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, March 23, 2011

Sonoma on the Flat

Flat as compared to hill
The flat field is so named, because as compared to the hill field, it is. The pro-novice and nursery ran here on Friday, and I became part of the cheerleading squad while Bridget ran her good dog, Treat, in both nurseries, and her other good dog, Rosie, in the pro-novice, which was combined with the first nursery. Mirk was 3rd up in the open on Saturday morning, so we ate dinner in the trailer Friday night and crashed early.

The weather was nice on Thursday, and not bad on Friday, but all hell broke loose on Saturday, and it was wet and cold. Mirk, my Welsh import, liked it so much that just before our run, for the 1st time that I've seen, he got the zoomies. Pretty funny, really.  It poured and then it hailed, but it was the set-out crew who had it bad. While the rest of us could huddle under assembled pop-up tents, or warm up in trucks, they just stayed out all day and took it. Hat's off to that hardy bunch, Amy Coapman, Derek Fischer and Sandy Anderson among others that I never saw close enough to identify.

Cuddling, I mean huddling, I mean puddling

The flat field is deceivingly tricky. It looks small, and, well, flat, but there are pitfalls, obstacles and hazards all along your route. The exhaust pen is in direct line beyond the drive away panels, as is the set out pen beyond the cross drive panels. Depending on when you run, these are more or less of a pull, but this year it was the water that made all the difference. It ran, it pooled, it streamed, it muddied, it beat on our heads and it effected the sheep either good or bad depending on your particular group. Mostly it stalled sheep that might otherwise have moved off nicely, and it was easy to tell the dogs with presence as oppposed to others.

Our judge, Virginia's Barbara Ray, remained ensconced in her truck all day, signaling an accepted shed, time out or DQ by honking the horn instead of rolling down a window to give the customary "thank you." Who could blame her? She ran the engine, and the heater in between most runs. At the handler's meeting that morning Barbara had thrown a curve. Historically, the finish on that field has always been a split, pen. Ms. Ray likes to mix things up and declared to the consternaton of many, a pen, single, off the back on the nose. I loved it, and walked away smiling before I got griped on.

                                Photo credit: Gloria Atwater
With Mirk at the pen in the driving rain

It's a good thing the sheep were fit and healthy. Just shorn as Sandy Milberg likes them, they worked beautifully as they always do at this trial, and, not surprisingly, held up well under miserable conditions. Kicked out of their pens during a mandatory lunch each day, they grazed outside while we grazed inside Sandy's closed up barn. With propane heaters turned up high, we were served tri-tip steak, hamburgers or hot dogs while Sandy and the Healdsburg FFA, for whom it benefits, held the annual raffle. That raffle is a good deal, and $20 or $40 invested will just about assure you of some of the best wine the world has to offer. Well worth it and a good cause.

Sandy's raffle

My dogs ran well on that field and I was in the thick of it for a while with many good dogs left to run. Tomorrow would bring weather challenges nobody saw coming. Back at the trailer, Bridget and I hung up just about everything we owned to dry. Towels, coats, gloves, hats, everything, everywhere on every available hook, corner and door. It looked like the proverbial Chinese laundry. Too late for wine tasting, Bridge and I settled for a meal at the Hydro Grill in Calistoga where I enjoyed for the 2nd time that weekend a great glass of grape called Tractor Shed Red. Buy it if you get the chance.

Next up, we move to the hill

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