Saturday, May 31, 2008

Goodbye Faith

I just learned that my friend Lauren lost her grand old dog Faith today. Fay-Fay has always been one of my favorite dogs. She just always had this sweet presence. I'll miss her a lot.

It's been kind of boring around here the last few days. Gael's still feeling fine and i spend a lot of time just hanging with her. I've been working my tail off getting caught up on stuff that had gotten away from me when i was off trialing - mowing, trimming, bush-hogging, weeding, etc. Today i even managed to get the pups on sheep again. Moss was happy to get to work the flock with the lambs in it and did a nice job. Billy worked the whole gang as well and did nicely. I'd say he's ready to start and ought to come along quickly. I don't think i've had him on sheep for about 6 weeks but he was right where he left off, going around nicely and doing some little outruns. Having the lambs in the flock gave him something extra to think about. He's very serious and still Mr Cool. I also put Bart on a small group since it had been awhile and he looked great. He's very even on both sides and able to take a bit of direct pressure from me to turn rather than needing me to toss the sheep around to get him to switch directions. He sure looks like he's going to have a nice way with the sheep and a natural gather/cast.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Another Gael update

I finally talked to the internal medicine specialist and thought i'd update everyone. We're still in wait-and-see mode but he was glad to see the enzymes coming down, though he'd rather they moved more quickly. Those enzymes have a pretty short half life so could drop very quickly - disappointing that they didn't drop more significantly (but they did drop). Also, Gael's bilirubin is back up a little, which is concerning as well. It started at 4.3, then dropped to normal, then went back to 1.1 and tuesday was at 1.5 (.9 is the top of the normal range). The good news is that she still feels good. I'm picking up a medication today that might or might not help (Actigall), and we'll repeat the blood work on tuesday. If the numbers aren't dropping we'll have to consider getting more aggressive and doing a surgical biopsy. Unfortunately, Gael's not the best candidate for surgery with compromised liver function - the liver needs to be able to handle clearing the anesthetic agents from her body.

So that's the latest...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Gael update

Here's the latest update on Gael --
I ran Gael by the emergency vet this morning for a
blood draw and the lab tech called later - the liver
enzymes have gone down a bit. They're still in really
scary territory but going in the right direction.
Alkaline phosphatase was 5888 thursday and is 4500
now ("high" is 200). ALT was 1528 and is 1424 now.
I'll talk to the internal medicine specialist on
wednesday or thursday about what the next steps are
but i suspect he'll suggest waiting and monitoring
her levels for a while, especially since she feels
okay. She's getting very spoiled with all the
special treatment and attention (but she's worth it!).

Monday, May 26, 2008

Roller coasters

Well, the Shoofly Gang roller coaster continues. I noticed Monday after we got home from the Bluegrass that Gael seemed a little off. By the evening she was obviously feeling bad, lethargic and not wanting to move around much, gums pale with a tinge of yellow to them, a slight fever and then she refused most of her dinner. I was on the phone first thing tuesday morning with the vet and had her in the office when they opened. She was jaundiced and dehydrated, and they started fluids right away and began trying to figure out what was wrong. Her liver enzymes were literally "off the scale" - the number for her alkaline phosphatase was so high that the machine in the vet's office wouldn't read that high and the blood had to go to another lab. A usual high reading might be something like 200 and Gael's was over 6000. Most of her other lab values were okay, white and red counts normal, etc, just the liver enzymes completely out of whack and she was pretty dehydrated. She spent the day at the regular vet, then i took her to the emergency vet office for overnight care and she stayed there until late wednesday evening. She was feeling a little better after aggressive fluid therapy and antibiotics, her fever was gone and the jaundice cleared up, so she got to come home and sleep curled up in the bed with me. She spent thursday back at the emergency vet getting more IV antibiotics and fluid therapy, an ultrasound (everything looked normal) and having pre- and post-meal bile acid tests (sent out for results). She was feeling pretty normal, bouncy and happy and yapping at the folks at the vet's office. The internal medicine specialist who was running the case felt like she was doing well enough to take on the trip to Dr Ben's trial this weekend, though i wasn't convinced until friday morning, when she seemed to be her normal self and was tossing toys at me. Since there are hookups at this trial site and i knew Gael could hang out in a nice air conditioned camper all weekend, i decided to head on out, with plans to come right back home if she had any sign of not feeling well. About 3.5 hours into the 4 hour drive the internist called with the results of the bile acid tests and the numbers were scary high, as the enzymes had been. Normal pre-fasting on the bile acids test is < 10 and Gael was a 58. Normal post-fasting should be under 20 and Gael was well over 200. The internist said he'd only seen such high values on the enzymes and bile acids test once or twice in his career. He also really didn't know what the heck was going on, said she should be feeling pretty lousy, etc. with those numbers. I was really devastated at this news - i just knew those results would come back okay, or if not okay at least not horrible. I wished i'd gotten the news sooner and had stayed home with Gael, but since we were so close and had already dealt with the horrible holiday traffic, we went on to the trial with the same original plan. And Gael did fine, was perfectly happy sleeping curled up on my lap (or my pillow when i was out of the camper) in the A/C. We took naps between runs and even managed to play a little fetch in the camper and she was happy and upbeat, feeling fine. The current medical plan is to repeat the bloodwork tomorrow and hope the enzymes are coming down, deciding what to do from there, either wait and see if she gets better or needs a surgical biopsy or what. She feels fine, was just sleeping curled up next to me here on the couch and is now rolling around on the floor scratching her back happily. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers and hope for those numbers to start down.

