Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rocky Ewe part 2

Day 1 of the trial ended and I returned to Olympia and the hostel. After Indian food, I settled in for some reading in the common room, chatted with the proprietor and some of the guests, and then got another early start. On Sunday, we were set to run in Ranch, which involves a driving component but has a much shorter outrun and drive than Pro-Novice. I arrived early, expecting that Ranch would run in the morning as it had Saturday morning, but I hadn’t read the trial directions closely enough: The class order was to be reversed, starting with Open, then Pro-Novice, Nursery, and finally Ranch at the end of the day.

I settled in and watched the runs, and chatted with other handlers. Diane Pagel asked me to hold onto one of her puppies, Reba, a red and white pup who’s about 4 months old. She looks like a twin of Rodeo, almost the same color, with a split face that’s a mirror image of his, right down to spots on the nose. Diane wanted someone else to hold on to her so she wouldn’t be so much of a ‘momma’s girl,’ as she put it. I had her for a couple of hours and she did quite well, not pining away for Diane at all. Rodeo also accepted her pretty well, with little apparent jealousy.

There was some excitement during one of the Pro-Novice runs. A single split away from the other three sheep and wandered into the area where the handlers were watching with their dogs, and quite close to the gate that led to the parking lot. Someone noticed that it was open and ran to shut it. The lone sheep eventually settled into standing next to a trailer parked between it and the gate. Someone stood with a leashed dog on the opposite side from where we stood to help prevent it from breaking towards the gate.

I got the bright idea that I could use Rodeo to pick the sheep off the trailer and drive it back away from the gate. I should have known better, but in the moment I decided to try. I gave rodeo an away flank to put him between the sheep and the trailer, and he didn’t want to take it – not surprising, given the close quarters. So I tried again and heard a voice behind me say “call your dog off, please” and I realized that I was making the situation worse, not better, so I called him off, but it was too late. The sheep broke past the other handler and headed towards the gate.

That seemed harmless, except that there was no latch on the gate, and the sheep nudged it open and headed into the parking lot, pursued by several handlers but no dogs. I heard someone say “Just one experienced dog is all it would take.” But the Open runs were done and the dogs were put away or on the road home. I stood back and chatted with some of the handlers, trying to hide my chagrin and act appropriately deferential. I’d overstepped my bounds in the presence of handlers more experienced than I, and I felt bad about it. But there was no harm done as a few minutes later the handlers returned with the sheep grasped firmly between them, and order was restored.

I told Bob Hickman, who was directing the course, that I was available to help out and he assigned me to set out again for part of the nursery class. Once again I spent most of the time at the post, but there just three of us this time and two dogs, so Rodeo had to do a bit more. I stationed him again on the pressure side and a few times he had to flank to keep the sheep near me, and he did really well. Another handler joined us and volunteered to take my spot at the post while Rodeo and I drove the sheep to her from the pen, but it only lasted one run because her dog wouldn’t sit still when the competing dog arrived for the lift and wound up interfering with the run. So Rodeo and I resumed the task.

When I left, Ron Fisher, who was sorting the sheep, commented that he felt sorry for the handlers in Ranch who were coming up next, because the sheep were getting a little ornery after two days of trialing. I told him we were running but I didn’t mind too much: “If it turns into a wreck, at least we’ll have an excuse,” I said with a smile. He wished us luck and we Rodeo and I marched back along the edge of the field to the handler’s post. 

(to be continued)


  1. Be easier on yourself, and the chagrin-part, as only two handlers wanted to help get the errant sheep back with his/her flock. You offered to assist, and therefore deserve thanks . The wise-crack comment came from someone in a small minority of bystanders who feel a need to make an inappropriate remark, regardless whether it fits the situation. I am impressed with the Rodeo-Jim team at set-out. Very nice work, and not easy for many dogs.

  2. Thanks! I appreciate the encouragement. In the end I didn't feel too bad about what happened with the single. Certainly no one knew quite what to do.

    By the way, you're listed as anonymous...