Welcome to The Real Time Canine

My name is Amelia Smith of BorderSmith Kennel and with The Real Time Canine, I am providing training technique for Border Collie Sheepdogs. Beginning with 10 week old Kensmuir Star, I will document his daily lessons in words and pictures every Sunday. Previously subscription based, the complete working journal is now available here every Sunday.

From the moment I collected Star, his training began and you will be with us every step of the way. Good manners, willingness & confidence are necessary for him to attain my goal to become a useful working sheepdog and successful trial competitor. From the first lessons on manners & socialization to his first exposure to sheep, you will be a part of Star's journey to success.

After a lifetime with animals, dogs, horses and livestock, I am happy to share my expertise with you. I have found success in sheepdog trials at home and abroad and have trained dogs that went on to find success with others. To learn more about me and my dogs, please visit my BorderSmith website and my BorderSmith Blog! Cheers and thank you very much.

Jan 29, 2011

Week 109

With incredible weather in store for us, the dogs and I have been busy. Honestly, this week's report is a shadow of what it could be. I have been outside a lot. As always, I am so glad to have you with us.

Nice Line
Day 208os
It was almost too hot to work dogs today, and the grass was almost too tall. Those of you living in the cold country must think I'm lying, but that's just the way it is here in sunny, Southern California. The bad news is that we are over-crowded, over-taxed, and over-regulated in my home state. There is always a trade off.

The big field where I train my dogs has 2 distinct areas, created by seasonal Keys Creek, which cuts off the upper third and is running strong right now. There is the flat portion, where I can get those booming, 500-600 yard outruns, and there is what I call the hill field. The flat portion is annually planted to rye grass, causing me to remain at the other end from any day now, until they harvest the grass hay sometime around April, May, June, depending on rain. Today I was on the bigger, flat portion trying to get a few more of those monstrous outruns in before Zamora, and before it is planted. Like I said, it was too hot, and too tall, but I have to go for it while I can.

Most of the time today, all I could see was the top of Star's head as he was running out, and sometimes he disappeared completely. I could see the taller, whiter sheep, though, so I could tell where the dog was by watching them. I set up 500+ yard outruns, and sent Star in both directions. Because of the heat, I wanted him to fetch them a bit, then flank around and put them back where he found them for Mirk. No sense bringing the sheep all the way too me. Too much work for them in the tall grass, not to mention the dog.

Star apparently forgot this lesson from the other day, and was reluctant to come off the pressure, flank around inside and start the drive. I had to walk up the field a bit, speak to him, and help. I noticed that a hurry up flank has meaning to him now, because of all the previous work, setting up a strong draw and making Star flank off-pressure and inside to stop sheep from escaping. That lesson he retained, so I used the hurry up whistles to get him going when he would have preferred not to, and it worked well. It is very rewarding when I take time to notice how all the training pieces fit together, and recognize the hidden picture hidden within the jigsaw puzzle. That's what happened today.

Day 209os
The farmer has begun plowing the flat field, so we were back on the hill today. The goat guy has 300 goats behind e-net fencing there, but he was around the corner, and out of my way for the most part. It was hot again today, but this hill hasn't been planted in years, so there is old feed, and new grass coming, but it's not near as dense as the part that gets planted. The low parts of the hill field are choked with tall weeds of the kind that grow in moisture, but I'm glad to see that the goat guy has fencing set up to turn his goats out there, and mow it down. Without him grazing the weeds off every year or 2, the hill would be too choked with brush for me to use it. Not a big fan of goats, I do appreciate their particular talents.

I used Mirk to set the sheep about 300 yards out, then took turns with both dogs making outruns. Mirk slows down measurably in heat, and it's almost painful for me to recognize the difference between him in cold weather, and him in hot. He hates it hot, and today I watched him amble down the long hill casting wider and wider. In fact so wide, that at one point I thought; "what the hell is he doing?" Then I watched him head for the creek, and I thought he had quit me for water. Without reason, he then stopped all together, reversed direction and started back, and my blood pressure spiked. I blew a stop and an away-to-me, that he took, cast out again, and disappeared over the bank of the creek before showing up too deep, and way off contact with his sheep. After retrieving Star, I stood and watched him do almost the very same thing, foot step for foot step, and became perplexed to say the least.

