Monday, December 29, 2008

Holiday Weekend in Pescadero

The historical little town of Pescadero, CA was the scene of our latest weekend (between Christmas and New Years) adventures in sheepdog trials. The fabulous Willowside Goose Wranglers team put on an AHBA trial that was not to be missed. Not only did they offer the ranch (HRD) course, opportunities on geese and the test classes for those who are just getting started, they made the rare opportunity available for us to run in HTD (Herding Trial Dog--the "border collie course") in the large open field!

The weather cooperated beautifully with sunny, cool days and no rain or wind. Coal was entered both days in both HRD III and HTD III, with all the big boys and girls who are either HTCH dogs or HTCH-pointed dogs. Bid was entered only in HTD III so that we could practice our skills on the big driving course.

Coal qualified in both of his ranch course runs, with a fourth place on Sunday; this is not too shabby considering the competition. We have some skills to work on for that type of work, of course, but overall he was pretty reliable since I use him for ranch chores all the time.

Coal in HRD III (photo credit L. Allen-Byrd)

For HTD we had about a 125 to 150 yard outrun (seemed longer!) and long crossdrive, and a shed in addition to the outwork, driving, and penning. I'm really glad I have been practicing our shedding, although usually I have not been working on small groups of sheep yet for this at home. Both boys, however, stepped up to the plate on their trial sheds on five head.

On Saturday Bid took High in Trial on the HTD III course! This was very exciting. His outrun was gorgeous and his shed was textbook.

Bid shedding on Saturday (photo credit L. Allen-Byrd)

On Sunday our work was a bit more ragged and he ended up in third place. Overall though this was great and a boost to the confidence level. He also helped to set sheep to help finish up the trial after our runs on Sunday. Bid is a good little worker with a ton of heart.

Coal was second to Bid in HTD III on Saturday, and amazingly won the class on Sunday. Coal was able to shed better than Bid on Sunday. Coal and I have lots to work on, including improving his outruns and driving. My timing on the handling has got to motor up the learning curve, too, as I feel I am really making judgemental errors out there, especially on our cross drives, which gets my boys in trouble.

A wonderful dinner at the historic Duarte's Tavern (do not miss the artichoke soup) and staying over at the ranch in the bunkhouse completed the experience. A good time was had by all in the company of good friends, lively conversations, and lots of folks pitching in to help run the trial. Thanks to all who helped and participated!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

Stewardship of the Land and Sheepdog Trials Go Hand In Hand

Last weekend we were fortunate enough to be spectators at the new Hopland SDT at the University of California research station in Hopland, CA. What a wonderful venue and beautiful location for an outstanding sheep dog trial! I was wishing that I could have entered Bid non-compete so that we could have tried out the Open course. The course was set on rolling hills with an almost-500-yard outrun. Fresh sheep were provided by the University for every run over both days. I hope that this trial can become an annual event. We saw some great runs from dogs and handlers from northern and southern California, as well as from Oregon. Kudos to the organizers! Results are here:

While at the Hopland trial, someone in the know mentioned to me that with our budget cuts on the line here in California due to our state financial crisis, one of the programs that is likely to be eliminated is the Williamson Act. Under this act, landowners can receive property tax assistance if their land is kept in long-term agricultural or open-space use instead of being developed. It will be unfortunate if this program is cut, making way for even more development of ag land. Once that pasture is paved over, it's gone. A little bit of info is available here:

An action alert from the California Farm Bureau about the Williamson Act is available here:

The Hopland research station was so beautiful that it made me hopeful that UC will be able to retain this property and others like it throughout the state for now and into the future. After all, I believe that farmers and ranchers are the most capable stewards of the land because they know it best.

Monday, December 1, 2008

New Working Photos

Here are some new working photos of Bid and Coal, that I took on Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Coast Walk on Thanksgiving

On Thanksgiving Day, we went for a walk at the Sonoma coast, near Goat Rock. The boys had fun running and playing on the rocks. They did have to be coaxed, however, to stay away from the ocean because it is very dangerous in this area.

The area where we were walking was once a working sheep ranch, before it became part of California's coastal access.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

As Thanksgiving week approaches, I'd like to say Happy Thanksgiving to all. This collage is from last year but still applies. I'm happy to say that all three dogs are thriving and doing well. The leaves are falling again, requiring my attention, and I can't believe another year has passed. It's been a year of tremendous change.

Coal is turning into a reliable sheepdog. We had a lesson yesterday with our trainer who proclaimed, "you've got yourself a dog". At not quite 27 months Coal is doing good outruns (up to 350 yards yesterday) and learning to drive fairly well, although we have a few issues that are to be expected at this age. He's a good penner and what little beginning shedding we have done, he seems to love. I am hoping he will do well in the trials next year. I am extremely thankful for him and all the dogs, not to mention great friends and family. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It's Official

Bid's HTCH certificate came in the mail today from the AHBA. The HTCH requires 10 scores of 80% and above on the advanced courses. While you don't have to win the class to get the scores for this title, as one person noted, "they don't give it away, do they"? Along the way Bid received four High in Trials and a reserve. All of the legs were earned on sheep on all of the AHBA courses (including ranch, arena, trial dog, and large flock). It was a great learning experience to tighten up our scores (and my handling, most of all) to get into that 80 percentile. We really enjoyed the varied courses and the good friends in AHBA. Good job, Bid!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Dunnigan Hills SDT, Zamora, CA Nov. 14, 2008

"There's something about Zamora..."

