Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Making it Real and Back to the Future

Recently a friend whose ewes were getting really close to lambing, needed to sort said ewes out of a bunch of other sheep and move them to their lambing location that is more in-by. We showed up at the right time and the dogs and I helped to sort the groups. It was nice to put their training to work - making it real - in a helpful situation. We could have gate-sorted the sheep but that is hard on the gates and on my knees. So, I sorted them using a mini-international shed for all but the last few, who got gate sorted. First Ryme helped me to sort six training sheep out of the bunch and those were put away. Then we worked quite a while to sort yearling ewes out of the rest of the ewe "bunch".  This was a lot more difficult because some of the yearlings were really attached to the big group and kept running back to the older ewes. We got this part way accomplished, and Ryme was apparently getting tired. So I broke off and got Spot and gave Ryme a rest. Spot and I finished the job and we put the bred ewes in a pen to be loaded on the trailer and put the yearling ewes out in a pasture to graze. When you have a real job to do it makes it really clear why all the training we do is so important and not just being incredibly picky about clean flanks and stops.

Of course it was raining lightly during this chore and I suppose I should be glad that it was not just absolutely pouring. We are still having a record rain/weather year. It still feels like winter and we are more than halfway through April. It is a good thing that the bred ewes went to their lambing spot, that morning, because the first one delivered healthy twins, late that afternoon, and another ewe had a single, that night!

Back in my childhood we watched the Jetsons' cartoons on TV, and we were led to believe that commuting to one's workplace would eventually be accomplished in a blink of an eye in a space ship that traveled at the speed of light. Astro the space dog was often present in the passenger seat of the space ship. :-) Now in a similar fashion, my commute has been shortened to a few steps, because I have joined the ranks of the WFH set.  Back to the future, for me. It takes some getting used to and I have not fully made the adjustment, yet. The dogs gather around my work space and sleep, most of the day. So far only one conference call has been interrupted by a loud squeaky toy being tossed around, when I mistakenly thought my (soft) phone was muted. Back to the future. It's an odd combination, an ages-old tradition such as bringing ewes closer to home for lambing, and a Jetsons-like work experience.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Been There, Done That; Got the T-Shirt: McCormack Days Two-Three

Day Two of the McCormack Ranch trial was not nearly so windy; it was a beautiful sunny day with only light winds. In the afternoon it got pretty hot. I know some of our dogs (and people) are not acclimated to the heat yet, this spring. Spot and I had another run and we tried to make the best of it after the first day's failure to even get out to the sheep.

The Saturday course was the same: left hand drive, shed-pen-single, with the time reduced from 15 to 14 minutes. This was still ample time to complete the course if the work was efficient and moved the sheep properly. Some folks finished with one to four minutes to spare, even!

I sent Spot to the right this time, as I had initially wanted to do the first day but then got swayed by watching others and switched my plan. Today I stuck to my original plan. I had to re-direct Spot out four or five times, but he got out there, thank goodness, and lifted the sheep. The fetch was not all that pretty, nor was the drive, but we got around. I think we missed all of the possible gates but we were not far off the mark. We did our shed, moved on to the pen, where time was called, and we got 54 points. So no pen or single points, for us.

McCormack Ranch trial field
 What a beautiful trial field and setting! The sheep were fantastic. What a nice thing to be able to have time to do the full course of shed-pen-single. No one had to feel super-rushed through the work if they kept their sheep at a nice pace and their dog worked them properly.

Saturday scores
I'm so glad that Spot and I got to run at McCormack. I don't have any regrets about moving him up in class even though we now can't go back to PN. I am only looking forward.

Friday's scoreboard
I was thrilled to get a score even though Spot and I did not complete the course. It was a decent, respectable run for our first time in Open. :-) I figured out something I am doing that I will need to fix; I am stopping and flanking him too much and I need to let things flow more. I wanted to try to handle more this way on Sunday.

Sunday's running order had us listed as dog six; not much time to get ready or get nervous.  The judge and the course director had changed the course around. They switched it to a right-hand drive, and put in a marked shed and pen instead of the traditional shed, pen, and single. Each dog and handler team got six sheep and two of them were marked. You were supposed to sort off the two marked sheep as well as one other plain one (the wild card), and then pen those three. I was really looking forward to trying this sort/shed as this is the type of work that Spot and I really enjoy doing. We have practiced this type of thing multiple times. But it was not meant to be. He again needed a lot of help on the outrun but he got out there after 4-5 whistles. Then he lifted the sheep and just barely started them towards us. I don't know what happened next but all of a sudden he appeared to be running back towards me, down the fetch line. At this point there was nothing to do but retire. It was somewhat dissappointing but I am not discouraged. This was our first open trial and I chose the biggest open trial in our area to move Spot up. Even the person who has been urging me to move Spot to open ASAP was a little taken aback by this move of mine; I am not regretful. I learned so much about the dog, and my handling and what I need to work towards just by running in this trial.

Oh and I did get the t-shirt :-)