The NC State Trial at Ben and Emily Ousley's was pretty okay. I was distracted saturday, really just popping out to run the dogs and then back to the camper and Gael. The Open dogs and i didn't exactly burn up the trial field. Both ran decent but we couldn't seem to finish out a run for a good score. Sunday was much better in terms of being more focused. Spottie had a terrible run, missed everything. I can't really blame her with all the distraction of the last few days. Her group of sheep ran and ran. It was actually kind of funny even, how "not her day" the run was. I guess she gets to have a bad one now and again. :-) Zac had a really pretty run, very clean, finishing with a 91 and second place out of about 60 dogs. It's too bad saturday was so off, since he ended up only a couple of points out of the double lift finals. Moss ran Nursery friday evening and ran out the full Open length outrun very nicely, one of only a couple of the Nursery dogs to get out without much trouble. Unfortunately one of the 4 sheep doubled back just after the lift and he only brought 3 down the field, but he did it well. Sunday morning's Nursery run was decent as well, nice enough outrun with one redirect, and then i got some course training in with him as he wasn't flanking far enough to really turn the sheep online when asked on the fetch. His drive out was good, then the sheep bolted on the crossdrive, and then on his return leg he gave me that flank i'd schooled. The score wasn't anything but it was good to see him pick up that improved flank. I decided to go ahead and move him up to Ranch instead of running him in ProNovice since he was handling Nursery well enough. I was very, very pleased with his Ranch run. Again it wasn't very high scoring but the pieces are starting to come together. He had a beautiful fetch, giving good pace and flanking far enough to keep the sheep online, his nicest fetch at a trial yet. His drive away was really pretty as well - i got him to pace down more than i've been asking and he really had great contact and hold on his sheep. It was quite pretty in parts and very encouraging for the future.

So that's the latest on us here at Shoofly. Gael and i will be off to the vet first thing tomorrow, hoping for good news.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bluegrass Classic SDT Video of Spottie

Here's video of Spottie's second run in the Open class at the Bluegrass Classic SDT, taken by Denise Wall. Thanks Denise!

Ignore the terrible shedding attempts. ;-)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Shoofly Dogs at the Bluegrass

It was definitely an up and down week at the Bluegrass for the Shoofly Gang. I didn't even know for sure who i was going to run in the Open, right up to the evening before the trial started. I'd entered Spottie and Zac but had Jet waiting in the wings. Spottie had seemed to be slowing down, perhaps showing her age a bit, and i was concerned that she might have trouble keeping up with the fresh Texas lambs. Jet tends to pull up short on her outrun, which kills us at trials, plus she also will use her teeth on sheep that try to push her around at all, as the lambs would. And Zac, my top dog, was occasionally hopping around on 3 legs, having re-injured the iliopsoas muscle that kept him out of trials most of the late summer and fall. At least Moss was happy and sound, though i was concerned about his very limited trial experience, especially as he'd be running on those Texas lambs in the Nursery on friday and saturday.

