Thursday, September 9, 2010

Rocky Ewe Trial and a Big Decision

Last weekend we attended the Rocky Ewe Trial in Yelm, WA.

My friend Cindy debuted Brill (our former foster Kiddo )where she ran him in Ranch.
 Brill at home practicing

He did pretty darn good at his first trial.  His outruns' were a wee bit off the mark  because he has rarely lifted off another person outside of his home field, but his drive was a thing of perfection.  I can't believe it has only been a year since Cindy adopted him - he looks incredible.  What a happy little guy!

A Happy Boy

Beth had a good day at the trial too.  Well, let me rephrase that.  She had a good 1st run in Novice.  

Her score was 57 out of 60.  1 - 1 - 0 - 1.  The only notes on the score card - "Use dog more at pen" and "Nice Dog".  

It was one of those runs that you dream of.  Beth was first on the field that morning.  I sent her away.  Her outrun was a thing of beauty.  I blew a whistle at the top & she dropped perfectly on balance.  She bumped the sheep a little harder than I wanted on the lift, but she took her down when I blew it.  The sheep came right down the field between the fetch panels - in a glorious straight line.  Beth dropped at the panels.  I ran to the pen, opened it up and the sheep walked right in.  

I don't imagine I will never see that happen again.  I didn't have to use my dog at the pen, because the sheep wanted in.  They knew the drill.  If I had walked Beth up, it would not have been so pretty. 

Between Beth and Brynn we had 8 runs that day.  Two each in Novice/Novice and two each in Ranch.  To make a long story short here are the score sheets.  

I retired Brynn in the first Novice/Novice run.  She morphed into a lawn dart and there was no way we were going to get the pen.  It was better I retired and helped her than struggled to achieve something that was not going to happen.  

The first Ranch runs for both of them went better than I had hoped.  

I retired Beth on the drive.  We got the sheep through the first set of panels then they were off...the race began.  She hooked them back to me twice and by the third time the sheep were done playing & she gripped. I turned around to the judge and said "She gripped...we are done".  She told us to try and finish the course - but Beth was done for and I knew we had another chance later.  I didn't want to burn her out.  The objective of the day was training - not scores. 

I was VERY happy with Brynn's run.  Her outrun on the away side is still a bit sticky - but improving steadily.  She is getting better about lifting off strange people at the top.  But we are having some major problems on the fetch.  It was very difficult for her to flank to the away on the fetch  and we are missing our panels.  (It was not just this field/sheep because she had the same problem in Idaho a couple of weeks ago too).  Each run went the same way & she would not take my flanks on the fetch.  Her drive had a bad start because she would not take the flanks and brought the sheep around the post the wrong direction.  We had to unwind before moving on.   We hit the first set of drive panels, but she hooked them back to me too soon and we missed the second set.  Her pen was beautiful!  All in all I pleased with her run.

The second Novice/Novice run they added one leg of the drive to make a little more exciting for us.  

Here Brynn's problems on the fetch really began to stand out.  Looking back, I think she was done for the day.  Anything that we got from this point on was a training opportunity and I was going to treat it as such.  No pressure - just learning.  Her outrun was sticky and I had to kick her out twice.  Her lift was nice, the fetch was crazy again and she brought me the sheep through the left handed drive panels.  The drive was not happening and I wasnt going to push it, we tried then went to the pen.  She lost two points at the pen because she did her little trick of diving at the back of the pen and popped the sheep out.  We got them back in and were done.  WHEW!  

Beth did better, but the drive was dismal & I wasn't going to push them.  I was happy with the way she ran in the morning.  She ended up placing third for the second go around.  Janet Thorpe placed first with a gorgeous run with Rainy - so peaceful, quiet and ...well, perfect.  

In the second Ranch run I retired Beth.  She crossed over at the top on her outrun.  Her lift was nice and the fetch perfectly through the panels - then it fell apart.  The sheep took off on her at the post (bolted for the exhaust) Beth made a beautiful save, but she was afraid of letting go of the control for the drive.   I retired but walked with her on the drive so we ended with a good note. 

Brynn's problems on the fetch exacerbated the drive.  We had to unwind the post then I took all her impulsion away on the drive - she got sticky and we missed our panels.  I wasn't concerned about the score & wanted to finish on a positive note & we had a nice pen. 

I am VERY happy with my girls.  

Brynn continues to blow me away.  She is such a willing, happy dog.  I feel like I learn something new from her every day.  

The focus over the past month has been on driving.  

Now we need to focus on the problems with the fetch.  Someday it will all come together.  I just hope her handler doesn't hold her back.  

I have finally accepted something this last few weeks.  Beth loves to work.  She loves to do chores.  She likes predictability & excels at 'pattern' training.  Meaning she likes to anticipate the next move. You can almost see her little brain thinking "you want the sheep from this pen to that one - no problem I am on it".  She wants routine - not trials.  