On Friday, Bid, Coal and our friend Jack and his dog Ross went to Zamora, CA for the Pro-Novice class of the Dunnigan Hills Sheepdog Trial. It was warm but very windy…in fact the wind would almost blow you off your feet and the dogs had trouble hearing our whistles. The course was a 245-yard outrun with the handler’s post set up on a hill facing a little valley in-between two more sets of hills. The sheep were set in the draw in the middle of the little valley where it started to climb. Visibility was good for all, if you could stay on your feet, that is! The judge was Karen Child, recent winner of the Western Regionals, and a popular trainer/handler from the Pacific NW. We got two runs and it was a left-hand drive. There was little advantage to send either direction but most handlers sent to the left on a come-bye outrun. A few sent successfully to the right, however. I sent Bid to the left both runs as that is his stronger side; with Coal I ended up sending one run in each direction. I had to use my brass (louder) whistle and even then was blowing on it as hard as I possibly could, to be heard at the distant portions of the course.

In short, BID DID FANTASTIC! I am so proud of him; the only mistakes were mine. We would’ve had third place in the morning trial if I hadn’t retired at the pen. In the afternoon run Bid took first place.

Coal actually got a score on the challenging course in the morning, and in the afternoon we were “arguing long distance” too much on the drive, so I retired with him on the drive…to try it again another day. At those distances, we just don’t have the whistle communications yet, and in the wind, it was made doubly hard. He is young and we will get there, I hope by spring.

On the morning run, Bid’s scores were just one point off the outrun, one off the lift, and one off the fetch, and only 10 off the drive (we barely missed the first panel and hit the second panels)…he had a great run going. The sheep had not been penned in a year –since their last trial at Zamora-- so they did not want to pen. All the morning run dogs had trouble penning and there were very few pens. Bid and I had the sheep set up at the pen one time and they settled nicely…I asked him for one small step to move them and the lead (high-headed) sheep blew out and started to run…not Bid’s fault…I tried 2-3 more times and all we did was ring the pen…. I was running “out of dog” so I retired…not knowing I only had a few more seconds left on time. Everyone was mad at me for retiring and said I should have just held things together to run out of time, and if so I would have gotten third instead of RT on the scoreboard. The judge was very kind but gave me a talking-to about ruining a good run like that...but also she complimented me for my sportsmanship and my lack of willingness to run the sheep around and my desire to “save” my dog. I was just so thrilled with Bid’s work I didn’t care about the score. But of course it would be nice to post a nice score and get a placement (and take home a check!). His outrun was just beautiful, he went way wide around the hills to approach his sheep, and his lift was just almost perfect. The fetch was pretty much straight on and he was listening. The drive went well except for just skirting that first panel (which cost us 5 of those 10 drive points, since we had 5 sheep to run). I guess my next purchase will be one of those wristwatches with a stopwatch on it.

On Coal’s first run I sent to the left, and he ran straight up the field, as many of the novice dogs did, crossed over, but got the sheep, so that was good. I was thrilled that Coal even ran out for the sheep. His lift and fetch were downright brilliant and then of course we ran into trouble on the drive as we don’t really have inside flanks. We did manage to work our way around and had a perfect pen (one of the very few pens in the first trial at all) so Coal got a score of 41 in the first round.

In Bid’s second run, he got a set of sheep that were totally nuts and running off from the setout crew, taking a most circuitous route to their holding spot. I thought the judge might call for a new set, but the sheep were finally settled on the hay and we were told to go ahead. I was worried that Bid would even be able to handle them because of his age, and since I knew he was already tired from round #1…but we did it. The sheep were hard to control but we made it around and even penned. Bid got a round of applause and hoots and hollers from the local crowd. I was as thrilled as if he’d won the National Finals. His scores ended up one point off the outrun, zero off the lift, five off the fetch, 17 off the drive, and 3 off the pen for a total of 64--not a high score but considering the wild packet of sheep that we got, and a nine+ year old dog on his second run of the day, it was downright amazing.

Coal did a better outrun on his second try (sending to the right this time) but we got to butting heads on the drive and he wouldn’t take my whistles or voice commands so I finally retired without ever making the first panel. He is a strong-minded little thing and the distances were so great that is it out of our comfort zone. Still, I was very happy with his performance. We have a lot to work on. Karen Child told me I was a “good handler”! (beaming!) and encouraged me to stay in the sport and not change my attitude about respecting the stock as well as my dogs.