The next outruns were made in the other direction without incident, so I sort of forgot about the aberration, and went about my training. More off balance work on the fetch today, and both dogs were more pliable after yesterday. Actually, today both dogs steered like Ferraris, and I was having a grand time. Gorgeous weather, beautiful field, compliant, well-trained dogs, nice sheep. Fun! There is a practice used to train horses whereby you teach them things like lead changes in rough, uneven, or even freshly plowed ground. The idea being that if they learn to make smooth flying-lead-changes on bad ground, they will look like Baryshnikov in a well-groomed show ring. It seems to me that yesterday's work in dense rye grass had the same effect on my dogs today. Hmmm...

After a short rest, I started down the hill to a flat area for shedding practice. Star has a very nice way of settling sheep, which causes them to come apart slowly on his appropriate pressure, where they fly apart haphazardly under Mirk's brashness. Attitude is everything, and Star is patient and kind. As I've said before many times, Mirk is not a precision instrument, but will always get the job done. With sheep like my kittehs, shedding is a lot more fun with Star. Unlike Mirk that I have to hold back, I must encourage Star to remain on his feet, but his technique will win the day far more often on the trial field.

After working, I took all the dogs to the creek for a dip, and that's when I discovered what had caused them trouble on the away-to-me outruns. A large section of the field had been fenced off with e-net which wasn't easily visible empty. The dogs had run out, encountered the fence and found a way around, taking them into the creek and way deep of their mark. Oh, now I see...Unfortunately I had no way to take back the corrections I had barked to the dogs. Border Collies, the resilient breed.

Pretty Does

Day 210os
The weather cooled off today, but was beautifully sunny and warm. It was the kind of January day that you can't even imagine when you are snow-blowing your driveway in Northern Michigan. With the trial next month in Zamora on my mind, there is a lot of training going on, and not a lot of writing. The days are running together for me journal-wise, but the dogs are getting much needed attention.

Today was not a great day. Occasionally, I rent sheep for practice, so I had the Dorper ewes on the hill field for that purpose. Yes, I could bring the Dorpers and the kittehs over, separate them and let my customers have a go on the Dorpers, but that just seemed like too much work, so Star and Mirk both were less than stellar on plodding sheep. It is interesting, though, how the difference changes the dogs ability to hear me. Star was less than responsive to my flank commands on the fetch, and got stuck behind his sheep. Where he flanks off freely for the most part on sheep that are moving easily in front of him, it is so much work just to move the Dorpers, that he is too busy to hear me. I had to walk up the field more than once to remind him who was running the show, and it is quite unusual for me to have to raise my voice as I did today. A little goes a long way with Star man, and I am careful, but the correction helped, and he was sharper on my whistles afterward in spite of the sour sheep.

On a happy side-note, when finishing up today, I sent first Star, then Mirk to gather up and load the sheep. I wanted to see if Star had over come his fear of the brace. Star left, seconds later, Mirk right. Star had just lifted when Mirk got there, and I was pleased to see that Star slowed, but kept coming. Mirk immediately passed him by, and took control of the sheep, but Star kept coming about 15 paces behind. All the way up the hill they moved together that way, until Mirk stopped when the sheep approached me. But Star kept coming, passing Mirk this time to follow his sheep all the way into the trailer, and stop staring through the doorway. My little man is growing into his power.

Day 210os
The dogs and I made the most of another glorious day, working on the hill field, then playing in the creek. I brought the kittehs, and the dogs sharpened on flighty sheep with increased keenness and motivation. We worked on outruns and driving. We worked from bottom to top and started from a place where the goat man's e-fence was off to my left to get a maximum outrun of about 440 yards. This meant that again the dogs had to hit the fence, turn uphill running alongside, then cast out wider once they got to the end of it. The situation always makes for a good learning opportunity, that went a bit awry with Star. The first time I sent Star, he didn't cast out at the end of the fence, so I stopped him way short of his sheep, recalled and enlightened him. Remember, a little goes a long way.