Trials are hard on her.  She doesn't care for them.  And I am not going to force her to like them.  So, we are going to do the winter trials this year & have fun.  I do not expect she will move out of Ranch.  If things suddenly improve and she seems more comfortable  then it would be awesome.  If pressure and she can be my chore & set out dog.

Eventually retiring Beth from trials leaves me with just Brynn.  Bonnie will never trial & is quite content to never work sheep again in her life.  We all know Ranger's future with sheep is NOT gonna happen.  So I have made a decision.  

We are getting a puppy. 

I have been incredibly blessed with the dogs that have come into my life through rescue.  I never thought I would say this...our next puppy is not going to be a rescue. 

Rescue is a gamble when you have no knowledge of the breeding.  Temperament of the sire/dam, health issues (hips & eyes), health of the mother, working ability (Are they proven on livestock?  Trials??).  For the first time in my life I am going to purchase a puppy from a reputable breeder.  Someone I know personally and trust.  

I know the mother of the puppies and absolutely adore her temperament and working ability.  I know the father and his working ability is more than proven.  I have met other puppies from past litters of this match and love them. 

The only hint I am going to give...

This is the Puppy Granddaddy.  Anyone know who this is? 

Who is his son?   His son is the daddy. 

Guess I need to figure out a new name for the blog too?  How about "BCxFour + Ranger". 


DeltaBluez Tess said...

Reilly is the grandpa and Riggs is the son. When do you get your puppy?

Tink said...

And more importantly, when can I pick up Ranger:-)
Anytime, any day would be good for me :-)

Our Fynn is lonely and need a goofball partner in crime. :-)

sagechronicles said...

Fun! A new puppy. And it sounds like it will come from great stock.

Ann said...

Woo Hoo!!!!

Karen said...

oooo, there'll be some really great puppy pictures coming up!!!

Shep said...

*laughs* I have to say, the new title is catchy. ;)

And congrats on your puppy!

Lynn said...

Ooooh, yea! A puppy! Can't wait to see your photos of him/her growing up!
New title for blog sounds good to me! You must keep Ranger!!!!

forensicfarmgirl said...

Love the new name! Yes! You have to keep Ranger! Someone has to provide "comic relief."

Congrats on the new puppy!

The Sprollies 'n' Border Collies said...

Oh I love it! When are you getting a puppy? I'm getting one next month :) What a coincidence! I know what you mean about the working rescues - it is a huge gamble.

Good luck with the new pup. Is is a girl/boy? So many questions!

Nutty Mutt said...

Well, I'm disappointed.

I've enjoyed reading about your rescued dogs and have always thought that you were such a good role model to show people that your gorgeous dogs can do anything you want them to do.

How do you justify buying a dog for a hobby? Do you "need" a dog that is working bred to be more competitive in your hobby? I don't understand the mindset here.

Is this hobby going to become your livelihood? If not, I see little difference between buying a dog for "work" and buying a dog for a sport.

This makes me very sad.

BCxFour said...

Nutty - I am sorry you are disappointed and respect your opinion and concerns. I knew when I made this decision that it would ruffle some feathers. It has been a long thoughtful process to arrive at this decision and has not been taken lightly. I hope you can continue support that we have given our four existing rescue dogs a wonderful home and life. They are not being pushed aside for a new puppy. They are not going to live as second class citizens.

I have been searching for another rescue puppy (like Brynn) that would enjoy a life of working. Eventually we are moving from our house and will have land and sheep - so the dog will spend it's life working. This is not as a 'hobby' or 'sport' only - this is going to be a lifestyle change. Many rescue dogs are not suited for this type of 'life'. (i.e. Bonnie, Ranger, Beth) Just because they are a border collie does not mean they are capable or WANT to work livestock. Too many rescue dogs have come from the insane back yard agility breeders or show lines where working ability has been diluted to the point of non existent. Given our limited resources and the fact we do not have unlimited slots for dogs I am unable to adopt and then HOPE the rescue I have adopted will be able to 'work'. I need a sure thing, rather a 'surer' thing than I can find via rescue. If you can find me a 'rescue' puppy that you know for certain WILL work livestock happily, effectively and safely - I will consider that dog OVER any puppy I need to purchase.

To Everyone: Please feel free to express your thoughts and opinions - I am open to listening and respect everyone's opinions - just keep it kind and in the spirit of goodwill. Minds close with hostility. :)

The Border Collies said...

"Too many rescue dogs have come from the insane back yard agility breeders or show lines where working ability has been diluted to the point of non existent."

That's so not true, actually. 'ACK' conformation bred dogs almost NEVER show up in rescue. Sport-bred dogs almost never show up in rescue ... there are a healthy number of sport buyers for those dogs. The vast majority of dogs in rescue are BYB dogs bred for no particular reason other than they can be bred, and of course ranch dogs, from old skool hillbilly ranchers who don't give a darn about neutering, responsible ownership etc. An awful lot of those dogs CAN and WILL work ... if someone would work them.

