Tuesday, December 27, 2011

On The Fence

Photo by L. Tunstall
Can you guess what these border collies are watching and waiting for? "My turn next" they say!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Twig's Tales

You might enjoy this entry on the Meeker Sheepdog blog:

Twig's Tales, Chapter 1

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Chiefie Smiles - It's Saturday!

Here's another of Lisa's great photos that I have been playing with in my picture software. Isn't it fun?

It's Saturday -- the dogs say Yay!

Did everyone see the lunar eclipse? Wow!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ryme is Three Years Old

Original photo by Lisa Dillon

Today is Ryme's third birthday. We didn't get to celebrate by working sheep, as we normally would, because Ryme is still recuperating from the lameness in his left rear leg. I so hope that he and I can go back to working sheep regularly at some point. He sees the chiropractor in a week so I am hoping for good news then. Meanwhile he is laid off except for teeny bits of working, bringing in the ewes and new baby lambs which requires a minimum of running, plus a slight bit of freedom at the field or at the park with his friends. I played around with the original photo above with my photo software and decided on the grid pattern since it shows Ryme as a work in progress... and just putting it out there that his design is not complete and will be able to have more fine tuning! Tonight we made doggie birthday cupcakes which are now cooling on the stove. The dogs are all anxiously awaiting a portion of their baked treat! Special thanks to Lisa Dillon who provided me with a couple of CDs worth of photos that I am having great fun with!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

New Mystery Novel Set in Northern California

Over the years I count myself very fortunate to have worked with and for some incredibly gifted, bright, and intelligent folks...and (near and dear to my frustrated writer's heart) some who are talented and published writers. While this new book has nothing to do with dogs or sheep, it is still a book -- and this blog being named One For the Book -- it seems most appropriate to talk about it here.

At my first job in Sonoma County, I worked in small firm that was basically a writer's shop where we produced written materials and the graphics to go with them, that were all about the utility industry, utilities research, energy efficiency and the like. I was not a writer, but was the lowly jack-of-all trades assistant; however, it was a great atmosphere in which to work. All of the writers were great to deal with and each had a special skill, talent, or specialty area. Come to find out, and not surprisingly, many of them had little personal "writing projects" on the side. My former boss, Frederick Weisel, had a novel started at that time and it has finally come into print. The website (and cover design for the book as well) was designed by our former graphics designer in that shop, who is also incredibly hard-working and talented. I count it as one of my many blessings to work with such great people. It was hard to leave that group when another job opened up for me that had greater responsibilities and better benefits.

The new mystery novel, "Teller" - by Frederick Weisel-  is available to shop locally at Copperfields Books . You can check out the book on the author's website, http://frederickweisel.com/. They have put together some neat videos where the author explains unusual background details from the book that are native or unique to this wine-country region.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Saturday Night Sheep

We didn't breed any of our own sheep-team ewes this year but we are enjoying the lambs belonging to our friend that we share a field with. Last Saturday afternoon we worked our dogs at her place and before we left to go home, we helped with chores, getting sheep into their "night places" and setting out hay for the various groups. There is an "older lamb" group, a "big woolie" working group, a pregnant group, and a just-lambed group. The group of pregnant, very expectant ewes came running into the barnyard from the pasture at the prospect of alfalfa, but one ewe remained, baa-ing and running frantically looking for a lamb that she just gave birth to. We walked out to the pasture to try to find the lamb, and there was none. The ewe had dug a couple of holes but there was no lamb. We'd all been sitting around chatting nearby, inbetween working dogs in the adjacent field, so we were sure that no big bird had swooped in and taken the newborn. So, we decided that she hadn't given birth yet, but thought she had...and if we left her alone that nature might take over and she would settle back down to finish her labor and delivery. We told our friend good bye and she assured us that she would watch the laboring ewe the rest of the afternoon.

I had been home a couple of hours, and it was dark out, when the phone rang. It was our friend. She needed help pulling the lamb from that frantic ewe, who had still not completed her labor and delivery process. I threw on a jacket and headed out into the cold and drove the ten minutes or so over there in the dark of a late-November Saturday evening. By now the ewe had been moved into a small pen. There isn't much light out there but our friend had a headlamp to see by. She gave me a halter and lead rope to put on the ewe, which I did and I held the ewe as best I could up against the wall of the pen while our friend pulled on the tiny back foot that protruded from the ewe. By now we expected a dead lamb and were only trying to save the nice big woolie ewe.

Our friend pulled and pulled. I held onto the ewe. It was a tough process. Finally some traction was gained and the lamb started to come out. I couldn't believe my ears when I heard, "I think it's alive". Pretty soon the lamb was extracted and yes, in fact it was alive, even after several hours waiting in breach presentation. I turned the ewe loose and she immediately began to lick and stimulate the lamb. He opened his mouth and "baa-ed". He was most definitely alive and kicking. Our friend and I were absolutely astounded by this amazing miracle. We wondered if the lamb would eventually even be able to stand and walk after all the pressure applied to his legs pulling him out. Meanwhile we got shavings to bed the pen for the pair and some alfalfa for mama to munch on, and a bucket of water for her to drink. When we got back with all those supplies for the ewe, we were shocked to see the little guy already attempting to stand, like a normal lamb. He was weak, but he kept trying and looked like he would be successful. The ewe continued to fuss over him and care for her lamb who had finally arrived!

When I talked with our friend the next day, she said that both mama and baby were doing fine and were indistinguishable from the other ewe and lamb pairs who hadn't been through such trauma. The tenacity and strong will of sheep is sometimes amazing.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Song of Thanks

This article by Jon Carroll - one of my favorite columnists when I subscribed to the paper daily -- was published in the Thanksgiving Day version of the San Francisco Chronicle, but I am just getting around to reading Thursday's paper. I really enjoyed reading it and I hope you all do, too. Happy Thanksgiving!


Friday, November 25, 2011

Dunnigan - the Rest of Our Story...