The next time I sent him, he went straight to the fence, and turned left instead of right, which would have caused him to go the long way around. Silly! I stopped him, and walked him up to the end of the fence, then said "come-bye," at which he squared off too much, and ran out looking, and not seeing sheep with which he was completely off contact. I just let him go. He went so wide that he crossed the dirt road, and headed for the oak trees before realizing that he was completely lost, and turning in to get his bearings. Unable to do that, he stopped and looked for sheep. Too wide is just as bad as too tight, so I recalled him again to set it up differently. "If you're going to be that stupid, you can run twice as far!" I can count on one had how many times I have recalled Star from an outrun. Never a good idea with a young dog, because you don't want them ever to think that it's OK to come back empty handed. I only did it because he is mature enough now to handle it, and he was very wrong. Star was reluctant to quit looking for sheep all the way back, and I absolutely love that about him. I felt bad that I had caused the problem in the first place with over-correction even though it was only over-correction to Star. It is the reason he is so easy to guide. He is absolutely keen to take direction when lost. He never quits looking, listening and trying until he finds his sheep. Nice feature that, and existing because he trusts me. "If she says so, they're out here somewhere."


Week 108

Triailng season kicks off here in earnest next month. First Zamora, then Sonoma Wine Country SDT in March, and I'm ready with 2 open dogs this year. I am so excited! Welcome all, it's so nice to have you.

It's good to be Star
Day 205os
We worked on the single today. I kept thinking, I need to go back to the round pen exercise with Star and tune up his shedding. That in addition to practicing the single, but I didn't do it. Lazy...so lazy. Star has not yet internalized the single as much as he has the plain old shed. He has learned how to hold 2 away from the rest, and become fairly comfortable with it, but holding the single evades him. Today, when the single bobbled to break back, he stood with his feet in concrete, confounded by what to do. He wants to gather all the sheep up anyway, so my thinking is that it just does not make sense to him for a loner to be in the wind. Unlike many dogs, he does not find the single fun at all. Hmmm...what to do...

We made a few little gathers today, and Star was a little reluctant to release the pressure and take my come-bye flank. This because the pressure was on the other side with the sheep wanting to run uphill to the trailer. I made him do it anyway, just to keep him supple and willing. Reluctantly at first, he complied, but it got easier after a time or two.

The Bull Pen
Day 206os
After working in the field today, I loaded all but one of the kittehs into the trailer and had Star practice taking the single off the trailer. The idea is to allow the dog to figure out how to control a single. The exercise works better when you put a single outside a round pen, where she can see the others standing inside. Today's practice was beneficial, but too easy. Without being able to see her sisters, the single kitteh was perfectly happy to come off the trailer, then run like a scalded cat looking for company. Hmmm...maybe I will try it with 2 in and 2 out tomorrow. Together, the 2 outside may be a little more determined to stay with the trailer.

Outruns were the order of the day and I set it up so the dogs had to run blind horizontally across the hill field. With next month's Zamora trial in mind, I did it that way to simulate what they will encounter at the trial. The outrun at the trial is big, over 500 yards, and dogs have to run up a long hill with a steep dip running vertically between 2 shoulders the whole way. In other words, no matter whether you send left or right, your dog must run up a shoulder to be correct, and because of the distance, and topography, the sheep are very hard to spot. For Star, it will be imperative that he take my re-directs, because it's not likely he will be able to read that hill the first time up. The good news is that as long as he doesn't run too wide, which I don't expect, I will be able to see him and help him all the way.

