For the second year in a row, Getty and I drove the rig down to George and Sue MacDonald’s Memorial Day Trial. This time, we got to park at their place as I was still recovering from the two heart surgeries and Getty was going to take the truck to go to play Frisbee golf. Everyone else parked at the campground, which was a 1/3 mile away. Staying at the farm was very kind of Sue to let me do so and helped me a lot, as I still tired easily. Each day, I get stronger but it will take a bit before I am up to full speed.
Maid, Nan, Rainey and Sava were in standing heat so they got to only walk near out trailer. No way, they would be allowed in the common area, as I didn’t want the scent of my girls to influence any males during their runs. Since Tess was the only dog that was not in heat (she is spayed), she got free rein to hang with me during the day and socialize with everyone. She had a grand time mooching meals off people and being a lap warmer. Once she ran to the gate and gave me such a pitiful look, that it broke my heart. Another person walked by the gate and she nudged their hand, as if to ask them to open the gate for her. I called her off, we went to lunch, and she soon forgot about the sheep as she happily ate half of my hamburger, then worked the crowd, and soon was full. For the rest of that day, she slept next to my chair, her paws twitching as if after some wayward lamb or perhaps turning a challenging ewe.
Open and Nursery was on Saturday and Sunday and the PN, Ranch, Novice and the third round of Nursery was on Monday. Handler’s meeting was around 7:00 a.m. and the first dog on deck was right after the meeting. There were many runs to do so the Course Directors were busy and kept everything going like clockwork.
The Open layout had a standard outwork, then a long and uphill cross drive. The crossdrive panel line fooled many people and many slipped a tad below the panels, thinking they were dead on but by the time you had realized you were three feet off, the deed was done and the ewes slipped by the lower gate. Then halfway on the third leg was a chute and then a single.
Nan was the first dog up and was very keen. In fact, I discovered when my girls are in heat, they gets tons more push and less downs. Hearing is selective and they really like to lean on the sheep. Nan held true to this and cast out wide, was pushy on the first half of the fetch but soon settled down. We lost three points on her outwork. On the drive, she was good but at the crossdrive, she wouldn’t back off and go as I asked so the sheep slipped and missed the panels. We had them a wee bit off course and she didn’t do the slight adjustment we needed so we lost six for the error. Then on the last half of the drive, you had to put the sheep through a chute. You had to have your dog back off and be slow and soft to hit it dead on. Nan was not and one swirled to the side. You could not go on until you had all the sheep through so we tried again but she was slicing badly so we timed out. So, we lost the chute and single point.
Nan on the drive.
After our run.
Later in the day, I ran Maid. I have been working with her to listen on the outwork and be pliable. Per the course, she was pushy while in heat but cast out nice and deep and downed at the top. She came on strong and the sheep fluttered a bit before they settled down and it cost us four points. She only had lost one point up to the fetch. On the drive, she was fast at the first leg but we got in harmony and she drove nicely. However we were low at the crossdrive, I tried to adjust hard, it was a bit of a scramble, we missed it anyways, we had a wide turn, and the penalty was eight off. The chute was very tough as she leaned on the sheep and we missed with one and tried several more times and I could see she was getting frustrated but luckily for us the time ran out. She did try hard but couldn’t figure out why I kept going back to the chute again and again, but she didn’t grip but I could see the tension in her body. She took every command and even did several flanks incorrectly (correct in her mind) to bring the sheep to me. Nevertheless, I still was happy that she tried and didn’t grip and tried to team up with me. Considering I got her in late November, and have been out for months with my heart surgeries or work travel, we have been working well as a team. She is adjusting to a woman handler who has changed her whistles and runs far different that she has been used to the first 7.5 years of her life. She is not trying to be bad and when she grips, it is because I am over commanding her or not helping her. She is a wonderful shedding dog and great pen partner. Ironically enough, when I was running Tess and we were in the shedding ring, our eyes would met, we would just “know”, she would get a silly grin, then come in for a great shed. I saw this again in Maid, our eyes would met, I give a slight nod of my hand, her mouth opens in a slight smile and she come in like a hot knife through butter. It’s nice to have that special connection in the shedding ring again.
