Sheepdog News

Barbara Ray: Meeker Report

9/10: Yesterday evening was especially hard as a thunderstorm came up during Amanda’s run. We, the hands, had been watching it draw closer for hours. Poor Roz, like most of the border collies, is thunder phobic. The beautiful outrun did little good as she was reluctant to push the sheep that clearly wanted nothing to do with moving in the storm. Finally they made it to the post but only 4 minutes remained. Normally Amanda could finish strong, but Roz wanted a warm dry bed. I thought I heard her tell Amanda a warm bath and massage were on her immediate wish list. Time ran out before the drive was finished. Next up was Nancy Stevens who declined to step to the post. Action stopped for about an hour and there had been some talk of holding off till the morning. Suzy Applegate and Buzz, last year’s winners, wished the delay till the next day were true. Buzz crossed on the outrun and stalled on the fetch, demonstrating he too did not like the thundering atmosphere. Every run last evening failed. Luck of the draw is always a factor. Amanda hosted a wine party in her camper for the friends whose run failed expectations. Needless to say the camper was quite full.

I saw Beverly for a brief moment this morning. She politely inquired about Amanda’s run and asked if I had gone yet. It appears she is hibernating in her camper, reading and relaxing, occasionally venturing out to the practice field.

I took Stella out this morning to watch a few outruns. She saw Michelle Howard’s dog arc right back to the exhaust and now she is sure that’s the focal point. My heart has sunk. Maybe she will forget that nonsense when we step to the post.

Stella had her run today and as expected she had difficulty with the outrun. She took off looking both ways letting me know she had no idea where the sheep were. I gave many redirects but she only kicked out well with one of them. Much of the top left outrun at Meeker is out of site, so when you see the dog going wrong it’s usually too late to save a cross. She came inside the horse and nearly under the sheep . Needless to say it was tight and again we were off to the races. We made the fetch and a nice tight turn around the post. The first drive had one miss while there was serious bobbling on both sides. The cross drive was a mad dash missing high. She convinced them to return to the ring for a handler error imperfect split. The pen was very challenging with many break-aways on both sides, cleanly covered by the youngster. That has been our main focus at the practice sessions. I’m still proud of the girl. I think she’s pregnant too.

9/11: I’m sad not to have made it into the Finals but will cheer on Amanda as she is a favorite for the Championship. Clive, just like Monty, is distracted by the Gelling bitches being in season. We are treating with Vicks, but the urge is still apparent.

If any of you have heard rumors that Amanda and I were hypnotized as the after entertainment at the handler’s dinner, it’s all true. Yes, we were limp like rag dolls and did some crazy dancing. Amanda was the most humorous: when told to ballet dance, she went right for the pole. Guess her ballet classes were more progressive than mine. Fun was had by all, but Amanda and I are in serious need of chiropractic care.

I’ve had to leave the Finals to pick up my daughter Jessica from the airport in Grand Junction. Before I left there were four completed runs, and Amanda was way out in front. However, Clive made a fatal error forecasting the go back and refused to flank on the first fetch waiting for the send back. Unfortunately, the sheep went off line and missed the panel. All else went well and they completed the course.

9/12: I was fortunate to witness Amanda’s winning run but not many others. As you can imagine Amanda was a gracious winner. She treated all that stayed to dinner at the Meeker Hotel. Now it’s packing up and off the the Finals. Thank God for a clean slate!

Barbara Ray: the start of Meeker

Here at Meeker once again. The last few trips I’ve been handed my hat. It’s hard to take after traveling more than two thousand miles. Still, I’ll try to practice my good loser posture, although Ralph Pulfer often said, ” Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.”

I’m sad to hear Beverly is not blogging. She is sad not to have made it into the Finals at Soldier Hollow nor the running at Meeker. She was ready and waiting in case some dog should pull up lame as she is next on the wait list. Bev is on a diet. She has lost 35 lbs and is looking great.

Monty got a great score today. I had heart failure when he almost crossed at my feet. A quickly shouted “lie down” corrected the error. Sheep were tough on the bring, but he showed them who was in charge. They danced around the fetch panels for a narrow miss but made the rest of the course. A good tough pen showed all his moves. Wish me luck with the youngster tomorrow!

Barbara Ray: Soldier Hollow

The incredible view of mountains makes Utah one of my favorite places to visit. Wow, it was hard to focus on dogging. Amanda and I made ourselves quite comfortable at the parking lot assigned to handlers in Midway, Utah. We placed a picnic table between our campers and feasted on many fine meals prepared by chef Amanda. In fact, she searched about for wild flowers and made several fine arrangements to dress up our little heaven.

