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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Coronas in the Desert

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I'll have to get Echo a pair of these.

Dianne graciously took us out to the desert today. It was Colleen, Katy and I ... along with a 12-pack of Coronas and some "beer chips" and "bloody mary chips" ... quite interesting.

The desert was tons of fun! Dianne worked a few dogs and it was great to see how helpful a big hill can be, not only in kicking a dog's outrun out, but for the handler (and everyone else) to see what's happening the entire time.

I was as nervous as can be, not knowing what to expect from Echo. I haven't sent her this far yet, and when the sheep no longer care to participate, they run ... and keep running ... When only four of the nine sheep were set out, I calmed down a bit knowing I wouldn't have to sell my truck if Echo decided to drive the sheep back to Idaho herself.

The outruns didn't turn to be nearly as pretty as they will eventually, but I was very happy that she went the distance, kicked out further than I expected, never lost her sheep, and listened to every stupid thing I told her to do. But moreso than that, what I was really surprised at was watching her drive the sheep when she was a good distance from me as if she'd been doing it her whole life.

If this video hasn't been removed, here is a clip from today:

I can't wait to go do it again!

Happy tails,


Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Video Training Journal

I am sorry I didn't think of doing something like this with Echo from the time she was a pup. Here are a series of videos of Denise Wall's Stilhope May. These videos are very well done and I think they are an excellent training tool.

8 months old:

10 months old:

11 months old:

14 months old:

17 months old: Her first trial

18 months old:

22 months old:

Denise, thank you for making these videos available for all of us to learn from. If you have any issue with my embedding these on my blog, please let me know.

Happy tails,

Friday, October 24, 2008

Panty Raid...

While cleaning up the soap and fuzzies, etc., from the other night's escapade, I realized Echo popped some lovely holes into a pair of my panties that were in my hamper. Ok ... it was too late to scold her for it. She'd done it before. She knows she's not supposed to.

But she just can't help herself.

Last night, I got home, let all three dogs out for a while, ate my dinner, fed them, and then took all three dogs (that sounds weird ... "all three" ... like it's a whole pack or something!) into my bedroom while I answered a few emails and returned a couple of phone calls.

When I got done, I turned around and saw cute little Echo laying on my bed. When she saw me turn around, her ears went back and she wagged wagged wagged her cute little tail. I stood up and walked toward her to go schnuggle with my little schnuggle muffins.

And that's when I saw it.

My favorite brand new pair of purple panties! Between her little paws! They are no longer panties. They would be more useful as a headband to the Jolly Green Giant.

And then it happened. I finally got mad at Echo for the first time in her little life. No, I didn't smack her. I didn't grab her by her little throat and hang her up on the wall like I wanted to. I concentrated and put on my best zen face, and communicated with that purple blob on my bed. And the the most amazing thing happened. That purple headband started to quiver, and the like a UFO, it hovered about 4" off my bed. Echo stared at it suspicously ... right up until that giant purple head band started winging around in a circle like a band saw and came flying toward her, and the end of the headband connected to her nose on each spin ... *whap* *whap* *whap* ... and she went running for cover! Things started crashing down around her, and her crate seemed like the best place for her to hide, so there she slept quietly for the rest of the night.

So THAT's what an animal communicator is! I think I'm going to start taking classes! I used to have a friend that could talk to animals ... dead or alive ... sometimes alive, and then dead. Maybe I'll call her up and see if she can teach me how to do it.

Happy tails,

Bedlam Farm

I didn't realize Jon Katz had a blog.

It's not very informative or interesting (much like his books, memoirs, articles, etc.) but the photos are pretty.

I wish I had a DSLR.

One day ... one day ...

Happy tails,

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Creative Fetching

Zip needs to learn how to do this.

Happy tails,


Still ... well ... Stilwell!

"Victoria! Come rescue us! We have a dog and we have NO idea how to take care of it! It pees and poos all over the house, it obnoxiously jumps on people and barks at them when they come in the door, it can't walk on a leash, it hates other dogs, it hates my husband and won't let him anywhere near me, and it steals food from the kids when they're eating!"

How many times have you watched this show? Does that about wrap it up? I'll tell you what ... if I had a monster like that living in my house ... I'd move out. That's just nuts, and I cannot believe how many people allow this stuff to continue. Don't get me wrong ... I am sure some of it is embellished for tv sensationalism, however, there are certain things you just can't drum up (or I would imagine want to) for t.v. - i.e. setting up a "hidden" camera in the house, leaving, and watching the dog tear the house apart and "pee and poo" all over the place -- on the couch, on the floor, on the carpet, mark the bed, the dressers, every doorway, etc.

In the "observation" period where Victoria just watches the interactions between the family and the dog, it is quite obvious (not to mention scary) that these dog owners don't have a clue. There was one episode where a woman had a chihuahua or some such ankle-biter that would not let anyone touch it long enough to put clip a leash to the collar. It would turn into a spinning biting freakazoid! So the owner would have to call her mother who lives around the corner, have her mother come over and the two of them would have to corner the dog, one throw a blanket over it and the other to distract it while they pick it up so they don't get bit.