Again, I practiced releasing the pressure against the draw. The sheep wanted to break to my left, so from the fetch, I asked Star to flank come-bye and go the long way around to catch the fleeing sheep. No problem, he knows the drill. Then there was some very competent shedding, and Mirk had a go. I used Mirk to shed off 2 sheep, then drove them up towards the trailer, leaving the other 2 at the bottom of the field. I used this opportunity to give Star an introduction to the look back. I flanked him around the 2 nearest us at the bottom of the hill, and had him fetch them towards me. I stopped him, and walked towards him telling him; "that'll do...look back." Then I gave a flank, causing him to flank towards the ones we had just quit. I repeated the exercise, but gave him a little more time between "that'll do," and "look back." This time, he looked uphill where he might or might not have suspected there were more sheep. As soon as he was looking in the correct direction, I flanked him and headed up with him to keep him on the right path. He found the other sheep where they had drifted to the trailer, and brought them off. "This is going to be easy," was my first thought. We called it a day and headed to the creek for a dip.

Cooling his Jetz
Day 207os
Today was not interesting because of any work we did. It was what happened leading up to the work that was pretty darned funny. I had the Dorper ewes in the big field for a lesson today, so they are what Star worked as well. A few small outruns, a bit of shedding, a bit of driving and some practice taking a single off the trailer again. The single Dorper was harder to take off the trailer and keep off than the Cheviot yesterday, and I could see the wheels turning between Star's ears. More of the same is needed, he's getting it.

The Dorper ewes have lambs on them, so I needed to sort off the lambs, then load the ewes. I kept the lambs and the Cheviots in the overnight pen, taking the ewes into the lane that leads to the big field. Instead of going to the big field, it was my intent to load them in my horse trailer that was sitting in the lane. Before Star could get around them, they skittered all the way down to the pasture. They knew it was pasture time, you see. I took Star down with me to bring the ewes back, which takes a bit of doing, because the sheep don't want to return. I know you'll be shocked and amazed to learn this, but I got mad at the recalcitrant sheep, as well as Star's inability to muscle them. Star read the scene perfectly, and said "I'm outta here," heading back up the lane without me and without the sheep. Coward!!! I let him go, and pulled Mirk out of the dog yard to finish the job, which he did, no problem. He loaded the Dorpers, and we moved the lambs and Cheviots into the big pasture, then went to look for Star.

No Star. Couldn't find him anywhere. I looked and looked, called and called and even resorted to my recall whistle at one point. No Star. There's no way out of my completely fenced yard. I dog-proofed it when I had the fencing built, and the last time I had seen him, he was headed up the lane towards my house. No way he could have gotten by me on the tiny, one-lane driveway, so where was he? I walked up Lilac Road to the neighbors and asked whether they had seen him. Maybe my fence wasn't as dog-proof as I thought. They hadn't seen him. I searched around the perimeter looking under every bush and behind every rock. He was nowhere to be found. Every time I started to really get scared, I would tell myself, the yard is dog proof, he has to be here somewhere. Thinking he somehow squeezed himself through the tiny cat door into the garage, I checked there. No Dog. Maybe the back door to the house was open, and it somehow closed after him. I looked inside...no dog. I got all the other dogs out of the dog yard thinking they would draw him out. Didn't work. I took time to clean the dog kennels hoping that he would settle down and come out from wherever he was. Still no dog. I looked under the trailer, under the barn, finally deciding I would just sit quietly on the porch and see if he would come to me.

On my way to the porch it dawned on me that the only place I hadn't checked was IN the horse trailer. But the sheep were in there. He couldn't be in there? Could he? Well, the trailer door had been open when Star headed up the lane...hmmm. I opened one of the back doors to the trailer, and the Dorpers were pressed up against it, headed my way. I peeked in, but no dog. Thinking I better check both sides, I opened the other trailer door, and there was Star, in the trailer with the sheep where he had been for about 20 minutes. I was so relieved to see him, I dropped to the ground and gave him a huge snuggle. Of course I wasn't mad, and he seemed no worse for wear, so we headed off and had a good day's work. Crazy dog!

