Monday, March 31, 2008

A Dear Friend, Jed

A dear friend, Jed, passed away completely unexpectedly over the past weekend. Jed was the kindest, sweetest, most hardworking man you would ever meet. He always had a grin and a greeting for me, and never an unkind word for anyone. He loved his dogs, walked them every day and was learning to run his special dog in agility. We are all stunned and shocked by this news and our love goes out to his wife and our wonderful friend, Connie.

Exhausting Fun

It has been two years since we have experienced the local Sonoma Wine Country Sheepdog trial, and over the weekend I realized how much I missed it during the 2007 hiatus. While we were hanging out putting our sore feet up on a bale of hay, a friend commented to me that it was "exhausting fun" and I totally agree with that conclusion. There were many "one for the book" story opportunities that came up over the weekend while I was running scores and doing other "gofer" jobs as they arose.

Friday's runs included the Nursery #1 and Pro-Novice /Nursery #2 runs. The sheep were fresh range ewes and while not unreasonable, they did not tolerate a lot of pressure from dogs but especially not from the humans. I would love to have the opportunity to work this kind of sheep more often.

Bid and I got a score of 35 points in P-N; it's not our best but I was pleased to get 'round the course and to have the opportunity to complete it. He ran out beautifully and brought me the sheep, which is all we can really ask. If you think about it, these darn dogs are amazing, in that they will keep doing this over and over again in different situations that are completely unknown to them. I made a major error, giving him the wrong whistle on the driveaway to the first set of panels. Like the good boy that he is, Bid took that whistle and did what I asked him to do.

Later in the afternoon on Friday a couple of ewes decided that they were being pressured way too heavily by a young dog and they jumped over the fence past the setout crew and over into the neighbors' field. Luckily they did not jump a second time, out of the neighbors' fence. We drove around to block the driveway, meanwhile the setout crew and the Irish judge worked furiously on the recovery operation, which was a complete success despite the light rainfall that had set in after the lunch break. The ewes were soon returned to the proper field and the trial resumed.

By Sunday afternoon the sheep had clearly taken total control of the trial, and were running a lot faster. All of the dogs who competed late in the trial had to show complete composure and control in order to get any kind of a decent run at all.

The judges and crew were all sweethearts to work with and it is a pleasure and a privilege to be involved in helping with a trial with the caliber of dog work that was presented in the Open class.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sonoma Wine Country Sheepdog Trial

The Sonoma Wine Country Sheepdog trial (USBCHA) begins this Friday and runs through Sunday. Bid will be running in Pro-Novice on Friday.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

More Memories of Special Dogs

This was a rough week for special dogs, apparently. We got word that Augie's brother, Tom, (the white-faced dog pictured with Augie in the March 15th post) also passed away this past week. This was in addition to his full brother, Paddy (Chief's father). Tom was well suited to his owner, who described him as a "big gentle border collie" who was loved by all who met him.

Unrelated of course, a very special Samoyed named Jake, also passed away this week. We got word of Jake's passing from herding friends. Jake was a great ambassador for his breed, as well as for AHBA. We feel very fortunate to have met Jake, and to watch him work livestock, and also to experience his gentleness around a crowd of people.

All of these adored dogs were 13, 14, or almost 15 years old.

Here is Augie as a younger dog displaying the spirit that I would like to remember all of these great dogs by.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Chief's Father, Paddy

The only bad thing about dogs is that they leave us too soon. We heard this week that Chief's father, Paddy, has passed away. Paddy was about 13 and a half years old and very much adored by his family. Besides being Chief's father, Paddy was a full brother to Augie, so his passing is particularly sad. Here is a picture of Paddy and Augie together when they were much younger; they were about two years apart in age (Augie was the older). Paddy is on the left, and Augie is on the right.

The news of Paddy's passing brought back lots of memories of the dogs who were related, including Raven and Megan. Here is a picture of Augie with another of his and Paddy's brothers, Tom, in their much younger days.

The family resemblance is pretty easy to see in this photo of Chief. I hope he stays with me for a good long while.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Windy Trial Day

Today we went to Elk Grove, CA, for a Pro-Novice sheepdog trial that turned out to be a really fun day. The only down side to the day was the incredible wind that blew on us all morning! The wind did not seem to impede the dogs' ability to hear our whistles, however, so our "nervous handlers" fears in that department were unfounded. The trial was held here:

I was anxious to try the Pro-Novice with Bid as we have run in that class only a scant handful of times in the past. We got two runs today and he did well, completing the course both times, with a score of 74 and 65 (out of 90 points). I am really pleased with his work even though I know we have a lot more polishing to do. The judge's comment about Bid was that he is a "really nice dog" but that I needed to work on helping him to know what is expected of him at certain points on the course. I am particularly proud that Bid got zero off the outrun and the lift, on both runs. We both could use some more trialling experience.

The trial host and hostess were kind enough to offer us all training time after the trial. I took the opportunity to work Coal on the field and ran him through approximately the equivalent of a Novice-Novice course. Coal did well, and was stopping and flanking just as well or better than he has been doing at home and at his lesson with our trainer yesterday. He got a bit distracted by the exhaust sheep at first, but then ran out and got his own sheep just fine; this was a great experience for him. I think we are making some good progress.