Fortunately, i'd arranged a visit with Vergil and Anne Marie Holland on the monday before the trial began, to work the dogs a bit. I decided i'd let Zac work some, for the first time since we returned from the Shaker Village trial, and make my final decisions afterwards. I also started Spottie on rimadyl to see if she'd be more comfortable. And I worked the heck out of Jet there in case she'd need to sub in, so she'd be prepared. Zac seemed a little off his game, and had built up a bit more eye from the lay off than i wanted to go into the Bluegrass with. But, his leg didn't seem any worse after the workout, so i decided to go ahead and run him in the trial. Final decision was to stick to my original entry of Zac and Spottie. I would have liked to see Jet on those sheep since she handled the Edgeworth sheep so handily in the fall season but next year will have to be her year. Moss worked well at Vergil and Anne Marie's, on sheep that were pretty similar to the ones he'd run into in ProNovice. His outruns were looking good and it was good prep for the trial, especially since he's worked in very few fields.

On to the trial! Moss would be my first dog up, running 10th in ProNovice on wednesday. He was so good! He ran out like a little champ, listened well, just did a really nice job on the suffolk cross "novice" sheep (the same sheep run at the Shaker Village trial). He ended up with a 68, tied for 5th and ended up 6th after the outwork tie break. His second PN run was pretty nice as well but not quite as clean and he ended up 14th. Those were good placements in a class with nearly 50 dogs. On Friday, the Texas sheep from the first round of Open came over to the novice field. Whew, what a difference a day makes! The suffolks were their own challenge - 27 of the 47 PN dogs on wednesday were not able to complete the course and post a score, with many of the sheep jumping the fences into the exhaust. The Texas lambs gave the young dogs something new to think about though - they'd actually slow down and look at the dogs the first day and i think this surprised many of the younger Nursery dogs. There was quite a range of experience among the dogs in Nursery, all the way from dogs like Moss running their first trials, to dogs that had done well in the 2007 Nursery Finals and were competing their second year of Nursery. Anyway, Moss ran really well on the sheep on friday, settling them down nicely and getting around the course, then timing out at the pen. His run was a little sloppy on lines and such but i didn't want to handle him too much and wanted him to get a feel for this type of sheep. He really did a lovely job with them, was calm and confident, and they seemed to relax a bit with him. Saturday's Nursery run was something of a disaster, with the sheep running here and there and everywhere but i think they were fed up and had had enough of dog trialing. Moss didn't lose his cool but was pretty wound up. Early in the week i was happy to note that he seemed to be enjoying the trial atmosphere and by Saturday i was thinking he was enjoying it too much! Overall, it was a good week for Moss and he did well.

Zac was my first dog up in the Open, running 37th on wednesday. As i sent him on his outrun, i looked up field to see our sheep running all over the place. They were more or less near the set out point when Zac got there but were clearly wound up. They broke hard right but Zac caught them and started downfield. I left him alone and let him work it out with the sheep since they were pretty upset, giving up a little on the fetch line in exchange for him getting a "hold" on them. It worked out pretty well and he had a very nice run around the course, happy sheep and good lines with a close miss on the crossdrive panel (my nemesis at the BG!). Unfortunately things fell apart in the shedding ring. We had plenty of time but i just couldn't get a hole of any sort and Zac finally got fed up and grabbed a breaking sheep, and we got the "Thank you!" call from the judge. We drew up late in the day on friday for the second round, and when i saw the sun break out after rain all day, i thought we might be in trouble. The sheep got very heavy and started grazing at any release of pressure from the dog - bad news for Zac as he'd built up that extra eye and this type of sheep gives him trouble anyway. He ran out well and lifted nicely, then one sheep started trying to break away from him while the other 2 stuck their heads down to eat. He went into defense mode, catching and tucking the renegade in repeatedly, which was really nice. Unfortunately this also tended to shut the group down and the fetch was terribly slooooooooow. Six minutes of the allotted eleven were burned up getting to the post. I got him to hustle the sheep around the drive, though they were stodgy again on the return leg, but we did get to the shedding ring. The sheep had gotten the best of Zac though and he was frustrated, and finally he just nailed one, resulting in another DQ. I was disappointed but that's the way it goes sometimes, and we'll just work to do better next year.