On Sunday, they reversed the course so the sheep had to be fetched up the field. We were in the area where they normally set the sheep and the drive was downhill, the first leg straight towards the former exhaust and now it was the setout corral. Maid was quiet and super cuddly as we waited. She snuggled her head into my chest and I stroked her head and talked softy to her. We walked out to the post, she went into full alert, and she leaned forward, her toes digging into the ground, waiting for the come bye command. She burst out like a racehorse out of the gate, swiftly covering the ground in loping strides, spied the sheep as she came over a slight rise, and then cast out deep and stopped at the top on my whistle. I waited a second to see what direction the sheep would break as they had been breaking back to the barn and many dogs played catch-up to get them back online. They didn’t move so I gave her a walkup and she lifted them like a champion. A well offline for a few steps but she soon straighten them out for a lovely fetch. She paced nice and brought them quietly to my feet. They were the light sport hair sheep that bolted at any indiscretion by the handler or dog. She lined them up nice on the first leg and I had to put her hard on the away side to hold the line and she took it. The first panel was a tree and a panel and she put them through it. I gave her a come bye flank and then a walkup when I thought she was in position. You couldn’t see that part. But to my surprise she came out of the gully driving the sheep down the hill, so I hit her hard with a whistle and a shout out and soon she marched them back on the cross drive. She gave me a look of WTF when she heard me so I know she was not trying to be bad. I talked to several folks who were at the bottom on what they saw, and the general agreement was she didn’t hear my flank but heard the walk-up. So next time, I will flank, stop, then walkup. We got them back online and then marched them to the cross drive panels when I had a handling error and at the last step, slipped the sheep to the side. Both of these handling errors got us dearly for eleven points. If we only would have only lost half of this points, we would have place second so this hit us hard. Darn it! So we approached the Maltese cross and it suddenly dawned on me, that we never did a Maltese cross. But good ole Maid was in sync and I had my back to her as I covered my side of the cross and she took every command and soon had the sheep going through each side of the cross like perfect angles. One tried to sneak around the other side and it took a bit to convince her to join her buddies for the last cross. It was very gratifying to see that Maid did as I asked of her, all behind my back and have that trust. I really enjoyed this run, aside from my handling errors, and we seemed to click as a team. After her run, we went back to the trailer and she enjoyed part of my lunch and taking a nap on the bed. For most of the day, she was sitting in fourth place but in the end, her 85 points slipped her down to 16th place. Of the 15 points that she had lost, 11 of those were my handling errors. Bad Diane!
Maid on her first drive panel, holding the pressure point and got a nice turn.
Nan was really jacked up and hot to go. That had me worried, as she is super pushy on the hair sheep and doesn’t really feel the bubble and then add she was in heat, not stop…well, it could be ‘fun”. She ran out wide but not as wide as Maid but still nice enough to only lose two on the fetch and none on the outrun or lift. A quick “DO YOU HEAR ME” on the fetch settled her down and we had a nice turn at the post. She was still pushy on the drive but stayed far enough off so the ewes didn’t want to race off. As we approached the cross drive panels, I didn’t want to make the same error that I did with Maid but then missed the panels on the other side. ARGH!! She then turned the sheep and on the last leg, was wide so we lost eight on the drive. The sheep did not want to go into the cross, and would bunch at the mouth. We took our time, got the cross for a loss of three points, and got a score of 87. We placed 8th, I was happy, and Nan was ecstatic with herself. She was bouncing up and down with joy and seems to know when she does a good run. I have my homework as my lost drive points are about the same and in the same area.
My dogs ran well, I have some handler issues I need to work on but all in all, I was very happy. Maid is working with me as a team and when she is confused, she will look back at me as if to say, “please give me a clearer command” and is patient with me. Nan and I need to work on her slicing on the last half of her drive and feeling the bubble more. But both dogs try very hard for me and want to please me so we are not fighting on the field. Sometimes they get it into their heads to be a bit pushier than I like, so I have to remind them to slow down. I have two excellent Open dogs and enjoy both of them.