Saturday, September 26, 2015

USBCHA Finals - Last Day!

It's the last day of finals.  What a great event it's been!  Major shout outs to Geri Byrne and Amy Coapman, and their team of cheerful, hardworking, pink-shirted volunteers.  The hospitality team delivered delicious snacks with a local flavour (including Maple Bacon donuts!), the results team had scoresheets printed out so quickly, the information booth patiently answered all of our questions (and some of them were real crackers), and the exhaust teams did a great job clearing off the sheep (and some wrecks!).

I missed the first run of the day, but I understand it was a lovely one from Elizabeth Baker and Ross.  It sounds like their pen was completed just after time ran out - bummer!  This team did win best shed.  Derek Fisher and his young Nell went next.  His turnback was lovely, and he had a nice shed going, but there was one stubborn uncollared one (codename:  The Huddler) who had buried herself deep amongst the collared ewes.  He was unable to sort her off and timed out at the shed.

Amanda Milliken and her young dog Howell, had a good run as well, and it would put them in 3rd.  Howell was a nursery dog last year, so his accomplishment on the big field is particularly impressive. The next team, Libby Nieder and Derby, weren't able to get out to the second lot of sheep.

Two-time national champion, Scott Glen and his reliable Don were next up.  They had a solid run, and while they had some trouble with the shed, having to re-shed after wily ribboned sheep joined with their uncollared comrades, they did complete the shed and then penned.  They would be the score to beat and spoiler alert: no one did.  Huh.  I should have put that later in this post.  That's just bad journalism.

Ron Enzeroth and Mick had a good run as the heat really rose.  Again, the sheep were very difficult to shed and they timed out in the ring.  Louanne Twa and Gus, a son of Scott's Don, were next up.  Gus had a nice first gather but got a little lost on the turnback, ultimately crossing.  He brought his second group down the fetch, but by then, his first group had drifted to the exhaust pen.  Gus couldn't see them, and after a few attempts to send him out there, Louanne retired the run.

Always a crowd favourite, Tommy Wilson and Kate went next.  Kate, too, had some trouble with her turnback, but I'm not sure if they crossed.  They had a nice shed and pen, and ultimately would finish in second.  There I go again, giving away the results.  Wow.  Not good story structure.

Bill Berhow and Cley were up next, and Cley had trouble getting out to the second set, so Bill retired the run.  Norm Close and Craig suffered a similar fate:  the curse of sheep-same-colour-as-the-ground. Fernando Alves and Lexi were the third team in a row to suffer from the curse.

Lee Lumb and her flashy tri, Gus, went to the post next.  He had an absolutely gorgeous first gather, with a superb fetch.  He had some trouble on the turnback, crossing and going left.  He brought the second group down on a lovely line, but similar to the other Gus, his sheep had drifted all the way to the exhaust pens, and he wasn't able to bring them back so Lee retired the run.

Ellen Skillings and Jill were up next.  I think they missed one of the fetch gates.  Shed was decent, and they timed out at the pen.  Amanda and Monty were next.  His first fetch was a little straight to start, but he eventually found the line towards the panels.  Gorgeous turnback and no trouble bringing his two groups together but I think he missed the fetch panels.  Drive is fine, and into the shedding ring.  It takes a long time but they get it, and the pen.  They would finish 3rd.  Monty recently had some medical issues, and it's great to see that he was able to get back into condition to complete this 30 minute course.

Lasoya Lerma and Blazin' Beau had an absolutely immaculate run up to the shed.  In fact, this team would win the trophy for Best Drive, and finish with a score of 417, which put them in 5th with no shed or pen.  Bev Lambert and Nan had trouble with the first fetch and then had more trouble with the turnback.  Drive was a bit wobbly, and they timed out in the shedding ring.

Last run of the day was Faansie Basson and Molly.
Waiting patiently for their turn.

They had a nice first gather, then a decent turnback.  The drive was lovely, crossdrive line was nice, and they were just a touch low at the crossdrive panel, with maybe 4 sheep missing the panels.  Then, some of the sheep came back through the panels.  Those sheep were jerks.  Into the shedding ring, and this team is getting it done!  Unfortunately, with only two uncollared sheep left to shed off, a collar makes a break for it and rejoins the shed group.  They have to reshed with only 4 minutes left.  They make a big cut, and then one by one, sheep are coming off!  Some of them are kind of orange!  He's down to two, but there isn't going to be enough time.

