On to our last day of competition at the Bluegrass - bet you thought we'd never get here, didn't you?
Bill was up first dog, first thing in the morning, on the Nursery course. I was determined to get a handle on him at the top end so we didn't have a munchity-munch repeat of his DQ the day before. I'd been looking forward to running him on those fresh sheep for ages, and an outrun-lift-grip doesn't afford much of a crack at it. I sent him to the right, and as he started down the backside of a small hill, i saw his feet and tail up over his head - he'd hit a hole or something, and did a complete somersault! He got up, shook his head, and went on. Before he'd gotten much further though, the sheep broke away from the setout person and ended up to the left side of the setout spot. I heard the judge yell "Pick them up and I'll judge from that spot". It didn't really matter that much, as i was going to be screaming my guts out trying to stop Billy the freight train once he lifted. Outrun and lift were 20-10, fetch was 7 (!). Seriously, i was doing some major yelling trying to keep Bill out of the sheep after the lift. Somehow, they got within the range where i have good control on Bill and we quieted down to the usual soft peeps on the whistle, but the fetch was very offline. It started out that way and we'd have needed to dogleg it to hit the panels, which were very close to the setout as it was. My goal was to get to run the course and avoiding the scatter and grip was essential, so i wasn't too concerned about the line anyway. From that point on, it was quite the gorgeous run. Driveaway and crossdrive were perfect. As we turned at the crossdrive panel, i looked at my watch and we only had 30 seconds left, yikes! So we rushed the return leg, making it a little offline, and Bill put them straightaway in the pen, with the clock going off as i closed the gate, whew! I didn't think it was all that great a run, with that fetch, but Bill handled the sheep very well. Late in the day, i walked back to the novice field just out of curiousity, to see if maybe we'd pick up a Nursery qualifying leg, and was surprised to find out we were leading the class with only a handful of dogs left to run. Apparently the sheep were pretty cranky on the novice field too. When the class was over, Bill's lead had held up and he won the class, getting his first qualifying leg on the Nursery finals as well.
On to our last run at the BG, Zac on the Open field, mid-afternoon in the heat of the day. He ran out and lifted pretty nicely for 17.75-8.5. Sheep started down the field but started stalling out. I couldn't see really well what was happening but i think Zac was shutting them down a bit and they were happy to stop, then started grazing and Zac just had trouble keeping them moving from then on. In hindsight, i wish i'd been more proactive on the whistle, but it looked like he was moving forward and trying to work it out, and i was leaving him alone (too much). As the sheep realized they could stand and eat, they got harder and harder to move. After what seemed like forever, Zac busted in, probably biting one of the sheep, and they finally came down the field but only 3.5 fetch points were left. Because so much time had elapsed, i rushed the sheep around the drive and we got 17 for that. Shed was okay for 7 points, then time ran out before the pen, total was 53.75 points. It was disappointing but Zac did his best.
It was overall a very good Bluegrass for the Shoofly dogs. I was really pleased with Bill's performance all week. He far exceeded my expectations and was growing and learning with every run. I expect next year, when he's still running those Nursery classes, to be a blast with a whole year under his belt. Jet and Zac ran really well, in the first round especially. Time of day was a big issue this year at the BG, and 3 of our 4 runs were in the late afternoon heat, not a very good time to run. But that's the luck of the draw and plenty of teams did well then too. In the first round, over 50% of the teams didn't manage a score, and in the second round, 30% didn't. I feel good that my dogs did get around all 4 times we ran. The biggest problem with the Bluegrass is that now i have to wait a whole year to go back! Huge kudos to everyone involved in putting on such a stellar trial. It's an amazing undertaking and the best trial all year.