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

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