Sunday, September 29, 2013

Almost October

It's almost October and time has been blazing by in a blur, kind of like this photo:

Coal and I have been working hard to sharpen ourselves back up and I am looking forward to a little bit of trialling again. He's working well and we are dotting those is and crossing those ts, as best we can. Today we had an enjoyable workout with two other friends holding sheep for one another, and got to practice the turnback/double lift scenario. Fun!  

Spot and I have hit some speed bumps in our work so we are getting some help. He is super keen now. Poor boy tore his dew claw yesterday. Ouch! I'm very grateful for the friends who are helping us by observation and brainstorming though.

The days are getting shorter, and we've had a few drips and drops of rain. Can the little green shoots of grass be far behind? It is almost October...

Sunday, September 8, 2013

That Pesky Clipboard Again

Unexpectedly I found myself on the other side of the clipboard again. The person who was supposed to judge Saturday's RESDA trial wanted to trade assignments at the last minute (almost). I was previously supposed to judge the last RESDA trial of the season, in October. It was great for me to trade since the earlier trial was a lot closer to home. And now I have completed my judging duties for the year.

I enjoy judging in small doses. Judging really makes you examine your own handling and training.

It was a lovely field with crossbred wool sheep who worked great for the Open dogs. These sheep have been in a trial before and are managed in a large group at home by a dog and handler. So they are dog-aware but certainly not dog-broke. They tested the Open dogs quite well. There were quite a few nice runs. I was hard pressed at times to find places to critique but I did my best.

There were of course a few runs that didn't go so well. I encouraged those handlers to go help their dogs. Sometimes it seems the handlers have grown roots and don't walk when they should - or so it seems at least...

There was also an old saying in other dog events that I thought of: "don't make the judge think!" It's meant in a joking manner but really, if the handler is doing something that is so different from the norm, then that handler is taking a chance of losing a lot of points that they needn't lose.

Being on the other side of the clipboard reminds me that etiquette goes a long way. The thank-yous received are much, much appreciated by the trial hosts, work crew, club staff, and clerk. It's those little things that keep sheepdog trials happening.

Speaking of which: lots of big trials have been running: Soldier Hollow, Meeker, the International in the UK, and so forth. It has been hard to stay focused anywhere but on the various websites that offered updates.

In our little part of the world, there will be a RESDA-style sheepdog trial at Lambtown. Details can be found on the RESDA website.

As for my guys, we are just plugging away. The temperatures have been really much hotter than I prefer so some training opportunities are getting either significantly shortened, or skipped altogether. I am hoping to get more training time in soon. But for now it feels like we are having the heat of summer all over again. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day Fun

Labor Day is here! Time to store all those straw hats, white sandals and white linen slacks...oh wait, I forgot !! I'm in California...and the midwestern strict rules of apparel etiquette do not apply here. I am not sure I will ever get used to that. :-) Seeing straw hats here in November and March just goes against the grain. My grain, anyway...

Labor Day for we sheepdoggers now means one thing: Soldier Hollow double lift finals. I have been watching the scores since the qualifying started. I was happy to see our trainer get into the final round. They didn't make the medals but had a respectable score. On, to Meeker. Someday I want to go to Soldier Hollow  and Meeker as a spectator....wishful thinking! But we can dream!

Labor Day in reality was a fun dog-work day. With two other handlers we set up our own "mini version" of a double lift and Coal got to try his first turn back in that situation. It was really fun. He took the turn back after a few whistles and verbal coaxing. Not too shabby for a first attempt! We all had fun. Nice to do something different. I thought it might be a good litmus test of where we are, and I'm happy with the result.

Spot had one fast cheviot ewe in his training group today, that I don't think we have used before. She was too fast for him and in the heat we did not try to attempt keeping her under control, for very long. We will try again next time.

The issues in the dog-pack seem to have been settled, at least for now. I am so much more aware of what is happening here though. I thought I was pretty dog-savvy, but not enough. I am very grateful for friends who are much more well versed in canine behavior than I. I'm so grateful that the dogs are back together, under supervision, and we have had no more incidents. You don't know what you've got til it's (almost) gone is the old saying and when you suddenly face that it is a very stressful time. Spot's "puppy card" now has all twelve holes punched in it though. He may be getting a free deli sandwich but not much else! Just lots more work. Keeps me out of trouble, I say.

Giving thanks on this Labor Day for many things! Enjoy...

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Birthday, A Holiday, and More

Coal gives me the border collie eye from the vantage point of his swim tank
Coal's birthday was last week on August 29th. I didn't get a post on the blog for him due to other things that happened that day. Still I wanted to post something about Coal's birthday even if it's belated. He is now seven. It is hard to believe he's that old. Time flies when you are having fun. Coal has always been a bundle of fun. He is a jolly fellow who enjoys life. I try to take a lesson from him daily in that regard!

One thing our trainer said about Coal last weekend has stuck with me. As any know who watch us run in a trial, Coal has a lot more eye than most folks want in their sheepdogs. I have stuck with it because he is my dog and he has lots of other talents; he's not going anywhere. But what our trainer noted was that "there is nothing wrong with that kind of eye." "You just have to have obedience from the dog to go with it" (or something to that effect). In other words if the dog is obedient you can use the good parts of that amount of eye yet still get around a trial course in good fashion. That's my goal. When things are flowing it is a lovely sight, Coal and the sheep on the course. I'm not drilling him as such, but every day when we work I am running through some exercises to promote obedience, making sure he listens.

Coal is getting tuned back up. I am hopeful that we can put in a respectable showing at the nearby November USBCHA-style trials. I have more things to work on, and need to also put time into his fitness. But it's all coming along. Some of our sheep went on walkabout the other night; I found two of them enjoying irrigated lawn. I was glad I had Coal with me to put them back into the (dry as a bone) pasture. Oh my.

It's Labor Day weekend, so we have some holiday time off. Some down time is much welcomed and appreciated by me this year. A lot of the sheepdog folks are out of town at the various trials: the Scottish Games in Pleasanton, of course Soldier Hollow in Utah, and there is a small fun trial on Monday at the Gibson Ranch Park near Sacramento. I'm staying home. The holiday weekend traffic, the Bay Bridge closure and more factors were enough to make that choice. We have work to do at home, I have training and practicing to accomplish with the dogs and just some rest and chore time to put in here.  I am watching the Soldier Hollow scores online though, and it looks tough especially at certain times of the day.

Spot is doing well too. We're working on our assignments from last weekend's lesson. I would like to have a little bit cooler weather so that we could work a few minutes longer each session. Right now it's been pretty hot though so the sessions are really short. Some would say that short duration is a good constraint right now. Perhaps! :-)

We had a problem at home on Coal's birthday which is the main reason why I didn't blog that day. I'm still processing it and working out a plan to deal with it. Ryme has suddenly (at least to me) revealed animosity for Spot. If the signs were there before, with a fermenting issue, I did not see them. Spot has a great temperament and just wants to get along with everyone - which is one of the main reasons he is here. But we had a bad altercation early Thursday morning. Ryme would not give it up even though Spot was completely submissive. So they are separated for now at home, although walking them together out in the open still seems to be a possibility. To be determined. I continue to learn.

Happy Labor Day weekend, all!