I Found Him

Jan 3, 2011

Week 106

Snowbirds on the Border Sheepdog Trial this week. Plus no good trial report is complete without the preamble, so I have included our preparation as well. Welcome all, and thank you for your interest. I appreciate that.

Happy New Year Every One
Day 202os

No good dog trial narrative would fail to include the preparation, and that is what I did yesterday and today. Yesterday in the small field, and I remembered, and used a valuable tool that once helped me with Price in the shed ring. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing when I taught Price to shed, and I mucked it up, but good. At one point, he refused to come through at all, and why would he? I corrected him for the wrong things at the worst possible times, and poor Price had absolutely no idea what it was that I wanted. What I did with Star yesterday is how I fixed Price, who eventually came to be a master shedder.

I put about 10hd of sheep in my round pen yesterday, and then used Star to let them out 1 or 2 at a time. When you do this, the dogs quickly understand that it is there job to hold some back. Unlike shedding out in the open, which has no real purpose that the dogs can easily grasp, inside the round pen, they can easily internalize a purpose to the job, and they love it. Once there are sheep inside and outside of the pen, there is a huge draw to the gate, so not only are the dogs always coming through using their eye, it is all very up close and personal, which never fails to create excitement. Additionally, the round pen serves to hold the sheep together, which makes it easier, and a lot more fun for me and the dogs. As smart as Star is, he caught on immediately, and enjoyed himself thoroughly.

Thing 1 and Thing 2
Day 203os

A funny thing happened on the way to the sheep today. I sent Star left on a little outrun of about 400 yards, and once he became just shy of the top, he stopped, jumped back, turned away from his sheep, trotted off and then started back. I thought; "what the...?" After that he came on to his sheep perfectly, and worked well. I wondered if there was a snake, or something in the grass, but December is surely not snake season. Afterward he worked so well that I had forgotten about it altogether by the time we walked down to the creek to cool out. Once there I saw what had happened. The goat guy had kept goats in that part of the field at some point, and the e-net fence was standing directly in the path of where Star had made his outrun. He must not have seen it until he was right on top of it, and it startled him. I was glad to know what he had overcome without any help whatsoever from me. Very smart.

Until Tomorrow
Day 204os

Since we are preparing for Snowbirds on the Border Sheepdog Trial this week, the dogs are undergoing some fine tuning. These past 2 days Star has been better, (much better,) than Mirk, because Mirkie is not really a precision instrument. Star is happy to stop and turn on a dime. He is so keen to take my whistles, no matter what I ask, no matter how fast he is moving when I ask it, and today he demonstrated that in grand style.

Star is also getting bolder, more sure of himself. The Chevies are still as flighty as ever, and in the hill field where we were today, they know the shortest way back to the trailer. I asked Star to cross drive them towards and away from the trailer, so we could practice pace. The sheep will run unless given sufficient personal space, and I was happy to see Star accomplish just the right amount of pressure to make a nice job of it. They did escape once, however, scurrying all the way up the hill to the trailer. I had flanked Star to cover, but they squirted determinedly, so I gave him the hurry up offense, and sent him quicker, but their head start had been too much. At 400 yards away from me, I was anxious to see if he knew enough to get 4, flighty lambs off the trailer started towards me. He took his time. At first he gave too much ground, and I could see the sheep moving back and forth in front of the trailer, with Star moving back and forth around back. I blew a series of quiet walk up whistles, suggesting to him no to flank, but walk on steady. I saw the sheep move straight away from the trailer, but turn to look at the dog. Not enough pressure. Next I saw a lamb try to duck back, but he stopped her cold, and I thought "this is really good for him." Another duck or two from the lambs, but Star knew the game by now, and he had them headed straight towards me.

I am allowing Star semi-silent fetches more often than not. He tends to over flank when left on his own, which causes him a lot of unnecessary work. It is best for him to learn the lesson on his own. If he gets completely off course, I blow a flank, but otherwise, I've been leaving him to his own devices, and it seems to be working. I can always give him a steady whistle to eliminate the over flanking, and I do, but it is really a beautiful sight to watch my dog holding the pressure of his own accord to bee line sheep to my feet. I will not always be available to help, so I need him as independent as possible.