Many thanks to all who helped put on such a nice trial. The nice group of handlers was jovial and in good spirits. Thanks to Bill Berhow and Leslie Pfardresher for opening up their farm for this opportunity, providing a challenging course and fresh, healthy stock (St. Croix/Dorper crosses) to work.

I think this is our last sheepdog trial for 2008. I am thrilled to look back and reflect on our many successes, and especially the lessons learned, and look forward to more fun in 2009.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Catching Up

Things have been crazy for at least a week. November has truly brought winter to the forefront. Heavy rains last weekend took a toll. We lost one lamb to pneumonia last weekend during the downpours, unfortunately. Midweek, another lamb belonging to a friend, at the field that we share with her, was killed by an unknown predator (fox or bobcat as theorized by the county trapper upon viewing the remains). As a result all the lambs have been moved to a safer location.

With the time change it is dark so early, and due to a much longer job commute for me these days it makes it necessary to get in just a quick work with one dog, usually Coal, in the early weekday mornings if at all, while I feed. We now have sheep in two places and often both fields need attention daily. It makes for plenty of real work for the dogs which is welcome even if time-consuming. But, any real work sessions of any length will have to wait for daylight on the weekends or other days off for the next few months.

The election is over and all the questions associated with it, including the whys and hows remaining to be hashed out. We can just hope that things in this country and internationally will settle down a bit and people will be a bit less panicky. I was disappointed that California Proposition 8 passed, which I found somewhat surprising. I was not surprised that Proposition 2 passed, although I had hoped that it would not. I'm sure there will be fallout from both measures.

It's also less than three weeks until Thanksgiving. And, our last Pro-Novice sheepdog trial for 2008 is this coming Friday at Zamora. It's hard to believe that fall 2008 is whizzing by so fast!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sixth Annual Pt Pleasant Sheep Dog Trial

Saturday through yesterday, we participated in the Sixth Annual Pt. Pleasant Sheep Dog Trial in Elk Grove, CA.

Coal was in Nursery on Saturday and Sunday, and both he and Bid were entered in Pro-Novice on Monday.

On Saturday, Coal was second in the Nursery class and on Sunday he was third. He put in a really good performance given the fact that he is a baby dog and not really prepared for this level of competition. He got lots of compliments.

Nursery top three on Saturday with judge Michael Shearer

photo credit Morgen Magnuson

Bid did well on Monday showing us a beautiful outrun and lift and perfect pen. He ended up in the middle of the pack, score-wise. It's always nice to get numbers after your dog's name on the scoreboard, and some said it was the best outrun they'd ever seen Bid do.

Many thanks once again to the Spencer family for their generous sheep dog events, as well as to judge Michael Shearer and his wife, who came all the way from Scotland to judge and clerk.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Great Investment

To heck with Wall Street. Here is the best investment I have made in a long time. It's not a mutual fund, but a large orange fish.

It's the best puppy babysitter we've had in months!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Photos from 2008 RESDA Trials

Here are some scanned photos from this year's RESDA trials that a friend was kind enough to shoot and share with us. (Photo credits: L. Tunstall)

Bid at the Boonville (Mendocino County) Fairgrounds:

Coal at Oak Springs (Santa Rosa) trial where he took 2nd place:

First panel

Driving the second panel

Completing the chute

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Trio of Characters

It's nice having three dogs. Four dogs is a lot for one person to handle and two seems like too few. Three is just a nice number, at least for now.

Isn't this a nice looking dog?

And this one is pretty nice, too.

But what about this? Scary!

We've heard of the Headless Horseman for Halloween, but until now, not the Headless Rubber Chicken. Yikes! The trio of characters have had a busy past few days this week. Bid and Chief saw their fabulously talented doggie chiropractor. Bid was pronounced fit as a fiddle and in great weight and muscle tone, only needing minor adjustments. Chief had not been adjusted for about a year; he has problems that are chronic and ongoing but should not keep him from very light work. Chief does not tolerate being adjusted very well but we got it done. My hat is off to our chiropractor who is such a good sport about Chief's reluctance to be handled.

Saturday we went to a ranch in Elk Grove for herding practice in a different location. That was most welcome and quite fun. Bid has worked there before, but Coal had never run out the length of the field at this particular ranch. So we worked on outruns and driving. It seemed to be quite productive as Coal gained in confidence as we went along. Bid appeared to be in fine form. We have a USBCHA trial there in two weeks...fingers crossed.

Today we participated in the last RESDA trial of the year, up in Mendocino County. I wish we had a better report, but in fact Coal did not see the sheep due to the tall grass and a rise in the field which hid them from view, especially at dog level. Several of the less experienced dogs had this same problem. We were able to go exhaust the sheep and I hope Coal got something positive out of that. Bid was kind enough to run out on faith for me and bring me the sheep; however, we ended up retiring at the pen as I was running "out of dog". It has been a long day and this is where we are all headed:

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Chance to Reflect - the Harvest Fair

A good friend told me today, "not having a great working experience is helpful by letting you reflect back on it and grow from it." Since Coal's and my performance yesterday at the Harvest Fair was not one of our best, I think I have a great chance to reflect and grow! Coal and I were just not in synch together and there were other problems, including environmental ones. Going to the fair was a good experience for Coal. He needs mileage and seasoning and I have to remember that he is doing an awful lot for a pup who just turned two. Below is just one example of the sights and sounds of the Fair!