Congratulations to Scott and Don, the 2015 USBCHA champions.
2015 USBCHA Champions, Scott Glen and Don
So that's it for us and blogging the finals!  The dogs are ready to go home and have baths to remove all the dust from their coats.  It's possible that Lou has melted.
Lou has melted.  Wick is so over this.  The tri guys remain way too happy.

 Thanks for reading, thanks for your kind comments, and thanks for understanding that this blog will go largely dormant again as typing is super hard.  :-)

Friday, September 25, 2015

USBCHA Finals - Day 5

Today, the action was limited to 42 dogs on the big field.  It was semi-finals day, and at the end of this, the 17 dogs running in the finals would be known.  Some dogs have been relegated to begging for attention.

Please take us to the sneeps. Pleasepleaseplease!
I have resisted for 4 days, but today, I couldn't help it.  I busted out the selfie stick.  Yes.  It happened.  Victims were numerous.  Luckily, I have an accomplice, and he loves the selfie as much as I do.

Derek and me.  We love us the stick.

Others were astounded and horrified at the appearance of a telescoping phone holder.

"You're doing WHAT?"

I don't even know what it's called when your selfie is photobombed.
Selfie plus photobomber
The paparazzi were all over the appearance of the selfie stick.  

Some folks were awfully good sports about posing for the stick

These are my people, this is my tribe.
The kids humoured us elders and posed.  I'm sure she is rolling her eyeballs when recounting the story to her more-cool-than-me friends.

Me and Katy
Even the sheep heard that there was a selfie stick in the tent.  This gal literally ran into the tent to get in on the fun.
Lana, Bridget and Mich jump right into action.

Oh yeah, the dog trial.  The course had a time of 15 minutes, and you needed all of it.  The shed was any two unmarked and the single had to be a collared sheep.  Dogs early in the day had trouble with the outrun.  There were several crosses, and some dogs got lost at the take pens and had to RT.  As the day wore on, the dogs were running out better, but the wind picked up, affecting some dogs on the fetch.  The sheep were remarkably even and responded well to a dog who applied just enough pressure to keep them trotting along.  Pens weren't easy and required patience and teamwork.  It was great to watch! Elizabeth Baker and Ross won the day with a beautiful run.  

My friend and coach, Lee Lumb, is in her first Finals double lift with her gorgeous young dog, Gus.  My partner in shenanigans, Louanne, is also in with her prodigy-artist, Gus Twa.  I think I need to get a dog named Gus!  Here is the run order for tomorrow.  Good luck to everyone!

1. Elizabeth Baker and Ross
2. Derek Fisher and Nell
3. Amanda Milliken and Howell
4. Libby Nieder and Derby
5. Scott Glen and Don
6.Ron Enzeroth and Mick
7. Louanne Twa and Gus
8. Tommy Wilson and Kate
9. Bill Berhow and Cley
10. Norm Close and Craig
11. Fernando Alves and Lexi
12. Lee Lumb and Gus
13. Ellen Skillings and Jill
14. Amanda Milliken and Monty
15. Lasoya Lerma and Beau
16. Bev Lambert and Nan
17. Faansie Basson and Molly

Thursday, September 24, 2015

USBCHA Finals - Day 4

Today, I started with a drive through the Modoc Wildlife Refuge.  It's only a few minutes out of town, and on the way to the trial site.  I picked up Rebecca, the wife of one of the judges, and we did a little vehicular birding.  According to the website, the area is a haven for migratory wetlands birds.  It has been very dry, though, and there aren't as many birds as normal for this time of year.  Still, we saw a Sandhill Crane, many ducks, some kind of goose that wasn't a Canada Goose, a bunch of raptors, possibly a young eagle, and some quail sporting fantastic head gear.  Oh, and pheasant.  Definitely worth the little trip off the beaten path.

After birding, I picked up a coffee and a sausage sandwich and headed over to the Nursery field, where the top 34 nursery dogs were running back.  I won't lie, I really was choked that we weren't running.  All year, we had this event as our ultimate 2015 goal.  However, as the sheep got heavier and heavier, I perhaps was a little less choked.  :-)

The first run I saw when I arrived was Brian Cash and Neal.  I first saw this team at the Bluegrass this year, and it's fantastic to see how positive and polished Neal is now.  They laid down a smoker of a run that, combined with his round 1 score, had them in 2nd for almost the whole class.

