Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Rest of October

The rest of October is a bit of a blur this year. We moved on from Montpelier to the Edgeworth trial. The trial field was moved this year, not on the big beautiful hill that I love so much. The course was smaller but still plenty challenging. With all that had happened, i have to admit i wasn't much in the mood for dog trialing and i think it probably showed in the results we got. I ran all 3 dogs and i don't think we placed a single time. I thought the sheep were a little less even than in the past, with running one hair sheep and two wool ones, as the home flock continues in the process of switching to hair sheep over time. But really, no excuses, just not a really stellar weekend for us.

We moved over to Quiet Acres for a Tuesday/Wednesday trial after Edgeworth. I'd asked Sylvia to let me take over running the trial for her, so that kept me quite busy. It was a good couple of days with tons of help and support and fellowship. I think Dan would have liked it. Zac and Bill placed both runs, with Zac winning the second day. I think Zac likes the field and sheep there. He's run 3 times there now (we skipped the second day last year) and won 2 of those. Funny how some fields and flocks just suit some dogs better than others.

Next up was the final trial to be held at Jan Thompson's Water Cress farm. She's done 5 years of trials and declared this to be the last.  It was sort of a mixed weekend for me. There are some folks there that i really enjoy, we had some decent runs, the weather was good then not so good, just kind of a "winding down to the end" sort of trip over all. The scenery was gorgeous as usual. Thanks to Jan for 5 great years.

Next up, a clinic this coming weekend in Virginia Beach and then off to the Rural Hill trial the following weekend. Fall sure is a busy time around here!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Sad Times/ Montpelier SDT

Trial season was rolling on along, with the dogs and i camped in Orange, VA the night before the Montpelier Fall Fiber Festival SDT, on October 5th, when we got some terrible news. Our good friend Dan King had suddenly passed away at his home. The news spread like absolute wildfire as those far and wide who knew and loved Dan reached out to others who felt the same. The feelings of loss and devastation were palpable in this little corner of the sheepdog world. I know that i personally still feel like i've been kicked in the gut when i think about it. Dan was a good man in so many ways and the world is a poorer place without him in it.

It was decided to continue on with the Montpelier trial though we were all still numb and in shock. In a tribute to Dan's spirit, everyone banded together and put on a fine trial for the public. There was a very moving tribute when it came time for Dan to go to the post, with one of his lovely handmade crooks placed on the post while Don McCaig narrated a perfect run by Dan and his faithful dog Fann. It was lovely.

The trial itself went very well. The sheep were cooperative and the large crowd at the festival very appreciative of the quality work by the dogs. People come year after year to this event, and know us and the dogs, and understand the course and what makes a good run. The Open class was fairly small at about 27 dogs. My guys did pretty well, with Bill finishing 2nd the first day and 4th the second day, and Zac ending up 2nd the second day. Barbara Ray won the first round, Sally Glei the second.  Really though, the weekend was more about being together with others who were feeling as hurt as we each were in our loss.

The service for Dan was held the Tuesday following, and was one of the more moving experiences i've ever had. The service was just perfect, held at the amazing haven Dan and Sylvia created in the VA mountains, and attended by a huge crowd of friends and family. Godspeed Dan. Your time here was too short but your effects on people in this world live on.

(Photo by Michelle Dobbs)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Rolling On

Trial season is now in full swing here in the mid-Atlantic area. This past weekend, the dogs and I went to the Pipedream Farm SDT, hosted by good friends Mark and Renee Billadeau in Middletown, MD. Mark and Renee bought this farm a few years ago and have been working their behinds off on it since, and it's really starting to show. I hadn't been there since the trial last year, and the changes to the house are wonderful. The fields were lush and healthy, the sheep fat and sassy. I was lucky enough to be invited to stay over for the weekend at the home of Todd and Peggy Simpson, a treat all in itself. Their home is so interesting and beautiful, and this trip i actually had time to explore and enjoy the grounds a bit in the daylight, as well as spending a little more time than is usually possible visiting with Peggy and Todd.

The course at this trial isn't especially large, with the outrun being somewhere around 200 yards. The sheep are set on the top of a ridge and dogs are generally completely out of sight at the lift. The drive is fairly long and set on the face of a hill, so lines aren't too bad to pick out. There's quite a bit of pressure with draws for the sheep back to the setout on the drive and also behind the handler's post to the exhaust for the fetch, so that's a bit tricky. Shedding was fairly difficult and penning was pretty straightforward though not a given. I ended up needing to pull Zeke from the trial since he'd had a canine removed and the vet felt it was too soon to run him, so Zac and Bill were the Shoofly team this time around.