With a strong draw to the sheep trailer, I am using it to make sure Star's flanks are free. So, if he is fetching to me, and the draw is to my left, I will flank him right, or come-bye, away from the pressure, which allows the sheep to escape. Not only is he perfectly happy to release the pressure and obey, but the drill has taught him to flank with speed instead of lolly-gagging as he was before on the stoney Dorpers. This exercise has also allowed me to sharpen his gears. In other words, I can now give him a regular flank whistle, which gets me a flank at regular speed, or I can blow a speedy flank whistle, and get after burners. Very handy.

Lastly we worked on shedding, and I am so happy to report that after 1 quick lesson in the round pen, Star has sharpened measurably. The other thing he demonstrated to me today was his ability to wait quietly until I asked him to come through. I use "on your feet" to keep him standing, and he was much better with it today, only hitting his belly a time or two. While shedding, he is becoming comfortable remaining on his feet without moving, and developing a shoulder-lean as well. In other words, I can direct the sheep one way, or the other, and Star will follow the sheep's direction by leaning towards it until I ask him to either flank or come through. This is a skill common among great shedders, and this development makes me really happy. Pretty is as pretty does, and Star was simply stunning today.

A Star is Born
Snowbirds on the Border - Day 1

In his 1st open, during his nursery year, against 63 other dogs, little Star man placed third, and I could not be more proud of my dog. He was far better than I ever would have hoped, and scored a 78 without a pen. That means he only lost 12 points around the small, but tricky course. The yearling sheep are Suffolk-cross, ewe and wether lambs, completely happy to stand and fight, or run off, 1 at a time as often as not. A lot of dogs lost their sheep around the course, and few panels were made. Of those that were, few were made cleanly. We made all our panels with only 1 bobble at the fetch gate when Star spent 30 seconds stopping them from circumnavigation. The drive panels were made clean as a whistle with crisp turns on my "hurry-up whistles" made to stop the drifting sheep from widening. The fact that Star took every whistle on a dime, including the stop, and the bend-flanks, made for straight lines and tight turns. Wary of the spectators, the sheep held their ground around the post, and Star had the best turn I saw, remaining cool and calm with deliberate steps to accomplish the task like "buttah." I really appreciated him there.

The outrun is small, maybe 250 yards, but it has a waist. Like an hour glass, there is lots of room in the first third for the dogs to cast, then the field narrows before opening up again leaving space to cover without upset. Many dogs pulled in at the middle, and Star was no exception. I blew a strong come-bye re-direct, which he took on the fly and flying, immediately spotting his sheep when he hit another gear and widened again on his own running flat out with confidence landing perfectly on balance, nice and deep. The sheep were set on hay, and some dogs struggled because of it. Star came on smoothly, but I gave a series of 2 strong walk up whistles, and I may have over-compensated. There was a tiny explosion quite possibly initiated by my dog, but no harm done. Already, there was a strong draw to my left, so I followed the walk up whistles with an immediate away-to-me bend-flank, and the lift, after the tremor, was dead on. He had them.

The fetch was on a string with Star bending as requested to hold the line until just the other side of the panels, when the sheep hesitated. Star had to use a bit of muscle to persuade them through. After the turn at the post, the first drive leg was easy, and again, I was pre-emptive with a "hurry-up" flank around the turn. Star drove like a rally car at Monaco; speedy, precise, with tight braking, and exciting to handle. Many dogs went wide at the panels, allowing sheep to either run uphill towards the set out, or past the cross-drive panel towards their over night pen. Star flanked squarely, stopped on the head of a pin, moved the sheep evenly, then softly stopped again to release the pressure and slow them down. The sheep cruised all the way around the drive. The cross drive line became a bit high, but with one adjustment we sliced the panel in half. Another tight turn where most were not, and Star took each whistle precisely for a laser straight last drive leg. I make up a lot of points on the competition on that leg, and I always wonder why others don't do the same thing. It is basically a fetch, the easy leg, and the most over looked. I stood at the post thinking "Velvet Elvis," Amanda Milliken's description of her good dog, Clive, at Sonoma last year. My dog was that smooth.