"Good job, buddy."
As I said, the sheep got heavier as the day went on.  Lee Lumb and Bella really worked hard to get a grumpy bunch around, but when they stalled out at the driveaway panel, she took offence and grabbed a hock.


Another District 10 team, Gord Lazzarotto and Drift, did their best with tough sheep.  Great job, especially for his first time to the finals!

Gord and Drift

On the big dog field, Lee and Gus laid one down!  154, which was the second highest score of the round ... and that's without a pen!  Can't wait to watch them in the semi-finals.  Such a lovely team!

Speaking of lovely, the lovely Norm Close and Craig had a solid run that will advance them to the next round.  Norm may be the nicest man in this sport, and I will always cheer for him.  He was the judge at the first trial I ever ran at, and I will never forget his kindness, his warm smile, and his little bits of advice.  

Norm and Craig

After the last dog ran, and some administrative things were dealt with, it was time for the ABCA AGM.  I am so impressed with the amount of emphasis this registry places on the health and welfare of the dogs.  The BAER clinic at the trial was paid for by the ABCA and 78 dogs were tested.  A health foundation has been created to encourage research into health issues affecting our breed.  Finally, the ABCA has created an informative brochure aimed at puppy buyers looking to purchase a pup from responsible breeders.  The brochure, among other things, makes recommendations around health checks for breeding stock, number of litters produced by a bitch, and red flags that indicate you might be looking at a high-volume breeder (puppy mill).  It's odd when I am told by kennel club people that working dog breeders don't care about the health of the dog.  I think the ABCA members take their stewardship of the breed very seriously, and as well as preserving the working ability that makes the border collie a border collie, they have been instrumental in researching health issues affecting our beloved breed.  Anywho, enough about that.

The last item on the agenda was the induction of two members into the ABCA Hall of Fame. The criteria for consideration is "Breeders/Handlers- should have a record of outstanding contributions to the working Border Collie breed of dog in North America. These contributions should be both national and regional in nature."

The first induction, sadly, is posthumous.  Vergil Holland's contribution as both a breeder and handler is long and storied, and his passing this spring left an enormous hole in the herding community.  On a personal note, when I first got interested in herding all those years ago, I bought his book, Herding Dogs: Progressive Training.  I met him at the Bluegrass last year, and I wished I'd brought my book so he could have autographed it.  I was going to ask him to autograph it this year, but sadly, he passed before the 2015 Bluegrass.  His wife wrote a lovely speech, which was delivered with eloquence and emotion by Lyle Lad.  I don't think there was a dry eye in the house when she was done.  He was a legend in the community and he is missed.

The second inductee, of course, is Alasdair MacRae.  No individual has had a greater impact on our sport here than Alasdair.  He has set the bar so very high, and in doing so, has brought up the quality of training and handling.  His list of trial wins is terrifying, his knowledge as a breeder has created a line of dogs that has produced an enormous number of top trial and work dogs, and the work that he has done quietly and without fanfare has contributed to the growth and improvement of various associations, including but not limited to the USBCHA and the ABCA.  I am so very lucky to call him my mentor and friend, and even though he told me once that I was a statue, and statues don't win trials (he's right), I adore him and am so very glad that I could be there on this night when his contributions to our community were recognized.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

USBCHA Finals - Day 3

Day 3 brought us the second half of the Nursery class and another day on the Open field.  District 10 did great on both fields.  Lee Lumb and Bella sit fourth in Nursery after the first round, which is excellent as the championship is cumulative over two rounds.  Louanne Twa and Gus Twa are sitting in fourth as well in Open, with one more day to run.  Top 40 go through to the semi-finals.  Gus will be there!

Today was spent driving from one field to the next.  On one drive from the nursery field to the open field, I heard a helluva racket.  I thought it might be my rooftop box, but no, it was my tie-out cables.  They were still attached to my wheel.  Luckily, my dogs were not attached to the cables.  Deep breath.  Serenity now.

For the first time since he has been competing at the USBCHA finals, Alasdair will not have a dog in the finals.  I am deeply disappointed for him, and for me, because he is an absolute artist at the international shed and I love watching him.  While I am certain he is upset, he has remained unfailingly funny and self-deprecating, and really an example of how one handles oneself with grace.

