“You’re off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!”Today WAS a great day! We went to the post at a USBCHA finals event! After waiting around all day and watching, planning, strategizing and obsessing, it was finally our turn.
The outrun is about 300 yards up a slight hill, and the sheep ran yesterday on the Open field. Nursery dogs are running on 4 sheep, course time is 10 minutes. It sounds like a lot, but the sheep are not easy to pen, and most teams are using the entire time.
We walk to the post and I can tell that Bar has no idea where the sheep are. He is looking left and right and, most worrisome, at exhaust directly behind us. Gulp. I set him up on my right and he is still scanning the field, looking everywhere but straight up the field. I wonder if we can be DQ'ed for loitering? Finally, he looks sort of the right direction and I send him. He's off! He's flying! He's going to cross?!? I blow him down and he flips around and looks at me, puzzled. We're done already? I re-flank him and while he doesn't bend, he does correct his trajectory and the rest of the outrun is acceptable. I blow an extra away whistle to keep His Orangeness out.
He gets behind his sneeps, who barely look up, so tasty is the grass on which they're set. This may be THE BEST GRASS IN THE HISTORY OF GRAZING. I am not loving these sheep. I blow a walk-up, then another, and then a few all mushed together. Getupgetupgetupgetupgetup! And the sheep start drifting. Phew! The first half of the fetch is unremarkable. The sheep pull left and right a bit, but nothing that can't be corrected. A few flanks and they are through the panels. Now they are approaching the post. They are trotting, Bar is trotting, this is looking good. And then it isn't good.
The sheep break for exhaust, and Bar swoops in front of the gate. Slowly, he brings them out, only to have them swirl around and break for it again. This happens twice. Maybe three times. It's so hot out. Finally, he moves them out of the corner, and back onto the field. It's like pushing string. Now we're starting the drive. They are trotting again, thank God. As they near the driveaway panel, they are breaking right, so I flank Bar over and he heads them. This is not how I pictured this run going! Now the sneeps are coming back, and they seem to be aiming for the judge's table. I like the judges, they seem like nice people. I must not let the sneeps harm them! Flank the Bar, sneeps swerve to avoid the table, and they are now grazing off to the side. That's enough for me, my little dog has done the best he can today, and I won't ask him to continue failing. I thank the judges, and call him off. He seems relieved.
So that concludes our nursery career. What a ride it's been! Dog a l'Orange is so different from Rex, and even Lou. He is brilliant and sensitive, and clever and concerned. He is a baby who works like a dog much older. I must remember that when he does baby dog things. Like today, when he said to me "I can't do this yet." He will soon. Soon, when sheep lean on him, he will have the skills to deal, to lean back and move them. We are on a journey together, this orange dog and me. We will enjoy every moment. We enjoyed today. We celebrated today. He got 1/4 of a quesadilla. Life is good for the baby dog.
Rex would like you to know that life is not good for him. He has not worked sneeps in over a week, and it's not looking like he will be working them here. He consoles himself with regular dust baths, and torturing the dogs at the adjacent campsite by running around, tail over his head. Lou spent quite a bit of the day in an air conditioned travel trailer, so all is right in his world. Wick is bored out of her skull but she is pleased with the number of intact male dogs in the handler's parking. At 16, she remains a testicle whore. I am proud of her. Keeping the dream alive.
I am now free to shop all the things, to shoot (with a camera, silly) all the things, and to eat all the things. I will cheer on District 10, cheer on out-of-district friends, and maybe even engage in a dance off. More about that later. Now I am going to hug my dogs until they pull away in terror. Today was the best day.