Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ewesful Acres SDT - Beth & Brynn

Our week wrapped up with the trial at McDonalds Ewesful Acres in Longbranch, WA.  The trial is put on by Sue & George McDonald.  It is the final trial in a series of three that are put on each year.  Novice/Novice, Ranch, Pronovice & Nursery were ran on Friday.  Saturday and Sunday were dominated by Open.  Saturday evening is host to a fantastic barbecue potluck full of friends & laughter.

After giving the dogs a day of rest on Tuesday we we headed down to Fido's on Wednesday.  The first really hot day of the year.  The sheep were grumpy, the dogs lethargic and  I almost melted into a puddle on the ground.  At one point I seriously thought about jumping into the water trough with Brynn. Thursday the weather cooled off and we spent the day working dogs with Vicki at Cindy's. 

With all the practice I have done with Beth at the pen & keeping her back... we stumbled onto a new problem.  Beth was hesitant to come up on the sheep at all.  So we spent some time working through that and getting Beth to really listen to what I was saying rather than generalizing.  My main focus with Beth of late has been to speed her up at the same time gaining her trust so she will listen.  Too many times Beth takes it onto herself to make decisions.  It isn't disobedience - she is a very honest dog - she just teeters on the edge of feeling like she is loosing control of her sheep and I can see her frustration climbing - it is my job to exude calm and enable her to settle down and work correctly and trust me and my direction.

I have struggled with keeping my cool.  Last year at our first two trials I lost it...turned into a blathering idiot, which translated to Beth and she tried to take charge...and ended in disaster.  Beth's work is a direct reflection of me on the field.  If I am antsy and nervous.  She is equally hyped up.  Not a good combination.

My goal for this next trial was to enable both of my dogs to work correctly.  That was all.  Stay calm, be positive and have a good experience.

Friday opened with some fairly decent weather.  Cool breeze, scattered sunshine and mild temperatures.  Perfect weather for working dogs.  Novice/Novice was first on the agenda for the day.  Beth was running 6th, Brynn 12th.

Fiona McMillan from Scotland was the judge, flown in with her sister Sheena for these two trials.  Fiona is an accomplished judge and handler herself.  She has competed in Nursery, Open and represented Scotland at an International level as a young handler.  She has been on "One Man and His Dog" and won the International Young Handlers competition at Chatsworth.  Fiona  has organized four Scottish Nationals, three International, one of which was the Centenary International in 2006. 

We introduced ourselves to the Judge then proceeded to the post.  Beth did her normal zippy little dance, saw her sheep then settled down ready to be sent on her outrun.   The sheep consisted of one Scottish black face, one hair sheep and one lamb.  They did not want to be with each other on a good day.

I sent Beth on her outrun.  3/4 of her way up the field the Scottish monster split off from the other two at the set out and pulled away from the set out about 20 feet.  It caught Beth's eye and she cut the top off the outrun by turning in to intercept it.  I downed her & she listened.  I knew if I let her go after that lone sheep she would leave the other two still up the field at the set out.  I tried to redirect her with a flank command.  She hopped up and headed to the single.  I downed her again...then breathed and thought about how we were going to fix this...

We have been working on "look-back" while running the sheep through the foot bath and chutes for vaccinations & worming.  Beth knows what it meant.  But I had never used it in this circumstance or distance.  I took a deep breath and said "Beth...LOOK BACK".  We struggled with it for a few seconds...when finally  Beth turned and zipped up the field...lifted the two at the set out quite nicely.  When they saw the single down field near the exhaust they took off running.  The fetch was obviously way off line and crazy.  However, Beth managed to get around them and brought them to me at the post. We had a couple bobbles at the pen - then got our pen within the three minutes.

Here is a video of our run.

That was the best part of our entire weekend.  Beth listened & trusted me.  I am so glad I did not follow my first thought - to walk away from the post.  Instead I put some faith in Beth and what we had been working on and it came out perfectly.    She finished with 14-3-15-2 and a final score of 26 out of 60.  The score meant nothing....the work Beth did was everything.

Beth is in full agreement. 

After giving Beth lots of hugs and kisses it was Brynn's turn.  My friend Jeanne told me that my entire body posture changed from Beth to Brynn.  I would have to agree...Brynn is a LOT OF DOG!  I need to be on my toes.  She is a firecracker - yet still a baby dog.