Photo Credit: Kent Porter / The Press Democrat

Our training routine also needs a change of pace, so I'm going to make some alterations to what we do this week, and also will try to set up a practice somewhere in a different location for the weekend.

This Sunday both Coal and Bid will run in the last RESDA trial of the year, up in Mendocino County. I am thankful that it is in a large open field, and not a small covered arena!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

NCWSA Workday in Pescadero

Yesterday was the NCWSA annual meeting and fun workday at Willowside Ranch in Pescadero, CA. The Willowside Ranch is always such a lovely place to travel to and work dogs. The only down side is getting home (through San Francisco) in brutal afternoon/evening traffic. I am resolved to find a different route home for next time! But back to the dogs...

Coal got to work geese first off and while he is not as into it as working sheep, he did fine. It would be nice to have more frequent opportunities to work the geese in order to retain his interest in them.

We signed up for 8 minutes per dog on the big Open field. I took Bid out first, and he ran just before lunch. I was quite pleased with his outrun, lift and fetch. We are really improving our communications there and I believe the fetch was straight to the post just like our trainer has been urging me to do. The driving was not as good but OK; Bid still does not like to take his Away flank at a far distance when I need him to in order to make a panel. More stuff to work on.

Coal ran after the lunch break and quick club meeting. I sent him from the same post position that I had sent Bid, which was a "big-boy" outrun for Coal, but I wanted an assessment of where we are. It was worth all of the windshield time. He saw the sheep most definitely, but was tentative and flat at first, so I called him back and re-started. On the second try, the outrun was lovely and wide, and the lift beautiful. The fetch, perfect, if a bit slow. I'll have to work on different "gears" for this dog, which is an aspect of technical handling and training I have never gotten to in the past. He's not ready for a full drive, but it's coming along.

Many thanks to NCWSA, and the Willowside Ranch owner and managers for another nice working dog outing in a lovely spot.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Couple of Good Dogs

Today we went to Zamora again for lessons with our trainer. What we did was walk way out into a different section of the property (over a mile) onto a large hilly field that I haven’t been on in probably a year. There were about 75 sheep out there and they had drifted off to the far fence. Since the sheep were so far away, we decided to send Bid, rather than Coal, for them. We thought it was a little too far yet for Coal. I wasn’t sure if Bid saw the sheep but he ran out well, and disappeared for a while from sight behind the hills. I waited and waited, and then eventually I saw him coming up along the fence line and by golly he got the sheep! It was so cool! Afterwards I was informed that this was probably a 600 yard outrun. Wow! Bid is working really well. After our gather we did some driving on the hillsides and then worked on our shedding. It’s all coming along. I was really pleased but didn’t want to push Bid because his chronically achy front feet are again a bit sore. The ground is so baked and hard, and there are huge cracks in the ground that a dog or sheep could get stuck in. So we tried to be very careful.

On to Coal. A group of probably 30 sheep were kind of hiding out partially behind one of the hills. I don’t know how far away they were, but not as far as Bid was sent; maybe 200-300 yards or so. We were pretty sure Coal did not see the sheep although some of them were visible (to us) between the hillsides. So we worked on Coal taking my “look” command. Finally we got Coal fixated on the right place; he ran out a long way then bent out beautifully around sheep and brought them. Our trainer said that little exercise alone was worth a week of training in Coal’s understanding of things.

We also worked with Coal and the sheep being on one hillside and us being on the other, facing one another. This creates an illusion of distance yet you can see what’s going on. We did some driving, lots of flanking, and actually introduced the turn back. At one point there was a packet of sheep behind a hill that Coal could not see, and we were able to turn him back to gather them from that far distance. I was really wowed; but it took a lot of concentration from both of us. Coal needs to get more obedience at a distance, and that is just a project that I am slowly plugging away at.

All in all it was another big outdoor adventure for a couple of good dogs on a Saturday morning!

Friday, September 19, 2008

One Day at a Time

So far, so good, with working Chief. We had a better session Thursday evening because I had a more appropriate group of sheep out for Chief. He needs a bigger and slower group than what I had been using. Coal got to sort the moms with little tiny babies off and we penned them separately, which is excellent work for him. Then Coal and I set the remaining large group in the field (about 40 head of mixed ewes, larger lambs, and the big ram) and I went to get Chief. This scheme worked so much better than the Nascar-oriented seven head that I had out for Chief last session. We were actually able to do some little fetches and flanking. It is getting dark faster and faster so it's harder to get the three dogs worked in the evening. Fall is definitely here and soon I will have no choice but to work only one dog in the very early morning before going to the office.