On day two of the Dunnigan Hills trial last weekend, Coal and I drew up later in the afternoon to run. I helped by running and posting scores most of the day, mainly in order to keep warm on a cold, rainy, nasty weather day. I also feel that without help, there will be no trials; they are simply too much work for a small handful of people to handle on their own without volunteers. Originally slated to run dog #30, someone wanted to trade slots and since I was staying overnight, Coal and I ended up running dog #41.

Not wanting to mess with success, when it came to our turn, I sent Coal to the right again, as I had done on Saturday. He shot off over the hill and out of sight but I didn't worry. He knows those hills, I thought. Soon, however, it was apparent that too much time had passed. Coal must've gotten lost or he'd gone back to the letout pens. More tick-tock...starting to feel my energy drain. I was about to give up and go over to the judge when here Coal came over the top of the hill and lifted the sheep. So yes - he got to them somehow - but had wasted so much time I knew that any hopes of our completing the course today were gone. We completed the fetch and started on the drive; Coal and I were arguing about the whistles and drive lines, the sheep were squirrely in the wind, and I retired after much ado getting to the first drive panel. Enough was enough. I knew we wouldn't even have time to get our drive points finished. I was not unhappy, maybe a little disappointed at not getting to "attack the course" a second time, but  not at all unhappy with my dog. We exhausted our sheep and I went back to helping with scores. Later I found out that Coal had indeed gone back to check the setout pens but had not stayed there long - he checked in and realized that wasn't where he was supposed to be - but then moved on to try to find his sheep. I tried to take this as good news!

Later in the day we were asked to help with setout for the first Nursery class. Coal worked pushing the sheep from the letout pens by relay over to the person spotting for the working dogs on the trial field. Coal thought this was great fun and I was happy to do it, again to keep warm instead of freezing in a lawn chair watching the trial.

On Monday we helped with setout for much of the day, for the Pro-Novice and remaining Nursery classes. Luckily, the weather was much improved over Sunday so it was not so unpleasant to be out on top of the hill at the top of the trial field. Coal worked his heart out. He loves working in the pens to push sheep up into the letout. He is quiet in the pens and doesn't upset the sheep, yet doesn't give them any ground. He did not want to quit, when we got a break and someone else took over for a while. I have to give credit to the "heart" in the little dog.

All in all Dunnigan Hills was a very fun trial and I was glad I was able to go. It's our last trial of the 2011 season, so what a wonderful way to close out the year. Thanks to all who made the trial possible!

Coal - file photo
photo credit L. Dillon

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Stand and Deliver

We spent the past weekend at the Dunnigan Hills sheepdog trial near Zamora, CA. Coal was entered both Saturday and Sunday in the Open, judged by Elgar Hughes of Wales. After last weekend at Hopland, I was pretty discouraged about trialling but landed early Saturday morning at the field (after getting up at 3:30 in the morning to make the drive over) with a positive attitude. Coal ran dog #4 in the early morning-my best time of day. It was cold but seemed like perfect dog and sheep weather. We had a very fluid run, hit all the gates, and penned smoothly. I felt sort of like I was in a blur...it was really fun. Anyway then later we went to look at the scores and I was surprised to see that Coal had earned 86 points out of 90! Whoa! Running dog 4 out of more than 50 dogs meant that we had to wait all day long to see where things ended up. Never before had we placed in an open trial. I was surprised by how calm I felt. Everyone congratulated us on our fine run. I probably had the deer in the headlights look but sat back to enjoy and watch the rest of the runs. By day's end we were still in second place, with Anne Mock and Ben earning 87 points in a stellar run to win the trial. What a thrill this was for me: our first-ever open placement, and our first-ever USBCHA points. What a good boy, Coal. Now our trainer says we have to stand and deliver.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dog Day Afternoon

Here is another nice article about the Hopland sheepdog trial over the past weekend, from the Lake County Record-Bee, plus a photo of Bill Berhow and Gwyn at the pen.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hopland photos and article

Here are a few more photos from the Hopland trial, thanks to Teri!

One ewe of our packet did not get a gold star for playing nice with others

Coal waiting his turn
Another UC HREC Hopland sheepdog trial has come and gone. There is a nice little article in the Ukiah Daily Journal about it. This trial is becoming one of the best trials on the west coast if not in the U.S. There was a wait list for the Open class, so we felt fortunate to draw in. The venue is spectacular with a patchwork quilt view atop a hill where you can see across a beautiful Mendocino County valley, and of course the sheep are fabulous. Where else do you get fresh, mostly undogged, very healthy and fit commercial wool sheep for every run, all weekend? The staff from the research center were more than helpful and had everything fixed up so that our trial experience was so much fun. The Ukiah 4-H kids (and their wonderful parents) prepared delicious food on Saturday and Sunday. The trial organizers had every detail planned for and in place, including a setout person flown in all the way from Wales! Doesn't this sound like a recipe for a great trial to draw a lot of handlers and spectators?

As for Coal and me, our late-afternoon Saturday run was one I'd like to forget. All the stuff we have been working so hard on -- good outruns that are wide and deep enough, for one thing -- seemed to have gone out the window, as did inside flanks to release off pressure. It was as if we never trained at all.  I was pretty discouraged.

On Sunday morning, our run was better. The outrun, lift and fetch were downright respectable. We still had troubles on the crossdrive that had nothing to do with the placement of the crossdrive panels (which were wicked in their own right). We did make it to the pen as the photos document, however, time was called while we worked on  easing the sheep toward the pen. The course time was cut by a minute from Saturday to Sunday which didn't help us, but helped to get the trial completed on time before dark.

It's hard not to still feel discouraged about trialling but a good friend advised me to tally up the good and forget the bad parts. Our trainer told me that he was proud of me for taking a risk on Sunday morning's run that worked well to our advantage. Also, on the good side, Coal is still looking really sound. He got a good report from his chiropractor last week so we are greenlighted to go ahead and train and trial. There is one more trial weekend on our calendar before we close the books on 2011. I guess we're back on the team...