The running at Soldier Hollow was difficult as promised, given that the yearling range ewes were larger than anything my dogs have ever experienced. Stella in particular was intimidated by their size and lack of willingness to yield to her presence in the same way sheep at home were doing. Monty, on the other hand, was not intimidated but was drawn to their unwillingness to move and was eager to show them he had the stuff to make it happen. My first goal was not to puke at the post, second was not to buy sheep. Getting in the prizes would only be my fantasy.

On the first day, only Stella ran. She was tight on her outrun coming inside the trees and sage brush outlining the outrun. As one might expect the sheep lifted off line at quite a clip and it was the “catch ’em story” for the first third of the fetch. After making the panels at warp speed, we were able to settle the sheep and carry on with a decent run. My plan for the next day was to give a few redirects and protect the top end points. Sad to say, on her second run the sheep ran off their mark, way down the hill and hid themselves under the porch of the little cabin on the field while Stella was still early on her outrun. Meanwhile, I was ready with the redirects I promised myself but there was no need as she took a perfect route. At the top she looked for sheep and seeing nothing she cast wider. Meantime I looked behind me, hoping for a rerun but none was offered. Next I gave a return whistle, as I suspected Stella to be at the set out by now. Many whistles and shouts found her return to the field where it was obvious she had started to back track the outrun. I directed her towards the hidden stock where quickly she startled them at the cabin. It was off to the races again! Skillfully she made the fetch panels and proceeded round the field being tested by several of the packet. Sadly, the pen did not happen this time. Turns out her score was not nearly good enough even had we made the pen to place in the top five. All in all I was very pleased with this youngster’s effort. Hopefully maturity and additional experience will bring better results in years to come.

My first run on the field with Monty was in the heat of the afternoon when the sheep were at their crankiest. He too came inside the debris on the field but the sheep stayed put as he lifted them well. He responded beautifully to my stops & flank whistles. The sheep constantly leaned on him down the fetch changing directions as I asked him to defend. We narrowly missed the fetch and used valuable time convincing the sheep to move round the drive. In the shedding ring I stirred up the sheep far too much trying to force and opening. Eventually we got a good shed but far too much time was used so the pen did not happen. The next day’s run was similar to the first with the heat and testing sheep. Apparently I asked too much direct forward movement from the dog and this ate up time on the course again. Having watched some the experienced western pros I plan on flicking him around at Meeker to get a better result. At least the shed was an improvement allowing additional time for the pen. Unfortunately time ran out before accomplishment. Amanda pointed out I didn’t use enough dog at the pen and it’s true. I just didn’t know Monty well enough to tell if he could take the pressure without a grip. Amanda assures me he can. I will try to improve this too at Meeker. Keep in mind, this was our first trial together. My timing with him needs refinement.

Yes, I’m impatient too!

Editor’s Note: Amanda seems all too slow about getting in her updates, doesn’t she? Perhaps a good public flogging will encourage her to be more timely! As most of you probably know already, she and Roz were the reserve champions at Soldier Hollow. But we need some more details, and hopefully we’ll get them soon. In the meantime, I have a couple of blog entries from Barbara Ray, written from when she was on her way out to Soldier Hollow. (I’m a little behind, because I spent the weekend at Donald McCaig’s sheepdog trial–great fun, but a black hole as far as Internet and cell service goes!)

From Barbara, 9/2/2011: I am very nervous blogging (Editor’s Note: This word was sent to me as “blobbing,” which I really loved and almost left as is. The visual of Barbara, Amanda, and Bev blobbing along is terrific!) alongside my sisters Amanda and Beverly. For starters, they have twice my I.Q. and I write as if English were my third language. Then there are the little buttons on this phone which increase my already huge number of typos. Heather, please cover up my mistakes.

Predeparture days were hurried and not without trouble. I had to market and deliver my lambs plus buy and pick up a new bull as well as sell the old bull. Ewe flock and cows had to be put on fresh pasture so they would not cause trouble while I’m away. All this is an excuse for not noticing Stella was in season till I found her tied with Monty.

9/3/2011: My trek to Utah was not without its problems. On day two I had a blow out most likely caused by debris thrown by a passing tractor trailer on I-29. Turns out this interstate has been closed due to flooding for months. The nice guys at the tire shop gave me new directions. Meanwhile the dogs enjoyed a break from the bouncing and got some much desired exercise. I finally arrived safely late Tuesday night. Robin French and Dick & Cheryl Williams were already there. We all want our dogs to acclimate to the 7000′ altitude. Tomorrow I join Amanda at Shauna Gourley’s to work dogs.

9/4/2011: Fantastic workout for all. Shauna trailered 15 range ewes to an alfalfa field and we all fetched sheep back and forth. Monty’s loyalty was tested as we picked up sheep while Amanda was setting with Dorrie in high season. He looked her way but took an immediate redirect. As we were on route back to Shauna’s a school crossing guard jumped right out in front of me. I was unable to stop before the intersection so made the wrong decision to ease on through. I got a ticket from the cop and a finger from the crossing guard.