And then there was good old Spottie, who continues to amaze me. Ten and a half years old and she ran like a million bucks at the trial. On thursday afternoon the sheep were running rough and getting the best of many dogs, and she just ran out there, lifted them nicely and calmly walked them right up to me, marched them around the course (missed one panel) and on into the shedding ring. Time was short at that point and we worked really hard to get a shed (boy was she sharp working in the ring), and time ran out just after we got to the pen. I was especially proud of her work in the sunday morning second round run. One of the lambs was really balky and tried to break off to the exhaust the entire fetch, and then broke hard over and over during the first leg of the drive (in the direction of the exhaust). Spottie and i worked hard controlling that lamb and it was great fun with such a wonderful and willing partner. She marched the three on around the course, with nice lines, hitting all the panels. A wide turn at the crossdrive hurt us pretty badly on points, and we just never could get an opportunity to make the shed. That really hurt since she was in the running for the double lift, having ended up in the 31st spot going into the second round. Final tally for the 2 rounds was 60.5 + 58.5, so 119, about 16 points shy of the cut. I worried about her age and even considered running Jet in her place this year since it's a big course with tough sheep but she looked terrific out there, spry and in total control. And she looked gorgeous flying out on those 2 outruns, just perfect. I couldn't have asked for her to have done even one little thing differently, there wasn't a single second that i felt she'd let me down even the tiniest bit on the course, and not getting to the final round rests on me this year - the shedding was just so difficult with so little experience on that type of sheep. It'll come with time i know, but it makes me sad that it'll probably be another dog that benefits from it, and not good little Spottie. She's been a real gem for me.

So that's the report on the dogs and their runs. They mostly performed very well and i was happy with them. I feel like i have some things to work on myself (that darned shed when you can't get anywhere near the sheep for one thing!) and a few things on the dogs. The week was fun but soggy, which made studying the runs of the other teams a little less fun. I saw some good, some very good, some bad and some very bad. Lots to ponder on. It was great to see friends and their dogs doing well (congrats to Christine and Rook, and Renee and Bette, and Lauren and Mac!). It was fun to spend time with folks i don't get to spend enough time with (hi Joan!). Hanging out in the camper with the dogs and friends was fun (fighting the broken down YET AGAIN generator was frustrating -thanks Mark & Renee for the "charge"). Seeing Moss' breeder so happy and proud after his first PN run was great (hi Denise!). And getting to take part in such a terrific event is always a thrill and an honor (THANK YOU BLUEGRASS PEOPLE!!!).

Now it's time to start plotting and planning ahead for next year!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Bluegrass Report, Part 1

I'll break this up since i know it's going to get long. Part 1 will be a general report, Part 2 will be on my own trip and dogs and such.

The Bluegrass Classic SDT is an amazing feat of organization. Just compare it to the USBCHA National Finals. The Finals is put on by a national organization, with large financial backing from that organization ($2 of every Open and Nursery run at any sanctioned trial all year goes to the HA, and most of this goes to putting on the sheep and cattle Finals), as well as a very large donation from the ABCA (over $10,000 in 2007), targeted specifically towards putting on the Finals trials (Open and Nursery). During the Finals, 150 Open dogs run in the preliminary round (after paying a $200 entry fee), with 40 returning for a second run, and then 17 taking part in the double lift final round. Generally, about 60 Nursery dogs (2 runs each) are run as well. Total runs is about 330, give or take a few Nursery dogs. Now look at the sheer volume of dogs run at the Bluegrass - 134 Open dogs with 2 full runs ($150 entry fee covers both runs, a bargain!), a top 20 double lift final round, and over 400 (yes, 400!) runs in the novice and nursery classes. Total is nearly 700 runs in 5 days. And all of this without the huge financial backing the HA Finals receives. It's an amazing feat, just amazing.