Ryme, however, is not sound. He has a similar rear-leg pulled muscle/soft tissue injury to what Coal had, minus the spinning. So Ryme has been on the bench for sheep chores and training for a week now and it will likely take longer to get him healed up. Luckily his knee itself does not seem to be involved, for which I am thankful. Ryme without work is not a happy camper so that is a chapter in the book yet to be completely written...and I hope it is only a temporary one.

Meanwhile we'll carry on (to quote a favorite Welshman)...

What goofy boys do while waiting tied to the fence!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Dark and Stormy Night...

No, not a Peanuts cartoon....but I'm getting way ahead of myself. This post may end up as a bit of a novella itself as there is much catching up to do. We ended up driving home from Zamora last night in a driving rain storm in the dark with heavy traffic - none of which are my favorite conditions for driving after a long afternoon of good dog work.

RESDA Novice Program Event

The RESDA novice program sponsored a mini-clinic with Bill Berhow yesterday afternoon and there were eight dogs worked. The RESDA novice group is always ready for any challenge and many folks want to improve their ability to tackle USBCHA type courses in addition to RESDA, but they just need some help expanding their dog's and their own experiences. Yesterday, everyone showed improvement on the hills and on their outruns and drives. The weather started out just grey and threatening, but about two-thirds of the way through the event, the rain came down in earnest. Luckily I had already put on my rain gear so I was somewhat dry, but it was still cold.

Coal and I worked on our outrun again, as we did in our last private lesson. I took Coal to this novice event rather than Ryme as I normally would (the program is for novice dogs as well as novice handlers) because we have the Hopland and Dunnigan trials coming up in the next two weekends. This seemed to be the only chance to get coaching before those trials. Coal showed improvement on the outrun in our clinic session. We also did some driving and attempted again to shed those Dunnigan sheep (which can be an exercise in frustration!).  Happy with our clinic session, Coal and I went out to take the setout person's place so that she could have a break. Then the real work began. It's a long walk from the holding pens to the setout point, especially bringing the sheep down lower for the less experienced dogs. Coal got a good workout from all this, plus we got to pick up the sheep from the clinic group several times, resulting in more outruns to both sides. It was a really productive day for us. And the bonus is that Coal appears to still be sound. This morning he is gangbusters! And we have a chiro appointment for the dogs this week. I hope this is all good timing.

What made my day was seeing Coal's half-brother two-year-old Angus (who has never worked at Zamora before) take off in a beautiful wide outrun on the hill face, on his second attempt at it, as if the exposure the first time had released his inner hill-dog self! It was a thrill to watch. Angus also made a lot of progress on his baby driving. Angus has beautiful natural flanks from which to build on. The other dogs belonging to our friends also worked well and stepped up to the challenge...all nice to see. Bill is a great coach and draws on so much experience it is an education just to sit and listen.

It was dark out by the time we headed home from Zamora though. And the rain was coming down heavier and heavier. Saturday night traffic was thick on I-80. I was really glad I had company other than canine for the ride home. Thanks Teri!

Spencer Pt. Pleasant

Things are busy as always lately. I never wrote anything about last weekend. On the Friday before Halloween, Coal and I ran at Spencer's Pt. Pleasant 9th annual fall sheepdog trial. That day was nice and sunny; the weather could not have been more beautiful. I only ran Coal on the Friday event. The judge was Michael Shearer from Scotland who could not have been more gracious about his judging duties.  At Spencer's the challenge is usually presented for the Open class to send your dog through a gate in the cross-fence line on the outrun, or to send from the center gate. Last year it was not made much of an option so Coal and I fumbled through, sending through the side gate. This year Mr. Shearer said we should send from the center gate and then walk back to the handler's tower if we were not absolutely certain that our dogs would run out freely through the side gate. I took this as a message straight to me (even though we had practiced sending through the side gate at home the weekend before) and sent Away through the center gate.

Coal's outrun was a bit tentative at first but then he bent out. I did redirect him twice. We've been working on his outruns getting him deeper and lifting from the top and not the side. Despite the points lost for the redirects, they were worth it, as he went deep enough, and his lift was good and from the top. The fetch was fairly good and for once we made all of the gates on the course. Yes! I was really pleased with the run up to this point. After the drive you brought your sheep back through the center gate again and to a Maltese Cross. This obstacle should be do-able for us after all our RESDA work but it was not to be, on that day. We had a devil of a time with it, taking at least four (I lost count) attempts to get all four sheep through it. By this time we had used up almost all of our course time, got into the shedding ring, and time was called. It was a somewhat disappointing end to what had started out as a really good run for us. I was still really pleased with the outwork and drives. I do think we are showing improvement over our Open runs from last year. Coal's maturity and our experience last year are helping a bit. Now if his handler could step up with a little more grit!

Jack Knox Clinic - Hopland 

Last Saturday and Sunday I spent with notepad in hand, auditing from the comfort of a lawn chair in the shade of a large tree at the Jack Knox clinic at Hopland. It was very educational to sit and watch many dogs working under Jack's knowledgeable tutelage. Lately I've been feeling sort of left behind since I currently have only one dog to run at the trials, after deciding that Ryme is still not prepared enough to run in Pro-Novice. My new strategy is to try to make up for that lag by as much observation and visualization as possible when the opportunities arise. So, watching clinics, lessons and videos will help to take the place of more opportunities at the post, I am hoping. It certainly can't hurt! The Hopland university facility could not be a more beautiful and nurturing setting for a sheepdog clinic. One feels spirited away to a magical landscape of rolling hills, trees, and well-cared for sheep--hundreds of them.

A variety of dogs and levels of training and handling were presented at the clinic. I took notes on all of them! I have found over the years that collecting my notes on other people's dogs has been very fruitful - because sooner or later either one of my own dogs or one of our training partners' dogs has an issue that is helped by one of the comments or suggestions made by those past clinicians. Since my memory is poor I don't rely on it. Paper and pen work much better. I recommend that anyone interested in sheepdog trialling or training go and audit one of Jack's clinics.