But for now, Coal is taking so much chore load off of Bid that I can concentrate on just what I want to train for with Bid. That is really nice. Last night Bid and I worked on two longer outruns and the little handling details for the fetch and post turn from our last lesson.

Coal is entered in the Sonoma County Harvest Fair the first weekend of October. That should be fun. Then Coal and Bid will probably both run in the RESDA Fall Trial, the last of the season. Entries are not open yet, but I plan to enter Bid in the Pt. Pleasant annual fall trial and whatever else comes onto the calendar locally for USBCHA Pro-Novice.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

More Pics of Chief, or Fingers Crossed

I realize I don't write much about Chief. Here are some more recent photos of him. In the past couple of months he's been on the injured reserve list once again, but recently seems to be sound enough to put back in the training lineup. So, Tuesday night I tried working him briefly on the sheep. He walked out sound after working and even better, walked and ran sound this morning and evening at the park. So those wonderful Chinese herbs as well as the more traditional Western herb/supplement formula are doing the trick, along with time off. Fingers, paws, and all are tightly crossed for continued soundness!

Even though Chief doesn't get much "press" in the blog, he is an integral part of the family group. When we are out together, Coal never lets Chief out of his sight; they are close buddies. I am very thankful to have Chief around to watch over the rest of us.
This last photo is really silly and not in keeping with his character, but just too fun not to include.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Labor Day Weekend 2008

No trials, no lessons, this weekend...gratefully, just some time off work, and celebrating Coal turning two years old. Here are some videos shot by me while working the dogs on the sheep. It's not the best scenario, operating the camera while working the dogs, but it's better than nothing. The dogs seem to know the handler is a bit impaired and sometimes take advantage. The sheep were wanting to run to their buddies, which didn't help either.

Anyway here is Bid, age 9.

And here is Coal on his two-year-old birthday:

I can't work Chief right now because he has unfortunately (again) hurt his leg (not while herding but somehow in the back yard unsupervised). When he gets sound again--however long that takes--we will try some more sheepdog training. But he can still have a short run in the field.

Now back to watching the Soldier Hollow scores come in, and rooting for our favorites...

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Oak Springs Ranch, RESDA, August 24, 2008

Coal took second place in the Open class today at Oak Springs Ranch in Santa Rosa, CA. He got 44 points out of 50 which surprised the heck out of his handler, although I knew he did a fairly good job overall. I thought we might place 6th or 7th, given the overall good quality of the mostly smooth runs that I watched; however, we will not argue with the judge on this one. Clearly, our training yesterday on some of the hard stuff made an impression that paid off today.

What is the old saying; a poor practice makes for a superior performance?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Reality Check, or, Bid Saves the Day

I guess this is why I like working more than one dog. Oftentimes, one dog saves the day, and sends me home from lessons or a trial with a smile on my face, meanwhile the other(s) can have their "reality checks" without getting me too upset.

Today it was Bid's turn to shine in our lessons at Zamora, and I got to run him on a "trial course", which I almost never do (except at trials). He ran the equivalent of a short Open course/long P-N course and I felt good about what we did. I need more improvement with timing and taking risks, in order to make things smoother. But it is so nice to be "handling" and not just "training" for a change. Ahh!

Coal and I got a reality check in many ways, regarding the length of the outrun he is willing to do at an unfamiliar place, and the degree to which he will listen on stops and flanks as well. It's just our level of training and I have my work cut out for me to be insistent yet encouraging with him, these next few weeks until the next time we can get a lesson. I have to continue to "keep the pickup running" when I send him (that is, start up the field after him if it is a long-ish outrun). No doubt, keeping the pickup running should be good exercise!

This afternoon I worked Chief again at our home field, for just a short time. It's definitely a work in progress and he has forgotten a lot of what he formerly knew.

Meanwhile, it's the High Season for sheepdog trialling both here and abroad and the opportunity to root for favorite handlers at the overseas trials and those here in the West alike, will be awesome for the next month.

Friday, August 22, 2008

AB 1634 Senate Vote Today -- Measure Defeated

From the website:

"AB 1634 Goes Down in Flames
The California State Senate overwhelmingly rejected mandatory spay/neuter today. The preliminary vote count is 5 YES, 27 NO. The supporters have asked for reconsideration which means it can be brought up again next week, so it's not over yet, but this was a huge victory. According to the Legislature's rules all bills must be passed by both houses by August 31.We will keep you informed, so please check back daily. We may have to remind our Senators how important this bill is to us.There are lots of people in this fight and we can't name them all. Thanks to our Friends and to all of you who called, faxed, visited, and emailed your senator. That will do. "

I watched the vote on the web cast and I still can't believe what I saw: 5 Yes votes and 27 No votes. It's unbelievable! Yes, the bill may come back next week but we have won such an important battle in the war. Senator Padilla said that the AKC was still neutral when he brought the bill up for vote, despite the change of heart by the AKC yesterday to "strongly opposed". I am glad that AKC came to its senses but they very nearly did us irreparable damage by their short-sighted temporary move in the past week to "neutral" and then back to "opposed" on Thursday. Senator Padilla was corrected, and the vote was re-taken with the above result.

