Friday, March 31, 2017
That's Not my Puppy...Whew! Day One McCormack
The McCormack Ranch is a gorgeous site for a sheepdog trial. Green grassy fields extend out endlessly in all directions, to the Sacramento River and beyond. The sheep are fit and beautifully conditioned and sensible. The trial is so well-run and well-staffed with many volunteers and local involvement. It is a handler's dream location. The only drawback today was the wind, which was blowing at 22-24 mph. Arghghghgh.
When I first walked out to the course, I thought how well laid-out this course is. My gut reaction was to send Spot right. Instead I wavered by the time we were up, and I thought he had spotted the sheep (which were little specks due to the very long outrun but he hadn't, or he didn't realize how far out they were), but for better or worse, I sent him left. He started out well but I could tell he was not sure, because his head was up as he ran. I gave him a comebye whistle as a reminder and he went on, and then pulled up, confused. Oh no. Then he ran behind a hill and I lost sight of him. I blew recall, walk in and comebye...and recall, walk in again, and soon he reappeared in the spectators, sort of behind the post. We both tried hard to get him out to the sheep but it was not happening, he was lost, he had misplaced his sense of where the sheep were and I nodded to the judge's truck and retired. I am not upset. He tried hard, I tried hard, and we couldn't make it work today. We will try again tomorrow.
Then, we were at exhaust. The next handler had a nice outrun, lift, and most of the fetch, when suddenly a puppy appeared dragging a leash and it was very keen! The puppy ran into the sheep near the post and started chasing them. The working handler and I stood frozen, not knowing what to do! Soon though it was apparent the run was over and would be followed by a re-run for this handler. Meanwhile the puppy was chasing the sheep over the endless hills and almost out of sight! The puppy's owner came running and she and I started in pursuit, and I unclipped Spot's leash and said, Away. I sent him out blind over the hills to find the four sheep and the puppy. There was nothing else I could do but keep walking forward and wait. Pretty soon, here came the four sheep over the top of the hill, with Spot smartly trotting behind them, and the puppy leaping and jumping all over Spot. Spot says, I work alone! (LOL) but he put up with the pestering. The course director soon appeared on a quad, and between he and the owner, they caught the puppy and took her back on the quad to be sequestered no doubt for the remainder of the trial. Spot and I took the four ewes to exhaust. I was very proud of his work being sent on the fly, out of sight, blind, to pick up sheep who were being chased by a puppy. Anything could have happened and only the right thing did. It made my day.
We will try again tomorrow. I have a good dog who is well trained, and needs experience. There were some really nice runs. It is so nice to have plenty of time to work through the course and to do the whole course (shed-pen-single) without a huge rush. What a super treat for the handlers. Like I said, this is a dream trial so far, despite our own RT.