In my house, that dog would be better known as "Football."

There was another episode of a couple and two greyhounds. They babied the dogs to death, and in the morning, the wife would come in to the kitchen (where they had the dogs blocked off from the rest of the house) and have to clean up a giant "pee and poo" mess every day -- sometimes several times a day. Now tell me why ... oh why ... did these people need to be told that those dogs needed to go out more often? How could they clean that crap up (literally) ever day, day after day, and not realize that the dogs needed to go out more often? Hello?

Watching the show makes me wonder what Victoria's home life is like. When she gets home from work, does she go into the house, kiss her husband, flop down on the couch as he pours her a drink, and say, "Dear, you should have seen the morons I had to deal with today! Let me tell you!" Oh to be a fly on that wall!

On a different topic, Jag is doing fine today. He's not limping or anything and I am so glad. I hate seeing any of my dogs in pain, but him especially. That dog has me wrapped around him big giant hairy popcorn-smelling paw.

Oh and on another note ... I let Echo sleep in my bedroom the other night. I was quickly reminded why I don't do that. I woke up to little itty bitty pieces of soap strewn about my carpet (I dropped the soap in the shower, failed to pick it up because that would require bending over -- an activity I am obviously not fond of -- and she apparently found it), interspersed with blops of fuzz balls from what used to be the stuffing of one of my comforters, the bowl of 1/2 eaten soup (that was on my desk) from the night before was licked clean, the rest of my soda spilled all over my desk, and the toilet bowl bush handle chewed to bits for about the first six inches. Some of these items were mysteriously left laying near my other dogs. I think she was trying to throw me off her trail. That's it! I'm calling Victoria! You're in trouble, young lady!

Happy tails,

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I worked Echo in the small pasture Monday night. She was kinda naughty. She wanted to do things her way and I ended up fighting her almost the whole time. I was asking her to do rather difficult stuff, though, and she was stressing a bit. We started out by putting all of the sheep in the freestanding pen. I let a few out and they stuck to the outside of it (there's no solid sides on it -- you can see right through all of it). So I helped her peel the sheep off and we drove them to the opposite end of the pasture. It wasn't pretty, but I think she was getting the idea. The sheep continually wanted to bend around her and she continually wanted to let them and flank around them, and she was getting annoyed that I wasn't letting her do that. Later on, I would call her off, let her do an outrun, flank her a few times, and then we would set it up again. Hopefully she will eventually learn to enjoy driving. She's good at it once things are moving. (Gee, isn't that original?)

Tuesday night, Colleen and Katy came over and practiced. The sheep ... broken into two groups ... were quite flighty. I will be glad to get my regular ewes back after the trial, and get rid of these lambs - other than Mr. Pepe Lay Ewe. :-)

So we are hanging out in the house in front of the fire, having a couple of beers, couple of shots of some good whiskey, and it's getting to be about 10:00 -- and for my neighbors' sake, I bring my dogs in so they aren't barking at some ridiculous hour of the night. I go out to their kennel run, open it up, let them out, go into the house, open the door, and so smartly announce, "INCOMING!" Three dogs come bounding in the house and meet up with Reena (who was protecting her Findley) and Scout. Reena and Jag immediately get into it. Ms. Rocket Scientist (that'd be me) has completely forgotten that these two have gotten into it before. We break them apart, and Jag starts screaming and will not put his front leg down. His screaming excites my other dogs who are now coming over to "help" by biting him. So I put those two away and tend to Jag. He got his front leg bit and I'm sure it hurt like heck. He's walking better on it today, but still limping. Poor guy. I feel like a heel. Sorry, Jag.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Lightbulb Moment

Went out to Dianne's yesterday to work Echo. Katy was there with Scout, and Jaenne came out with Mo. Katy went first and I videotaped a bit of their run. I put music to it, and attempted to upload it to YouTube and Photobucket, but both places rejected it because of copyright issues. If anyone knows what I am doing wrong and can help me fix this, I would appreciate it. I've uploaded other videos with music on them. Is there a certain type of music that has royalties? How does this work?

I am starting to work on driving with Echo. She is quite comfortable on the away side, so I let her go to that side for confidence, but I am also intermingling some work with her on the come bye side and trying to make it as positive experience as possible. I need to focus on using "there" instead of "lie down" ... and then Dianne explained something to me that made my driving with Zip make all the sense in the world. She basically told me never to let Echo go to head when driving. That didn't make sense to me, so I said, "Well how do I get the sheep back here to set it up again?" She said, "Call her off and do an outrun." She said that by letting her go to head while driving to fetch them back, you're setting yourself up for a battle because the dog will always anticipate that happening. The dog needs to understand that while driving, they get to go to the hip and to the shoulder but never past that. Make the fetch an outrun and a completely separate exercise. It all makes perfect sense. So I'll be practicing working on this.

I took some photos of Dianne's dogs for her website (Zorro, Andy, Annie, and May) and sent them all to Ellie. I can't wait to see how the website eventually turns out!