Tonight, we had the USBCHA AGM.  I went largely because there were sandwiches, but I have to say, it was quite interesting.  Member input is being sought on a number of topics, and there was lively conversation during the meeting.  There also was a salami flower on the cold cut tray.  It was glorious.

Mindy models the rare salami flower.
Tomorrow, I will go to the Modoc National Wildlife Refuge, in hopes of seeing some interesting birds.  There is a driving route, so it's the kind of birding that I like.  Drive-by shooting.  :-)  Then I'll return to the field to cheer on the baby dogs and the last set of Open dogs.  I might buy some more stuff too.  There is much stuff to buy.

Finally, thank you for all your kind words.  I obviously am disappointed that we weren't able to get the sheep around the course, but I'm also enormously proud of my orange dog, whom I bought at the end of last year.  It feels like I've had him forever, and he has been a lovely addition to the pack.
Thank you to Patricia for the lovely photo of our first time to the post at a USBCHA finals.  I hope it's the first of many!

Photo - Patricia MacRae 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

USBCHA Finals - Day 2

“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.

Monday, September 21, 2015

USBCHA Finals - Day 1

Today was the start of the 2015 USBCHA finals.  The first 37 Open dogs ran today, so it was a true day off, as I only have the one Nursery dog.

I wake up early (for me) so that I could walk and feed the dogs, go to Starbucks (yes, there is one!) and find the field in time to watch Tricia and Cap lead off the day.  The feed and walking thing went well, as did the Starbucks thing.  Where it goes a bit off the rails is driving to the field.  It appears that the sun is rising ON THE ROAD, and my windshield is smeared with the ten thousand bugs that hit me when we drove through Klamath Sunday night.  The result is that I literally can not see a thing.

I pull over and pondered my predicament.  Was there a way to go east without actually going directly east?  Could I just make a series of right turns?  How long does it take a sun to rise?  Who would build a road that is on the sun's path? After hemming and hawing for a minute, I decide to unroll my window and stick my head out.  Safe?  Probably not.  But it gets me to the part of the road that curved and without the sun directly in my eyes, I could sort of see through the bug smear.  "Hey Siri, make a reminder to clean windshield," I bark out.  Siri responds with her trademark "I'm sorry, I don't know what that means."  Fantastic.

Arrive at the trial field in plenty of time.  What a gorgeous field!  Such lush grass, gentle hills, green as far as the eye could ... what the blankety blank am I driving over as I'm pulling into the handler's parking?  The smeary windshield is now covered in dust, making it hard to see, so I pull over and step out.  Ah.  Lava rock.  Of course.  Well, that's why I have a Suburban.  This, incidentally, is what I say before I embark on something unwise with my truck.

The key to driving through a field of lava rocks is to drive just a touch faster, so that you're not lingering on the rocks.  My truck approves of this plan.  Man, it's dusty.  Let's find the Raptor.  We drive throughout the trailer park, but no sign of the Raptor, mobile home of Tricia and Alasdair.  Drats.  Pull into what I would consider day parking if I were doing the signage.  Step out of car and immediately step in mud.  What the what?

Pull on the Dubarrys, hop out Lou D Dog, and we wander over to the field.  There are people standing on the field.  Peeps for sneeps!  We make it two strides onto the field before I am stopped and told that no dogs, not even retired ones, are allowed on the field.  Tie Lou to the fence.  He looks angry.  This may cost me a leash.

Find Tricia, have brief chat around strategy, give Cappy a good luck pat, and settle under handler's tent to watch the run.   Cap gives it a valiant effort, and just as he comes through on the shed, time is called.  Damn.  There won't be another national championship for Cappy, but he ran his heart out, and he has nothing to prove.  We head back to the trailer (which was not there earlier ISWEARTOGOD) and give Cap all the snuggles in the world, and 1/4 of a sweet potato.  He's earned it.
Tricia and Cap at the post

Go back to the field and watch some more runs.  The sheep are leaning on the dogs a bit, but aren't on the fight.  Looks like the 13 minutes is about the right amount of time.  Penning will take time - the sneeps seem very comfortable with people, so hands will have to use their dogs to pen.  This will probably work to Bar's advantage, as my jumping, flailing, and stomping at the pen has proven less than effective.  Use the dog: what a novel concept.
What a pretty field!

