The Real Time Canine II

After spending 2 years writing the Real Time Canine, the adventure continues with The Real Time Canine II. Read along as I look for just the right puppy to continue the experience. After false starts with Tim and Jed, I am currently training young Tam, and Spot, which are both off to a strong start. Please visit the RTC II to read about training sessions as they occur.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

P-Ville Perceptions

Jed and Star out for a stroll

About 50 miles North of Bakersfield in California's agriculturally rich, San Joaquin Valley, lies the small farming town of Porterville. At Bakersfield, you take the 99 exit North where it splits from Interstate 5, then cut off on Highway 65 for 45 miles or so through Porterville to Lindsey where this trial is held on some farm ground East of town. The venerable San Joaquin Valley Border Collie Association has been putting this trial on for something like 27 years now, and I for one, am so glad they do. Thanks to them all for their dedication and hard work. It ain't easy.

Jed got reaquainted with his puppyhood playmate, Elvis

The just-cut Milo field had been turned under leaving soft, fertile earth formed into huge clods of dirt then mud as the rains came and made the going like trudging through very stiff, life-sized oatmeal. Neither dog, sheep nor man were happy about the conditions. Intermittent rain kept us moving back and forth to our trucks on Saturday and Sunday for the open, then the heavens opened Sunday night and all hell broke loose for the pro-novice on Monday. That trial was delayed a few hours to let things absorb, but the determined trial committee slogged through until dark to make things right, and gave those hands 2 runs as promised.

Michael Burks' chick magnet (his scooter) was killed accidently by a truck backing up

The sheep used were from a local commercial flock of mixed, white-faced Rambouillet ewes that would rather fight than not. Quartered overnight behind the trial field, they were only fed on that spot morning and night. As each day wore on, they stood idle in the set-out pen getting muddy, hungry and cranky until being set in the muck on hay, and left to their own devises. About 20 of 50 handlers in each open saw their dogs disqualified or retired to walk up the field and retrieve their hapless dogs. Many hands used to finishing at the top of the results met that fate, and the kennel blind among us should have had an epiphany.

The trial sheep temporarily on high ground

With a medical leave from work, I was in no hurry to get home, and stayed clear through to the end. Monday night found me visiting over dinner with Wilda Bahr and Jack in their trailer. Always good company, and so smart about the dogs, I enjoy our conversations immensely. Stupidly, I missed the nursery on Sunday afternoon when I left to have dinner with Larry and Joella at their home in 3 Rivers, about 40 minutes from the trial site. That dinner had been planned since last September at Meeker, and I was so excited to be going that I quite forgot the committee had moved the nursery from Monday morning to Sunday after the open.

I was sorry to have inconvenienced the trial committee by not showing up with Star. Without 5 dogs to run no one may receive a qualifying leg towards the USBCHA nursery finals in Carbondale next year. It turned out that none of the other 4 could move the sheep either, so the damage was mitigated.  Dinner in 3 Rivers was worth the hit to my street cred, however. Incredible food, (Quince paste!) gracious hosts, spectacular setting steps from the Kaweah River. I wouldn't have missed it for anything, and even if the trial won't have me back, I'll bet I can wangle an invitation back to the river.

Star man spotting sheep

The lasting impressions of this trial for me are of the long-time club secretary, Sally Oxford, in rubber boots schlepping necessities in the muck. Of her daughter Patty preparing lunch for any who wanted it. Of the handler's dinner in the old barn with tri-tip, all the trimmings and wine supplied at the expense of the club. Thank you. Of Joan Cudd graciously organizing runs and club president, Judy Loflin, swaddled against the cold fretting out every detail. Of hands pulling out when rain delayed the pro-novice, and the club banding together to bust their humps, defy the odds, and make it successful in spite of them for those who remained. Of Joy Thayer sitting around with various puppies out of her once-in-a-lifetime bitch, Imported Molly, with which she won the overall high combined in the open. What a great team they are. Of the scoreboard conversation when just 4 points off the outrun made us realize the judge had simply missed both of 2 at-the-feet cross-overs committed by Saturday's 4th place winner. Zip - zip, she was over and back, and hey, it happens...At his 3rd dog trial ever, of little Star man, my nursery dog, struggling around every inch of his very first open course to time out just prior to demonstrating his mastery of the shed. His outruns were glorious all weekend long, and he had never seen sheep like those before.

Tough sledding

I have lost count of how many times I've attended this trial. I can tell you it is where my trialing career began as a handler, green as a gourd with a novice dog, and no understanding of what it takes. 15 years later, I have a good understanding how difficult it is to put on a dog trial under the best of conditions. SJVBCA does it good, bad, hot, cold, raining, muddy, well-attended and small. Cheers to them, all of them, with my sincere thanks and appreciation for all they do.

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