Saturday, April 11, 2009

Icebreaker SDT report + more!

This has been a crazy week for me, so I haven't had a chance to tell the rest of this story. Better late than never, though. After I picked up Taz from Scott's, we drove down through Montana and Idaho into Utah for the Icebreaker sheep dog trial. The weather was not so good for the drive, with rain and freezing rain and snow in the passes. It was a nervous drive, but a beautiful one.

I arrived in the town of Tremonton at about 7 and met Elaine and her sister (and about half the people competing in the trial) at the hotel. Taz and I had a proper happy little reunion in the hotel room. It would have been quite embarrassing if anyone had witnessed it. ;-) I think he was pretty happy to be back with me, and I was certainly ecstatic to have him back with me! When we drove to the trial field the following morning . . . the check engine light came back on in my truck. Ack! I couldn't do anything about it right then, but at least Elaine and I were following each other, so if it broke down completely I wouldn't be abandoned. Thankfully, it hadn't come on during my drive down to Utah—that would have been a really bad place to break down!

The trial was held on a huge field of turned earth. There was about two inches of snow covering it, and another inch of crusty ice on top of that. A strong icy wind was whipping, and the forecast was for a snowy rainy mixture (fortunately, it never did precipitate, though). The temps hovered around freezing, but with the arctic wind, it was much colder than that. This was, without a doubt, the coldest trial I have ever been to. That's not such a huge claim, as I haven't been to all that many trials. But Elaine agreed that this was the coldest trial she'd ever been to, and, well, she's been to a zillion! Most of us drove down to face the field and stayed warm watching the action in our vehicles. I really felt for the poor set-out crew. Brr!

I planned to trial Craig in pro-novice. I entered Taz, too, just for fun, to see what he'd do. I knew it was much too soon to be serious about competing with him yet, but I admit I was very curious about what he'd do. It turned out not to be such a good idea (and one Scott and Jenny were fairly horrified about when I told them about it after the fact). The sheep for the pro-novice course were set about 350 yards away. This was a BIG pro-novice course, with a full drive and cross drive that was the same for the open class. The wind was blowing back onto the handler's post, so the dogs couldn't hear much. I decided to send Taz to the left, as his come bye had looked slightly better than his away at Scott's (of course, this could just as likely have been due to the draws or any other factors specific to Scott's field). He cast out nicely, but stopped after about 100 yards to look back at me. Since Taz isn't taking my whistles yet, I yelled as loud as I could to come bye. He continued to look at me, and then turned to continue his flank for maybe another 30 yards. Then he stopped and looked at me again. I shouted another come bye, but he couldn't hear me. At this point I left the post to help him, but I was hampered by how difficult it was to walk/run in that crusty snow. I tried to talk to him, but he just couldn't hear me and eventually he just ran straight toward the sheep and moved them back to the set-out pen. By the time I finally hoofed my way up there, he was just hanging out, and the set-out crew reported that he just held the sheep at the pen once he reached it. I am glad he didn't try any funny business up there, but mostly I am mad at myself for trying to do way too much way too soon. It wasn't a good experience for him or for our partnership, and I felt awful knowing I'd had him for one day and already let him down.

I didn't have too much time to reflect about this, though, as I still had to run Craig in the class. I brought Tazzy back to the truck and got out Craig. Craig spotted the sheep up at the top immediately while we waited at the post. I sent him to the right, and his outrun and lift were very nice. He was maybe not quite as wide as he could have been, but that is Craig. His fetch was a bit to far to the left to make the panels, but his pace was good. We had a nice turn around the post and a dead straight, sure drive away through the panels. The cross drive was high, and we missed the cross drive panels, but the turn back was nice. Many dogs had trouble there, as the draw to the exhaust pens was very strong. Craig brought them nicely to the pen, where we timed out.

I scratched Taz the following day (obviously), and Craig and I ran first. This run was similar to the previous day's, but much more speeded up and with a bit less control. The sheep just wanted to run, and I had trouble getting Craig to slow down and take my flanks. We missed the drive away panels, but the cross drive was better on this day. And since we rocketed through the course, we had a bit more time at the end . . . and we penned the sheep! I was pretty happy about that—all the penning work we've done over the past few weeks seems to have paid off! This is the first time I've ever penned at a trial with either dog :)

Craig and I got second place on both days. Hooray! But the real winners at this trial were the sheep. They were among the toughest I've seen! They were older range ewes from three different flocks who had been together a few weeks. They didn't play well together; they challenged the dogs; sometimes they just lied down and gave up. Keeping them moving was the key, but maintaining control was difficult. Craig handled them very nicely, but all the scores were pretty low at this trial.

It was a great trial, well-organized and smoothly run and lots of fun. I like the folks in Utah; they're a friendly and welcoming bunch. Saturday afternoon, I had to miss the open runs and leave the trial early in order to have my poor truck looked at by the Toyota dealer so I wouldn't risk driving home over the mountains with the check engine light on.

It was not good news. Something about spark plugs and misfiring cylinders and ignition coils and packs. The dealer didn't have all the parts, so he fixed what he could and admonished me to get it taken care of as quickly as I could once I got home. Eep, that sounds ominous! So, hundreds of dollars later, we drove home the following day in mostly good weather with the exception of snow over the Vail pass and rain in the Denver area. At least we made it!

Unfortunately, my truck died at the end of my street the next time I drove it, and I had to have it towed to a mechanic in Boulder. He patched it up for a few more hundred dollars, but it was still running rough. The mechanic warned me that I should have some other procedure done (by this time, I just stopped paying attention to the details), which would likely reveal the need to replace some other spendy part. Good lord! What was going on here? My truck was falling apart overnight!

So I cleaned it out and cleaned it up and drove straight to the local Toyota dealer. And traded in my beloved 2000 Tacoma for a brand-spanking-new 2009 Tacoma. It is way more than I can afford, but it's so nice and won't threaten to break down on these long trips to trials and clinics and Canada! Hooray for that!

And hooray for Craig for doing so well at the Icebreaker trial and hooray for Taz being home!


Darci said...

Congrats on your new truck! Glad you got home before the old one died. Those mountain passes aint no place to break down in the cold! Arent the folks in UT a great bunch of folks! I miss UT and a lot of them.
Congrats on Craigs run too! What a great feeling isnt it! Kinda makes up a little for the bad feelings of running Taz?
Live and learn I say, Im sure all is forgiven, and he is just happy to be back home with you. If it were me, I dont think I could have stop myself either. It'd be like getting a new car and not being able to drive it off the lot. If Ive got the keys, Im gonna drive it! LOL You all will get it worked out just fine Im sure!

Laura said...

Thanks Darci :-)))