And what a treasure this trial is for those of us lucky enough to attend. No detail is overlooked. The wool sheep were trucked in from Texas and were lambs born this past January, mostly black faced or mixes, and weighed in probably from 80-100 pounds. All 134 dogs run in the first round ran on fresh, undogged sheep. What a treat! The outrun is about 375-400 yards i believe (i'm terrible at distances). Many dogs came to grief just trying to get the run started - those lambs had to learn about dogs in a hurry and they weren't always happy about it. They'd run, split, double back, all kinds of challenges for the dogs at the lift. It's tremendous fun watching the sheep get dogbroke right there on the field. Shedding proved to be very difficult in many cases, with lots of teams timing out in the shedding ring and many dogs getting fed up and gripping there as well. Getting the sheep to go around the handler's post was another challenge because the sheep were so touchy. It was interesting to see the lambs drawn to the spectator tents near the handler's post. There was a short fence in front of the tents and many groups of sheep would get right up on the fence (or even try to go over), again leading to frustrated dogs using their teeth and being disqualified. I heard one competitor theorize that perhaps the sheep spent a good bit of time under shelter and maybe were drawn to the tents because of it. I felt the sheep were pretty even at the trial, and the difference between groups was mostly explained by weather conditions or time of day, things that can't be controlled. There were definitely some times to run that were much better or much worse than others but it's always going to be that way at a trial with so many entries. The sheep themselves were healthy and uniform. Set out was from horse back and 2 judges judged each round, with all 4 judges serving for the Top 20 Final.

As i said, no detail is overlooked. On the Open field, preliminary scores are posted immediately after each run, on a big scoreboard that also has a timer counting down for each run. The class scoreboard is updated with points breakdowns as well, just as soon as math is checked. A leader board is kept up to date each day. There are 2 large tents to sit under, with coffee and breakfast items every morning. The judges sit in nice comfortable horse trailers, away from watchful eyes and out of the weather. The famous "white house" ( a little white shed built on a trailer) sits just behind the post and is manned all day long, ready for any little thing that pops up - running orders, entry stuff, any kind of question, and all of the million administrative things that pop up with such a large undertaking. Both fields post and maintain a running order for the other field, checking off teams after they've run, so handlers can keep up to date and be where they need to be at the right time. The Bluegrass folks even have water and sewage service come in for the folks in RVs and trailers. There are a few vendors (the sock lady is a big hit every year) and an ongoing raffle each day. Official hats, t-shirts, etc are available as well.

The weather was kind of lousy this year, unfortunately. I guess it could have been worse, if it had been colder or had rained every single day - we had a few hours of sun once or twice. I think everyone ended up pretty water-logged. I know i had 4 pairs of wet shoes to dry out when the sun finally came out (the day after i got home!). But that's the way it is in Kentucky in May. It could be cold, wet, hot, you just never know until you get there. The Bluegrass gang is made up of real troopers and they just kept on trucking.

It was a lot of fun to watch the dogs trying to sort out the sheep (and the sheep sort out the dogs!). I have to mention 2 things that really stood out for me this year. One i didn't even actually see myself but i have to mention it because it was such a "good sport" sort of thing. Jennifer Maginnis had a beautiful run going with her Bay dog in the first round, having lost very few points around the course, definitely a top scoring run. On the shed, while she and her dog were holding the single, one of the other sheep decided to go over the fence, through no fault of dog or handler, resulting in a DQ. Afterwards, i heard that Jennifer was a really good sport about it, commenting something like "oh well, that's dog trialing", where many of us would have been crying the blues (or worse). That was Noteworthy thing #1. Noteworthy thing #2 was Tommy Wilson's run with his Sly in the second round. I didn't see his run in the first round unfortunately (heard it was gorgeous), because that second run will be etched in my brain for a long, long time and i'd have loved another one there. Tommy and Sly are an amazing team and seem to get stronger and stronger all the time. I remember the day in Sturgis at the 2003 Finals when Tommy bought her - i happened to be at the practice field when he was taking a look at her. I think she was about 10 months old maybe. But back to saturday's run. Sly ran out very well and just folded those sheep off the top end, with a little move here, a little move there, and fetched them the same way. A little jig here, a little jag there. All in a nearly straight line. What blew me away was watching Tommy during all of this. Here most of us out there are whistling and yelling and just working so hard to keep things nice and neat, constantly in contact of some sort with our dogs. And Tommy's just sort of standing there, letting Sly do the job. He blew a couple of whistles at the beginning of the fetch, and helped a tiny bit around the fetch gates, but the entire second half of the fetch, his hands were on his hips (he finger whistles) and he let Sly do her thing. I'd think "Oh, i'd give a come bye" and there was Sly tucking the sheep in on the right. "Oh i'd blow an away" and there was Sly on the left. It was a real lesson in NOT micro-managing a dog. The drive was very pretty and the shed picture perfect. All in all, it was incredibly inspiring. I'm sure there were lots of other noteworthy things but those are the 2 that are sticking out in my travel-fogged brain at the moment.