Of the 800 or so dogs I have rehomed, there has been a disappointingly high percentage of CBCA and ABCA registered dogs. It is of course more likely that the CBCA registered dogs come from working breeders than the ABCA ones, since the ABCA doesn't police its breeders particularly well, but nevertheless, it's not exactly a small amount. And even lots of the unregistered BYB dogs we get in are a single generation away from full registration, since so many breeders aren't careful about where they place their puppies and don't put non-breeding stipulations in place.

When I do have working dogs in rescue, I can't get herding people to look twice at them. I had a dog who was so well started he could've run pro-novice if we'd managed to figure out all his whistles. And not a single working person would consider him because "he wasn't registered." The problem is NOT the lack of working dogs in rescue, the problem is that working people don't want rescue dogs.

I'm not going to weigh in on your decision to buy a dog - that's your decision, not mine. I just think if you're going to do it, you should call it what it is rather than using the same old excuses we've been hearing for years. I *will* admit I expect more from a rescuer in that respect, but that's my problem, not yours.

Not all working bred dogs are a charm either you know, and "guaranteed" to work. I'll let you in on a little secret about working folk - THEY SELL THE DOGS THAT AREN'T AWESOME. You never see them, because they get sold away to a pet home or a hobby herding home somewhere. I guess if I really felt I NEEDED a dog who was guaranteed to work, I'd save my pennies and buy a started dog, because puppies are always a crapshoot, no matter where they come from.


BCxFour said...

Sheena you are right, and have such a better way with words than I do.

I am trying to be honest and separate my 'ego' from my heart. I dont like what I see when I do that. Dammit....this sucks.


*going to hide under my computer desk now*

Hillbilly Betty / Waylon Aussies said...

Congrats on the new puppy!

I also completely understand where you are coming from with the decision to buy a puppy rather than rescue this time. I started with rescues and had to make the choice to buy a pup from working lines. Certainly doesn't mean you'll never have another rescue.

I know many, many people who have gotten into this sport with rescues, but have had to make the decision to buy a working bred puppy as they got further into the sport. You're in good company and we've got your back!

Erin O said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Erin O said...

I am down to my last rescue, she is 13 and I've had her for 11 years. She was a good farm dog for my home flock and chores. She was a miserable trial dog.

I have two comments and I will try not to ramble too much.

6 years ago I was in the exact same place you are now. My heart said rescue, my head said no. So I bought a 3 ish year old dog that had run as a Nursery dog. With this I got a dog that was exactly what I need.

Last year I was looking for another working dog. I thought about rescue, but in the end purchased 1.5 year old dog. There are two reasons for this.

Number one, I could see what I was going to get. I knew the parents and their lineage. Also I knew that this dog because of where he came from had been raised and started correctly by a trainer that has an amazing reputation .

So my second point. I looked hard at rescue before purchasing my 3rd dog. When I made my intentions clear, I received a ho hum response from rescue. Barely a flicker of interest and poor response time. I wasn't looking for a cute pet I was looking for a dog to do a job. They were also a bit put off that I wanted to put dogs on sheep as a criteria for adoption. Work first, pet second difficult concept for some rescues.

My dogs live in my house and cuddle on my couch, but I need them to work. Limited amount of room for dogs in my home, they have to work . Ok the retired old gal gets some slack ;) It is a hobby, but I am dead serious about it, so I get the right tools for the job.

You are getting a dog from a good place. You don't need to justify why you are not rescuing again. You have done your duty. Maybe when you get the sheep farm and have room for more dogs you can rescue again and take that gamble.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Sheena for writing so well what I was thinking.

I just took my little rescue BC to a herding clinic this last weekend. I've had her since May and adopted her for agility. I knew she came from a working cattle ranch. She was called a very nice prospect and I could have literally sold her to 3 different people. The clinician said I could get $800 as she stood... little work and $1500! She's not for sale, but I think this gives you an idea of what a nice dog she is. I have an older BC, a Hanging Tree Cowdog and now this little girl, all rescues, all who have good to really good instinct on stock.

This clinician did say if you want to be successful in USBCHA(I think those are the letters:) get a started dog. He made the comment that he's raised and/or worked with hundreds of dogs and only 5 of those were going to win nationals dogs. Buying a breeder puppy doesn't mean you're going to have a competitive dog.

Christopher said...

Excellent choice on the puppy. You're not only buying a pedigree (and if we don't believe that those mean something, then we can throw out our concepts of breed and even species, and invite wolves into our homes), you're also buying the expertise and mentorship of the breeder and the community.

