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, October 3, 2012

The Big Show

Photo credit: Dr. Barry
National Finals Semi-Final Round

It's a big, wide world out there at the United States Border Collie Handler's Association 2012 National Finals. I was happy to be in Klamath Falls, Oregon with 9 year old Taddymoor Mirk qualified. The dog ran well, and I was happy with him. Only attending 4 or 5 trials all year, I was lucky to be there at all, even if it was with only 1 dog. We eventually found ourselves in the semi's where we finished 25th among the top 150 dogs in North America. OK for a sheep-starved Californian, and an aging Welsh farm dog.
      Photo credit:
With Buff at Soldier Hollow

It all started back at Soldier Hollow, where I ran Mirk and Mandy Schaftel's Irish import, Buff . The sheep there were tougher than I've ever seen them, and I've never seen them anything but tough. They were too tough for us any way. Unschooled on wild-ass range ewes, Buff never had a chance, and didn't get sheep to my feet after 2 attempts. Mirk got around, even managing a pen on his 2nd try, but never a precision instrument, his scores weren't even close to the top 5 per day required to make the finals.

Next year I hope they construct their set out pen a bit observation, not a criticism, because top 3, Jack Knox with Jim, Tommy Wilson with Sly, and Scott Glen with Don showed us the possibilities. Some say Faansie Basson's score did not reflect his great running. Not having seen it, I can only report what I heard from those whose opinions I value. Unbothered, Faansie went on to win Meeker in grand style. Well deserved, happy for ya, Faansie and Elle Marie.

                               Photo credit: Bridget Strang
Shedding with Buff at Meeker

If you told me I could only attend 1 trial per year, The Meeker Sheepdog Championship is where I would go. There's something about that trial, that small town, and those organizers that makes me look forward to it all year long. It's a rich ranching community, sheep and cattle, way up high in the Rockies, the atmosphere is genuinely happy, and it's so nice to be at a trial with so much tradition that doesn't take itself too seriously. Surviving in drought conditions through the summer, the sheep were cranky here too, and, once again, as difficult as I've ever seen at a trial where they consistently top treacherous on the difficulty scale.

Buff missed the semi-final cut by 10 points without a pen, and a score of 50. Sounds dismal, but at Meeker it's not. I've seen scores in the 40's advance. Honestly, I was thrilled with him. Mirk surprisingly lost a ewe on the fetch. It was certainly no surprise the biddy went to crazyville at warp speed for no apparent reason. That's quite common among Meeker sheep. I was surprised that Mirk let me down. He's usually better than that. I just waved at our judge, Scotsman, Andrew Dickman, whistled my dog, and went to crazyville myself until the wine kicked in. After finishing 12th there last year in the double lift final, I was dissappointed not to get another go.

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Qualifying round with Mirk at the Finals

On to the 2012 National Sheepdog Finals in Klamath Falls, Oregon where Mirk redeemed himself, and it was my turn to stub our collective toe. But 1st off, a huge thank you to the organizing committee headed up by Geri Byrne, one of the hardest working sheepdoggers I know. Seriously, I don't know why how she does it, and she does it all with an ever present smile. It must be her great help, Amy Coapman, Lana and Marty Rowley, Ellen Skillings, her smart hires, announcer, Ray Crabtree, photographer, Jan Elliott, and her uncanny ability to amass some of the nicest, most conscientious volunteers around. Many thanks to you all.

The finals is serious business. We have bloggers, television cameras, newspaper reporters, tweeters, video recording, live webcast, 4 judges, 2 fields, and abounding ego, ego, ego! Different factions huddle together under their respective pop-ups sniping and pointing surreptitiously. Students fawn over their competing mentors. Kewlness is judged in the hand's camp by fanciest rig, who attends which camper-party with whom, and who emerges from where in the morning. Statements of...well, I don't know what, are made by adornment, headgear and jewelry worn on the field. I saw one woman in stage makeup (think Tammy Faye) wearing tight, purple, sateen pants with what looked like sequined prunes in her hair. Now that's just not something you see every day at a dog trial!

Special moment alert; Amanda Milliken teared up singing the Canadian National Anthem, so others chimed in to help. I teared up too.

Extra-special moment alert: Reserve Champion, Jack Knox, being the lone handler to successfully complete the International shed, then pen with just 19 seconds on the clock. I was out of my mind seat cheering madly. Witnessing that demonstration of grit, skill and determination was completely worth the price of diesel to get there. I will always remember it. With his Championship at Soldier Hollow and strong finish at Meeker this year, I could not be happier for one of the nicest guys in our sport. Congrats to Jack and his family.

Me? In jeans and a t-shirt, I just hoped my dog found sheep. In both the qualifier and the semi-finals, Mirk's gathers were good. Unfortunatley, neither of us could drive. I challenged him at my feet with risky slips to shed through, and made him do most of the work at the pen. The bloggers said it was dumb luck, but it wasn't. Mirk just made it look easy with patience, timing and acquired skill of an old dog. Certain judges required about 98% of us to hold the shed then drive sheep away. Apparently, they took for granted the other 2% could have, and didn't require it of those fortunate few. Pressed for time with my collar tightening, I couldn't maneuver a single after the pen in the semi's. Those lost points cost us the final go-round. My turn to mess up.

            Photo credit:
Marked shed with Mirk in the Semi-final round

This was only my 4th finals and I'm sort of 2 for 4. At my first in Sturgis, South Dakota, I finished 6th over all with now-retired Price. A wonderful memory. With just 2 finals in between, it was nice to be back with a different dog 8 years later and advance to the semi's. A happy memory. It's a big 'ol world out there at the Finals. *Big* being the operative word. Gathers were huge, drives were long, turn-back wide, and competition was the best in North America. Congrats and well done to all who faced the challenge. See you in Carbondale...

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