that, he landed mid pack and we had the pen, he might have landed in 2nd place. I was very happy how he has been working and at each trial, we are connecting better and better. He was quite happy with himself after the run too!! His score was 78.

Nan was my next dog up and the week prior she had tore her toenail. We wrapped it and she was raring to go. She pranced and danced all the way to the gate and once inside the field, scanned the field for the sheep and was frozen in time until I sent her. She ran out quickly and forcefully and came deep behind her sheep. I didn’t give her a down at the top as I wanted her to feel the sheep and learn how to lift the sheep without downing all the time. She glanced down at the field at me and then took charge. She leaned into them and had a nice lift but they roared to one side and she flanked to cover the draw. I flanked her to slow her down but she was really leaning on the sheep and we slowed them down at the fetch panels. A couple of the ewe skirted past one side at the last second, we go them tucked back in, and had a nice turn a t the post. She lost 0 for her outrun, one for the lift and 6 for the fetch.

The drive was smooth and she lined them nice and had a nice turn but they came in a little on the first part of the crossdrive. The draw of the gulley sucked the sheep into t his and it was the bane of many runs, sometimes the big sucking gully would bring the sheep almost back to the post on some of the runs. We got them back online and went straight to the second panels, nicely through and to the ring. She lost 4 for her drive and she came in fast for a sweet shed for a loss of one point. She quickly regrouped them in t he ring and marched them into the pen for a perfect pen. Her score was 88. Nan was so happy with her run and was quite pumped with herself. She carried her with pride to the stock tank with her tail waving as high as she could carry it and her smile was broad. She knows when she does well and that I am pleased. She is a far different dog than I used to run 2 years ago when she would run through the bit and fight the stop. Now she is a true partner and gives her all on the course.

There was some nice runs to watch, one being Sue MacDonald and Bess. It was a very nice and quiet run and she placed first wit that run. Monique and Lucy had a very nice run and place 5th. She has come so far in the three years since she came to for her first lesson. Lucy is the granddaughter of Tess and Libbi and the only one I that I have from those lines. She was the easiest dog to train and always willing to do as you asked.

Janet had a good run with Scott. She also has come a long way since she acquired Scott a year ago. A handler bobble at the second panel cost her dearly and she won’t be making that mistake again. She handled Scott quite well as he was very pushy on the sheep.

Jeanne B and Rocky had a stellar PN run and won the class. Rocky only has been with Jeanne since springtime (I believe) and they have teamed up quite well. Kathleen and Emma won the ranch class. Kathleen has been working very hard to get the top of the outrun fixed and it shows.

Lunchtime rolled around and Tess woke up from her nap to accompany me and get part of my lunch. After she mooched off me, she wandered about until she found another potential victim, Jeanne B, and began to her on her begging on her. Since she has been retired she has figured out that she is not running anymore so has quit running to the gate but will stick her nose

Often she will sit on my lap and give her judging rendition of the runs.

I stood up as her run was at the end of the class and called her. “Tess, are you ready?”

Her ears shot up, she saw the crook in my hand, and she bolted at lightning speed to that gate. It’s one of the few times that I saw her run that fast. Apparently, she wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t have second thoughts. She jumped up and tried to push the gate open with her paws and when that failed, tried to thread her nose through. She was dancing with delight.

The nose part worked quite well but her body got stuck. I opened the gate and we walked in and I told her to wait at my side while they exhausted the sheep. I looked up the field then down at her.

Her whole body was shaking so hard and the tip of her pricked ears were flapping about. They normally can stand straight up in gale force winds but today, they were shaking like a tree in a winter storm. I looked down at her and asked her “Tess, do you see the sheep” and she glared at me as it to say “Ah yes, I do and I see you have the Blind Handler light on so I will cover your ass and make you look good, ok?”

I nodded okay and we walked to the post. The sheep mussed about and Tess was leaning so far forward that had I touched her, she would have fallen on her face. I sent her and she bolted up the field and I noticed that retired life did add to her waist line but I wasn’t going to point that out to her since I had gained a few winter pounds myself.

At the top, she trotted in a wee but flat and came hard on the lift but quickly got all under control for a nice fetch. She lost 4 for her outrun, three for the lift and 2 for the fetch. The turn at the post was nice but one ewe did not want to leave my feet so Tess showed her teeth and she hopped to her friends rather quickly. It was apparent that she didn’t want to be with this group and kept calling for her friends in the exhaust.

Tess turning the sheep at the post

Holding the shed.

On the first leg, this ewe kept trying to run off while the other three trotted on the line nicely. I flanked Tess back and forth and once when she thought I was doing a bad job, she paused and turned her head back to me as if to say “Hello, anyone home?.I am gonna put out a New Handler Wanted Sign if you keep this up” so I then just sshhh her and she put the wayward ewe back and kept them tucked to make the panel. Her expression was priceless.

Tess telling me to shut the gate!!

On the rest of the drive, I didn’t have to do much as she held the proper distance and kept them on line. She took my flanks for the turn and held then dead on to the middle of the ring. Our eyes meet in the ring and she came in for a nice shed and held them and then I opened the pen gate and told her to “pen them” and my only role was to shut the gate. Tess reads my mind and out many years of partnership was evident on this run. I really enjoyed this run and even laughed during parts of it. She lost five on her drive, two on her shed and none on her pen. Watching her run, you would never know she was 11.5 years old as she galloped to the water and got her fill. When I arrived at the water, she ran up to me and threw herself on me and we did our country western dance. She was so excited and could barely contain herself.

Our country western dance together.
When she exhausted the next dog’s sheep, she ran like a bullet and acted full of herself. She got 4th in the class. I’ll have to keep using her as a setout dog to keep her happy. I really had a good time with all three of my dogs that day. Oh yea, after her run, she went back to mooching again. She had good success too.

I went up to the lunch area and mooched a cookie myself so all was in good order.

photos: Janet Thorpe

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