We have had an extremely nice fall, with golden rays touching the red maple leaves, showing their translucent skeletons of fine fibers. Mornings have been brisk but soon yields warmth that calls for an afternoon nap. The geese normally flying south for the winter, have been staying longer and settling in for a few more extra days. The trees are holding on to their leaves for a few extra weeks, dazzling us with a display of gold, reds and browns. The grass still has been growing and looking lush and thick and the sheep have relished each bite. With the change to daylight saving times, my evening training has slowed to a trickle so I use the weekends wisely. I see the progress in the young bloods, a keenness that is whetted by being chained up before they work and soon sated by their sessions. With the seasoned veterans, it is sharpening up the skills and trying to erase the bad habits. Tess will stand at the gate, in hopes of being chosen to work and I humor her by having her sort the lesson sheep. That satisfies her and makes her feel like she is wanted. She puts the poultry away each night and afterwards, she runs to the tack room for her treat. Life has been good for her in her older years and she has recovered fully from her accident. She still thinks she is a two years old, running, barking and leaping on the couch and being a general pest at times and I smile at her.
I got up early on Saturday to go the trial hosted by Judy Norris and saw the weather had turned. Angry clouds filled the sky and the cold wind sneaked into my thick coat and chilled my soul. I called softy to Tess and asked her is she wanted to go to the trial. I was doing setout and she would fit that role perfectly as the sheep were light. She leaped off the bed and I winced as she skidded across the rug. She raced outside to the truck and leapt up and down on the driver’s side as if to open it. She shoved the other dogs out of the way and easily jumped into the cab. Her eyes sparked with a shine that I hadn’t seen a long time. Nan, Rainey, Emma and Tess soon settled down and I drove down our bumpy country road with my hot coffee in mt hand and the radio at a loud volume.
Nan was second dog up and it started off with a nice outrun and lift, then she was hard on the sheep for the first part of the fetch with no feel for the sheep but bully on their butts. We skimmed the panel and she finally settled down. Her drive started off nicely but she had her version of the drive which was high, then followed by a bad second panel section and put them snug in the pen. She was on the muscle and I could not settle the three hair sheep down for a shed. Her drive cost us dearly but she didn’t know that.
After my run, I was on deck with Bonnie Block and Dave Imas to set. Tess was excited to go and raced ahead, her tail in her air and happy with life. Dave gave her a good pet over and she glowed with love. Bonnie worked in the pen, Tess pushed the sheep out and Dave held them with his able Cap. Tess did great, feeling the sheep and walking them out smoothly so they were able to be lifted with no fuss. A few times we had a hard time trying to put sheep in the holding section so Tess came into the pen to help stuff the pens. She was quiet and had the sheep all sorted out and it was good to see her work again.
It made me sad to see that she was no longer able to run the course but I rejoiced in the fact, that at 13.5 years old, that she was able to help setout. She didn’t require much commands from me and once I showed her what need to be done, I let her do her job. When we were done, she held her head high and I saw the love of my life, walk down the field with a joy of being a team again.
I let her hang out with me like old times and we fell back into our old routine. Lunch was served and I dutifully cut my cheeseburger in half, loaded up my plate with chips and with Tess at my side, sat next to the heater. Tess sat front of me, and graciously ate chips from my fingers, delicately and with great relish. She waited patiently until I was done with my half of the burger, gently took her half and licked her lips in delight. Once my plate was empty, she scanned the tent and saw that other handlers had food on their plates. She worked the crowd and soon was rewarded for her efforts. She spied the second tent and wandered over there to see what meals she could purloin. She manage to convince Liz Stennings to share her ham sandwich and soon settled herself in Liz’s chair on top of the luxurious blanket so she could get a better view of the field.
She came back and soon was put to work when a wayward ewe from the run made a break and ended up in the handler’s area. She scooped her up and then gathered her cohorts and marched them to the exhaust pen. Satisfied with her work, she leapt into my lap, stuck her head near to heater so she would bask in the warmth and fell asleep. It was a good feeling to have her be my lapwarmer again. I cherish these days carefully as I know one day they will end and my heart will be torn asunder. But for the time being, I love each precious moment with her.
ProNovice was the last class and the darkness came swiftly. Kathleen ran her Gael and laid down a smoking run, showing that the sheep were doable in the high draw area. Her outwork was beautiful and this team has been clicking recently and it a run to watch. This was her fourth trial with her and she placed third with the young Gael.
Rainey went out deep, then her eye stuck up her but I got her out for a nice lift. She didn’t want to hold the pressure on the fetch and as result we were a tad bit offline. When I put the pressure on her, she flared out wider, this making it worse. I got her in finally and started the drive. It was tough on the first leg and I had to work her to push. She had a nice turn and the first portion of her drive was nice but the sheep dipped low. I tried to pull her on the away but she wanted to fetch them back due to the pressure. I made her do the away at the last bit of the crossdrive, it was too much for her so I let the sheep drift low. She scooped them up for a nice turn and penned them and tied for third but placed fourth on her outwork. I will need to her to hold the pressure and being more forceful on her drive. She is a cautious dog and she need to believes in herself more and be stronger. Nevertheless, she tries and never gives up and each time I work her, I see a little more strength in her.
Emma was my last dog to run and it was dusk and hard to see, She spied her sheep and cast out wide and had a nice lift. I was pleased on how well she did and she took my downs with precision. On the fetch, the sheep went into a dip and she turned them 90 degrees. I think she could not hear me and when they came out of the draw, I stopped her and crossed the course to have her bring them back. Out fetch was nothing to write home about but she did as I asked. She turned the sheep smartly and then was too much in their zone so I had to call her back hard, reflanked her to get some distance. She took it, put them through the panels and had a nice crossdrive with only a few tiny bobbles. She had a nice pen and I was quite pleased with her. I used the whistles on part of her run and she did well with them. She placed 8th as the offline, scenic tour on the fetch killed her point wise. I was happy on how calm she was and how she gave me her best effort. She is an outstanding dog and I have one more trial to run her before she goes back to Kathleen. She can move anything and is a dog that gives you her all.
When the trial was over, I gather up the girls and headed home, I stopped to get a Starbuck coffee as I had gotten chilled to the bone and was unable to warm up. Nora kindly lent me her Muck boots as I had left mine at work and Kendall lent her some mittens. I sat in Judy’s chair next to the heater when I was not running or setting out. For some reason, I gotten chilled to the bone and was unable to get warmth in my body. It didn’t help that it was windy, wet and cold.
It was a pleasant rifde home and when I arrived in the house, Tess ran up to Getty. She was pleased to see him and told him of her fine work at the field. He fussed over her and she soon settled on the couch, fast asleep, her feet in motion as if still covering the wayward ewe. It was nice to see her face shine in delight and the spring in her step. She was happy to be on the trial circuit and when her heavy snores filled the room, I smiled as I knew she loved the day and what pleasure it had brought her.