We met up with Janet at the Park-n-ride at some ungodly hour in darkness and she drove my truck to the trial. My arm is still hurting quite a bit and driving the truck just agitates it even more. Janet is very good at driving the truck now. Ron followed us in his van as he was going to go head out of town right after the trial.
I took Roo, Nan, Lucy and Faye and Janet had Scott. Tess went along to be the setout dog when Janet set sheep. Ron had Kane, Tigr and Ruby. I guess it was a full pack of humans and dogs. Kathleen also had entered Emma and was going to meet us at the trial.
We got there and waited for sunrise so we could run Open. The class order was Open, ProNovice, Ranch and Novice. You could tell it was going to be a sunny day and waking up so early wasn’t so bad after all.
Open was the standard fetch, turn around a cone, right hand drive and then into a slender chute. At the end of the first chute was a second chute but there was a gap between the two chutes and the sheep would escape out through the sides. You had to get all of the four sheep in the first chute and as many as you could in the second chute. This was very difficult, as the sheep had no intention of going into the chute. None whatsoever!!
The Open class had 22 dogs and the Judge was Jo Fergerson. Jo is a very nice person and when I first started, she was very kind to me. She loves her dogs and it is evident when she runs them.
Nan was the first of my dogs to run. I was running Nan, Lucy and Roo in Open, Faye in ProNovice and ranch. Nan, what can I say about her. She wears her heart on her sleeve. She adores me, her eyes follow me everywhere, and she smiles at me. We do a dance before our run and then a cuddle. It’s a ballet dance since the country western dance was reserved for Tess.
We walked to the post and she quickly scanned the field, locked on the sheep and turned her face to me and gave me a quick grin. Her legs were quivering, anticipating a command. I sent her and she raced up the field, checking in on the sheep as she flew up on the away side. The sheep got away from the setout crew and bolted to the come-bye side before Nan had gotten 1/3 of the way up. I waited to see what she would do. She flared out once she saw the sheep had moved and swung out wide to cover them. I whistled her to get them back online and they whipped the other direction. She swung to cover that side and soon had them back on line. She got them settled on the fetch and had a smooth, quiet turn at the post. She lined them up and marched them on the drive. She took her commands well and had a few slices but overall her flanks were square. She also was feeling the bubble on the light hair sheep. These light hair sheep have been an issue for her as she tends to push them too hard and not feel the. We have been working on her to rate light sheep better with honest work at the farm and it is paying off.
She handled the sheep well through the drive and both times I was slow to give her a half flank at the panels and as a result, we missed both panels. Of the 14 points she lost on the drive, 12 points were from my panel screw up. Other than that she had only lost 2 on the drive. On the last leg, the draw was to the fence and many dogs let the sheep swing to the fence for the last leg, which resulted in point loss. Nan held them true to the proper lane and settled them at the mouth of the chute.
The two runs prior to me had trouble at the chute so I came up with a game plan. Settle the sheep well before the chute and work, inch by inch to get them into the chute. I would be on one side while Nan had to cover the draw side. That would mean would have to ratchet her intensity down and do a step-by-step maneuver to do the chute. She stopped them about 20 feet in front of the chute and we did a clever two step dance with the sheep, calm and quietly and they went in. I walked her up and then cover my gap that was between the two chutes. The sheep wanted to go out to Nan’s side of the chute so I flanker her wide so the sheep would see her but yet have her far enough back so they would not turn and go back the way they came out. They went through both chutes.
She gathered them and they settled for a brief moment in the ring and the tiniest gap appear and I called her in. She ran into the gap like a Thoroughbred crossing the finish line and the sheep split. She turned and drove one set out of the ring and she got the only shed of the day. It was a job well done and she danced with delight. I could see her face and she was puffed up with pride.
Nan won the class with 82. No points lost for her outrun and lift, and four for her fetch. 14 for her drive, none off both chutes and shed.
As we sat at the exhaust after our run, she put her head in my lap and I gently stroked her head, and thanked God that I am blessed to have such a wonderful partner. Thanks to Laura Hicks for breeding such an outstanding dog and to Jodi for selling Nan to me several years ago. She is the world to me.
Roo was the second of my Open dogs to run. He was amped up as he was barking during Nan’s run. He was wired when we went out to the post but settled down, so I thought. I sent him on the away side and when he almost reached the top, he leaned in and I knew he would be tight at the top. I blew a down, which he ignored, then a big away flank which he also ignored. He came hard at the lift and was pushing then hard on the first part of the fetch. I got him to slow down and listen and he brought them to my feet nicely.
He had a nice turn at the post and we were in sync again. He had one of the smoothest drive that I have ever run for only a 5 point loss. He rated his sheep quite well and held his lines quite nicely.
I tried the same plan that worked so well with Nan. We had them in the chute and they were going through WHEN he broke his down. He flipped to the head of the sheep and they burst back out through the mouth. I had them lined up a couple of more times but he was pushing on his down so at this point, I made it a session on a proper downs. We timed out. Roo lost 3- outrun, 2- lift, 9 fetch, 5 –drive, 10 for the chute and shed. He placed 11th.
After that I was wore out and Lucy was the next dog up. Monique was on vacation in Florida so I was running Lucy for her. Monique would arrive later that day to pick up her after her flight. Lucy is a very sweet dog to run and I looked forward to running her.
Lucy and I walked to the post and she spotted her sheep. Her little body trembled and it reminded me of her grandmother, Tess. She leaned forward, ready to go and she cast out nicely on the away side. She had a sweet lift and a straight line to the fetch panel. The sheep started to veer and I flanked her on the pressure to tuck them in. The sheep stopped and faced her, she hesitated walking into the pressure, they slipped to the side, and we missed the panel. She brought them quietly to my feet and had a beautiful turn at the post. She lined them up nice and had a smooth first leg, made the first drive panel, tucked in nicely for the cross drive after going a bit offline. A bit of a small bobble then as they headed to the second panel, the sheep were drawn down the hill and I flanked her to tuck them back in and they faced her and she stopped again and they slipped down. She got them back online for the last leg and it was clean and straight.
Her calm demeanor soon has the sheep settled at the chute and she marched them in like soldier down the parade grounds. One slipped out at the second chute. She was also one of the few dogs to get both chutes and lost only one point. After the sheep went through the chute they bolted to the exhaust. She ran like a bat out of hell and was going to grip the lead ewe to stop her when I called her name to remind her to think that thought. She flashed in front of them, gave a deep barking growl and turned them. They stood and faced her, not believing her as they had beat her at the two panels.
“Lu, bring them to me” I said quietly and she dropped her head and marched into the head of the lead ewe, letting her know this time if she stood up to her, that she would grip. The lead ewe nostrils flared, her head went up and she turned tail and ran to the ring with her compadres close behind. Brave, little Lucy at this point was on the muscle and I could see the fire in her eyes. She was on the muscle and at this point would make a raging bull look like a wet rag. I tried to set up the shed but the sheep were not having any part of the feisty redhead with the gleam of spitfire on her face. We timed out and I was happy that she ended on such a strong note. Lucy is going to get better and better and I know that Monique will have great success with her.
Lucy’s score was 1-outrun, 1- fetch, 6- fetch, 14 – drive, 1- chute and 10 shed and placed 6th.
At the exhaust, I held her in my arms after our last run and whispered in her ear “Lucy, you did me proud. I love you. You will do your new mom proud. You are one of the greatest gifts.” She licked the tear away from my face and her gentle wag of her tail told me she knew she did me proud. What a great run to end in Open.
Tomorrow I will write about the other runs.