Would love to see more dogs but T and I have an appointment at the Surprise Valley Hotsprings Spa.  It's a charming place literally in the middle of nowhere, as evidenced by Google Map's complete inability to find it.  The GPS in the truck is equally confused.  There is yelling.  Things are said that can't really be taken back.  We keep driving, and arrive back at the trial field.  Rage.  Recalculating.  Finally find a road out and we're on our way.

While T gets a massage, I enjoy the healing waters of the hot springs.  While it is hard to swim in a hot tub, I do a reasonable synchro swim routine.  Then I float.  Then more synchro.  This is kind of boring.  I should have brought my knitting. Power through a Vanity Fair from 2013.  OK, time to go back to the field.

Surprise Canyon Hot Springs

Under the handler's tent again.  The hamburger person has left for the day.  Disappointing.  Absent food, there is nothing left for me to do but chat loudly with peeps, some of whom I haven't seen in years.  I have a hat.  It is blocking people's views.  The hat is sent to a chair to think about its selfish ways.  Free mango juice.  Not as good as a hamburger, but it's free.

And just like that, the last run pens, and we clear out.  Rex makes sure that he has three more good rolls in the dust before we return to Alturas and our hotel.  Stop to fill up with gas (it's a dollar more a gallon here than in Washington) and clean the bug smear on the windshield.  Go to Subway, get some kind of meat-on-bread.  Wick is bored out of her skull and tells me in no uncertain terms.  I throw a ball into the room and that placates her for a minute.  Her dinner is my peace offering.

Rex has always wanted to be a slate blue collie.  There will be no bed time for the poodle tonight!
Still no in-room wifi.  LTE on the phone, so it looks like it will be a week of tethering.  One last walk of the dogs, and it's time to go to bed.  Handler's meeting on the Nursery field at 8:15.  That I do not know where the Nursery field is causes me some distress, but I am confident that this can be resolved by driving around in sad circles.  Bar runs 36th tomorrow, which I figure will have him on the field around 2.  It will be hot, but not unbearable.  I feel we are as ready as we'll ever be.  His last few practices have been good, he has been very positive, and he is taking his steadies and stops.  I am very excited for our run.  I have my outfit selected.  Bar has narrowed his choice of collars to four.  I hope he can decide before his run.  I am hoping he goes for the extra blingy one, but will leave the decision to him.

This time tomorrow, I hope to be celebrating a good run with Dog a l'Orange.  It is very like me to run well at big events.  It is very like Bar to move sheep in a thoughtful yet deliberate manner.  It is very like the hamburger guy to come back for Day 2.  Signing off from Main Street, Alturas, CA.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

The year that was, 2013 edition

2013 was a great year for the dogs and me.  It was also a year of transition, as both of my older dogs eased their way into semi-retirement.  In April, Lou ran his last field trial with me, and gave me two good runs.  How I will miss running my big white dog!  We will still putter in arena trials, but at 11, Lou doesn't have anything left to prove, and I chose to retire him from the big outruns while he still looked good.  :-)

Wick ran at her last Nationals.  At about 13 years of age, Wick really hasn't shown any signs of slowing down, and that's how I want to remember her - an ageless machine.  At the AAC Nationals, she did lots of wonderful things, including two clean, fast Jumpers runs, and a massive opening in Gamblers 2.  She, like Lou, isn't completely retired.  I'll still run her a few times in a weekend, in events where she can run and bark a lot (like Jumpers and Team).

That means the heavy lifting falls on the shaggy shoulders of Rex D Dog.  He had a breakthrough year, where we finally started to team up on the trial field.  Thanks to a LOT of private lessons with the MacRaes, I think that we've turned the corner, and I'm confident that 2014 is going to be a good year for the poodle.  In agility, Rex continues to be a delightful partner who runs with such joy, and such a lashing tail, that it really doesn't matter how we place.  Still, despite having no expectations, he earned a Steeplechase bye to Cynosports, he was part of the Northwest Regional DAM Championship team, he completed several titles in both AAC and USDAA, he is qualified for 3 out of 4 events for Cynosports 2014, and he did well at some really fun seminars.  We're for sure going to Cynosports in California, and we hope that we continue to amuse and entertain his fans.

As I am wont to do, I've made a video summary of The Year That Was.  I am very worried that the 2014 year-end summary will be 6 minutes of Rex waving at the camera, so I have vowed to take more video of all three dogs just doing dog things.  Really, no one wants to see 6 minutes of waving!