Zac was my first dog up at #4 on saturday and he had a pretty nice run around the course. There were some minor bobbles but overall it was pretty good. The shed was very good, very clean, and the pen good. I thought it would place but didn't realize the shedding would end up being pretty difficult over the course of the day, and in the end, the score held up for 1st place. Bill ran later on and drew up a very difficult set of sheep. They broke hard off the top before Bill arrived and with some quick moves on his part, he caught them just before they'd made it to the fetch panels. We got them back online but they broke again at the turn around the post and Bill had to pull some pretty fancy work to keep them on the field and get them back online for the drive away. The sheep finally realized they weren't getting anywhere with trying to get away from him and we managed a very pretty crossdrive which i capped off by steering the sheep high around the panels. Off to the shed where the crazies started again. I thought i'd seen Bill slip and possibly tweak something on the turn around the post, so kept him from trying any heroics to control the sheep. When it became apparent that shedding was going to take full speed, i decided to retire rather than risk further tweaking on a run that had already gone to pot. It was a lot of fun trying to manage that difficult group, and i was thrilled with Bill's work sorting them out.

On sunday, Bill was my first dog up and i thought he really nailed it. I'm not sure where we could have cleaned up many points other than a wiggle in front of the driveaway gates and a pause before the sheep went into the pen. He was just really on. The judge wasn't quite as happy with it as i was, hitting his top end a fair bit, and we ended up in 4th at the end of the day. No matter, i was very happy with his work all around for the weekend. Zac was up later and he was really on too - laying down a really gorgeous run around the course. We were penning before the shed, and with only a small pause the sheep walked right in. On to the shed, where we got a nice split, i called Zac in, and my dog that usually takes out my knees on a shed refused to come in, very strange. I mean, i assumed he was in there and got all twisted up looking for him because he's ALWAYS there and i don't need to watch for him. Time ran out not long after with no shed and a 10th place finish. It's a little worrisome that he didn't come in and i'll be keeping an eye on old Zac-boy to make sure there's not something physically troubling him. He had a good run up to the shed, but his flanks were also a bit un-Zaclike. I had given him melatonin saturday evening because it looked like it would storm and he hates storms, so perhaps it was still affecting him. If i see any other suspicious things, i'll be having him checked over and test for tick diseases. Those things can present in very subtle ways so it pays to be wary of anything being a touch off.

So that's the report on the running at the trial. I had a great time socializing and hanging out, and seeing some folks i don't get to see often enough. It was a really pleasant weekend!

After the trial, i drove to Sarah Ruckleshaus' place in Chestertown, MD on the eastern shore for a day of doing lessons on Monday. I'd done a clinic a few weeks ago at Monroe and Evelyne Williams' place and afterwards Sarah asked if i'd like to do one at her place, but with all of the fall weekends filling up, we decided to try a mini-clinic/lesson day instead since i'd be fairly close at the trial. It ended up being a most excellent day, with 7 or 8 dogs and a nice group of people. I've been really resistant to doing clinics or lessons away from home before, but i'm finding i really enjoy it a lot. It's a very rewarding experience. I've been asked to do another the first weekend in November at VA Beach and i'm looking forward to that.

Next up, the Montpelier SDT in 2 weeks!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

And Still Another Post! Sunview Trial

I decided to pack up the pack and try a new trial this past weekend, the Sunview Trial in Quakertown, PA. Hosted by Maggie Chambers and Jim Strohecker, this was the inaugural for a lovely little trial that hopefully will become annual. The field was on the smaller side, outrun maybe 200-250 yards i'd guess, fairly flat with a slight rise in the middle falling off to the sides. Dogs running out properly wide dropped out of sight, and it was difficult for the "vertically challenged" (read that, short like me!) to see the dogs behind the sheep at the lift. The sheep were a commercial whitefaced wool cross, provided by Sharon Nunan. They were healthy, fit and pretty opinionated about where they did and did not want to go. Being a smaller field, the pressure/draw could be pretty strong with some packets of sheep really bolting back to the setout or to the exhaust, especially on the driveaway and first turn. The first day, we had a chute with a bend in it to negotiate rather than a pen, and the sheep wanted no part of going into what looked like a closed box to them. I think the chute was completed successfully only twice all day, along with only one partial (2 of the 3 sheep going through). With the shed following the chute, and sheep that were very difficult to split, there was only one shed all day. For the second day, the chute was shortened and widened, with no bend so the sheep could see daylight at the end, and it became much easier to accomplish. Alas, shedding was still very difficult, with only 5 sheds out of 53 runs.

