Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend 2010

Growing up, Memorial Day was always observed properly. We cut peonies out of the garden, arranged them in containers and took them to the different cemeteries and decorated graves of the relatives. We went to parades and of course put up our flag. Our parents called the occasion "Decoration Day" as often as they called it Memorial Day. Now, I just put out my flag and think about the day. This weekend has been more about recuperation and resting, but also remembrance. A friend is writing a book (and soon will have a blog) about souls lost at sea and artistic memorials to them. It will be interesting to see the book unfold. Maybe the book will be ready for next year's Memorial Day. When the blog is up and running, I will post the link.

Meanwhile, we went to Zamora for lessons on Saturday. The famous gale-force Zamora Wind was in full effect, however, so we opted not to work Coal. Whistling at a distance would have been nearly impossible and working out in the open, miserable for all. But Rime had a good session since he is working more closely at hand. Rime is making progress in his work. We're doing baby outruns, developing his lift, and starting little baby drives. His stops are improving (but not quite there yet!). Rime is very keen and there is a lot there to work with, including some really nice natural flanks. He is different from Coal, however, so I am very thankful to have input on how to proceed.

Yesterday, we trimmed feet on some of our sheep. Rime did most of the sorting job to separate our 25 or so head from the other 55 they are running with. He's doing well but got hot near the end and started to lose his someone else was nice enough to finish the job for him. After we were finished, as it happened, there was a pen full of lambs who had never been worked separately before (with one adult ewe). Coal got to play with these just a little bit...which made him stand up and take notice! We only worked them a couple of minutes before returning them to their respective moms.

At home, Chief and Coal have been playing endlessly (especially Coal) in the big 300 gallon water tank. Rime is not sure about going in, although he loves water. I am planning to go out today and look for a kiddie pool for him. It's really nice to have an extra day off.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My Introduction to Sheepdog Trials

The 1991

The first sheepdog trial I ever attended was the Bluegrass Classic in 1991. It was held at the Kentucky Horse Park on the cross-country field. Below are some photos I recently ran across that have sat in a box for all these years. I am not sure who all the people are, although I have a few guesses. If anyone knows for sure who they are, please feel free to comment. I have a few more photos that do not have any people in them, but they do show how beautiful the cross-country field was for holding a top-notch trial such as the Bluegrass. If I get some more time, I will scan those too.

There must have been a brace demonstration.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Bluegrass Photos

Here is a wonderful album of black and white portraits by Maureen Robinson, taken at the recent Bluegrass Classic SDT. They are really special pictures.

As a personal trivia note, the very first sheepdog trial that I ever went to (as a spectator, of course) was the the Bluegrass. It was 1991 and I had no idea that it was a national-level trial with all the top competitors from the U.S. and Canada competing, until we arrived. What a way to kick off my addiction to sheepdogs! This was back when the trial was held at the Kentucky Horse Park.

There are some more lovely color photos of the Bluegrass Top Twenty finalists at this site.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Zack in Florida

Bid's brother, Zack

Zack lives in Florida. The manatee statuary is probably a giveaway to the geography. But isn't Zack cute? I have always loved his face. According to his buddy Bob, he "looks great, feels great, IS great" at almost age eleven. Great news!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

RESDA Beebe-Johnson Memorial Trial

Yesterday we were in Boonville, California, for the RESDA Beebe-Johnson Memorial Sheepdog Trial, held at the Mendocino County fairgrounds. It's a lovely old fairgrounds in a beautiful small-town setting.

Once again we had a long list of Open dogs but the day moved along smoothly and there were lots of good runs. Also there were lots of runs where the sheep won! Colleen Duncan took first place in Open with Stan Johnson's good female, Hope. It was really nice to see Stan's dog win with him there in attendance. Full results should be posted here soon.

Coal ran mid-day and we had a really beautiful run going. It was picture-perfect until we got to the pen with only 1/2 point off the whole thing...and then we couldn't manage to pen the three ewes. We had two ewes penned several times. The third ewe was an independent thinker, I guess. It was frustrating after marching them 'round the rest of the course. The chute was over with so fast I almost missed it! Despite my frustration with the pen, Coal was incredibly good, and he took every whistle and command. Unlike two weeks ago when Coal kind of had the bit in his teeth and was too much on the muscle, yesterday it felt like we were in tune together.

Anyway no matter the outcome I am really happy with him. At least until the next trial, he's still on top of the RESDA point standings, too. ;-)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

May RESDA Newsletter

The May RESDA Newsletter is online. There is a profile of Reg Griffin, one of the early sheepdog men in the Dixon area. Also there are some great photos from the recent RESDA Slaven and Owens trials. Check it out. You don't have to be a RESDA member to read it!