Happy tails,

Saturday, October 18, 2008

"Blondie & Doll"

Colleen, Jaenne, Katy and I went to Janie's house to set up for the AHBA trial. When we got there, two guys were already there. Their names are Jack and ___. Jack has a very nice Border Collie named Spike. They came to practice the course. The problem was ... the course was not set up yet. So, as women do all the time, we put the guys to work. Despite that it was only 10:00 a.m., beer was appropriate - although I have a hard time calling Keystone Light "beer." I realized that I am starting to reach for Echo first pretty consistently when I need a dog to get something done now. She's been really good, and can move anything. The crew got both courses in the big field set up, and then Jaenne worked Kip, Katy worked Scout, and Colleen worked Reena. When Janie got back from her meeting, she brought the work crew some pizza. After we ate, Jack worked Spike. In the meantime, several people set up the AHBA arena course in the smaller arena.

The guys were pretty funny ... despite the fact that they came up to pay to practice the course a couple of times and instead got put to work ... they had a great attitude about it. They both had the hots for Blondie (Katy), and Jack even asked me like 3 times, "Is she married?" And when I would reply, "Yes ..." ... he would follow that up with "Happily?" The last time he asked me, I just turned around and yelled to Katy, "HEY KATY ... ARE YOU MARRIED?" Jack turned six shades of red.

The down home country boys ... funny how they come up with little "pet" names for women they don't even know. Kinda patronizing, really, especially after it's been happening all day. I can't count the number of times I said, "It's Darling ..." in response to being called "Doll."

At least I wasn't being called "Blondie" (for obvious reasons). That one was reserved for Katy.

All in all, a fun day and a great way to get the work done.

Here's Jack & "Blondie":


I think I have another couple of photos and will upload them when I get a chance.

Happy tails,

Pepe's Plight

Jaenne came over to practice last night. Ann also stopped by. Took Echo out to take a look at what sheep I have here. She is about to outrun the entire length of Russ' field now, and does it well. However, if I am standing on Russ' house side of the pasture and send her, the away side is beautiful, she covers nicely, but then the sheep draw to the east fence and she needs to go "comebye" in order to pull them off there. Instead, she holds them on the fence while walking up and bringing them to me. When she gets close enough to me, she will peel them off the fence. I need to change up the routine ... go stand on the opposite fence, etc. Oh the drawbacks of a small place.

Anyway, she is getting to be very trustworthy with me. I am finding that I am using her more and more. I had her bring the sheep to me, I grabbed Pepe and schnuggled him all up and put him through his daily kissings. By the time I was done with this, the rest of the sheep had wondered off, so I again sent Echo to go pick them up and bring them back to poor little lonesome Pepe. She did wonderfully. I had her hold all the sheep to us while we discussed them and inspected them ... figuring out which ones were Ann's, which ones were pregnant, etc.

In the meantime, Jaenne was busy shoving other sheep in and out of the trailer, getting them used to it for the trial. She had the nasty black ewe in a pen and she was very reluctant to come out. So Jaenne and I used the opportunity to introduce our young dogs (Jaenne used Mo -- who is looking great, by the way!) to a tought, tight situation. Taking the dogs by the collar and showing them how to scoop sheep out of a pen like that. Even doing so, the black ewe still wasn't buying it, so I gave Echo a "ssskkkkkiiiiitttt 'er" and Echo was all too happy to oblige. Good girl, Echo!

Putting proper bite work on the list of stuff to ask Dianne about.

Off to Janie's today to go set up the course and put the sheep through it. Both Echo and Zip will be going with me. I can see how Echo's outrun goes in Janie's field.

More later.

Happy tails,

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Repeater

Something interesting happened last night. Katy came over and we videotaped eachother working dogs. I am interested to see how the videotapes come out. It was actually kinda fun, despite the fact that I will have to look at my fat ass live ... on video! Yikes. Scary.

In watching Katy work, I noticed there were times when she would be repeating herself. When I went out to work Zip after her, I am wondering how much I did it ... or didn't do it. She asked me afterwards (something to the effect of), "Do you think that when you watch someone else work before you go work a dog that you're more conscious of the previous person's mistakes?" And yes, I do. So while I may not have repeated myself much THAT time working Zip, I know I do it all the time. I know I start out very calm with "liiiiiie downnnn", which turns into "Lie down!" which turns into "LIE DOWN!!!" .... and I've now said it three times in as many seconds.

And I know I do it with Echo.

A lot.

So I need to start practicing what I preach.

Go to your dog.

Go to your dog.

Go to your dog.

Ok, ok ... I'm going.

I will not repeat myself to my dog.

I will not repeat myself to my dog.

I will not ...

I should have been a comedienne, eh?

I know ... keep your day job.

Happy tails,

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"You don't know what you don't know."

On first glance, that looks pretty insulting, doesn't it? Think about it, though. It's true.

The minute I start to feel like I know what I'm doing, I go to my lesson, and it reminds me that there's a myriad of things I don't know that I didn't know I didn't know. You know?