That brings us up to date! The time change has come, shortening our training time after work. Year after year I dread this date but year after year, I find ways to adapt. Happy November, everyone. I am very thankful.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

RESDA Novice Program Training Day

Training opportunity this Saturday, November 5

This session is a "beyond Novice" day! Take a look at the link.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

UC Hopland Research & Extension Center

Nice blog article about sheep production at the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center, about an hour north of us near Hopland, CA.

Talented staff maintain HREC as a sheep ranch

We'll be there soon!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Y after I

You've all heard of "i before e except after c". This guy (below) is getting a slightly altered name. I've decided to change the spelling of his name to Ryme. Someone suggested it to me and I really like the warmer, more poetic, rhyming, meaning (rather than the cold, icy, frosty meaning). The spelling won't change how it sounds to the dog of course. It's probably crazy but I'm looking forward to a more harmonious and communicative relationship as we work together on the sheep. Actually things have been going a lot better with Ryme on the sheep (with only those few exceptions -- sort of like "after c").

Ryme with the remains of an old ball that they play with at the field

We were treated to practice RESDA-style runs at a nearby ranch last Sunday morning. What a gift it was to take Ryme to a completely new place (to him, at least) and run a small RESDA trial course with some nice cheviot cross ewes and lambs. It was a really good barometer of where we are. He was far from perfect and did one little blowup lifting the sheep. I felt badly that I didn't handle him better to keep our communication lines flowing on the gather--maybe I was too relaxed! But the best news was that Ryme settled right back down and worked beautifully -- seeming to have no tension -- through the rest of the course. We had a lamb in the group who did not want to play with the adults and Ryme kept the lamb tucked back in time after time when it wanted to wander off. We even got the pen which few people did.  Despite the initial blow up I felt really good about our progress in running at a completely new site.

These are all just silly camera phone photos taken at almost dark at the sheep field before it rained a week or two ago. All of these areas are now nice and green. The sheep are happy about all that green! I need new pictures! But I'm just getting around to posting these. I sort of like the grainy quality of the phone photos. They are certainly different than the pics from the Fuji.


All three photos were taken within about a minute of each other but it's interesting how the light is different on each one. I really like the one of Coal and the low evening sun shining on him from the west. Someday soon I must get the real camera back out and take some photos with green grass in them.

Coal's leg seems to be doing OK. He and I have come to some agreement on the need for him to not spin. The spinning only really happens now at meal time, and if I plan ahead by crating him, I can avoid that. So I'm very hopeful that with careful exercise, work, treatment, and rest we will beat this leg thing and get him healed up and ready for the upcoming Open USBCHA trials.

It's almost the weekend! And we have a sheepdog lesson planned.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Only Constant is Change

We've been nursing a little lameness in Coal's right hind for almost two months now. His esteemed chiropractor now thinks that he's either aggravating or causing this by his incessant spinning and antics when he is not working. So I've been advised to stop the spinning (fact is she begged me to stop it for 48-72 hours post-adjustment on Wednesday evening).

Changing the routine with Coal has not been easy. On sheep he is the serious kid with the pocket protector, white shirt buttoned up to the neck, and calculator in hand. Off sheep - a side of him that many folks do not see - he is a wild and crazy guy who loves to start chase-me games with Chief and runs constantly with a binkie (any available toy  or in a pinch a piece of wood or whatever), spinning in circles. He always spins the same direction and this activity is causing wear and tear on his five-year-old right hind leg. Sigh.

So I've been keeping him more contained with leashes, crates, and separation from the other dogs. I am seeking ideas on how to make this work on a more permanent basis. I've already gotten some good ideas (and some good humor) from the Facebook crowd. I'm throwing it out here as well.

The change in the dynamic with Chief and Rime has been the most unexpected part of this situation. Where I thought that maybe Rime was the instigator in a lot of the in-home mayhem, it actually must have come from quiet little Coal. Without Coal running circles around the dining room table, Chief and Rime are almost downright sedate. As they say, the only constant is change...so on we go.

If you have ideas for keeping a border collie quiet, post in the comments. He really needs to stop this spinning and I am probably not a good enough dog trainer to accomplish that.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Chiefie X

Chiefie turned ten years young earlier this week. Tonight we had a little doggie birthday party with his friends down at the park. I even baked a doggie birthday cake! Talk about doggie mayhem. Chiefie seems happy and healthy. I am very happy to have him with me.

More photos here!

RESDA Fall Trial 2011

The 2011 RESDA season is now history. The final trial of the season was yesterday in Boonville (Mendocino County Fairgrounds - where they also play high school football as well as host the county fair). The added touch of fun detail included the white lines and yardage numbers painted on the field from the football team and the goalpost at the end of the field. (I wonder where the other goalpost was, or did I just miss it?) Once again I felt strangely like I was in Evening Shade! The pen was intrepidly attached to one leg of the goalpost in a bit of extremely good planning by judge Joyce.

The morning started very cool and foggy and the early runs went fairly well. The sheep - commercial (mostly) whiteface ewes from the nearby Johnson Ranch - were challenging but just so. As the day wore on, the sun came out, the sheep were getting hungrier and all that green lush grass was just a bit too tempting. The runs got harder and harder for the dogs. Some dogs gripped out or couldn't lift.

Coal ran #15. By then the sheep were heavy. He tried his hardest but we timed out and didn't get chute or pen - leaving us with only a few points. The sheep continually pushed back on him and he showed a lot of courage for a dog who is not intrinsically very brave. Once time was called I really urged him on verbally as we put the sheep into the exhaust.

After 21 runs in the open and a short break for the judge, we ran the "pro-novice". There were five dogs and Rime ran #3. Last time in this arena, Rime got spooked by the tarps blowing horizontally along the fence. This time thankfully he did not seem bothered by the tarps. I also had made sure the bottom of the tarps were tied down as I helped to set up the course. I really wanted Rime to have a better experience, this time around. While he was excitable at the beginning of his run once we got to working as a team he showed some nice, more "normal" work, stopping and taking his flanks nicely. I do wonder when or if he will get past his excitable phase at the beginning of the runs though. Considering that he is never on this type of sheep though, I am happy with how he settled down mid-run.