Brynn's outrun was kinda sticky - what you cant really see in the video is that Brynn's eye never left the sheep at the set out.  Her head was turned looking at them the whole way up the field.  I gave her a couple "get-back"s when she started looking like a Lawn Dart - she responded...sorta.    She finally came in at the top and lifted the sheep.  The fetch was off line and the pace was a smidge too fast, but did finally slow down and the sheep settled...sorta.  We got our pen with a little bit of a challenge.   This time I was smart and leashed Brynn BEFORE letting the sheep out of the pen so we didn't have a repeat of the last trial when she worked against allowing the sheep to go to the exhaust.

Video of our run.

I was very happy with her.  She finished with 4-0-4-4 and a final score of  48 out of 60 and .....Second place in the class!  WOOHOOO!

Brynn was very proud of herself.  She should be. 

I entered both Beth and Brynn into the Ranch class.  No intentions of anything other than having the chance to work them both and gain some experience.  Beth timed out on the drive after our second run.  We were given a re-run because they had an issue at the exhaust which sucked our sheep off the field.  The rerun rattled us both.  The second run was only judged from the drive - but Beth was so freaked out the sheep were going to take off again I couldn't get her to drive them too far away.  We almost had them a couple of times but timed out.  Brynn had problems with the drive and we timed out at the pen.  But least we did not finish dead last!

Saturday night my friend Cindy and I attended the handlers dinner where they served some of the most incredible barbecue I have ever eaten.  Absolutely delicious!  We had a wonderful time talking to everyone and eating.  I truly enjoyed talking to Fiona and her sister Sheena. Their sense of humor is absolutely delightful.  Much giggling and laughter ensued. 

Later in the evening I got the biggest suprise of my life.  Fiona and Sue were handing out the checks to the winners of the classes.  I had my camera in front of my face snapping away and not really paying attention to what they were saying - just focusing on the composition and lighting of my shots - when  Monique said "Carolynn...this is for you!".

I think I froze a little.  Okay..more than a little...a lot.  Then I started to get a little teary.  Fiona chose me as the "Most Promising Novice Handler" because of the way I stayed calm and handled Beth in her run.  She said that the way I handled it enabled Beth to succeed & was brilliant.  Fiona didn't think Beth was going to take that "look back" but because of the way I supported her and remained calm, she did.  Fiona said my handling over the past two trials was also excellent.   They gave me a very pretty whistle lanyard too! 

The best thing?  That run with Beth was my favorite part of the entire weekend, even more so than Brynn placing second.   Finally I know what it means to work as a team with your dog and will cherish it forever. 

I believe that our achievements are a reflection of our teachers and people in our lives.  Our journey into this world has been supported by so many people.  From my first lessons with Chris Soderstrom, Karen Child,  and Scott Glen to the clinics with Patrick Shannahan  I have been blessed with an incredible foundation to build upon.  The deciding impact on my handling has come from Dianne Deal and my dear friend Cindy Baker.  Dianne has really taught me what it means to be a handler and how to fairly and consistently communicate to my dog through hours of lessons, phone calls, support and friendship.  Cindy has shown me through example and generosity of heart the kind of friend and handler I hope I can be some day.  I thank you...and most of all my dogs thank you!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Whidbey Classic SDT: Beth & Brynn

The first day of summer started this morning with the annoying sound of my alarm at 3:30 AM.  My husbands day started with the shrill sound my my shriek "GET OUT OF BED".

I slightly over estimated the time it would take us to drive to the Mukilteo ferry crossing to Whidbey Island.   The Novice class started at 7:30, handlers meeting at 7:00.  We were on the 5:30 ferry arriving at the field shortly after 6:00am.


Both Beth and Brynn were snoozing in the back.  John was snoring in the front seat.  I felt like little fire ants were crawling their way up my backside and biting me on the scalp.

Can we say nervous?

Amid the cacophony of snorting sleep apnea from the passenger seat I looked out on the trial field through the windshield wipers and envisioned a positive end to our runs.

I thought about our goals.  Just two goals for the day.
  • Complete my run with Brynn & keep it positive
  • Get a pen with Beth.
The handlers meeting started and they went over the expectations for the Novice and Ranch classes.  I went back to the car to get ready to go because Brynn was 3rd &  Beth was 9th. 

I have heard it said that trialing will show you the gaps in training.  I learned a valuable lesson today about Brynn.  She is still a puppy & standing behind the judges truck and allowing other handlers to go before me is not a good strategy.  By the time we were at the post Brynn was a hyped up ball of wacknut.  I knew we were in trouble on the way to the post and she wouldn't look at me..  She was locked onto her sheep in a baa'd, baa'd way.

I should have paid attention to what she was telling me.  She wanted to run Away.  I wanted her to run Come-Bye. Another mistake.