After 18 months of work to win such a battle, it is truly, truly overwhelming. My hat is off to the very strong, articulate, and intelligent people that I have gotten to know in this period of time.

Back to dog training, at least for now! On that note, we have lessons with our trainer scheduled for tomorrow, which I am greatly looking forward to, and a RESDA trial on Sunday for Coal (so that he can gain some more experience in a different field). I did not enter Bid in the trial, since he does better in open-field driving style trials. Also, I have actually returned to working Chief on the sheep. It is a work in progress, but I feel so much more confident about it this time with a much-expanded training "toolbox".

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Lambs & Sheep Update

Some updated photos of the new lambs are below; the lambs are about two weeks old now. Black boy - a "pistol"!

White and brown boy -- already getting into the alfalfa.

Little white & black girl in the Cazadero group -- like the boys, she is fast!

This caramel-colored girl belongs to a friend.

And, one very dirty sheepdog.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Tired but Not Giving Up...Fighting AB 1634

We're extremely tired of fighting this battle, but we are not giving up, even though on Thursday the American Kennel Club changed its position on AB 1634 from opposed to "neutral". I could say a lot of nasty things about that extremely short-sighted move on the part of the AKC, but I will refrain and take the high road. Suffice to say, I hope that those who continue to participate in AKC events and registration will take a long hard look at the east-coast organization that has no qualms about leaving west-coast dog fanciers (of all breeds, not just border collies) high and dry when the chips are down and the going gets a bit rough! As for me, AKC has seen the last of me, for good. I used to participate in agility, obedience, and tracking, and enjoyed those sports very much, but no more. If I want to pursue any of those activities, I'll find another venue such as ASCA or USDAA. Meanwhile, the sheepdogs are calling the shots around here anyway, and have been for some time.

AB1634 may come to a vote early this week because the Senators of both parties will be wanting to leave to get to their respective conventions.

Below is a post from Laura Sanborn ( that is cross-posted by request and with permission. If you are reading this far, please follow Laura's suggestions as to how to take action, and SOON. I'll be firing up the ole fax machine over the weekend myself.

--- please cross post ---

Angie Niles and I visited the Capital today (Friday August 15th) to convey to Senate staff our
continuing opposition to AB 1634.

Bottom line: it is imperative that everyone get updated opposition letters
to the Senators this weekend letting them know that we still oppose this bill.

There is an impression among staff that the August 12 amendments negated
the opposition. If you have not sent an updated opposition letter to the
Senators specifically referencing the August 12 amended version of the
bill, you must do so this weekend, as the vote could be as early as Monday.
Our previous efforts worked. Levine stalled and then had to amend the bill
because we had it beat, just as we had done 10 times previously. We can do
it again. The clock is running out on this bill. But it isn't dead yet.

Contact everyone you know to get their updated letters out. Spread the word!
Here are some talking points to help formulate your opposition letter

Organizations need to FAX or email their updated opposition letters to all
40 State Senators.

Every Californian needs to FAX or email their updated opposition letter to
their own State Senator.

You can look up your State Senator here, and click through to his/her
website to get more contact info

A list of State Senators' fax numbers and email addresses is here

Laura Sanborn

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Position Statements of the DVMs who Study Reproduction

... from the American College of Theriogenologists – the vets who study reproduction.

This points to a page of position statements; be sure to read both their "Position Statement on Mandatory Spay/Neuter" and the following"Basis for Position Statement on Mandatory Spay/Neuter."

Important points include: "the decision to spay or neuter a pet must be made on a case by case basis and this decision should be made between the pet's owner and its veterinarian."

And, "research has shown that in locations where mandatory spay and neuter programs have been instituted, a decrease in the number of vaccinated and licensed animals has been seen due to poor program compliance."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Weekends Are Too Short

The weekends are definitely too short.

Saturday we had great lessons with our sheepdog trainer, but of course it took up the whole day. Coal and I worked on "getting to the next level". He did some really nice outruns of increasing length and difficulty, taking sheep off of another dog and handler. His driving was nice but we have some pesky inside flanks to work on, as well as getting some more control (i.e., stops) at a greater distance.

Bid got a less extensive workout but did fine in the heat even though by the time he had his turn it was noon. I was quite pleased with his attitude. He did one long "Zamora Outrun" where he disappeared from sight over the hills, but eventually (after what seemed like an incredibly long time) came up behind the sheep in a perfect line to bring back them to me.

Sunday was mostly taken up with worming some of the sheep and banding the new lambs (ugh). Coal got some real chores in, splitting moms/babies off of the big group and bringing them in separately, against their wishes, or so they thought. There is nothing like real work for an eager young dog like Coal.

Bid and I also worked on our shedding techniques both days. He's showing understanding of what is needed for everyday farm-type chores.