I took my camera along but again didn't take any photos. Since no one had been hired to do the setout for this trial as is normally done in RESDA, the handlers who are able to, had to take turns moving the sheep through the pens up top and letting the sheep out of the chute for the trial runs. I volunteered for the first stint which meant that the camera stayed in the car once again. This is too bad as it was a gorgeous day with blue skies, green grass, and great dogs to watch.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Harvest Fair 2011

Last Friday through Sunday, the Sonoma County Fairgrounds hosted the annual Harvest Fair. It's almost as fun as the big sister, the annual Sonoma County Fair, but smaller and more friendly, and less crowded. And obviously three days instead of three weeks or so! The main events are grape stomping, wine tasting, apple viewing and tasting plus the usual eats, drinks, things to buy and entertainment to see and participate in. Besides all that there is always a RESDA sheepdog trial in the Lyttle Cow Palace (covered arena) during the Harvest Fair. We had quite a few sheepdog trial fans who showed up, and many of them kept score right along with the judging, on our club leaflets!

In the RESDA system, all Open handlers who have run dogs for a certain number of years are called upon to judge their peers once during the year. Most years we have more judges than trials, and these assignments are drawn out of the hat at the February annual meeting. So, since last February I have known that I, Moi, Yours Truly, was to be in the hot seat of judging the Harvest Fair trial this year. I have judged AHBA trials before, but not RESDA trials. Under California State Fair rules, family members cannot judge each other, so in years past - having been drawn out of the hat first - my brother has taken on the family judging duty while I clerked for him. This year the role was reversed. Oh my! Since last February, I have been studying the RESDA by-laws and thinking through each possible scenario of what could happen with dogs, sheep and handlers in the Lyttle Cow Palace.

When the day finally came to judge I felt confident that I had prepared myself for every eventuality. Once we got going it was actually kind of fun. Jack had already provided me with all the paperwork and office supplies ahead of time. A wonderful team was in place to support my efforts in the form of clerk George, assistant score keeper Teri, announcer (brother), course hauler (another Tom), and we can't forget sheep provider (yet another Tom), sheep handlers, and sheep. Everything worked together really well and I felt like the trial went well. Nothing odd happened and there were a lot of really nice runs. The Harvest Fair provided a rainbow palette of various colored ribbons down to tenth place. So I got to do a lot of handing out of the "goods" which was fun. Western Farm Center provided the Champion with a nice plaque for the win. I'm glad it's over though!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

October 1st

October is here. It's hard to believe that the summer has flown by so fast. In my mind, it's only just past the Fourth of July. I had better catch up quickly!

In Northern California the first part of October is always so nice. And there is excitement in the sheepdog world. Our little "second season" of USBCHA trials is on the horizon. And the RESDA calendar is almost wrapped up. Tomorrow is the Harvest Fair RESDA trial (where I will be sorting the runs); the Harvest Fair is always fun with the fall decor, the wine tasting and grape stomping, and the llama show. This year I'll be looking at the llama show with more interest since we have two llamas to deal with on a weekly basis now at one of the fields that we share. Next weekend is the final RESDA trial of the year, up in Boonville and the RESDA season and the dog of the year competition will be all wrapped up. Then, the USBCHA calendar gets some activity with Pt Pleasant, Hopland, and Dunnigan trials in our (relative) neck of the woods.

Preparing for these trials with the added pressure of less and less daylight each week should put some enthusiasm into my dog work that might have been missing lately. Having a lesson last weekend certainly made us ramp up a bit already. I have been letting Rime slide on his stops and come-bye flanks. I was using two or three whistles to get Rime stopped instead of one. I knew about the stops but was letting it slide anyway - bad me. I had not "seen" the flank issue though - you would think I could notice things like that after all these years but I guess that is why we pay a trainer the big bucks (ha!) to tell us things we are not seeing. Anyway this week I have worked Rime a couple of times in the evenings and he has complied very well with me giving him clear communication. One whistle for the lie down, and if he doesn't take it, then a verbal. And if he doesn't take that, then a correction voice and take a step into him. For the most part I have not had to go beyond the verbal. He's dropping very neatly most of the time on the home sheep. On new sheep at different fields, it will be a different story but there is no excuse for me to not have a good stop on the home sheep and fields. As for the sliced flank he was cutting on the come bye - his worst side. No wonder he can buzz the sheep on that side. I have to get quicker at noticing his body language before he does things - that is MY homework assignment. I also have to correct the cut when it happens but preferably before it happens. I did this a couple of times this week during our work session and it worked like a charm. This worked great for Bid's away flank several years ago - and I just need to put the system into place for Rime.

Coal has been worked just lightly this week to keep him tuned up but with the thought of not aggravating his little injury and letting him heal. I am crossing my fingers that he will be completely sound by the time we go back to trialling. The water has been too cold in the big tub to use it for water therapy - despite some really warm days the past couple of weeks in the 90s. So we are left with light exercise, lots of rest and not too much running on the extremely hard and slick ground. If it rains a little bit next week that will be most welcome, to soften things up.

Next week is Chiefie's tenth birthday. I am still working on doggie birthday cake plans. I hope everyone reads Cold Antler today, and Carol Lea Benjamin's blog. I really liked the themes of home, and life is good. Enjoy!

Monday, September 26, 2011

World Trial Wrapup

I know most of the sheepdog friends have probably already seen this video of Becca's winning run at the recent World Trial. But just in case there are one or two folks who haven't seen it, I would not want anyone to miss this opportunity! And I know there are at least a couple of folks who view my blog who are not really sheepdog people....so this is for you all. The video is well worth watching - poetry in motion  - between dog, sheep, and handler.

Becca - World Sheep Dog Champion 2011

Also if you are further interested in the World Trial, here are a couple of online photo albums that have a lot of sweet and interesting photos of this year's trial in them.

