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 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 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 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!