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.
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'....you 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!"
WE GOT A SECOND PLACE IN NOVICE! WOOOOHOOOOO!
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!