I recently ran into someone that frequently shoots off at the mouth about all kinds of stuff she has zero experience in ... like ISDS style trials. She's never run in one. She's never trained with anyone who competes in them. She's never trained dogs to the level that would be required to run in one. Yet she is going to tell me that they (all of the trainers I referred her to) are "all" giving her the cold shoulder, and that the low-priced clinic she just put on with her trainer is every bit as good as a clinic put on by one of the big hats -- even though she's never been to a big hat clinic. How do you convince someone that they don't know what they don't know?

Then there is the whole conformation crowd that likes to talk about what a dog's build should look like in order to perform at its maximum working capacity. How does that work? If they have never even so much as seen a real working dog work (this does not include the lovely cutesy trials the ACK puts on), how do they know what goes into building a good working dog? The show crowd talks about working dogs being "rangey" and diseased because working people don't test for the umpteen things show people do, and yet claim that their boxy overcoated short-legged dogs are built to work. So why is it then that the only dogs on the trial field are the rangey, diseased version? Where are all the "properly built" dogs? How can you build something for a purpose you don't yourself use? I guess you don't know what you don't know, eh?

Another example: Sitting at a stockdog trial. My motto is, "You can't learn anything with your mouth open." So I sit and watch ... and listen. To my right is a novice talking to a big hat. The novice asks the big hat a question. While the big hat is trying to respond, he keeps getting interrupted by the novice who insists on sharing their wisdom with the big hat. The big hat stops talking, and eventually slinks away. The novice is none the wiser. A newcomer takes the big hat's place and proceeds to ask the novice some questions about what is happening on the trial field. The novice proceeds to give the newcomer their profound wisdom, most of which is horribly inaccurate information. But ... you don't know what you don't know, eh?

Witnessing all this makes me very conscious about when to speak and when not to. I am learning a whole lot more with my mouth shut.

Happy tails,

One ... two ... three!

That's it. Three dogs. That's all I got. Just three. It's almost boring! See? This is exactly how I get myself in trouble. It's times like this where I come up with the crazy notion that I have time for *cough cough* a puppy. But ... not this time. Nope. Not me. No puppies. Puppies are a pain in the ass. Cute pains in the ass, but pains in the ass all the same.

I am also prone to picking up rescues out of the shelter and working with them and finding them homes. Too bad I've completely burned out on that as well. There are some things I've seen around here that I am just not too keen on, so I will leave rescue to those who thrive on it.

Echo. She's blowing my doors off. I have been looking for a really nice little female, and I think I have found her. First off, she's a wonderful dog to be around. She reminds me ... off stock ... a lot of Kiva. On stock, she's the opposite. Phenominal! She bends off me nicely, she handles pressure in stride, she's is getting out off her stock very nicely now, is getting comfortable lying down off balance, has the cajones to "ssssskiiiiittttt 'em!" and is tolerating anything I am putting on her.

We went out on Monday to work at Dianne's. Her outrun is really coming together. Her away side is still far better than her comebye, but that seems like the perfect topic for the clinic. I am not stressing over it, and actually, I think I figured out what is causing it. The way my place is set up, if I send Echo on the away side, she has no fence helping her on the fetch. If I send her on the comebye side, she has the fence to use. So now I have to be conscious of where I am standing when I send her to get the sheep so she has to cover on that side.

Another thing that was helping her to understand that she has to cover is the trailing work we were doing. We have the trial coming up in a couple of weeks and these sheep aren't comfortable going in and out of the trailer yet. So Colleen and Jaenne have been coming over helping me shove sheep in and out of the trailer. And I've been using Echo. I know I can do it with Zip. Doing this with Echo has shown me where my timing is way off and Zip has just been correcting it because of his eye. He's a great cover dog. Echo is more free flowing and isn't so stuck on covering every little thing that moves, so it's my job to tell her to. So my timing is coming in to play.

In any event, she did great. She's learning to "get outta that" ... and learning a "keep" from a "get" and doing really well. Some stuff, Zip does because I tell him to. With Echo, she seems to figure out why I am telling her to do it, and learning to do it on her own in just a couple of tries. It's amazing.

We had the sheep in great position last night, and we're playing the waiting game -- waiting for them to *look* into the trailer so I could put some pressure on their asses and shove them in. Echo is oh-so-slowly getting one step closer and closer as if in slow motion. She got so close to them, she ... in slow motion ... *gripped* a hock. She didn't grip it, though. She put her mouth on it, in slow motion, and I, of course, could stand there and do nothing but laugh! The sheep moved!

We have one black ewe that is not going with the program. She started to challenge Echo last night and I gave her a "ssskkkiiiittt 'em!" and she was happy to oblige! I love having that final step to work with. Good girl, Echo Monster!

Before the trailer fun, I am also messing with driving, getting her comfortable behind her sheep. It's coming along very nicely. It's better and better each time we do it. Something Dianne pointed out to me ... I was always driving with her on my right side ... Echo's comfortable "away" side. So now I am switching that up a bit and starting out with her on the comebye side and asking her to do small flanks and cover ... driving, effectively, in a square. It's working very nicely. She was covering beautifully at the trailer after we were doing this exercise. In fact, she was then covering the comebye side and almost letting the "away" side slip.