And you're buying some history as well. I can't tell you how much I've learned about the history of the breed by doing pedigree research. Not like some people who think that a dog 15 generations back really tells you something about your dog that wouldn't be better viewed in the here and now, but as a connection to the past. An appreciation for the breed, and what it can be. A respect for the people who made it, fashioned it, and delivered it to us today.

I find the BAWWing that you're getting from some people rather disgusting. You've done nothing to deserve their hatred or disappointment.

I suspect that they have yet to fully accept their own rescue dogs, and carry anxiety that their dogs are inferior. Why else would they display such insecurity with your actions?

The WORST reason to get a dog is to make a political statement. And I've never seen the arrogance and elitism about a dog's origins in the pedigree community that I've seen from the rescue people.

There are _some_ who wear their self-applied angel wings and flaunt their "abused" dogs like the hollywood starlets flaunt their dark-skinned adopted children. And worse, there are some of those who use their dog's rescue status as an excuse for not correcting any and all behavior and training problems.

Buying a dog for a hobby is an excellent idea and it's the very reason the vast majority of the dogs ever to have existed were bred and bought for.

And there isn't another hobby more demanding of a purebred dog, bought as a clean slate, from a breeder who is active in the hobby, than competitive sheep herding.

If I'm wrong, rescue organizations should start a herding league for all those fashionable pit bulls and lab mixes.

In trying to overcome their own insecurity, it seems that some rescue people think that they have to advertise their dogs as the ultimate, one-stop, one dog fits all, solution to every need and desire for a pet.

Seriously asking "how do you justify buying a dog for a hobby" is as ludicrous as asking a rescue person "how do you justify not supporting people who do right by the breed and the public by creating quality dogs and finding quality owners?"

Christopher said...

Competitive sport/hobby is a numbers game. It's not about absolutes like "no rescue dog can be competitive" or "a pedigree dog is a guarantee;" these are straw-men arguments.

The hobby is expensive in time, money, and emotion and some of the top people treat it more like a professional sports league or a business. Thus you'll see them trading dogs like a team trades athletes, and dealing more in started dogs than wasting time raising puppies.

You have every right to choose where on the spectrum your interest in the sport and in the dog lies. I know that I will never love a sport more than the dogs, so the idea of trading up doesn't appeal to me. I enjoy training and bonding with a dog from a puppy more than I would appreciate the head start of a trained dog, but I can appreciate people who would make that trade.

And there's no need to guilt trip people into fitting into just one ethic.

It's perfectly ethical and beneficial to buy from a breeder.

Buy a puppy from someone who has hand raised that dog in their home. Someone who has a name, a face, and a home that you can visit. Someone who loves the sire and dam and who has trained them to display their abilities and documented their physical and genetic health with x-ray exams and DNA analysis and by researching the pedigrees to discover other warning signs for diseases that don’t have tests.

Reward that person for being a resource to you before and after your puppy purchase. Reward that person for having a phone number that you can call with all of your seemingly stupid, but vital, questions. Reward that person for preserving the health and abilities of your breed for one more generation so that your children and their children can enjoy that breed’s companionship. Reward that person for their puppy contract that allows you and them to clearly express what is expected of both parties, and what needs to be done if you need to relinquish your animal.

Reward that person for socializing the parents and the puppies, mitigating the chances that small behavioral problems lead to animal abandonment. Reward that person for allowing you to see the dam and possibly the sire so you can judge what your puppy might grow up to be like. Reward that person for raising an animal in a home, just like the one where it will spend the rest of its happy life with you.

Buy your animal for a fair price from a good breeder. Encourage that breeder and others who aspire to be like them to continue the good work of breeding healthy and socialized animals. Buying from good breeders is the ideal, natural, and sustainable means of acquiring your animal companions.

Conscientious hobby breeders are the only ones who are concerned with the present and future of their breed. Shelters are stuck in the past. Rescue groups operate in the here and now and most spay and neuter the animals in their care; they assuage a problem of the present, they do not build a path to the future. You can treat the symptoms of a disease or you can strive for its cure. Shelters and Rescue are palliative measures, they treat the symptoms but they are not a cure.

And they do nothing to create or maintain breeds. Recycling has its place, but so does the original, unadulterated product, bought new and purpose built.

The Border Collies said...

Maybe a better question is "why would anyone listen to a largely discredited breeder of AKC border collies pontificate on the border collie breed?"

Christopher said...

@ The Border Collies - You're welcome to disagree without being disagreeable.

I agree with your suggestion that a started dog is a good option. But that all depends on what the purchaser is weighing in their decision and what they want from the dog.

If you want a head start on trialing, sure a started dog can be an excellent choice. If you want the satisfaction of doing the training yourself, why not start with a puppy?

As for being "discredited" you'll have to be more specific. That's a pretty vague insult, and I'll note that you failed to counter my thoughts, which stand on their own merits. The ad hominem is a weak retort.