Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving Wrap-Up

Thanksgiving is over but giving thanks is not...

The long weekend wraps up today with an extra day taken off work. The weather has been mostly glorious and the dogs have played or worked every day. Much progress has also been made here at the house. I could stay very busy each and every day without going to the office!

Gas logs substituted for the wood stove, which is better for breathing! Still very cozy...

Rime's sheepdog training is coming along well but I think he needs a bit more maturity for working. He will not be a year old until next Sunday so there is plenty of time to let him grow. It has been nice to have extra time to play with him and see what he can do. Coal gets pushier and pushier, which is not unwelcome; it gives me "more dog" to work with for which I am very grateful! Chiefie has enjoyed his play group and seems fit and healthy. Lambs are arriving. All is well so far...for which I am thankful.

Time to take down the Thanksgiving decor and get out the Christmas treasures...oh and work dogs of course.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Rime Earns His Wings!

We had a major breakthrough today with Rime and the sheep. Rime earned his wings and has graduated from working in a small pen to working in the field! It was so nice to finally be out in the field with him, letting him feel the sheep. I love it when the sheep train the dog. We even did a re-pen to put our sheep away and he listened well, covered their attempts to escape and didn't take advantage at all. Now the real fun begins!

UC Hopland Sheepdog Trial, 2009

On Friday we drove about an hour north in the pouring rain to the tiny town of Hopland, CA to a sheepdog trial hosted by the University of California Research and Extension Center. It is a beautiful location and home to agricultural field research for scientists from many locations. The research center maintains its own large flock of breeding sheep, from 600 to 800 head at any given time. As a result the sheepdog trial handlers would be treated to fresh sheep for every run, all weekend. The sheep were large white commercial ewes, very fit and obviously well cared for, however they were not used to dogs and not particularly friendly to people. All of this created the wonderful challenge that we sheepdog-trial addicts crave! Combined with the pouring rain it created a unique situation to enjoy the wonderful farm surroundings. It is truly a treat to be able to run at this farm on their sheep.

Coal was up 5th in the Pro-Novice class so he got to see a couple of outruns, thankfully. My fears about his outrun vanished though as he left my feet quickly and boldly and ran out in a beautiful gather. The fetch was a bit fast but straight through the fetch gates. The ewes were fast, powerful, and needed a very light contact from pretty far off. They covered ground quickly and were very touchy to both dog and handler pressure. We managed to get them around the course though, although our drive was pretty messy. The driving part of the course was very short for this level of competition and there wasn't really enough room to get this type of sheep lined out and flowing before you needed to turn them for the next element. I'm sure some better teams than we managed a precise drive but those were few and far between.

The pen was unusual, three-sided, with no gate. I enjoy having a different or difficult challenge on the courses instead of the same thing every time. Coal and I timed out at the pen. The course time was only seven minutes which seemed really short, given the difficulty of the pen. Coal is a good penner and I'm sure we could have managed it, given just a little more time. His score was a 54, and we did not get the breakdowns. I'm sure he lost most of his drive points. Due to the poor weather and other obligations, I left after the trial was only about half over. At that time only one team had managed a pen with a 70 score. I am really pleased with the progress that Coal and I have made over the past year and I am thrilled with how he is working now. We've come a long way, and with luck I hope we are positioned well for our trials early next year. It was a great way to wind up our trial year and look forward to the next. I'm not sure what our first trial of 2010 will be but no doubt we will run at Zamora, Sonoma Wine Country, and some others.

Friday afternoon, the rain let up, and while I was checking our sheep at two different fields, I took a chance to shoot a few random pictures of the dogs while they played in the fresh green grass. The pictures are in a Picasa album, here. Rime will be a year old in about two weeks although he still looks and acts somewhat immature, I can see real changes in him lately that show he's getting it together. His training is coming along slowly, but we are getting started with some basic structure around the sheep. All of the dogs are fit and happy, for which I am very thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dunnigan Hills and Kurrajong Results Nov. 2009

Dunnigan Hills and Kurrajong posted results

Thank you to everyone who helps to put on trials, especially nice ones like these. A special thank you to the 4-H leader who brought coffee and food to the Dunnigan trial.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Windy Day in Zamora - Dunnigan Hills Open 11/14/09

So today it was the more typical day in Zamora - wind that cuts right through your coat, stings your eyes, makes it hard to whistle, and cools your coffee before you can drink it. Spectators and handlers alike at the Dunnigan Hills Open were dressed in parkas with their hoods pulled up so that hardly anyone was recognizable. Amazingly the dogs did not seem to care and they were as keen for their sheep as ever. Some really good runs were to be seen in the Open trial which featured a longer outrun, and a longer and wider crossdrive than the Pro-Novice, plus a shed of any two sheep off of the five total, after the pen.