When the sheep settled a bit - I sent her.  She got about halfway up the field, her eye started to suck her in and I gave her a stern "get back".  She ignored me...*crap*

I shouted all the other useless commands - they all bounced off her head.  Not much gets through to a "LAWN DART".

The last time Dianne was up here she told me that when Brynn starts looking like a 'LAWN DART' know...all pointy, straight and FAST' it is pretty much over.  Just try and get her stopped.

I should have ran up the field at this point - but I didn't.  I was praying she would take my redirect.  She did not and crossed over.  Her lift wasn't too bad - Brynn has a lovely feel for the sheep and lifted them quite nicely - but she was off line and refused my down whistle.  The fetch missed the gates entirely and I was overwhelmed by a moment of sheer TERROR - but did get her to take a down and actually got the sheep somewhat settled before heading to the pen.  The pen didn't happen.  We taught the sheep how to circle the pen.  Brynn popped up and down like a lawn dart on crack.  She took my flanks - but she was too tight and the sheep were too rattled to even think about going into the pen.  We timed out.  Final tally 19-2-14-10.  Total possible points:  60, Total points lost: 45, Total score 15.


Regardless, I was happy with Brynn.  I was not happy with how she blew me off and didn't take my redirects.  I was not happy with the Lawn Dart.  However she is a baby dog - she wore her puppy brain down on the field.  In all honesty, when I saw she was not listening to me I should have decided right then and there to walk away from the post.  I didn't and I am not going to make that mistake again.  Today Brynn learned she can cross on an outrun and nothing will happen.  Now I know what I need to work on.

My goal of "complete my run with Brynn" was not a good one.  My goal for the next trial will be changing - to "Enable Brynn to work Correctly" even if it means retiring - my dog is the most important thing.  Not my ego or some silly goal I set to complete the three minutes in hell.

Next it was Beth.  I was a little more settled.  Really how much worse could it be?

Beth was totally in tune with me on our walk out.  She was focused on me, yet aware of the sheep and the field.  We introduced ourselves to the judge, Fiona McMillan from Scotland.  Then walked to the post.  Beth walked nicely with me.  I set her up on the Come-Bye side and off she went.

Her outrun was nice and wide, but a smidge tight at the top which sent the sheep off line on the lift.  The fetch was nicely controlled but we missed the fetch gates because it started off line.  Right when she got through the gates I downed her...and SHE ACTUALLY DID IT!   She took the down and HELD the down while I walked to the pen.  The sheep were nicely settled and then walked quietly to the pen as Beth quietly and gentlly walked up behind them - we had some hesitation at the opening - she flanked a couple of times but kept her distance - not spooking the sheep - I did my dance with the stick and stomping my feet and they walked right in.

I think I wet my pants a little.  I have NEVER gotten a pen at a trial with Beth.  WE DID IT!

I was so happy!  I gave Beth a great big kiss.  1-1-6-0 Final score of 52.  The notes on our card "Very good control, good handling, WELL DONE!"


Below is a picture of the score board for the Novice runs.  It is lovely to see Beth's name second from the top.  Brynn's name second from the bottom?  Not so much.  

Our success was not repeated in Ranch.  Suffice it to say the sheep got away from her.  I let her recover them - she took my down whistles and managed to get them to me at the post.  We turned the post and started on the drive.  Missed the first panels then they turned for the cross drive and bolted again.  I recalled Beth and walked off the field with another big smile on my face.  Why?  Because she took my down whistle from 150 yards away and everything she did was honest.

Score board from Ranch - here we are dead last.   Only place to go is up!

Today was a fantastic day.  Beth gets a wee bit of ice cream & will be sleeping on the bed tonight!  

I love my dogs! 

Friday, June 18, 2010

Ranger Reviews the Kong Zinger

Hiya, its me Ranger.  The KONG Company sent me a couple products to try out.  Why?  Because I am special.  Camera Face says I am "Special Ed".  I keep telling her my name ain't Ed.  It is Ranger...but she just giggles.

I was so excited when I saw what they sent us.  Mom opened the box and then teased me with the toys.   Beth about had a heart attack.

They sent us the KONG Zinger and the KONG Rocket

"The KONG Zinger is a fast-action, quick-flying interactive roll and chase toy that's great for dogs of all ages and sizes.  The easy-grip launcher flings the Zinger ring and sends it bouncing and rolling haphazardly for unpredictable fun.  The KONG Rocket isn't your typical ball-launcher toy - it incorporates "spring-flex" technology for long, accurate throws with less effort than similar products.  Plus, both the Ziner and Rocket are "slobber free" - meaning the Zinger ring and the Rocket ball can be picked up with their launchers, and you never have to touch a slobber-covered toy!"