The old kaleidescope effect at its finest.

Happy tails,

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

There once was a dog named Kiva ...

Kiva. She was such a good little girl, and I failed her miserably.

My mother passed away at the end of 2005. My ex-husband knew I would be impossible to console, so in an effort to make me feel better, he took me to a breeder's house and we picked out a cute little puppy and named her Kiva. Why Kiva? My mother loved the Hopi culture, so I did a bit (ok, a ton) of research, and went back and looked through some of our photos from our trip to the Hopi reservation and remembered how my mother's face lit up when we got to see a kiva.

"ki·va (kv) n. - An underground or partly underground chamber in a Pueblo village, used by the men especially for ceremonies or councils."

Kiva was black and white (mostly black) with a big wide white blaze, one blue eye, one brown, prick ears, and adorable. A personality second to none. Oh yeah ... here's a picture of her in my front yard.

(By the way, if you see this photo anywhere else, it's mine.) (Oh, and if you find the photo on someone's webpage -- let them know there's a typo ... right where they were looking to fling an insult.)

Poor Kiva. She had a very "rough start" in life. No, it wasn't her living conditions, as she never wanted for anything. It wasn't the way she was treated because we loved her dearly. She's an awesome little buddy of a dog. She had it rough having to put up with me crying on her all the time while I mourned the death of my mother. Yes, a very rough start indeed.

When she got old enough, I attempted to start her on stock. She preferred to eat my sheep at every chance she got. She wasn't just a gripper. She was a hanger-onner, go-for-a-rider. She left many of my sheep a mess. I couldn't figure her out so I took her to several other trainers, one of which was mine. He was stumped. She seemed to have no natural ability, no sense of balance, no rhyme or reason to her working style, she loved to chase, and had no desire at all to work with the handler.

Kinda like this:

And this:

I was so disappointed. I knew I would have to give her up because I didn't need another pet, was wanting a good breeding female here. She was anything but that.

And then the downward spiral. Oh the mistakes I made.

My first real lambing season. The lambs were coming faster than I had lambing jugs for them. That day, I had been in and out of the house, back and forth to the pasture, putting up new fencing, checking ewes, getting everyone jugged up, building new jugs ... all with Zip right at my heels. One of the times I came in the house, I noticed Zip didn't come with me. It took two seconds to realize that he was in the backyard, and that someone had let Kiva out, and he was busy visiting her as she was in standing heat. It was too late. I was crushed. Now what?

After discussing our options (spay her and place her ... sell her bred ... etc.), and mulling over the situation, and talking to someone who was interested in her, I made the second huge mistake in Kiva's life. I sold her. Pregnant.

The puppies all came out fine. They are as cute as all puppies are. Blue merles and black and whites. I don't know how many of them had their hips tested, but one that did turned out to be pretty severely dysplastic. The good news was that I sold Kiva to someone who dabbles in herding, so surely she would work her and see what her true ability is prior to deciding whether or not to breed her or cull her from her breeding program. And for a second, I was right! Kiva was taken to a big hat clinician out there, and the clinician said, "Take that dog off stock. She's going to kill something." The good news: it validated my training. I couldn't get her to work, and neither could an experienced clinician. The bad news: surely she would be spayed.

Oops. That's not what happened. She plays flyball. And she has a uterus. And if bred to merles, she will produce merles. She must be worth something. Her litters are justified because poor Kiva had a "rough start" in life, so it doesn't matter what her working ability would have ended up to be, it's just assumed that it would have been awesome had it not been for her "rough start" in herding and she's just too "stressed" around sheep to prove her ability! So she just put another litter on the ground. Why? Nobody knows. The sire? Yes, he's a merle. You didn't think I was going to say he's black and white, did you? Silly you.

I just hope the person that is selling the pups isn't advertising them as working dogs. Oh nevermind ... they are being sold to people who don't care about that anyway. And unfortunately ... those people breed, too. A lot.

I am so sorry, Kiva. I understand if you're upset with me. But look on the bright side ... you will have lots of pretty children to keep you company and take care of you when you get old! Some will be a 7 years old ... some will be 6 years old ... some will be 5 years old ... some will be 4 years old ...

Droopy tails,

Friday, October 10, 2008

High Expectations

Colleen and Jaenne came over last night to help me put sheep in and out of the trailer to get them used to it so we don't have any problems this weekend.

First up, Jaenne and Kip. They put sheep in and out, no problem. Then put them in a holding pen, and got another set. Nice calm, easy work.

Next up, Colleen and Reena. Reena was working awesome for Colleen, staying off her sheep, calming her stock, doing a wonderful job, but there was one ewe who would not cooperate.

Then ... Echo. I took her out to Russ' pasture, and we broke off a set to use. While waiting for Colleen, Echo held the sheep up against the fence just beautifully, occasionally coming in and making a mess and covering. It's something we've been practicing so I let her do it. We moved that one set into the smaller pasture with the intention of swinging them right into the front area. Handler error. The group joined Jaenne's other group. So I had to send Echo on an outrun the entire length of the short pasture. She was gorgeous! Got out nice and wide, went as deep as possible, lifted quietly, and fetched like a pro. We then sorted one set off and it came time to call her into the gate. "That'll do, Echo." She came in, the sheep split, and one took off. The chase was on, but she wasn't out of control. She got around her and brought her back. Very nice, little girl.

