Monday, May 28, 2012

Dry Lake, Part Two

Our second trial day at Dry Lake started out cold and clear. The clear part was very welcome after Friday's weather mess! The cold part made me shiver but the dogs seemed happy with it. Coal ran fourth in the running order so we had to get up early and hurry out to the trial site for the handler's meeting. The course was not changed. It was still a 625-yd outrun (groan!) and the left-hand drive, pen, then shed two off the back for full points. Eleven and a half minutes. The first run was beautifully handled by Bill Orr, setting a lovely example for the rest of us. The second and third dogs did not find their sheep so Coal and I waited anxiously for our turn, as their handlers were each given a ride out on the four-wheeler to retrieve their dogs. 

Finally it was Coal's turn. I had a hard time seeing the sheep so far away and it seemed like no matter how I moved my position I could not see them "behind" the fetch panels. Finally I turned to Cheryl Munson and she told me they were set. So I sent Coal; he ran out a bit and hesitated. I stopped him, sent him "away" again and off he went. Not wide like I would like to see, but out to the right, wide enough. I knew he would bend out when he got closer to the sheep, and he did. Not the most confident outrun but he showed no sign of crossing. I'll take it. It's something Coal and I work with. In familiar locations or at less distance he can almost run too wide on his outruns. I don't blame the little guy in this situation. We give it our best.

The sheep were so far away and my eyesight at a distance is not great. So there is not much I could do until he lifted and brought the sheep closer; I just kept blowing a steady whistle. We missed the fetch panels but got the sheep turned around the post on the drive. It looked to be a more homogenous group than our Friday packet. Again I thought I had the first drive panel nailed but they skirted just to the right, inside. Drat! It took a few seconds to get them back on line and they were running. Yikes. We missed the second drive panel, just inside. We put them back on line (as we had been admonished in the handler's meeting but I have already had that point drilled into my brain by our trainer, thank you very much!) and off to the pen we went.

It was very exciting for me as Coal and I were able to pen on Saturday morning. Yes! It was not an easy pen but we made it. The sheep did not like people too much nor did they like the dogs. So you had to be very cautious and still and let the dog do most of the work, yet the handler had to step in too to help in order to complete the job. Closing that pen gate felt like a major triumph! Off we went to the shedding ring. We kept getting three and one, and not a split. I'm sure a more accomplished handler could've easily managed the shed successfully with that packet but we couldn't do it. I could tell Coal was getting tired as he was starting to run wider and wider. Time was called; I was extremely grateful to have gotten that far and to get another score.

We started our sheep to the exhaust and I called Coal off. The person doing the exhaust picked up the sheep and I was happy to let her take them as Coal was tired, and it gave her a chance to get her dog on the sheep, since they were one of the ones who couldn't complete the outrun. Our run was followed with another beautiful example of teamwork, dog finesse and beautiful handling by Terry Pelkey. I'm glad I had such a good vantage point to watch her run, from exhaust, while Coal cooled down in the tub.

The Dry Lake trial was just too much fun, despite the weather. I would love to go back next year but I won't be able to because of a special wedding that must be attended on Memorial Day weekend! So if the Dry Lake trial is held in 2014 and I have a dog to run, I will plan to go. Highly recommended. 

Here is one funny story from the trip. See the steers in the distance in the photo below, grazing in the falling snow, early Friday morning. Such a peaceful scene right? Not! About half an hour later I looked out the back window of the house where we were staying, and one of said steers was up close and personal, practically up on the back porch. Uh-oh! We looked out the front window and there were four or five more steers in the front yard, heading for the road. Not good. The "cavalry" was called in, the steers were rounded up by several people and a dog, the neighbor on a four-wheeler, and a lot of blue language that cannot be printed. All was well. It is just part of country livin'. Rarely if ever (never!) do I see a steer right outside my back porch at home, so it was good fun since it ended well.

Look closely and see steers grazing in the snow

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Dry Lake, Part One

Dry Lake trial field, photo courtesy Ann Daugherty
This year we entered Dry Lake having heard that it was a great trial and field to go to...having wanted to go for several years but never making it happen. Now that I've gone, I want to go back! What an incredible setting for a dog trial with a great trial committee and challenging sheep.

We ran on the first day, Friday, when the sheep -- replacement young ewes from the Gnos flock -- were really fresh. Oh my. Due to foxtails and ticks at our larger home field we've been practicing in a small field for several weeks. So the fact that Coal was able to run out for the 625 yard outrun at Dry Lake, even though he required some "help" from my whistles, made me really proud of the little guy. There were very few pens that first day and not too many neat and tidy runs. Coal and I were able to get 'round the course to the pen, where we timed out. His outrun was tentative but he got out there. We just missed the fetch gates and the first drive panel but hit the second one. We had the sheep gathered at the pen but one brockle faced high-headed ewe kept giving us trouble. We timed out having never had the sheep go ring-around-the-rosey but Coal spent quite a bit of time trying to keep that brockle face  put back with her three other friends in the mouth of the pen, or just near it. I walked off the field ecstatic that we got so far in our first incredible Dry Lake run!