Today we are going to review the KONG Zinger.  We really liked the looks of this toy.  Beth and Brynn started going wacko the minute Dad opened the package.   It took Dad a minute to figure out how to hold it and stuff.

I waited patiently

...and waited.....this looked interesting. 

Then he threw it.  It zinged through the air, hit the ground and started bouncing!

It bounced this way and that... Brynn missed it, Beth missed it...

I didn't

I dont miss things, because I am the uber cool toy dude.

Beth finally got the hang of it and started hogging the donut.  I have a new name to call her.  

Donut Face!

She started making up wacky ways to carry it too.  We can always count on Beth for innovative thinking.

She has to be that way because of Bonnie the Monster.

Bonnie couldn't catch the donut so she just tried to steal it out of Beth's mouth.

We call Bonnie the "BONSTER" for a reason.   

She stalks Beth and tries to steal her toys.

What was I talking about?   Yes, I am a handsome devil. 

Enough about me, let me tell you about Brynn.  She was scared of the donut.  She liked watching it fly through the air and even tried to catch it.

But the minute it landed in the grass...she ran away from it.   This was the only picture Camera Face could get of Brynn running away from the donut in the grass.  She moved really fast. 

Poor Brynn, she is kinda freaky 'bout things sometimes.

So, what do we think of the KONG Zinger?

Good Points:  We all loved chasing it.  The donut is durable and withstood 3 dogs chewing on it without complaint. The unpredictable bouncing was fun.  It was easy to find in the grass and fun to toss in the air like a maniac whenever I had a chance.  Dad said the Zinger was easy to use - once he got the hang of it.  Excellent toy for use in a smaller back yard - where distance is not an object.   Good toy for the water - does not sink and very easy to spot in the water. 

Not So Good Points:  This should only be thrown on a flat surface with good footing.  If multiple dogs are playing the potential for injury increases due to the  possibly of dogs slamming into each other trying while trying to follow it's erratic movement.  Is not meant for throwing a long distance.  The furthest Dad could throw this was about 50 feet.  It is not a totally hands-free device.  It is necessary to use your hand to firmly place the donut in the Zinger. 

Final Score:  3 out of 4 tails up.  Deduction for safety concerns

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Play Hard...Sleep Hard

And so it begins, a daily ritual at our house.

Ranger watches Brynn

His eyes follow her while she plays with the Jolly Ball. 

Then he makes his move.... 


The toy is forgotten.  A chase ensues.  Brynn throws herself onto the floor.  Ranger pounces.

Who needs TV when you can watch this? 

 The fake squealing, growling, gnashing of teeth.  Ohhh the drama!

Bitey Face Festivus.

Notice the black spot on Ranger's tongue - it is fur.  Brynn's fur.   I don't think Brynn even noticed she was missing a chunk.

The entire family is sucked into the drama.  Bonnie is the official Bitey Face Festivus referee.    She checks on everyone - including Beth.  Queen Beth supervises from the couch. 

 Beth will often leave her perch to let them know when they have gotten out of hand.  Like when they knock all the pillows off the couch onto the floor.  Apparently that is beyond Beth's level of tolerance.

Officer Beth: resident Fun Police.

They play hard...then sleep hard.   Four comatose dogs.

First Bonnie - usually in the middle of the kitchen floor - flat on her back.  How in the heck is that comfortable?  It must be all the padding on her backside.

Proof that Beth really does sleep.

Brynn gives a whole new meaning to the word "relaxation"

Then she starts to slide...her head is always hanging off some thing.

I am jealous.  For me to get into this state it would require 3 ambien, 4 lunesta and a 7 margarita's.  Oh hell...the entire bottle of tequila wouldn't allow me to relax like this.  How is this even possible?

Well, she is a dog.  There is that.  Notice the eye ball rolled back into her head, the slack jawed total relaxation.

Actually...kinda reminds me of the time I found my brother passed out on the stairway when we were teenagers.  I poked him a couple of times.  Pushed him down a few steps.  His head bounced against the wall - no response except for a large string of drool hanging from his mouth. 

"I am so sleepy"

"Oh so sweeepy"

"Hey camera face - want to play bitey the camera in your face? Leeme 'lone!"

Play hard - sleep hard

In my next life...I want to be a spoiled rotten border collie.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Beth's Pedigree

Beth is a happy girl

Her mystery has been solved

Behold, Beth's papers. (click on it for larger view)

We have never had a dog with gen-u-wine papers before. 

Papers or not, she is loved.