Then we were working on putting them in the trailer. I have to say, with all the pressure I put on her, and the ridiculous things I was expecting from her (way off-balance flanks, etc.), she put up with it all, took it all in stride and did a great job. We got them all penned but that one black ewe. Note to self: Leave her at home this weekend. The ewe ... not Echo.

Thank you, Echo. You're a wonderful teacher.

Happy tails,

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'

Keep them doggies rollin ...

Well, the weekend is shaping up. I got the running orders all laminated and ready to go. I need to fill up the propane tank tonight because it is going to be COLD this weekend. I think I'll stop and buy a pair of real gloves also. Icicles are very hard to write with.

Ann moved out of the trailer and into a motel. I am so sad. She was probably the best roommate I'll ever have. After I got home from having dinner with her, I went into the trailer to clean it out, and silly me, I should have known better. It was cleaner than when she moved into it. It's all ready to rock and roll. Ann, you're pretty wonderful. I miss you already.

I am wondering if I should take some firewood this weekend. I don't know if there will be any place to build a fire, but I have plenty of wood to burn, and plenty of room to take some up with me. I sent an email to Val to see if I could borrow her firepit, but she must be busy.

Ellie might stop by tonight to work Cedar. I need to switch the trailers around so I can get the stock trailer into the pasture and start moving sheep in and out of it so we don't have any trouble this weekend. Eeek. So much to do.

Better get to work ...

Happy tails,

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Color Freaks Galore!

Red & white, blue merle, red merle, blue & white, tri, blue tri, merle tri, blah blah blah...

At one point, I was hellbent on breeding nice working merles, and was going to trial and campaign them, etc. I was going to prove everyone wrong about them. Merles work, by golly. And I'll have a whole kennel full of them and have working merle puppies. And I would be known for breeding nice working merles.

The one aspect I didn't stop to consider: The Color Freaks!

What are "Color Freaks"? They are the people who talk about breeding for all kinds of abilities, but who honestly care about none of that and are only concerned with how many colored puppies come out. And when they have a litter of the little rainbow bunch, they send out cutesy little emails that say, "Wow! Five red puppies! What a surprise!" Yeah, right. Big shock. You bred a red to a red and got red puppies? No way! How did that happen?

If they see you have a "rare" red merle for sale, they want it so they can breed it to their "wonderful" stud dog. If you tell them that you will not sell the dog's uterus to them, they blend back into the woodwork.

What I've noticed also is that there are SO many Color Freaks out there breeding fancy colors and merles that are nothing more than mediocre dogs that I can clearly see why the working folks don't take them seriously. They get popped out as if they are going out of style -- litter after litter -- but if a parent is imported, they must be worth something.

And if you point out to them that all they are doing is breeding for color, or breeding for the wrong reasons, they are the first to point at another kennel and say, "See? They do it, too!" ... like an 8 year-old on a playground who just got caught picking their nose by the lunchlady, and then pointing at a group of kids who happen to have big noses that would be great for picking. When the the lunchlady warns the group of kids that the 8 year-old booger seeker called them nose pickers and confronts him about it, the nose-picker meekly says to the group of large-nosed kids, "Oh no, that's not what I meant. I love your nose! I know you don't pick your noses. I wish I had a nose like you! Good luck with that nose! It's a very well made nose and probably produces great boogers!" And instead of reflecting on his own behavior, the 8 year-old stomps off pissed off at the lunchlady for squealing on him to the Big Nosers.

Oh, and all the phone call you get about colored puppies -- none of them are concerned with how the dog works. All they care about is what color the pup is, and what color its parents are so they know what colors it might throw. So when you're only breeding for color, you're only selling to others who couldn't give a rip about working ability either, so you're just a large part of the problem instead of being a small part of the solution -- no matter what you try to tell yourself. Working folks won't take you seriously unless you've got your colored/merle dog out on the trial field and proving its worth -- consistently and to a very high level -- higher probably than just black and white dog, unfortunately.

So I've given up. Not because I don't think I can do it. I will be there some day -- trialing right next to my trainers. But I do not want to deal with the "Color Freaks." I decided that I just want to blend into the woodwork myself. Work my black dogs without anyone paying any attention to what I'm doing. Let the Color Freaks fight it out. I will be on the trial field learning the finer points of stockdogging from those that couldn't give a shit if their dog was purple. And if I ever end up with a colored or merle dog again, I can assure you, it won't be from a Color Freak.

Happy black tails,

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Trailing of the Sheep SDT

Well the Trailing of the Sheep SDT is this weekend in Sun Valley, Idaho. Information about the trial can be found HERE. A few of us are going up to help out, however, we are doing a demo in Hidden Springs on Saturday so we won't roll into the trial until Saturday evening. That's ok. I'll be bringing the LeeMac and a cooler full of Corona, so we'll be nice and comfy in that for the night.