With a two dog limit for the Open class, i decided to run Bill and Zac. Since this was a NEBCA trial, and under NEBCA rules dogs are allowed to run both Ranch and Open until they have placed in an Open trial, i put Zeke in the Ranch so he could run as well. Zac was up first and had a decent enough run. I didn't care for the way he ran out very much, tight and not bending out as he should have. I think perhaps the flat field threw him a bit but he should know better with his experience and age. He had a difficult ewe in his group and we did our best but it wasn't a winning type of group or run. Bill was up later and had a good go around the course. I decided to change things up at the chute and set myself up on the other side from what everyone was choosing, and that worked out well, as we got the first completed chute of the day. I had plenty of time for the shed but just couldn't get any kind of split at all. At the end of the day, the run held up for a win for Bill. Zeke was up in the Ranch at the very end of the day and had a truly terrible group of sheep to try to negotiate. You know it's tough when both the judge and the setout person go out of their way to offer sympathies! But i was thrilled with how Zeke worked. He ran out very nice, wide and deep. The sheep bolted as he got to the top and i had to flank him hard right back the way he'd come. He caught them at a dead run halfway down the field and all the way over at the driveaway gate, but he stopped them cold and brought them back onto the fetch line. Unfortunately, the first leg of the drive was right back in the direction they wanted to bolt, so that was tough. But Zeke kept his head and his flanks and attitude stayed really good through it all. I decided he'd held it together long enough and walked off before we got around the whole course, but i was really happy with Zeke.

Sunday Bill was up early on and had another nice run, pretty good lines even when good lines were hard to come by. Got the chute and I got the shed but unfortunately Bill didn't. I was jumping around and into the sheep like a crazy woman, getting them to split and holes to open up, but Bill decided i'd lost my mind and wouldn't come in to help me out or hold it. I can't really say i blame him, but it was the only thing i hadn't seen tried yet, as team after team failed to get the shed. (Note to self: practice crazy woman sheds with Bill....! ) At the end of the day, he was tied for 6th/7th.  Zac was up at the end of the class and had a decent run but i mucked up the chute and again, no shed, so finished in the middle of the pack. Zeke ran again in the Ranch and was very good at the top end but he got very stiff on his flanks after the running mess from the first day, and i decided to walk off again.

All in all, it was a lot of fun. The sheep were a big challenge and it was good for the dogs to get out there and try to work it out. The trial atmosphere was great and it was nice to see some of the northern folks that i don't get to see often enough. And on top of all that, we were invited to stay with friends for the weekend who spoiled us with wonderful meals and hospitality. It was a great weekend!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Another Post, OMG!

So this past weekend, i decided at the last minute to see if i could get the dogs in to the Breezy Hill trial for one day, since it's only a 90 minute drive up there. Calling at 9:00 on friday night to see if you can run the sunday of a saturday/sunday trial is pretty last minute! If it had been me putting on the trial, i'd probably have spit into the phone, knowing how crazy the evening before a trial can be. But Debbie Johnson was very gracious and we did end up driving up for the sunday classes.

It was a little misty to start the day, a big improvement over the downpours they'd endured on saturday. We got there in time to watch the Pro Novice class. It's held in an arena sized area and a real challenge for the dogs, but i got to see some good work. Some was a bit rough but there were some nice dogs running and handlers that are working hard. It's been a few years since i'd been to this trial and i'd say the quality of the PN class has improved since then. Ranch was held on the Open field and there were only 3 dogs running. It was a tough job for the dogs, with the sheep being very wily about getting back to the setout pen.

After a nice hotdog and hamburger cookout lunch (and some yummy cake, mmmmm....), the Open began. It was a small class, 15 dogs i believe. Zeke was first up and very kindly didn't make the sheep work very hard. I wanted to practice some right hand outruns with the dogs, so had decided all 3 would go right. There's a ditch on that side of the field that runs down to the setout spot, and the dogs need to go over it to be right. Zeke decided to trail along it, and i was a little late stopping and redirecting him (redirect which he didn't take, grrr), so he blew right into the sheep from the side, they split and two ran back to the setout pen. Ooops. Sheep 1, Shoofly team 0. I ran Zac next and he managed to cross the ditch but was still tighter than i liked. The sheep fought him pretty good about coming off the top, trying to fake him out and split, but he kept them all together and coming the right way. We hit all the gates and penned, but i couldn't for the life of me figure out how to split the 4 sheep for the shed. They wanted to be behind me so much that i had a hard time even getting them to settle between me and Zac. So i'll call that one a draw. Sheep 2, Shoofly team 1. Bill ran last and i finally wised up to the fact that the sheep were much happier about dogs coming in from the left, so i let him go that way instead of sticking to my training plan of going right. He handled them nicely enough around the course, though i blinked at the fetch gate and let them slip around. I figured we'd have another terrible time with the shed since Bill isn't the most enthusiastic shedder on doggy sheep, and we had at least one of the same sheep i'd had with Zac. But somehow we got them split pretty nicely, yay! One for the team. So for the day, i score it Sheep 2, Shoofly team 2. Bill ended up in 3rd place, Zac in 6th, Zeke in the dog house.