It's really a wonderful trial and all of the folks who work so hard to put it on deserve a huge thanks. Kudos to you all!

Next up, the good, bad and the ugly - the Shoofly dogs' Bluegrass week!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Bluegrass Report

Whew, what a week. I'm just home after 10 hours hauling the camper in the rain, yuck. It was a good week and a bad week and an everything in between week. I'll post a full report in the next day or two. A quick preview -- Tommy Wilson's run on Sunday with Sly was one of the prettiest things i've ever seen, truly inspiring. When i grow up, i want to be Tommy. :-)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Off a'trialing

(Photo by Denise Wall of Ben on the fetch at the Bluegrass 2003)

Final preps are underway to head to the Bluegrass trial on monday. The dogs are all either working terrible or lame, so it must be the biggest trial of the year for us! :-) I'll catch up the blog with a full trial report when we get home. Right now i plan to run Spottie and Zac in the Open, with Jet on standby in case Zac doesn't stop limping or Spottie seems to have trouble keeping up with the fresh sheep at the trial (she is 10 after all). Moss will be running ProNovice wednesday and thursday, and Nursery on friday and saturday. Hopefully he'll decide he can take a right hand flank by then - we've been having some technical difficulties on that this week (ah, the joys of young dogs!). Bart and Billy will be busy being cute and working the crowd socializing, and Gael will be on laying-around-the-camper duty.

It's the best trial of the year, even if my dogs don't end up totally on their game. Lots of good dog work and it's a real SHEEP trial, where the fresh sheep mostly sort out the dogs, at least on the first round, before they get more dog broke. I love watching this kind of trial, where you get to see so much more of what's really in the dogs and it's less about who handles best. I'll be glued to the sidelines for the first round, that's for sure!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Shaker Village Trial Report

Paul and Leeann Tucker hosted the Shaker Village SDT this past weekend at the Shakertown Historic Site in Harrodsburg, KY. It was a beautiful location for the trial. The trial courses were set on the face of a large hill with the outrun being about 360 yards for Open and Nursery, with a very long drive and crossdrive. The sheep were Pat Greenwell's big Suffolks (mostly, a few white faces were thrown in too), the same sheep used for many trials in the area, and the same flock used the 1st 2 days on the novice field at the Bluegrass SDT. They're crafty sheep. Many groups will behave pretty well if treated right. The dog has to stay with the sheep and not let them get a chance to take off, because they certainly will if they sense an opportunity. Some groups just run no matter what but at least they're in the minority. Penning is very uneven unfortunately. Some groups raced to get in the pen, while others had an individual that was just plain un-pennable. Overall, they're a good challenge, and very fit and healthy. A more even flock would make this an even better trial, but it's a challenge to find flocks to rent for trials and these are mostly workable. Paul and LeeAnn and friends worked tirelessly to get this trial organized and have it go off as well as it did, and i'm planning to return next year. I hope they'll consider a double lift Final, as the field just begs for it. The weather was good and bad. It started nice, then rain came in, then downpours overnight friday night into saturday morning. It cleared off late in the morning saturday but got very windy. Sunday was gorgeous.

The Open trials were won both days by my friend Christine Henry with her Bess. It's quite an accomplishment to win a 70 dog Open trial, but to win it 2 days in a row, wow. She even had to compete in a runoff for the Sunday win, as she and Annie O'Toole both had scores of 96. The competition was tight, the running very good.

