Tuesday, May 12, 2009

On The River Trial in Acme, WA

Where is Acme, WA you ask? Why, it's just a few miles south of Clipper, WA, along HWY 9 north of Sedro Wooley. This area is quite beautiful and was a great location for the first "big" trial of 2009.

Scott and I only ran in this trial on the Saturday. I had Mother's Day obligations on Sunday. Overall, we placed in the middle of the pack of the 30 or so Pro-Novice teams that also ran. We did finish our run; however, we ran out of time before we completed our pen which was a bit disappointing. I suppose those extra 20-30 seconds I needed to finish the pen were used up by having to re-flank and re-direct my dog who wasn't listening to all of my commands. Scott was really making a lot of his own choices out there on the field and it was getting us into trouble navigating the course. There is only so much you can do as a handler too when your dog is blowing you off 200 or so feet away from you and you can't leave the spot you're in! As a last resort, you yell.

Scott responds well to "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?? L I S T EN !!!!!! LISTEN TO ME!!!!! LIE DOWN!!!!" This was pretty much how it went - he would listen to some commands, then stop listening. I would praise him up when he did as I asked, and used my magical "LISTEN" command when he didn't.

Honestly, in a trial when you are speaking out the commands instead of using a shepherd's whistle, it sounds like you're speaking Norwegian - lot's of highs, lows, sing-songy type of speak. I took Norwegian as my foreign language requirement at the UW so I know a bit about how the language works. And honestly, by background in Norwegian and being confident in sounding like an old Norseman is probably why I am somewhat decent at herding and working dogs. Just a theory of course.

Scott is nearly 10 years old - for herding it's getting up there in age but it's not THAT old - I've seen some dogs run at age 13 just fine. He is still quite spry and tough with his stock when he needs to be and if he were to ever start looking tired or fed-up with it, then we'll quit. As with any 8+ year old dog, Scott's runing speed is not quite what I'm sure it used to be when he was a youngster. So, when I sent Scott on his outrun, which is the initial sprint out into the field to pick up the sheep we are going to work, Jerill heard someone say in the spectator area "Hey, look at Scott's out-jog." Har dee har har. I later found out who made the comment, and was able to laugh it off knowing that this person had learned a lot about handling and herding trials from an older dog too. What Scott may lack in speed he well makes up for in the control and power he has on his stock, and his out-jog, lift and fetch were quite good this weekend - no complaints really with how the first part of the run went actually.

Here are some pictures of Scott and I during our run. These are when we are doing our first leg of "the drive" which means the sheep just "turned the post" around me and I am using my dog to push them through the gates you see in the picture. I think just one or two sheep made it through the panels; I honestly can't rememember though. Sometimes, we totally miss the panels or on occasion, will do right and put the sheep right through the middle of them.

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