Monday will be here all too soon.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Another new resident

This little guy appeared yesterday, August 6.

Following mom like a good kid. He's got her ears!

He's fast, even though he's only a day old!

Here's a new photo of the lamb who came last week.

And the culprit who is responsible for all this foolishness!

Monday, August 4, 2008

CA AB 1634 - State Senate vote will happen soon

Forwarded by request from Laura Sanborn:
AB 1634 will be voted on in the full California State Senate sometime on or after Thursday, August 7, 2008. The deadline for legislation to pass is August 31. Please forward this email to your organization or club distribution lists and let them know that we need everyone's help to defeat AB 1634. We are close to having enough State Senators lined up to defeat it. But we are not there yet. We need an avalanche of phone calls, emails, and faxes to stop it.Information about the current version of AB 1634 and how individuals can take action can be found on the Save Our Dogs website The current version of AB 1634 differs significantly from last year's version, and is in some ways much worse. The "new" AB 1634 establishes owning an intact dog or intact cat as a "secondary offense" according to bill author Assemblyman Levine in his testimony before the Senate Local Govermentment Committee. Make no mistake about what this means. It means that owing an intact dog or intact cat will be illegal in California -- NO EXCEPTIONS. NO exceptions for law enforcement dogs. NO exceptions for working ranch dogs. NO exceptions for hunting or sporting dogs. NO exceptions for search-and-rescue dogs, guide dogs for the blind, or service dogs for the disabled. NO exceptions for purebred dogs or pedigreed cats. NO exceptions for dogs or cats owned by responsible breeders. NO opportunity to purchase an intact permit. All of that was deleted when the bill was gut amended. The "primary offense" that triggers the "secondary offense" that can lead to a forced sterilization order need not be valid or upheld... it can be a frivolous or malicious allegation that is dismissed. Please let me know if you need any help.
Thanks very much.
Laura Sanborn

Sunday, August 3, 2008

New Addition to the Family

This little guy arrived on the scene early Friday morning, August 1st.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Sonoma County Fair, July 31st

Coal did very well at the RESDA-sponsored sheepdog trial at the Sonoma County Fair. Even though we had drawn first in the running order, he spotted the sheep just fine and put in a very nice run for 38 points out of 50. This was good enough for sixth place in a very competitive evening trial. The sheep (wooly ewes from a ranch in Mendocino County) worked evenly for most of the dog and handler teams. It was a great way to celebrate Coal's 23-month birthday which was on the 29th. It's hard to believe he will be two years old in just one more month.

There was a large audience of dedicated sheepdog fans which made it all the more fun. Thanks to all who participated.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

AB 1634 - Senate Vote - Please Help

Cross Posted with Permission from

AB 1634 will face its final hurdle in the California state legislature over the next few weeks. The bill was "gut amended" in June into a different bill, one that on the surface appeared to remove many objections. Unfortunately the new AB 1634 is arguably worse than the old bill. If Californians don't seriously step up the response, this bill will soon pass the California state legislature. If the governor doesn't veto it will become illegal to own an intact dog or intact cat in California.

As Assembly member Levine explained in his testimony before the Senate Local Government Committee several weeks ago, AB 1634 makes owning an intact dog or intact cat a "secondary offense", analogous to the seat belt law which made driving without a seat belt a secondary offense.

Make no mistake about what this means. It means that owning an intact dog or cat will be illegal in California, no exceptions. No exceptions for registered purebreds. No exceptions for dogs or cats owned by responsible breeders. No exceptions for police dogs, search-and-rescue dogs, detection dogs, hunting dogs, working farm and ranch dogs, or any other dog. There are no longer any exemptions or ways to obtain intact permits in AB 1634. All that was removed when the bill was gut amended.

Furthermore, the primary offense that activates the fines and sterilization mandate in AB 1634 includes "complaints" -- mere allegations that need not be valid or proven. Your neighbor can complain that your intact dog was in his yard, and even if you can prove the allegation was untrue, even if no one believes the allegation, you can still be fined or ordered to sterilize your dog. Mr. Levine used this very example in his committee testimony.

AB 1634 will be voted on in the full California State Senate sometime between August 5 and August 31 (the deadline). It already passed the Assembly.

The State Senate is not receiving as much opposition to the new AB 1634 as they had about the previous versions. I have spoken with Senate staff and heard this message. I am seeing only a small fraction of the response that we had last year. Your letters, faxes, and emails sent last year don't count anymore.

If Californians don't seriously step up the response, this bill will pass the California state legislature. We managed to stop the old bill and can stop this one. We cannot stop it with well-reasoned arguments alone. It doesn't work that way. We can stop it if those arguments come from tens of thousands of Californians. If you own an intact dog or intact cat in California, if you want responsible dog or cat breeding to continue in California, or if you just don't like the idea of the state government declaring all intact dogs and cats illegal, then please take action now. There is no longer any time to wait.