On to my critters -- In the Open: Spottie was my first up on saturday and had a bit of trouble getting a hold on her sheep. She wasn't flanking really well and we just never quite got them lined out. We got around the course but only scored fair. Zac was next and had a very nice run. He had a good group that was willing to settle down and walk and he handled them really well, ending up 4th. Jet was my last one and she ran extremely well around the course, well enough to overcome losing a few points for pulling up a bit short at the top, and ended up 9th. Sunday, Spottie ran very well and ended up 12th. Zac and Jet both had difficult draws and neither scored well enough to place.

The real excitement for me for the weekend was Moss' trial debut. He ran in ProNovice twice on friday and handled the course and sheep nicely i thought. On his first run, i sent him left and he was going out a bit tight, so i stopped and redirected him, which he took extremely well. He was a little tight at the top, i think because of the setout person. He was under good control on his fetch and handled the sheep very well. I didn't want to over handle him on the drive since this was his first trial run, so let him miss the drive panels. Mostly i wanted him to have a good experience and to feel good about the job he did, and for us to be working together. His next run was a bit better and he ended up in 6th place. His sister May had her debut as well, and had a beautiful run to tie for 2nd place in the first runs.

When we arrived on thursday evening and i saw the PN course, my thought immediately was that Moss needed more room to stretch out and show his stuff, so since he'd done reasonably well in PN, i entered him in the Nursery for saturday and sunday. The Nursery course was the full Open course without the shed - a 360 yard outrun and a very long drive (i was told it was a 250 yard crossdrive on sunday). I might have reconsidered if i'd realized before entering that they weren't pulling the outrun in! Actually, i felt pretty confident Moss could manage it with some help, and he did. On saturday, he started coming in on his outrun about where the sheep had been set for PN. That wasn't unexpected, and especially since he'd never run out more than about 200 yards before. I doubt he knew sheep could even be that far away! With some lookbacks and redirects, he crossed over but did manage to get to the top end of the field. From that point it was quite a decent run, good control, good lines, with Moss listening very well. We missed the drive away panel but again, i didn't want to manage him too much out there this soon. He ended up 4th, one spot out of earning a qualifying leg for the National Nursery Finals. On sunday, i sent him right and he was going out pretty okay but a bit tight, so i stopped him and gave him a little redirect twice to make sure he'd land well and not spook the sheep - again he took this very well, bending out like an old pro. When he got to the top, this was a different sort of group of sheep from the day before, more of a running group, and needed handled differently. Where saturday's group was more willing to settle and be pushed a bit, this one wanted to run and it was more about catching them and guiding them than about pushing and guiding. Most of the fetch was offline as Moss was trying to figure this out, but by the beginning of the drive he had it and the whole drive was really pretty, very nice lines and good pace and control, making both panels. He ended up 4th again, with one very happy and proud handler. I was very pleased with how he handled himself through the runs, improving every time and never losing his cool, and gaining in confidence with every stride. He's just turned 17 months old, has only worked at a couple of places, and had never run out more than about 200 yards before, much less done a drive that totaled over 400 yards. He's still got a lot of growing up to do, but the future is looking bright for Moss!

All in all, it was a great trial and a fun weekend. To top it all off, it was Derby weekend. Being Louisville born and raised, it was a real treat to sneak back to the camper off and on saturday to catch the all day Derby coverage on the TV. A nice walk down memory lane for me.

Here's a bit of video of Moss' first PN run - the other runs were much nicer but the weather wasn't cooperating for videotaping!

(Try the "watch in high quality" option just under the screen if you have a high speed connection - it looks great)

Happy Birthday!!

Four years ago today, Spottie gave me these:

Happy Birthday Zac, Rose, Nan, Tess, Kate, Rob and Moss!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Trial report... come when i stop seeing white lines flashing in my mind's eye. Whew, 10 hours driving to get home today. It was a great trial, the dogs ran mostly pretty well, and Moss and his sister May had stunning trial debuts! A quick preview -- Moss ran ProNovice twice on friday, and then i got him into the Nursery class on saturday and sunday, where he was just wonderful, on the full Open course minus the shed. 360 yard outrun up a difficult hill, 250 yard crossdrive...Mr Moss is officially a Trial Dog now! Full report later, now sleeeeeeeeeep......