Album One

Album Two

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Universe

New Whistle!

I am very excited about my new whistle. It is custom made to order by a master craftsman. It came in the mail yesterday. Today I tried it out in a lesson with my trainer. My trainer said the colors in the new whistle resemble the universe. Wow -  and I just liked the black background and cool, colored specks. But I will take the universe, thank you very much. And thanks to you Mr. Whistle Maker!

It's been a very busy weekend. We had overnight guests who landed due to the RESDA clinic at Shoestring Ranch. All was good there. The RESDA clinic was a mix of judging clinic and mini-lessons. I think everyone came away with something good from Colleen Duncan. Rime and I did a "judged" run so that folks could practice their RESDA scoring. We provided the example of the beginner RESDA Open run/typical RESDA Pro-Novice run. Oh well. Rime's outrun has improved a lot! From there on, we had some issues with him pushing the sheep too hard. But after his run we got some practice in working together being stock handlers. It's all good.

Today Rime and I had a lesson with our trainer. It's the first lesson we've had since early June. I can't believe how the summer has flown! Rime is showing a little bit of improvement but the problems are still mostly mine. I am very proud of our trainer. He recently did very well, winning Soldier Hollow. The approach that he is taking with me and my two dogs makes my head spin at times but it is also scary that it is starting to make sense. I have a lot of work to do on myself.  Today we only worked with Rime. Coal has a pulled muscle so I am forcing him to take it easy so he and Chiefie stayed home. Coal is not happy about this but it's a necessary step. I know how these soft-tissue things go - put the dog back to activity too soon and you will just end up "nursing" it longer.

What I am happy about: my new whistle, lessons with Rime, and a good weekend spent with friends and dog training.

What I am not so happy about: that Coal has an injury. Also on a lesser scale, the "new" Facebook is not particularly cool. I am going to try to spend more time on my blog, here, as a result, which is not a bad thing.

Behold, the universe!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Another RESDA Novice Program Event - 09/24/11

RESDA Novice Program

Click the link above if you are interested in more information on the RESDA Novice Program's latest training day - a day with Colleen Duncan.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mendocino County Fair Sheepdog Trial Finals

Yesterday the finals were held for the Mendocino County Fair Sheepdog Trials, which is always a hotly-contested event. This year was the first time I'd had a dog make it into the finals. The fair is held in Boonville, CA, and I was amazed at how many folks came out on a Sunday morning to watch a sheepdog trial! What a neat event with lots of audience involvement! We eight handlers were lined up in front of the completely filled grandstand, preceded by a young man carrying an American flag, who followed a bagpiper in full kilt and wool jacket to lead us in. It was quite a slice of small town Americana. I almost felt like I was in Evening Shade! One handler mentioned afterwards that this fair is like the equivalent of the "National Finals of the RESDA world"...very true!

Before I tell what happened to Coal and me, first I'd like to send out hearty congratulations to our friend Rhonda from Napa and her lovely male dog Craig who showed us all how it was done, RESDA-style, and won the trial, the belt buckle and the blue ribbon with a very high and well deserved score. Craig is a young dog who was nursery age last year, and is really coming on nicely for Rhonda. They were such a deserving team with a smoothly flowing run. Here are the other placements who were in the ribbons:

1- Rhonda/Craig
2- Patti/Roy (tie for second/third)
3-Barbara/Ben (tie for second/third)

All of these runs were smooth although the Johnson ewes gave a few of them a little trouble. True is a very young dog, just two years old, and his handler wisely moved on from the chute after a couple of attempts, when it became apparent that the sheep were going to try to get the best of True.

And now the sad story of Coal and me. We were drawn up first to run in the order. That meant that first of all in the little "parade of handlers" that we had to follow the flagbearer who was right behind the bagpiper. At the recent Scottish Games, Coal had his first introduction to bagpipes - about a jazillion of them - all at once. Coal decided instantly that he did not care for bagpipes. Yesterday there was only one bagpiper, but that was enough to throw Coal off his usual merry countenance. Then, we were in a place that was familiar to him - we have been to many RESDA trials at the Boonville Fairgrounds - but everything was different. There were so many people and so many new noises and sights. Horses and trailers were everywhere. There were no tarps on the end of the arena to block the view of several dozen rodeo horses and cattle who were loose in corrals visible through the pipe gates. I could tell that Coal was pretty rattled.

With the parade over, we left the arena and the announcer, our friend Kevin Owens who does such a nice job at the microphone, called for Coal and me to come in for our run. I could only grab a quick drink of water for us both and we were off to the trial field. I waved OK for our sheep and I could see Coal looking up the field although he was also looking differently than normal. He took off in one of his creepy, overly careful outruns that he had not been doing since last year. Uh-oh. I think he was confused by all the rodeo animals and was trying to figure out through all the visuals of green pipe gates, exactly where his sheep were. At the same time  that he bent out on his outrun to do his gather, it was instantly apparent that the guys doing the stock handling had forgotten to close the gates to the release chute. The sheep saw the dog and ran right back into their chute. I blew a stop whistle. I waited to see what the judge would do. Finally Kevin announced that we would get a re-run. By this time I think both Coal and I were rattled. I called him back but he was looking everywhere for sheep. Poor guy. We went out of the arena again and tried to re-group. The first set of three sheep were exhausted by the stock handlers and soon Kevin called us back in, to re-run immediately. OK.

So back to the "post" we go. I waved for sheep again. This time Coal did a better outrun but the new sheep, led by one big older ewe, came charging out of the chute this time and that lead ewe took off at a dead run. Coal met her at about 10 o'clock and they were off and running. It was all Coal could do to try to contain that leader ewe and keep her on course. Our run was not pretty at all but somehow we completed all the obstacles with the sheep nearly at a run the whole time. There wasn't much to be done with that ewe from He&l. All she wanted to do was run from gate to gate in the arena, where she knew she had been before, and she took the other two sheep with her. It was all over with in a matter of time that seemed to me to zip by so fast. That ewe was running so much that I dared not watch my dog but just watched the sheep and whistled as I tried to take long strides on the fetching course to try to stay ahead of her.  This was no bo-peep run! Yikes! Just bad luck and luck of the draw.