Ways that you can take action are on the home page of the Save Our Dogs website. Some of them only take a few minutes of your time (a brief phone call to your state senator's office and a customizable email using NAIA's capwiz that already has major objections for you to select). The most effective thing you can do is to visit the district office of your state senator and discuss your objections.

A review of the major objections to the bill is here, formatted as a sample letter you can edit as you see fit.

Please help.
Laura Sanborn

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Back to Pescadero, July 20

We went back to Willowside Ranch in Pescadero again this weekend for an AHBA trial on Sunday. In contrast to "hot" Dixon, CA, it was typically cool, foggy, and misty in Pescadero--that great coastal dog/sheep trialling weather!

Bid got 86.5 points in HRD-III (sheep) for a 12th HTCH leg.

Coal took third place in a fairly competitive HRD-II (sheep) class for his first leg at that level.

Even Chief got in some practice on his obedience during the down time, with several willing participants helping with his stand for exam. With persistence, we may get there!

The dogs worked very well and the level of competition was very high. Many thanks to the Pescadero crew for providing us with another fun day of AHBA trialling in a fantastic facility.

Lambtown USA July 19

Saturday we enjoyed a sheep/wool festival in Dixon, CA called Lambtown USA. A small USBCHA style trial was held in addition to the other sheep-related festivities. Both Coal and Bid ran well on the St. Croix cross sheep. Coal was first in Novice-Novice and Bid was third in Pro-Novice. Scores are here:

Many thanks once again to the Spencer family for offering us such fine and enjoyable dog trialling events.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Willowside Ranch, July 12-13

We had a fun weekend at a USBCHA trial at my favorite spot, the Willowside Ranch in historic Pescadero, CA.

Bid ran in Pro-Novice and on Sunday we actually got around the course in good form, but timed out at the pen. His outrun was gorgeous and parts of the drive were also very nice. It was encouraging after a few trialling experiences lately where Bid and I seemed to have no luck, not to mention "handler error" rearing its ugly head!

Thanks to NCWSA for working hard to put on this lovely trial at a wonderful location with friendly folks all around.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Down to the Wire--AB1634

AB 1634 is supposed to be heard in the California Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday July 14, 2008.

Please contact your Senator if you are a California resident, and state to them that you are opposed to this bill. Please contact each member of the Appropriations Committee as well.

The following websites have information and talking points. The NAIA Trust has a letter-writing tool that could not be easier to use. The Save Our Dogs site has a letter that fiscal information can be drawn from.

Time is of the essence! Do not wait. Do not expect others to fight this battle for you.

If passed AB 1634 will spell the end of the working dog in California.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Marin County Fair, July 6th

Today we ran in the Marin County Fair in a RESDA-sponsored sheepdog trial. It is always a lot of fun, no matter how the trial turns out, to participate in a vanishing slice of small-town America--a county fair with animal exhibitions. The crowds were huge and adoring of the dogs and sheep--as if we were all an endangered species--which I guess we are (especially considering that AB 1634 is alive and oh-so-well).

Bid got a poor lot of sheep, ran 8th of 21 dogs, and we didn’t have a very good run, with only 16 points out of 50. It was definitely not his fault and he worked hard for every point. Of the 3 sheep, one wanted to come to me all the time like a “school” sheep (plus she wanted to stand and fight); another wanted to run the complete opposite direction all the time, and one was “medium” which if I’d had 3 like him/her we would have been fine. We timed out at the pen, not due to Bid’s effort but the sheep were just not cooperating. Oh well -- that’s show biz!

Coal ran last and ended up with 37 points out of 50 (I believe the winner had 46 pts and 2nd place had 43 so we were not that far out of it) and 10th place…getting a big purple ribbon. He did well, had a nice group of sheep (I was worried that Coal would get another uneven lot like Bid, since they would be the last set in the pen but they had brought one extra set of 3, thank goodness). Coal is still a bit headstrong and I’ve got to get better control in order to place better but I was overall quite pleased with him. I think it was another good experience for him in a strange place because he thought twice about running out for them, but did. Coal got a lot of compliments and had some adoring fans in the crowd.

Next weekend it is USBCHA driveaway for Bid only down in Pescadero (cool!) in Pro-Novice.

The following weekend we have one day of driveaway in Dixon (Lambtown USA) where I have both dogs entered and on Sunday an AHBA in Pescadero (both dogs).

I have one dog entered at the next/last fair (Sonoma County which is closest to home) that I will do this year, and I will probably take Coal at this point and leave Bid to the big open-field trials where he does better.

4th of July in Carmel

Once again we escaped to Carmel, CA over the 4th, so as to avoid the firecrackers in the neighborhood at home. The added benefit was visiting with old and dear friends from Illinois who were also in Carmel for vacation. On July 3rd, the skies were blue and the sea just as crystal clear.

The terrible fires near Big Sur were not an issue except for added murkiness in the skies on July 4th at the beach.

One of the many art galleries in Carmel displays some of the "blue dog" artist's works.

Here is the courtyard of our favorite dog-friendly inn, The Vagabond's House.