The weather was also a challenge on Friday. In the morning we woke up to snow. My current dogs have never seen snow so we had to rush outside and let them have a romp in it. The flakes were falling thick and fast but luckily the whole mess melted within a few hours. I made a snowball! Fun.

Ryme runs in the snow

Coal getting snowed on

Chiefie says, "can we please get in the car and out of this wet stuff?"
Coal ran late afternoon Friday. By then, the snow had melted. But cell after cell of harsh weather kept blowing through. We had sleet, rain, hail, and more hail, lightning and thunder, and not to mention temps in the 30s. Brrr! The dark cloud formations were beautiful but ominous. Every time I'd think I could get out of my car for a while, another cell would blow through, to make me want to get back inside and watch the trial through the windshield. For Coal's run, I was fortunate that it was not actually raining or hailing. Some folks had rain and hail during their runs so thick you could not see the sheep nor dog on the field. We finished up about 6:00 PM and headed for our overnight lodging, very grateful knowing that a warm house and meal awaited.

To be continued with Part Two.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

An Abundance of Riches

It seems there are an abundance of riches of photos taken of my dogs lately! I was so surprised and lucky to find these photos in my mailbox on my return home, Friday afternoon, after what seemed like another grueling work week. Thanks to Linda R. for forwarding them from the person who took them! They were taken at Willowside Ranch in Pescadero, I believe in summer 2009. Coal and I are working a ranch AHBA course with geese - not his favorite livestock - but it looks from the photos like we are doing all right. He is relaxed, I am relaxed. No rush, just getting those geese gate-sorted and finishing up our run. We had such fun in Pescadero over the years. Willowside is no more but our memories remain. Photo credits: R. Toews.

Speaking of which, "an abundance of riches" is a phrase I have picked up from my friend DJ, the lucky person who let his Derby winnings ride on I'll Have Another in the Preakness. I really enjoyed this video that showcases Flower Alley, the sire of I'll Have Another. The video is produced after the Santa Anita Derby and before the Kentucky Derby, and of course thus before the Preakness. Flower Alley is just magnificent. Enjoy:

Flower Alley - Sire of I'll Have Another

Congratulations to all the connections of I'll Have Another!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Don't Wine About It - Photos

A very nice photographer was at the Don't Wine About It trial last weekend. Unfortunately she didn't arrive in time to get shots of Coal, but there are a few of Ryme, and a lot of very good photos of many friends and their dogs!

Here are some links to pictures of Ryme:

I wish I knew how to make the pictures themselves show up instead of the links.

Friday, May 18, 2012

I Don't Need a Calendar...

I don't need a calendar to know what month it is. I might need one to know what day, but not what month.

It must be May if:

The foxtails are full and lush and starting to turn ominously yellow, here and there, as a teaser. One can almost hear the little devils chanting as they sway in the breeze: "You won't be working your dogs here soon, my pretty!!!"

Gas is hovering around $4.25 a gallon just in time for traveling to several dog trials. Maybe it will sink a little bit in time for the election. One can only hope.

The ticks are getting so bad that I am considering buying a fourth Preventic collar....for myself.  The ticks love to hang out on all the tall grasses (and the aforementioned foxtails) just waiting for a warm-blooded body to slide past. No, wait. I can't afford a Preventic collar for myself. Three collars, plus tax, was over $70. I can't get one for myself because of...oh yeah right that whole driving thing and putting gas in the tank.

On a positive note, several days ago I finally I did switch out the Easter bunnies in the dining room and replaced them with several happy American flags. Happy May, everyone!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Don't Wine About It...

We went to a small, friendly practice trial today and were rewarded with cooler weather than what was predicted over in the Sacramento Valley. A nice breeze, an early start, and all dogs and people stayed wonderfully cool on a day that was supposed to be in the 90s but did not reach that point.

Coal was up first in a two-dog Open class. Originally I had entered him non-compete in Open Ranch but I guess when two Open dogs were entered it was a better choice to lump we two open handlers together. Being first is not our forte and the sheep took advantage of the situation and chose to run a lot. A lot! Poor Coal and I managed to careen around the course, best we could with him staying wide. No pen, no shed. I think there were two pens today, and you had to have the first name of Gloria to get a pen!!! Coal received a lovely bottle of wine for his effort. I'm sure he would rather have had a nice juicy bone but he didn't get a choice.