All in all, it was a really nice day of trialing, with some super folks to hang out and visit with. The atmosphere was great, very supportive of all the new folks. I heard zero bitching about anything! Yeah, the sheep were doggy and wily, but they were the same for everyone and you know they'll be that way going in. It was a relaxing day and i enjoyed it immensely. And i didn't know it at the time, but apparently this was the 20th year of Roy and Debbie hosting trials at their place. That's quite the accomplishment and i for one appreciate it, even if i don't make it up there that often. Thanks, y'all!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

We're Still Here!

Spot at Kingston, Photo by Kristi Oikawa

Bill at Kingston, photo by Laurie Schultz
Boy, if anyone ever wonders about that "time flies" expression, just try keeping up a blog. I can't believe it's been over 4 months since i posted something. I guess things just got busy with puppies and trials and travels and such.

When last we met (always wanted to use that phrase), the Bill X Rhyme puppies were 4 weeks old and occupying every free moment. THAT would explain why the blog went belly up. I enjoyed every single moment with those little beasties and wish i could have frozen them in time around the 4-5 week old stage. Gosh they were fun. I had a terrible time letting any of them go, but go they did, and all to wonderful homes. I still have Devin and Spot and they're doing great. They're long legged 5 month olds with sweet, loving personalities. They've both been on sheep a couple of times and show promise. Time will tell. I had intended to only keep one pup and may still let Devin go but haven't decided on that. Spot is my guy and reminds me a lot of Bill as a pup. Both pups are very athletic and social, and make me laugh a lot.

Bill at Kingston, Photo by Kristi Oikawa
The big dogs are doing fine. Zac and Bill had kind of a lazy spring/summer work-wise. Zeke got a bit of work and training as i was focusing more on him. He's matured a lot this summer, both physically and in his work. I ended up leaving Joe with my friend Vergil Holland for a couple months of training. I always train my own dogs but it seemed like a good thing to do this time around for various reasons. I got him back a few days ago and i'd say the decision was a good one. I don't think i'll run him until next spring but we should have some fun together this coming fall and winter. I'm hoping he'll be a good one for the Nursery Finals next year in VA. I may still end up selling him on since i already have 3 Open dogs but i'm not in any hurry to make that decision.

Zeke at Kingston, Photo by Kristi Oikawa
We've done very little trialing this year so far, though that's about to change in a big way. We didn't trial at all from last November to this June, quite a long break. But in June, we loaded up the camper and went to the Slash J and The Big One, both in Bowman, ND. After such a long break, the dogs ran pretty well. Bill was 3rd the first day at Slash J and Zac won the second day. Both qualified for the double lift Finals and Bill ended up reserve Champion. At the Big One, Bill was 5th one day and Zac was 5th the other. At the beginning of August, we went up to Kingston, Ontario for the 80 Acres and Grass Creek trials. The dogs ran really well at these trials but unfortunately my steering was out of alignment or something. I think we ran 13 times and i only managed a clean run once! Bill placed at the first trial at 80 Acres, and Zeke was 2nd in the Nursery there. In the Canadian National Nursery at Grass Creek, Zeke laid down a scorcher of a run in the second round (won the round) to go with a fair one in his first go, and ended up 4th overall. I was really thrilled with his work on the Canada trip, it was very consistent and sharp.

So that's where things are for the Shoofly gang right now. The summer was more about doing some work around home, putting up new fence and gardening and growing puppies and such. But fall is racing up on us now and things are going to get busy. Next weekend we head up to PA for a new trial, and the following weekend i'm doing a clinic in VA. There are trials almost every weekend from now until mid-November. It's a fun and busy time!
Fun time at the Kingston Brew Pub, photo by Carol Guy, cleverly disguised as Wendy Schmaltz

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Pups at 4 Weeks

The puppies are up and about and lots of fun now. I finally got some new pictures during their first foray into the living room one by one. They were all brave, playful and adventurous, just the way you'd want them to be as they turn 4 weeks old. Next up will be a trip to the great outdoors!