Looks like the trial is shaping up well. Here's the running order for both days.

Trailing of the Sheep SDT
Sun Valley, Idaho

Running Order
Saturday, 10/11/08

1 Libby Neider & Lyn
2 Jo Woodbury & Tate
3 Lavon Calzacorta & Tess
4 Don Helsley & Bill
5 Rob Miller & Jen
6 Mary Hamilton & Ford
7 Albion Urdank & Kep
8 Patrick Shannahan & Jill
9 Deb Sussman & Perk
10 Jeanie Helsley & Tipp
11 Shauna Gorley & Bravo-NC
12 Karen Stanley & Meg
13 Patrick Shannahan & Riggs
14 Dennis Edwards & Ben
15 Mary Miller & Drift
16 Laura Vishoot & Wren
17 Bill Berhow & Mike
18 Lavon Calzacorta & Gus
19 Albion Urdank & Maeve
20 Joni Swanke & Kep
21 Libby Neider & Emma
22 Rob Miller & Rex
23 Shauna Gorley & Hope
24 Elizabeth Anderson & Sally
25 Karen Stanley & Tripp
26 Vicki Close & Gael
27 Dianne Deal & Pat
28 Patrick Shannahan & Bett
29 Charlie Torre & Rocky
30 Don Helsley & Blue
31 Donna Eliason & Vic-NC
32 Albion Urdank & Asa
33 Jo Woodbury & Drift
34 Joni Swanke & Lew
35 Bobbi Anderson & Flint
36 Bill Berhow & Pete
37 Donna Eliason & Zac
38 Don Helsley & Cap
39 Dennis Edwards & Nap
40 Charlie Torre & Bill
41 Jeanie Helsley & Cole
42 Shauna Gorley & Kate
43 Bobbi Anderson & Jag

Running Order
Sunday, 10/12/08

1 Bobbi Anderson & Flint
2 Jo Woodbury & Drift
3 Mary Hamilton & Ford
4 Patrick Shannahan & Riggs
5 Shauna Gorley & Kate
6 Jeanie Helsley & Tipp
7 Libby Neider & Lyn
8 Don Helsley & Blue
9 Rob Miller & Rex
10 Karen Stanley & Meg
11 Joni Swanke & Lew
12 Dennis Edwards & Nap
13 Charlie Torre & Bill
14 Albion Urdank & Kep
15 Shauna Gorley & Bravo-NC
16 Laura Vishoot & Wren
17 Patrick Shannahan & Bett
18 Donna Eliason & Vic-NC
19 Dianne Deal & Pat
20 Lavon Calzacorta & Tess
21 Albion Urdank & Maeve
22 Charlie Torre & Rocky
23 Jeanie Helsley & Cole
24 Rob Miller & Jen
25 Bill Berhow & Mike
26 Jo Woodbury & Tate
27 Libby Neider & Emma
28 Vicki Close & Gael
29 Dennis Edwards & Ben
30 Patrick Shannahan & Jill
31 Bill Berhow & Pete
32 Don Helsley & Bill
33 Mary Miller & Drift
34 Elizabeth Anderson & Sally
35 Lavon Calzacorta & Gus
36 Joni Swanke & Kep
37 Deb Sussman & Perk
38 Don Helsley & Cap
39 Bobbi Anderson & Jag
40 Donna Eliason & Zac
41 Shauna Gorley & Hope
42 Albion Urdank & Asa
43 Karen Stanley & Tripp

Happy tails,

The "Standard"

What is "the standard" that the show people talk about? Have you ever looked at it in depth? I haven't looked at it in a long time, and I know it was changed fairly recently to make it more encompassing. Let's check it out, shall we?

GENERAL APPEARANCE: The Border Collie is a well balanced, medium-sized dog of athletic appearance, displaying style and agility in equal measure with soundness and strength.

"Well-balanced" ... does that mean they have an ear on each side of their face so they don't walk around with the head cocked to one side?

"Style and agility in equal measure" ... Style? You mean like the tuxedo markings? Seriously though, is this gibberish what the show folks are really working off?

"Its hard, muscular body conveys the impression of effortless movement and endless endurance."

Muscular? Are you serious? They call the bulk around their bodies muscle? "Conveys the impression" ... that's the best you can do? "Endless endurance" ... for putting up with having a string put around your neck, your head held up by said string, and then being dragged around by the string for the ever-coveted "flying trot" to "convey the impression" of effortless movement. People are buying this crap? Wow. If you want to see endurance, come to a real trial.

The Border Collie is extremely intelligent, with its keen, alert expression being a very important characteristic of the breed.

The intelligence didn't land there by accident, and certainly didn't get there by breeding for standing around a show ring.

"Any aspect of structure or temperament that would impede the dog's ability to function as a herding dog should be severely faulted."

And how do you find these faults by watching CH Captain McFluffy Pants trot around the ring?

"The Border Collie is, and should remain, a natural and unspoiled true working sheep dog..."

I have to admit ... I couldn't have said this better myself. Unfortunately, the rest of the sentence says:

"whose conformation is described herein."