Fortunately the crowd was still appreciative of our efforts. But needless to say it was not the run I had been visualizing. More lessons for thinking on one's feet! The rest of the runs went better and better - with some problems here and there - such as sheep not wanting to pen or go thru the chute. It seemed like the sheep were feistier than normal - perhaps due to the crowds and excitement, and all the extra animals around. Anyway that closes the book on the Mendocino Fair in the RESDA season for 2011...a serial of two chapters for Coal and me that included a high and a low! Just like the Cubs fans say...next year!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

World Trial 2011

Good luck to all competing at the World Trial, especially our Team USA folks!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Dog Joint Supplements Question

I'm curious as to what others have found to be reliable joint and fatty acid supplements for their dogs. There are some well known joint supplements (GlycoFlex, Cosequin, etc.) and some other well known fatty acids (Grizzly Salmon, Missing Link etc.). And then lately I've had several people tell me they see success with a more all-in-one supplement that contains both (Platinum Performance for example, and the silver Nupro).

Fish oil, salmon oil or flax?

Do you add Vitamin C or other vitamins?

I'm re-evaluating what I'm using and trying to come up with a (somewhat cost-effective) program for my dogs who are still on a raw diet. About half their diet is Xkaliber from GreenTripe.com and the rest is either raw meaty bones (normally poultry) and other cuts of beef including organs, plus a few veggies now and then (and frankly whatever is in the fridge!). Ten-year-old Chiefie has some pretty visible arthritis in both wrists in front and a little bit in back. Chief has seasonal allergies and sometimes itchy skin; they are much lessened on the raw diet but in the high season the allergies do flare up. Five-year-old Coal is showing "crunchiness" all over according to his chiropractor; with his stocky little frame, Coal pounds the ground pretty hard in his work. Coal always tends to have a dry coat and whether that's due to his preoccupation with playing in water or just the way his skin and coat are, he has responded favorably to salmon oil in the past. Almost three-year-old Rime is apparently sound but I'd like to supplement him at some level. Rime has a nice glossy coat and seems to do well on either the flax based or fish oil based supplements. I'm open to the idea of not using the same supplements for all of them.

Some of the reviews I looked at online say that the joint supplements often don't contain what they have listed on the label. After going to the trouble and expense of the raw diet it hardly seems to make sense to purchase a poor quality product to put on top of it! Opinions welcome. Thanks!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Pleasanton Scottish Games Wrapup

Last weekend NCWSA hosted a sheepdog trial at the Caledonian Club of San Francisco's Scottish Highland Games in Pleasanton, CA. Our purpose is mainly crowd entertainment and education about working dogs and  sheep. Two courses - one judged on driving and one judged on obstacles -  were offered in a covered arena setting, and each dog had the opportunity to run four times daily, two times on each course. Each course had a day money payout to the top five dogs and an overall champion and reserve belt buckle is offered for dogs who ran in all eight runs over the two days. There are hundreds of spectators who come to the Scottish Games to view all kinds of fun events; our trial always draws a good crowd of people, especially by mid-day and on into the afternoon.

Consistency paid off for the dogs running all eight courses. Despite the small arena, the trial favored a very experienced dog and handler team in all of the classes. Complete results are available on the NCWSA website. Our overall weekend winner was Stephanie Summers and her very capable Tam. Reserve went to Suzanne Anaya and her consistent senior dog, Jet. Both of these dogs had laid down one good run after the other over the weekend. It was not a surprise that they ended up in the top of the overall scores. There were a few other teams in contention but if those other teams had one or two "off" runs, they were beaten out by pure consistency from Tam and Jet.

Stephanie and Tam on course at the Scottish Games (photo by T. Tucker)
There was a bit of excitement on Sunday afternoon as second place in the driving class was tied up between two very good handlers. In order to provide good entertainment for the crowd, we decided to do a runoff on a modified course in order to determine the second and third placements. This little friendly competition really got our spectators involved and excited. The runoff was between Stephanie and Tam and Charlotte Jones and  her young Bet. Eventually the runoff was won by Charlotte and Bet. Charlotte's cool handling brought her the win!

Charlotte and Bet get ready to run off for 2nd place in the drive class (photo by T. Tucker)
I hope that everyone who attended had fun. It was an experimental year for NCWSA, as we had changed the format of this trial from a time-and-points arrangement to a judged trial. A few growing pains are always to be expected when changes are made. I was really pleased at how everyone was willing to adapt.

Since yours truly serves on the board of NCWSA as its vice president, I felt like I should support the trial by entering my own dogs. I hadn't been to the Scottish Games in almost ten years but still I knew what the arena and the courses would entail. I really thought my dogs could both handle it and be successful. In fact, however, I was wrong about both of my dogs. Coal had some good sections on both courses, but his extreme eye again rose to front and center and his stubbornness about releasing pressure on the sheep kept us from scoring well and on each run we ran out of time. He's good on some things but not on others. At least one run I retired with Coal because he simply wouldn't listen and take commands that required him to release even a step off of the sheep when I asked him to. Frustration...

Coal and me working the Maltese Cross. Look at the crowds! (photo by T. Tucker)
I have a wise sheepdog trialling friend who is always saying that the reason she goes to trials is to "test her training". What a good motto to have about trials. Poor Rime was unnerved by the situation in the arena and the best he could do was to complete the gather (with my help) and then we retired each run. I scratched the afternoon runs each day when we had the largest crowds. Jennifer, our announcer, was most kind about talking about Rime's issues as green dog training issues that we all work thru at one time or another, so that I did not feel so badly about taking my turn in the cool of the mornings. I wanted Rime to get the experience and seasoning of participating. It seems that his experience a few weeks ago with the blowing tarps in Boonville really made an impression because as of last weekend he refused to take sheep off the rail that had tarps on it. I've been working with Rime for nearly two years now and we have worked steadily on taking sheep off of fences of all types - he has not had any problems with it. Until now. Rime is flexible without Coal's extreme eye and normally quite obedient about taking his flanks and stops..except last weekend. So for those who wondered why I had entered Rime in the trial, I had every reason to believe that he would handle it just fine. Until he didn't. So as a "test of training" the trial worked very well. We aren't there yet!