Coal and I were lucky to be able to run non-compete Open at the end of the day, after the competitive runs. Total points possible were 100. Coal did a beautiful outrun, lift and fetch; we battled a little on the crossdrive but eventually I convinced him that it was "my way or the highway" and we continued on through the second set of drive panels and back to the pen. We completed the pen, had just started on our shed, when time was called. Whew! I was very pleased. His score was a 76.

I believe the overall scores will be posted on the NCWSA website ( I did not get all the scores but the top 6 are (unofficially) as follows:

1st - Anne Mock & Taff - 90
2nd - Leslie Pfardresher & Bill - 87
3rd - Sandi Andersen & Best - 86
4th - Sandra Milberg & Drift - 85
5th - Nicky Riehl & Sage - 84
6th - Mike Meredith & Gus - 80

Thanks to all who helped to make this trial happen.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dunnigan Hills Pro-Novice (and Nursery) 11/13/2009

Coal ran today in the Pro-Novice class at the Dunnigan Hills trial outside of Zamora, CA. The nursery runs were combined with the pro-novice runs so we had about 15 dogs. It was a fun and relaxed day with lovely weather (and only a slight amount of Zamora wind!).

I was really pleased with Coal as he placed second in the first go-round! He won a purple water box for his efforts. His score was only two points off the winning score and his run really didn't have much out of place. We were working together well and we had a nice even packet of sheep. Unfortunately, I didn't write down all the scores but here is what I got:

Anne Mock & Ben - 84 (also won the Nursery)
Billy & Coal - 82
Anne Mock & Zac - 74
Sandra Milberg & Brew - 73
Marilyn Bates & Jill - 67
Karen Kollgaard & Cali - 51

We got a second run after lunch, which I tried to use as a practice. I sent Coal to his non-preferred side on the outrun, so the outrun was not as good as I would like but at least he got out there. We had a fast packet of sheep with one ewe who wanted to speed in the lead, so we had trouble keeping her on course with her buddies. We missed the fetch gates and the second set of drive panels. As a result we lost more drive points than in the first run and ended up with only a 67 which was OK with me. I tried some things that we have been working on and I felt it was a successful practice. I feel like we have to try these things we have been working on in order to improve for next time and the next...The top group of scores on the second run (not all the scores, again, unfortunately) were:

Sandra Milberg & Brew - 78 (also first in Nursery)
Patty Sowell & Del - 78 (tie broken on outwork I believe)
Anne Mock & Ben - 77
Kathy Hoffer & Craig - 70
Marilyn Bates & Troy - 68
Billy & Coal - 67

We're going back on Saturday to run non-compete in the Open. It should be fun!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I've been looking through a few old photos and found some of my favorite pet dog, Joker. Not a sheepdog, not a border collie, but the best friend, ever. He was part Australian Shepherd and I don't know what else except he was my buddy from 1976 to 1990. Joker certainly started me down the path to those "border-collie-ish" dogs.

I've started scanning his photos into a Picasa album, here. Enjoy.

Joker, my old friend, you are never forgotten.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Weekend Wrapup and Looking Ahead

Rime turned eleven months last Friday, November 6th! It is hard to believe he is getting so big so fast.

We spent the weekend doing lots of sheepdog training which involved putting a lot of miles on the car but it was worth it. Coal had a lesson and some practicing in Zamora. Rime and I worked Sunday afternoon on our own sheep, and while he was a bit fresh after not being worked in a week, we made some more progress.

Chiefie got to go to his doggie play group both Saturday and Sunday so he was a happy camper. So the leaves did not get raked nor the floors vacuumed.

We are looking forward to the Dunnigan Hills trial this Friday-Saturday and then the UC Hopland trial the following week.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Chiefie Park Photos, Nov. 1, 2009

Chiefie got a visit to our park down the street this afternoon, by himself and without the other dogs. I have been promising him this all day, and really all week. We have been too busy for one reason or another, to make it to his park doggie play group all week. While we were there I took a few photos of him in the fading sunlight. I particularly liked the way the sun is lighting him up in the photo above. More photos are in a Picasa album, here.

Yesterday we had a wonderful visit with old and dear friends. It has been a very happy weekend.