What a day! The Open has begun and the running is tough. The committee moved the course a bit off the draw but someone forgot to explain to the sheep that that should have helped a bit. They are really pulling hard off to the left of the field, beyond the first drive panel. It's been a tough job all day getting that line with the sheep, and that's after fighting like mad to hold the fetch line. Whew. There were some really good dogs running today and it was very hard to even leave the viewing area because there was always someone running or on deck that i wanted to see.
I ran Bill late this afternoon in the #31 spot and i couldn't be any more proud of my young guy. I sent him left after waiting what seemed like forever for the sheep to be spotted and settled at the set out point. There was some breaking and jostling around but finally they did settle and off Bill went.He went out beautifully, bending in exactly the spots i'd have hoped for, and ending nicely deep. Because i felt the proper place to come in was around 10:30-11 o'clock, behind the lone tree on the field, i hit him with a steady whistle just as insurance, though it felt like he was making that decision just fine on his own. He came on quietly and with authority and the sheep folded off the top, straight at me. I started hitting the away whistle fast and furious as i wanted him set up on the left side and he took them pretty nicely, actually pushing the sheep a little off to the right. The fetch was pretty much straight and through the panels. The rest of the fetch was nice, turn around the post was pretty good though a bit wide. That really difficult first leg of the drive was just that - difficult - but it went well and we managed to stay online. The sheep stalled a couple of times but Bill just leaned right into them and they'd move off. I was loving how flexible he was being, locking in and pushing but still taking all my flanks and stops and walk ups right off. Through the panel, nice tight turn. The cross drive was a little more wiggly and lower than i wanted, but i didn't want to get too picky about it at that point and just kept it flowing over and through the panels. Return leg was pretty good and the sheep were nicely settled coming into the ring. We kept it calm and quiet and folded 2 off for the split, then eased them into the pen pretty easily with Bill just taking that job over for me as he walked them up and pressed them in. Deep breath and back to the ring for the single and we got a nice gap where i called Bill in but he hesitated and it closed, so a missed attempt. Another deep breath and we got a good one right at the edge of the ring. The judge took some time calling it and i fretted that they thought we'd left the ring but finally, whew, he called it!
I couldn't have been more proud of my young boy, he was a real champ out there. The strategies i'd planned to deal with the draw worked well because he was working so well with me and the sheep were listening to him. And even better yet, when they announced the score, we'd taken the lead with a 187! I don't know if that'll hold up for 3 more long days with all of these amazing dogs and handlers here still to run, but we'll surely make it to the semi-finals where we'll get another go at the sheep. Oh geez, now i have to figure out what to wear as it'll be televised on the live streaming video feed. At least i know what Bill will wear - he's going commando, LOL!
(photo above and in blog title by denise wall)