My main reason for going to the trial was to get Ryme out in a supportive atmosphere to see if he is more ready to trial in the mainstream. Unlike Coal, who needs to stay in the vehicle until almost his time to run, I kept Ryme out so he could see and watch the other dogs, handlers, and goings-on, in order to acclimate and get comfortable. Since Ryme is new to trialling, I have to go with my instinct on how to handle him pre-trial, and it seemed best to let him see and experience things around him as non-threatening and just same-old, same-old at another sheepdog trial, so he could relax and perhaps be less reactive.

I ran Ryme non-compete in the Pro-Novice class. Open handlers were supposed to run in Open Ranch, which included a shed, and since Ryme doesn't have the first steps of shedding training, I did not want to over-face him if we got that far. Ryme stayed cool, had a beautiful outrun and lift although I had to urge him on with several whistles. The setout person was a person with grain  (and no dog) who seemed to be crouching down behind his sheep - something Ryme is not used to but it is fine and good practice for him to get used to all different sights up top. The sheep ran down the field on the fetch as they had, for many (most) of the dogs. I was able to flank Ryme to try to straighten up the fetch and the sheep kept their velocity going! Soon they ran "out of bounds" and we were given the "thank-you". Not upset at all with the situation although it would have been nice to get further on the course. But I found out what I needed to know, which is that Ryme is ready to take another step forward. Big and welcome news!

There is a dock-diving pond on the property where the Don't Wine About It trial was held. After the trial, lots of the handlers let their dogs loose and probably twenty border collies were soon diving and swimming in that pond, Chiefie among them. I have never seen him swim so much! He was having a blast. He did not look like a ten-year-old and was keeping up with the young, strong swimmers. Such fun and a lovely end to the day.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Missions Accomplished

Dogs got worked on the sheep both last night and today. Whew! They are much happier. I am much happier. Lucky me, there were two of us today at the sheep field, so Ryme got a set of sheep held for him by a stock handler and dog - practice that we really need. It didn't seem to bother him.

The five lambs from Thursday evening are all still with us. The single is much more vigorous than the two sets of twins, however, they are doing all right. Fingers crossed.

Dog food mission also accomplished; what would I do without G&G Market? It is so nice to have the boys back on raw. Ryme immediately lost the extra weight he was packing around from eating kibble; now he is almost too thin but I can easily add more meat to his bowl. I am so grateful to have good sources of raw food for them.

If at least part of the weekend is meant for rest, then that is next on the agenda. Happy weekend, everyone!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Maybe Today...

Maybe today I can work my dogs -- "after work" -- of course.

Last night I went to try to work dogs at the pasture that we share with another person who raises a lot of lambs throughout the year. I thought we were kind of done lambing for now, but apparently it was just a short lull. I found three ewes who had just lambed, and four lambs (after looking through the tall grass to find them all). All the ewes were twirling about, trying to steal the other's lamb and none of the ewes (I think they were all young ewes, maybe all first-timers) were standing still for the babies to drink. I could see "dog work" fading from view, really fast. Normally in this pasture-lambing situation we leave the ewe and lamb alone, to bond fully. Their survival depends on it. But this time if I'd left them alone, perhaps none of the babies would have made it. So with Coal's help I got them all into the pens. I was pretty sure I knew which lambs went to which ewes, and finally got them all settled. One twin set didn't look too vigorous and I hoped that penning them up with their right mom would help them.

But it was apparent that one of the ewes with a single still had another lamb inside. She kept getting up and down and straining. She had been doing this for over an hour. I could see little white feet, occasionally. I called the ewe's owner and she came over. We got the ewe down and the owner pulled the lamb, with much ado. I got to hold the ewe down. It was a huge effort but out came a huge lamb, who was alive. He was panting and his sides were heaving from the effort, but he was all right. It is amazing.

Maybe dogs and I are hoping!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

It's That Time of Year...

The extra daylight early in the morning and later in the evening tells me, without even looking at the calendar. It's that time of year when I remember these guys even more than usual. Miss you - Augie and Bid!

I lost them both in mid-May -- Augie in 2007 and Bid in 2009. The mantra for 2012 is being in the present, however, so while I keep their memories with me all the time, my focus has to be on the guys that are here with me now and giving me so much, every day!

The results for Dunnigan Hills have been posted; it is apparent that Coal earned a few HA points for his efforts in the Sunday trial. Woo hoo! Another milestone reached. And Ryme is handling the world a bit better. He was a huge help in the pens when we volunteered at the Dunnigan trial. I'm going to give Ryme a go in a small trial, soon, just to see where we are. Ryme also survived a trip into a pet store on  Sunday; I let him pick out a toy. A couple of years ago Ryme would've been too freaked to go into a store, let alone walk on a large expanse of linoleum. It's the little things that make one smile!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I'll Have Another...