Again, I hope that most people had fun and I want to say thank you again to all the many handlers who pitched in to help with making the trial run smoothly.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Pleasanton Scottish Games, Part 1

This past weekend NCWSA held a sheepdog trial at the Caledonian Club's Scottish Games in Pleasanton, CA. It is a huge gathering of  all kinds of folks interested in anything Scottish! I think anyone with even a drop of Scottish blood had to feel the excitement in the air from the music and festivities. The bands and costumes were great - what little I got to see of them. It seemed like there was no time away from the trial, for me at least, to go wander around all of the venues.

Our sheepdog trial was held in a fairly small covered arena. The trial draws a huge number of spectators during the middle of the day and in the afternoon. It's a hotly contested trial with good prize money and a lovely buckle each for the all-around champion and the reserve. Thanks once again to Teri for taking photos. I had no time to get my camera out of its bag once again -- since I was busy helping with scoring and tabulating all those runs. Each handler had the potential of running 4 runs per day per dog. Many handlers had two dogs.   There was a drive course and an obstacle course - and we ran each course twice per day over the weekend.

The sheep completing one of the obstacles
Rime awaiting one of his runs in the arena
More in another post about the details and the winners! (and more photos)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

RESDA Oak Springs Open run for Coal

I am so far behind on blogs, but here are last weekend's photos taken by Teri, of Coal and me running RESDA Open at the Oak Springs trial. What started out as a really beautiful run (zero off the outrun and lift) turned into a boondoggle as I was unable to whistle - at all - on the drives. The dry weather and other factors seemed to combine into a repeat of our poor performance at the first day of the Hopland trial last year when I also couldn't whistle. Sigh. Then we ran out of time before I closed the pen gate on a beautiful pen that followed a beautiful chute. That's dog trialin'!

Coal at the post

Coal lifting beautifully


And around the "post" (pen) they go...

First part of the driveaway...just as whistle meltdown occurred!


Drive to 1st panel


Drive to 2nd panel confounded by no whistling from the handler!

Putting 'em thru the chute...

Penning as fast as we can...

But not fast enough. Time was called before we completed the pen.

A quick order was put into Operation Sheep Herding for a couple of new whistles post haste last Sunday. They arrived Thursday and I started using the new Corian "Moss" whistle right away to try to get used to it.

This weekend we are at the Scottish Highland Games in Pleasanton at the NCWSA sheepdog trial there. Neither of my dogs are really the right type of dog to do well in this type of venue but we are supporting the club by being there. And everyone seems to be having a good time!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

More Oak Springs Pro-Novice RESDA

So, here are more photos of the RESDA Pro-Novice class from last Saturday, including Rime and yours truly. Actually we ran last in the trial, the last dog of the day. Rime did OK and got second place in the class. He was pretty keyed up from waiting for his turn all day, as baby dogs do. He did not show the more cool control that he has at our home fields. But it's coming along. We are both pleased! Thanks to Teri for taking these pics with my camera.

We are at the "post" ready to go. No long wait for sheep to be set this week!
Rime showing some nice control on the fetch
Waiting for instructions...

At Panel 1
Panel 1 complete
Going for Panel 2
At the pen
Shutting the pen gate! Yes!
Rime is happy and so am I!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Andy Anderson

We meet the most interesting people in our travels with the dogs. I shudder to think of the opportunities I would have missed to meet the fabulous people that I know in the world of dogs, if I did not have the dogs. It would be a bleak existence, indeed. One of those very special gems of a dog handler has passed on - Andy Anderson. Andy was a true gentleman, a well-known horseman and a dog handler, and above all a kind soul who did not know a stranger. Always ready with a compliment about your run or a positive comment on the day at the trials, Andy was a familiar figure around the Bay Area with his dogs Bob, Joy, and Spur.  I was very saddened today to find out that Andy has passed away late last week. He will be truly missed by so many. There are so many good memories of Andy down at the Willowside Ranch in Pescadero for AHBA trials, or at the REDSA trials in Northern California. Andy was one of those people that I always looked for at the events and tried to spend time with him. It was always an enjoyable visit. Godspeed, Andy.

Andy's good bitch, Spur
Linda is awarding Andy with the goose egg that was laid literally during Spur's AHBA HRD-geese run!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

RESDA Pro-Novice Class, Oak Springs Trial

Last Saturday we had the RESDA Oak Springs Trial. Rather than talk about the Open class first like I normally do, I thought I'd focus on the RESDA-style Pro-Novice class first for once.  The RESDA Pro-Novice class is a training opportunity for dogs and handlers alike, to gain some experience in a trial setting without the formality of running in RESDA Open. (Neither RESDA class has any bearing on a person or dog's status in USBCHA trials.)

George Powell is always videoing us so that we have mementos of our runs as well as a potential training tool for discovering our handler errors, in my case many. He and his Gracie had such a nice run this past Saturday that I thought I'd put up the photos that I took of them (which are nowhere near the quality of his videos!).

George and Gracie head out to the field
George and Gracie go to the "post" which in this case is the pen
Gracie has done her outrun and is picking up the sheep off the stock handler. George has moved up to help her on the outrun.
On the fetch
Bringing the sheep around the pen ("post") which will complete their fetch
Fetch is nearly done
Heading for Panel #1
Setting up Panel #1 (one side has blown over)
Panel 1 complete 
There is a dip in the field to Panel #2 but George and Gracie get it
The chute is optional in this class, but George and Gracie get it!
And they get the pen too! Well done!