I still have one male available if i can find the right fit for him. So far all of the puppy placements feel like they're just the right fit for both owners and puppies. It's so much fun watching the little personalities develop.

Monday, March 26, 2012

2012 Shoofly Farm Benefit SDT

Michelle Dobbs did a lovely slideshow of photos she took at our trial last month. I thought i'd post it here for anyone who hasn't seen it yet. It's wonderful!

Shoofly Farm SDT from Michelle Dobbs on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mick Meets Sheep

I decided to give little 10 week old Mick a try on the sheep today since he was sitting and watching them with great interest. Pretty cute and pretty keen!

Friday, March 16, 2012

They're here!

 The Bill x Rhyme pups have started out as overachievers, arriving on Tuesday, March 13th when we were all expecting them around friday! We also had been expecting Rhyme to pop out her usual 5 pups, but nope, there were 2 bonus puppies so a litter of 7 little beauties. There are 2 girls and 5 boys, which works nicely for me as i'm planning on a male, so plenty to choose from. The whole kit-and-kabooble will arrive at my house tomorrow, and then the fun will really begin. I couldn't resist and rode over to see them on wednesday. There are "1 day old" pics on my pbase site ( and i plan to be posting future pics there as well rather than flooding facebook with them. I may have one or two pups from the litter available, contact me privately if you are interested.
Little Bill?

Sweet little girl!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Review of Mr

Recently, i noticed that several blogging friends were reviewing the website, having received offers of $50 gift certificates to place an order and then review the process. I decided to give the site a try myself, and was well pleased with the selection and prices. They carry over 70 brands of dog food, from very high end choices to some for the more budget conscious consumer. Shipping on orders over $49 is free. Since the price of the Acana dog food i like was pretty much the same price as with the local retailer i usually visit, and there was a 15% off offer if you were willing to set up a regular delivery schedule (which can be changed or cancelled at will), i thought i'd give it a whirl and ordered 2 bags, along with some treats for the dogs. Since i wouldn't have to make time to go out shopping and also spend the gas money to get there, the savings definitely added up. The order process was simple and the food arrived very promptly, 3 days after i placed the order. All in all, it was a very satisfying transaction and you can count me among the happy customers. I might suggest they expand their selection of treats and chews, but i suspect that will probably happen as they get more established.

And that would be the end of the story but...i kept thinking about those friends who got the $50 gift certificates, and wishing i'd been one of the lucky ones to have received the offer. So, i sent MrChewy an email and said "hey, what about me?!" more or less. And wouldn't you know it, those lovely people at MrChewy granted my wish by extending the offer to me as well. How about that for service?!  Count me as a VERY satisfied customer now!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Still here!

I thought maybe i should do a little catchup post since it's been ages. All is well here.

We haven't been trialing this winter at all. The last trial the dogs ran in was Rural Hill in Huntersville, NC in November. It wasn't my favorite trial of the year. The field is very nice, the sheep were pretty good, set out was good, nice crowd, but the trial has some problems that really need to be addressed. I won't go into detail here on the blog but if you really need to know, send me a message.  I hope the problems can be addressed in the future but i have to say it's not the first time i've come home with the same concerns. We did attend another trial this winter - the Edgeworth Winter trial. But the dogs didn't run as i spent the weekend in the judges seat. It was a lot of fun and a good weekend. I enjoy judging and learn some new things every time i do it. The only downside is not getting to run my own dogs!

I've had a couple of fundays at the farm this winter, just nice, social days with some nice folks getting out to work dogs. Lots of good food and good fun. That was a great way to celebrate Thanksgiving and also to ring in the New Year.

In some exciting news, I bred Zeke to a nice bitch during the Rural Hill trial and there are three 3 week old pups coming along. I haven't decided yet if i'll be taking one, partly because it's 3 boys and i wanted a female, but also because in more exciting news, I bred Bill about 3 weeks ago. I've been waiting on just the right situation to come along to breed him, and this was it. I've leased Rhyme, Joe's dam. I'm very excited about this cross as the Zac x Rhyme pups are turning out to be talented, solid dogs. The cross brings together Bill's smoothness with the cool power of Rhyme's maternal line (my old Ben is her grandsire). Time will tell but i can hardly wait to see those pups!

So that's about it from here. The dogs have been taking it easy this winter, and Zeke and Joe are coming along in their training. I'm making plans for this year's trials and impatiently waiting on pups.