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.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Lost in Translation

I wrote this post for the 2013 USBCHA National Sheepdog Finals. They have a section of their website entitled; "In the Beginning," where handlers share funny stories from their start in the sport. Some are very funny, such as my personal favorite; "The Barn Door," by Rob Drummond where he talks about a broken barn door and a half-broke dog.

Mine is a distant memory of a dog I raised on the ranch and loved completely for sentimental reasons as much for her heart. Sadly, I don't have a picture of her, but this one's for Chica...

Chica was raised on the San Felipe Ranch

Back then, 600 miles round-trip was a long way to travel for a dog trial. And, when you’re only running 1 dog in novice? Well, you gotta crack out somewhere. I cracked out in a desolate area of central California on a barren field alongside a feedlot with a mystery-breed, black and white ranch dog named Chica.

The novice always ran last and we hardy souls, there were about 4 of us, sat around all day (think 7 hours) watching the open handlers on parade with *real* Border Collies, intimidated by their perceived skill, and waiting our turn to shine, or in my case, for a turn.

It came, and I was confident. Chica, a ranch remnant, completed the outrun, all 75 yards of it, and that’s where the trouble began. I couldn’t blow a whistle yet, but had managed to get voice flanks on my edgy little dog. Try as I might, however, and as luck would have it, she wouldn’t take them…none of them…not one.

When the sheep zigged, I flanked Chica to cover, but she either ignored me outright, or went the wrong way. My collar tightened, so I did what came naturally. I raised my voice…same result. I raised it louder to my very best “outside” voice…no change. Undeterred, Chica got sheep to my feet, and we were now to the pen!

Round and round for what felt like eternity, the sheep circled, the dog flying counter to every flank I delivered until, mercifully, the clock ran out on our run. Mortified, I began to walk off the field, alternately glaring at my dog, and staring at my boots. The imagined sound of derisive whispers rang in my ears, and that’s when I heard my name.

Our judge, George Grist, had beckoned to me. Oh Gawd! It was worse than I thought. I was so bad that I required attention!!! Did he speak to everyone after their run? Who knew?

For those of you who don’t know him, George Grist has helped many handlers get their start. He’s bred lots of good dogs, helped put working Border Collies on the map, but George is not the man you’d expect to see pictured beside the word “diplomatic” in the dictionary. Webster’s notwithstanding, in his most compassionate voice, George made me laugh when he gently asked me; “Is your dog on backwards flanks?”

No comments:

Post a Comment