Associated Press Photo by Morry Gash
I absolutely loved watching this year's Derby. It was everything the Kentucky Derby should be. Bodemeister was incredibly awesome, but I'll Have Another had that something more that allowed him to win. Love the above photo with all eight equine legs in the air. Congrats to DJ who had the good luck to have bet on the winner!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Derby Day 2012

It's Derby Day so in honor of that, I'll post this photo again. Yes it's Himself, the Big Red, best racehorse ever...Secretariat...with moi. No this photo is not photoshopped! This photo is so old it is pre-Photoshop!

Enjoy your day! I'll be wearing my insanely expensive 2012 Derby ball cap that I just had to buy at the CVG airport giving myself retail therapy in return for waiting another unscheduled four hours for my flight home.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Boys Are Back

The boys are back, that is they are going back on their raw diet. This kibble stuff is too crazy and making me too anxious. Not to mention that Chiefie has a raging case of, putting it non-delicately, the runs. They never get  in that state of digestive uproar on the raw food, well almost never. And on kibble it seems to happen all the time. So back they go. Put in an order with today.  We started the transition tonight. I hope all will be righted soon.

Next time we travel, or if I have to go out of town without them, I think we will use Honest Kitchen.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Take Time (It's a Challenge for Some...)

What is your handler's challenge? Or in my case what are some of your challenges as a handler (as there are many for me)? Just one of my challenges is Time.

I am a morning person. I get up early, go to work early, finish up early (sometimes just soon after some of my office mates have just gotten back from their late "lunch break"). It works for us at the office. I'm on the west coast and my boss is in the eastern time zone - how convenient!

But at a trial I do do not dictate my own schedule. When the running order arrives, I groan when Coal and I are listed near the end of the day. I don't know how he feels about it (Coal hasn't said), but I don't do late afternoons well - at least I haven't in the past. This is something I have been working on - preparing myself to wait all day long, not get frustrated, not dial into the chatter and gossip all around me, not get tired and thirsty, take care of myself, keep my head in the game, and all of that. Trying to give the best I can for my little dog who gives his best for me. Working it all out in my mind, ahead of time. I think we are doing better at this!

What is your handling challenge?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Dunnigan Hills Spring 2012

We are back from Dunnigan Hills trial, spring 2012 version. I had a ton of fun and so did the dogs. My goal was to get away from work mode for three days and get fully immersed back into my passion of the sheepdogs. I think we realized that goal and more! Oh and also it was in my mind to have some good trial runs - which happened too! Woo hoos all around! This trial marks our second year running in the Open. How time flies when we are having so much fun.

The weather was HOT, especially on Saturday and really hot on Sunday. Monday was better, but still warm. Coal ran in the Open on Saturday and Sunday. I was so pleased that we had two clean rounds, getting all of the gates and finishing the course, both days. Now that felt good!  Sunday's run was really nice and we might even squeak in on the HA  points on that one - we'll see; if not, that's OK as I am still really happy with the run.

Despite the farm flock and somewhat familiar (to us) field, the trial was still a huge challenge. What separated the women from the girls (and the men from the boys too!) among other things was the driveaway to the first panel. If you were not right on the money the crafty sheep would take an exit stage left around the hill and off they'd go towards home and you'd get the thank you from the hard-working judge, John Fontaine. Holding that drive line to the first panel (of three drive panels) was what made or broke many runs.

I always love this trial because of the wide open spaces all around you. All around you is nothing but hundreds of acres of open, green rolling hills of pasture land. Some of the dogs get lost in all that space. Coal did that last fall - went too wide and had a hard time getting to his sheep - but this trial he stayed just about where he should be on his outruns - wide enough but not too wide as to get lost. I was really pleased. We still have work to do on our fetches. But overall it was a really fun time. There were some really beautiful runs laid down that were a joy to watch.

On Monday I had volunteered to help with setout. My boys and I spent the day back at the pens so I didn't see much of the P-N/N runs. But we had a good day despite being hot and ending with some tired feet and sore muscles. My dogs got a ton of work keeping the sheep ready to go for the next handler and the next. Ryme earned his "penwork badge" by being invaluable to help me with calmly loading the release pens. He was awesome and seemed tireless. Coal earned his "silent gather badge" as twice the wily home sheep started for home without permission and they got pretty far before we could get them back. Coal had to be sent to pick them up over the hills without me whistling (which would have potentially interfered with the trial handlers' whistles). He didn't fail me.

Coal at 5 months
We've come so far and I am so delighted! When I got Coal as a puppy I was running Bid in AHBA and had just started to see some success in RESDA; Bid and I were tightening up our performances but still we had issues mostly created by me trying to start him on my own way back when. I had run Bid a few times in Pro-Novice but we weren't too successful. For a while it seemed like I might have another agility dog in Coal, as he didn't show much interest in sheep early on. But at about eleven months, he turned on and life changed forever. With the help and tireless encouragement of a great mentor, here we are in Open and putting in some credible runs. Life is good!