The Luck of the Irish happens on St Patrick’s Day and since I am neither Irish or my name is not Patrick, luck was not smiling on me at the Heppner Sheepdog Trial. I had heard about this trials for years but never was able to make it. Last year it was due to work, the prior years I was having one of many heart surgeries. But this year, I sent in my entry and was in! Kathleen Torkelson was kind enough to drive me as I am very sick from my heart issues. My heart beats at 39 beats per minute, I have atria flutter and some of my beat are half heartbeats. So I get tired very easily and driving 5 plus hours to a trial was going to be tough. Instead, I was able to sleep while Kathleen drove her van. She is a godsend. I brought Nan and Maid to run in Open on the freshly shorn range yearlings. People may say that this trial is not tough or worth their while but they are so wrong. Perhaps they should attend and see how tough it is!
Over 200 wily range yearling were trucked in and we had fresh sheep for the first day and they were rerun the second day. There were harder then! The setout was over 450 yards away and down in a gully for the first few runs before they moved it closer to set the sheep on the top of the gully. The trailers that they took the sheep out were behind and to the right and if your dog was weak or slow, they bolted back. They would stand eye to eye to dogs and not move and if the dog should any weakness, then they would challenge the dog. It was not easy and many folks fell by the wayside, even the best. It sure made you realize that these sheep should what you had or needed to have!
I loved the sheep and the course and it made me work for every point. On Saturday, the drive was to the left, near the exhaust, then to the crossdrive panels that sheep took great delight in avoiding and then bursting up to the trailers. If you did succeed in the doing the drive, the shed was next and they would hold their heads high and stick like glue. The last part was the pen and they had no desire to go into that at all. They were more than happy to dart around the pen then bolt to the exhaust. They certainly didn’t like people and if you moved towards them, they would scurry like ants from a hot fire.
I had the short straw and drew up first so Maid and I went to the post. She went out and cast out deeper and gave in and the sheep broke towards the trailer. I was unable to get them back online and Maid didn’t stop for me so by the time I got her under control the sheep were near the crossdrive panel. We got them back online for the rest of the fetch being proper and a nice tidy turn and a dead straight first leg. I turned her a shade too quickly so the sheep scraped what little wool they and left off the panel and then she continued to drive them up the field and up the field. So I retired and gave her a wide away flank and she brought the sheep back. It was a combination of my bad timing, poor whistles and Maid being good and then bad. But, this time we did get farther on the field and when she was good, she was very good. The first part of the journey with Maid is the first step and we are still learning that.
Nan was the second of my dogs to run. She ran out clean and deep and lifted fast and most of the first fetch was like the final stretch at the Kentucky Derby. All I could see was sheep galloping, dust kicking up behind and nostrils flared opened and eyes wild and white. Surely it was not a good sign to see at the post. I was thinking I was gonna be rolled over like a blowing pin so I rather loudly told Nan to lie down and she perked her huge ears up at me as if to say, “Say what?” and did lie down and the sheep slowed down in front of me at the last second the sheep skirted the fetch panels so that cost us dearly.
The turns was nice and they lined up and started on the drive but the draw was tough and they were in a straight line but to the right of the panel so we missed them. The turn was a wee bit wide but we got them online to head to the crossdrive panel. The sheep danced to the right and left and didn’t want to go through the panel but after the union mediator stepped in, all parties were happy and they went through the panels. Nan had a tight turn to the shed and I lined up the sheep and she burst in like a fire cracker and they spilt. She did such a good job that when she went to regroup them, they wanted no part of her and one bolted. She went after it in full teeth mode and I scolded her and she keep her fangs to herself and did not grip. The other sheep tried to slip out of the field near the hospitality suite, perhaps they wanted a coffee and pastry but Nan got them all bunched up and headed to the pen. They complied and soon marched in without a peep and we landed with a score of 69 and in tenth place out of 56 dogs. I was quite happy and it was a good way to end for me.
Kathleen and I went to Chinese dinner with Ron and Hope and I can honestly say, it has been a long time since I had bad Chinese food. But we did and made a point to make that restaurant was on our no return list!
Lucky for me, I was not up first on Sunday but 18th so we didn’t have to get up at 5:00 but 5:30ishand for those people like me, that is akin to fun to like having my wisdom teeth pulled with no drugs or hearing fingernails on a chalkboard.
Nan was the first dog out and she had her superb outrun and a hard lift and she was hot on the sheep and I got her under contrail just past the fetch panels. One ewe took exception to her smacking hard on the bubble and challenged her at the turn and she hit the neighboring ewe. That didn’t impress Miss Surely Ewe so she tried to take Nan on and Nan faltered so she had her game. On the second challenged, Nan rode neighboring ewe like a Rodeo Queen on parade down main street, her teeth firmly fastened the on ewe and was rewarded with a DQ for her efforts. I guess we were the bug that day since we were the windshield the day prior.
Maid was nice on her outrun and checked in and settled nice behind her sheep. The fetch was off to the trailer and slowly worked it’s way down the field. A smaller repeat of the day before! We got back online at the fetch panel and had a nice turn and then started on the drive. The ewes were tough and didn’t want to go on the drive at all so she was patient. They spilt into two and then three then four goups of singles, then thought about grazing, then maybe moving along when Maid got into their face. She did hit one that thought she was going to tackle Maid and we got through the first panel and the swung nice to do the crossdrive. It was a struggle as the sheep were heavy, tired and hungry and wanted to go back to the trailer or exhaust. Maid did get them through the second panel and one turned on her and she hit the head and it quickly joined her partners but we got a DQ. I was zealous with my commands and Maid chose to be kind to me and not lose her head but I will have to be aware of that. The game little dog did take all of my commands and was quite good about it. So we did get farther and I know what I have to fix on my end. Less commands. Sound easy enough, right?
I wandered over after my run to eat some of the fine corned beef, cabbage, onion and carrots stew that Patti had made. I rewarded Maid for putting up with me with part of my bread, beef and carrot and she forgave me. Karen Mahoney, Meredith and Patti served up hot Irish traditional lunch and their famous cobbler each day. They also had hot coffee, tea and breakfast goodies. This trial is one classy trial with great tough sheep, challenging course, superb food and anything you may desire. Plus top handlers who run and you can learn from their runs. I was happy with what I did correctly and what I did wrong will be my homework in the next few weeks. Karen and crew go all out to make this one top notch five star trial. Thanks to them for this wonderful time!
Right after my run with Maid and the lunch, Kathleen and I hit the road. I slept a good portion of the way as I was beat from this weekend. I could tell that my heart was giving me issues when I couldn’t punch out my whistles and had to use my voice. By the end of my runs, I was mentally shot and had to take naps. I did manage to wake up in time for a late lunch in Ellensburg and we arrived back in town as the sun was setting. It was good to be home and soon I fell asleep again, this time dreaming of actually having perfect lines and no gray hairs.
Wednesday: Patrick and Andi’s run on Saturday (due to technical difficulties).