Our judge from Kentucky, Bob Washer, gave us the benefit of the doubt on the shed and made it any 2 of the 5 head. Heads, tails, it didn't matter. Whenever they give you a head start in a foot race, I say; "take it!" Star eased them gently into the shed ring, applying his lessons from home, with patience beyond his years. The sheep broke once, but Star covered long before they came anywhere close to the edge of the ring, then we harmonized on perfect pitch for a sharp 2/3 shed. I was not the least surprised to see him come right through. We had 2 full minutes to finish, and it was "my bad" at the pen. Star was giving ground on flanks, which was counter-productive. The trait is not uncommon in youngsters and usually evaporates with experience over time. Over compensating, I put too much pressure on flighty lambs that became unsettled, and they squirted a time or two, but Star contained them within the plane of the gate. If only I had...well, never mind, because Star did a compelling job of plugging the holes and was learning on the job. By the second break away, he had trained his sheep not to, and the judge called time with all 5 standing stock still in the mouth of the pen. I was beaming at that point, and jogged off praising my doggie to some muffled applause from my peers.

The first trial was run over 2 days, Thursday and Friday. I went back Friday for Mirk's run and checked Star's score. 78 points and it went like this; 1 off the outrun, 2 off the lift, 3 off the fetch, 6 off the drive, 0 off the shed, and 10 off for no pen. Mirk's run was efficient, but messy, ending at the pen with yet another clock exhausted . Much improved, Mirk handled better for me than ever before, and I am happy with his progress. Star beat him handily, however, which gave me a chuckle. Mirk scored a luke-warm 66, but managed 9th place, and some much needed open, qualifying points.

Off-loaded Outerwear
Snowbirds on the Border - Day 2

By California standards, this has been 1 icy cold dog trial. Highly uncommon here, the morning temperatures have been in the low 20's. As a result the sheep are responding to the dogs with random unpredictability, especially early. One second you see sheep stepping beautifully down a perfectly straight line. A split second later you have a fleeing single in the camping area all by its lonesome. Many runs have started well, and ended just like that.

Fortunately for me, Star's run started well, ended well, and went quite well in the middle too. I can describe for you how it went every step of the way, but easier to simply read again the recount of day 1. Three exceptions; No re-direct on the outrun this time. Star knew exactly where they were. My timing was bad, at the fetch panel causing us to miss, and we successfully penned. 63 dogs run, and this is how Bob Washer scored the run; 1off the outrun,1 off the lift, 7 off the fetch, 2 off the drive (2!!!) 0 off the shed, and 0 off the pen. Losing just 11 points all the way around the course, Star scored a total of 89 points and placed 3rd again in the 2nd running of the open.

I only completely internalized the scope of my nursery dog's accomplishments when I tallied them in my head during the ride home.

Third place in each of his first 2 open trials...during his nursery year.
Qualified for the national nursery finals at his first dog trial of the season.
Garnered 22 open points, which is likely sufficient to qualify him for the national open finals.
The only dog to place in the money in both open runs at the dog trial.
Won prize money totaling $600.

I only have 1 thing to say; I guess I better teach him a look back now.

There is one more item of note that I am happy to report. Star's demeanor at the trial was impressive. Before, and after his run, and while we were killing time, Star was perfectly happy to be out and about, calmly walking on his leash and even sleeping under my chair beside the trail field in full view of the action. In contrast to Mirk that is in constant motion, sniffing, peeing, twitching, whipping, jingling, and annoying me to utter distraction, Star just hangs out and patiently waits his turn. Nice feature that, and while I would like to take credit for some of it, and do, mostly he was just born that way.