Well, this has been some kind of week. Zac had his run today in the Finals and did a terrific job! If not for one silly mistake on my part, he'd now be leading the National Finals with 3/4s of the dogs already run. As it is, he's sitting in 4th place, 2 points behind Bill in 2nd. No matter what happens from here on out, it's already been amazing!
Zac was set to run 30th today. I was hoping the sheep would turn sweeter in the afternoon as they'd done on wednesday but they sure took their time doing it. I'd thought the heat would make the sheep more cranky but it seemed to make them lose their inclination to fight a bit. They'd still take advantage of mistakes but weren't quite so nasty about it. I don't think they really changed until just about the time we ran, later than yesterday. Zac was really good to them though, and they seemed to like him so it's hard to say for sure. They were pretty opinionated on the split and single so it's possible he made them a little better around the course. Either way, they were happy to walk nicely right around. I sent Zac left and he went out beautifully, bending just where i was looking for it. He landed nice and deep, and i dropped him about 11:00 to counter the leftward draw. The sheep folded off the lift towards me and i got Zac over on the left quickly, and we actually pushed the sheep over to the right a bit. I didn't want them getting any ideas that they could take off to the left as they'd been doing all week. I kept the fetch slow and it was very straight and online except for the topmost part. It looks like our gather score is 8 off on the HA website, and that's combined for 2 judges, so that's about as clean as it gets. (Bill was 8 off too!). Drive away was perfect, straight through the panels and turn was tight. I got low on the cross drive, then took it high, but again, i didn't fiddle too much with it so we could keep a nice flow. I didn't want panelitis getting me - i can get nervous and start lashing around at them sometimes. Return leg good and the sheep ambled nicely into the ring and stopped. So here's where i get nervous a bit with Zac, as he's been quite good at gripping off in the ring, especially when we've had a good run. So i was very careful setting up the split and kept it really quiet with Zac. He came in a little slow and glanced at the wrong group, but the split was called, all fine. The left behind sheep got to the far edge of the ring and i brought the others back to them. The judges had told us specifically to regather in the ring, and i thought i had done it, but i must have been over the edge. And them somehow i managed to not take the group through the shedding ring, though it's nearly on top of the pen, so i got hit 10 points (5 per judge) for the error (they called me over and told me after the run). But off to the pen, where the sheep jostled around a bit but did finally go in. I decided Zac could grab a quick dip in the water tub, then got back in the ring and very carefully got the single with Mr Grip at the Very Last Moment. I kept him calm and cool and watched carefully since i knew we were having a heck of a run, and he just held it nicely. Woo hoo! Final score was 185. With those 10 points back, he'd be sitting at 195, six points above the current top score. We won't give those points away next time!
It's been a fun Finals with lots of good dog work, great for watching and studying. I know i've learned a ton watching the great handling and have been taking lots of mental notes. And i just couldn't be more proud of Bill and Zac. They're so much fun and such good boys!