Our next RESDA trial is Saturday May 15th, at the Boonville Fairgrounds.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Augie, Bid, and me

A day in December 2005

Remembering Augie

Photo by Tien Tran

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Reflections in Black and White

I played a little bit with the pictures I took yesterday and liked how these two looked in black and white. Rime is just barely learning to drive (with me walking along with him) and stay behind his sheep. He really wants to head them but I am trying to show him that it is way more powerful to be confident in pushing them from behind.

Appropriate for Mother's Day, when we went to the field today, there was a newborn white ewe lamb. It's too bad I didn't take my camera along today. I am trying to let Rime do whatever chores there are to be done, which at this point consists mainly of just bringing the big group in and penning or gate-sorting them. Rime and I had walked out to the flock and I sent him Away. He was hesitant about something so I kept on walking out. There was the new lamb, bright white, dry and making her way through all that tall grass with the rest of the group. Many of the other sheep were smelling her. Rime did not know what to make of a new lamb and her protective mother. I could have gone back to the truck for Coal, but I thought, "no, let Rime do it if he can." Eventually I picked up the lamb and walked backwards with her in front of mom, with Rime behind her and we got them all into a pen for safekeeping. Rime kept sniffing where the lamb had been, looking for clues as to what this little alien creature was. Rime had his first "lambing job" today. By next season he will be better prepared!

Mother's Day

Mother's Day is a tough weekend for me, I will confess. Our own Mother passed away, of course, in 2006. Then at Mother's Day weekend 2007, I had to say good-bye to Augie, who literally meant the world to me. Last year, I had to say good-bye suddenly to Bid, who had my heart. Augie and Bid, I miss you both every single day. There is not a day that goes by that I don't think of each of them. I've spent a quiet weekend thinking about all this. I am still so fortunate to have three good dogs and wonderful family and friends. So if I am not happy today, then when? That's the mantra in black and white.

Happy Mother's Day to all my adopted moms including to Chloe who presided over a fun brunch yesterday.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Tall Grass

I took some pictures today of the boys working sheep in the tall grass at our sheep field.

Here is a link to the Picasa album where I uploaded the pictures. I haven't taken the time to doctor them up at all. I will probably play with a few of the photos and see what I can do with them later.

The mixed flock of ewes and lambs, dry ewes, and wethers totals 65 head. It makes a nice group to work Rime on at his age (now 17 months as of this past week). He has to take things slowly and carefully and pay lots of attention to what he is doing. Rime has been promoted to gate-sorting, too, which he's getting the hang of. He's pretty trustworthy holding sheep to me, to count them through the gate, or sort down to a smaller number for a working group. We're working on baby outruns and a few steps of a drive. Rime is starting to learn his flank commands and I am starting the steady whistle which he seems to take to really well. The large flock is also a good group to work on Coal's shedding.

The field is tall and the foxtails will soon be too dangerous to work here. But for another week or two it should be all right as everything is still green.

There are also some pictures of Chiefie just hanging out. He is always so photogenic. At eight and a half, he is fit and healthy and seems relatively happy being the leader of the pack.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

RESDA Kevin Owens Classic May 1, 2010

Yesterday was the RESDA Kevin Owens Classic, held in the hills outside of Yorkville, CA in Mendocino County.  A more beautiful location could hardly be found for a dog trial, with a challenging field, gorgeous views and great weather. The traditional RESDA course was run by 24 Open dogs and 2 Pro-Novice dogs. The Johnson Ranch ewes were used and they were fresh, even, workable yet challenging.

Trial Results

First Place Open winner Karen and Cali (also fourth place Dickens) with judge Kevin

Second place Open winners, Nancy and Lad

First place Pro-Novice winner George "Life is Good", Gracie and judge Kevin

You know you are in Mendocino County when you are offered a wild boar burrito, a bowl of chili, and a beer before 9:00 AM! Complete trial results can be found on the RESDA website.

Cowboy Coal

Coal wore his cowboy suit to the trial and we were lucky to get 33 points from his run. He was on the muscle and not his usual serious self. I just have to laugh when he is like this since he normally has his pocket protector on and briefcase firmly in his paw at trials. We skipped the chute after a couple of attempts and made it to the pen. Whew!

We've done many trial weekends in a row since mid-March, and I am personally looking forward to a couple of weekends off. Even the best open USBCHA handlers have told me that their dogs get hard to hold after a number of trials in succession.

Despite the cowboy act, Coal's points were enough to bump him up (at least temporarily!) into first place in the RESDA high-point dog table. There are many trials yet to go and there is a lot of fun and friendly competition this year. At any trial there are quite a few dog and handler teams who can take home the ribbons, which makes it all the more fun. Our next RESDA trial will be May 15th at the Boonville Fairgrounds.