Thursday, September 10, 2009

Steamboat Stockdog Challenge 2009 report

The Steamboat Stockdog Challenge was a lot of fun. Some excellent dogs and handlers were there, and the range ewes were TOUGH! On the last day, the open course consisted of shedding off three of six sheep and then penning the remaining three, which proved to be quite a challenge! Only two teams completed the course, but most handlers enjoyed the challenge.

The open ranch class had a fairly long outrun (maybe 275-300 yards) and quite a long drive away. After our last run, I decided to retire Craig. He's 11, after all. He doesn't hear very well anymore and he has gotten to the same point on the course on his last four runs. He overheats easily (was wobbly again after his runs). And he just can't cover the sheep like he used to. He used to be lightning fast! I actually wish I'd ended his career on a stronger note and not waited until he really showed me he isn't up to it anymore, but I kept thinking he'd be okay until the end of the year. But he's ready now...seeing him unable to really cover the sheep this weekend (partly because I think he didn't hear my commands very well and partly because he is slowing down) is what cemented it for me. He knows when he isn't getting the job done and he deserves to not be put through that. He's taught me a lot over the past two years and will enjoy his time on the couch now...

Taz did a fantastic outrun on his first run. He ran nice and wide and did not need any redirects! Hooray! The judge, the inimitable Derek Fisher, actually scored his outrun better than Craig's—a first! His lift was decent and his fetch was a bit fast. As usual, we gained better control the closer we got to the post. Went around just fine and then had a bit of overflanking during the drive. When it went on too long for me to stand it, we retired. Derek said all Taz really needs is a better stop and we'd be fine. So that's my bad—I've known this for a little while, and I guess I really need to prioritize working on that a bit more.

That evening, I was walking my dogs with Cathy, Linda, and Lisbeth, and their dogs, and we heard gunshots being fired in the distance. Most of the dogs were fine, but Taz kept wanting to run away back to my truck. Every ten seconds or so, I had to tell him "that'll do" to keep him with me. But apparently that was too long a time frame, because I looked down after watching Linda's Fly playing with a toy to find Taz gone. No one had seen him take off. Unfortunately, none of us was wearing a whistle at the time either, so the four of us began calling him as loudly as we could. I raced back to my truck to see if he'd made it back there, and someone spotted him off to my right. Thank doG! I grabbed him and put all the dogs up. Yikes, that was scary!

So the next day, right before we were scheduled to run (we were the last team in the running order), what do we hear? Yup, gunshots. This was on top of the thunder that had been rumbling all day. Taz jumped on the end of his leash with every shot. I knew he'd lost his head completely , so why I didn't just scratch I'll never know. I guess I thought maybe once he saw the sheep he'd be okay.

He wasn't. I set him up and sent him to the right, and he took a couple of steps and stopped as though he'd been, well, shot. I gave him another command and he was off again, until he heard another shot and stopped short again. I went out with him to encourage him on to pick up the sheep, but he stopped several times, each time in response to a gunshot. I knew he was terrified, but I thought it was better to at least pick up the sheep before leaving the field. He did eventually get them, and he drove them back to the exhaust pen nicely, but OH MY GOD!!! After all that work on his outrun, I am so afraid it is ruined again now! What was I thinking running him under such conditions before his outrun was rock solid again? I am an idiot!

At least I am going to see Scott for a few lessons next week. Though I don't relish wasting any more lessons with him working on Taz's outrun, at least he can help me fix it again if need be. SIGH...With any luck, Taz will forget about that (or simply associate it with the shots and not generalize to all of his outruns) and be fine. We'll see.

I am bringing him to Meeker this afternoon and will try to exhaust with him over the weekend some to get him working again—hopefully that will help with damage control. I am excited to see some great dogs and handlers working at Meeker and will take pictures to post here next week :)

In the meantime, I'll leave you with a few photos from the Steamboat trial to whet your appetites...

Dan Keeton's York

Larry Adams and Mirk shedding

Cathy Balliu's Dan

Nancy Penley's Hobbs

Melinda Brenimer's Finn

Emil Luedecke shedding with Spot

Mike Hanley's Streak

For more photos of the Steamboat Stockdog Challenge, take a look here.


Tansy said...

Interesting about the gunshots. Tansy doesn't like thunder (just uncomfortable, not panicky) but ignores it when working (a familiar field, that is), so I'd have thought the same you did with Taz.

Many ear rubs to Craig. Look forward to your post about Meeker - did you set out?

NRhodes said...

Hm, you know parts of these things would make nice "in review" material ;)

Samantha ~ Holly and Zac ~ said...

I had a read of your blog the other day but was having probls with some blogs so i gave up.

Happy retirement to Craig....

Poor Taz, i hope it doesn't effect him in the future. It is horrible when they are scared of things, Holly is scared of horses and cows. Zac only seems to be really scared of one thing... boats, we don't know why, he really hates them.

Have a great Sunday... :-)

Laura said...

I didn't get a chance to work my dogs at all at Meeker, but fortunately Taz does not seem to be too horribly affected by the gunshot run. I've worked him a couple of times since then, and he has been fine. Phew!

Hopefully I'll get to the Meeker post soon, plus a couple of others in the works!