Wait till you see it. Keep reading.

"Honorable scars and broken teeth incurred in the line of duty are acceptable."

Now tell me, what depicts an honorable scar from a dishonorable one? Honorable would be taking McFluffy out to chase livestock and have him get hung up on a fence and need stitching? But if you take a couple of real working dogs out to the lake and throw one ball and they tussle over it and break the skin on someone's nose, is that dishonorable? Oh, and how does the ACK determine where the scars are from? Silly me. They ask the oh-so-honest handlers! "Gee, Ms. Uptight, where did Mr. Poofy Paws break his wittle toofy? Oh! He was out pulling the little moo moo's off da' lil' pasture and got kicked in his blocky head? Oh his big head is so pretty ... is that blaze naturally white or did you use chalk?"

SIZE, PROPORTION, SUBSTANCE "The height at the withers varies from 19" to 22" for males, 18" to 21" for females."

Otherwise they might scare the sheep.

"The body, from prosternum to point of buttocks, is slightly longer than the height at the withers with the length to height ratio being approximately 10:9."

In other words, the dogs you see in the arena that look like choo choo trains with itty bitty legs do not fit the standard, and therefore, do not "look" like they can herd sheep.

Bone must be strong, medium being correct but lighter bone is preferred over heavy. Overall balance between height, length, weight and bone is crucial and is more important than any absolute measurement.

In other words, any bone will do, and it all falls within the standard. I am sure the ACK didn't want to exclude all the heavy boned dogs that have been bred forever and ever, as that would cut a nice chunk out of their income. And of course, they needed to put in the blabber about overall balance, as if that has some sort of meaning.

Dogs must be presented in hard working condition. Excess body weight is not to be mistaken for muscle or substance. Any single feature of size appearing out of proportion should be considered a fault.

How does a dog get presented in "hard working condition" when the dogs are not being worked? I know people are going to start screaming about how their dogs work ... that's not what I said. Chasing three sheep in a round pen long enough to obtain an HT or PT is not "being worked" and will not muscle up a dog. Reading this makes me wonder if the judges have actually read this standard. Can they tell the difference between muscle and excess weight?

HEAD: Expression is intelligent, alert, eager, and full of interest.

Interest? Interest in what? That little piece of liver in your fingers?

Eyes are set well apart, of moderate size, oval in shape.

Keep your cyclops at home. Oh, but wait. Actually ... the standard doesn't say how many eyes the dog can have. I think I might start breeding three eyed dogs. After all, if a little bit of coat is nice, a lot must be better. If two eyes are good, three must be great.

The color encompasses the full range of brown eyes, dogs having body colors other than black may have noticeably lighter eye color. Blue eyes (with one, both or part of one or both eyes being blue) in dogs other than merle, are acceptable but not preferred.

Yes, so the woman with the bi-eyed dog that exhausted sheep all weekend in the rain at the Regionals ... don't put him in the show ring. He's not worthy. And doG knows that if you can't put him in the show ring to be evaluated by these oh-so-educated judges, he must not be a working dog.

Eye rims should be fully pigmented, lack thereof considered a fault according to degree.

Oh yes, of course. But it's ok for them to be "affected" according to the DNA test for CEA. Pigment is way more important.

Ears are of medium size, set well apart, one or both carried erect and/or semi-erect (varying from 1/4 to 3/4 of the ear erect). When semi-erect, the tips may fall forward or outward to the side. Ears are sensitive and mobile.

I'm confused. How many ears are these dogs supposed to have???

Skull is relatively flat and moderate in width.

I can tell you whose skull is flat.

The skull and muzzle are approximately equal in length. In profile the top of the skull is parallel with the top of the muzzle. Stop moderate, but distinct. The muzzle is strong, tapering slightly to the nose. The underjaw is strong and well developed. A domed, blocky or very narrow skull is faulty according to degree, as is cheekiness and a snipey muzzle.

Katy, I hate to inform you ... you can't show Ms. Snipey Muzzle in conformation. Here. Here's a tissue. Please stop crying. I hate it when you cry.

Nose color matches the primary body color. Nostrils are well developed. Lack of nose pigmentation is a fault according to degree.

Then why don't the yellow Border Collies have yellow noses?

Bite: Teeth and jaws are strong, meeting in a scissors bite. Complete dentition is required. Missing molars or pre-molars are serious faults as is an undershot or overshot bite.

I thought you were allowed to have missing teeth if you had a tried and true working dog? Or are they talking about the handlers here? Speaking of the handlers, where do we get to the dress code for the handlers? If there's something that needs a standard around here ... that might be worth looking into.

NECK, TOPLINE, BODY: Neck is of proportional length to the body, strong and muscular, slightly arched and blending smoothly into the shoulders. Topline: Back is level from behind the withers to the slightly arched, muscular loins, falling to a gently sloping croup. Body is athletic in appearance with a deep, moderately broad chest reaching no further than the point of the elbow. The rib cage is moderately long with well sprung ribs. Loins moderately deep and short, muscular, slightly arched and with a slight but distinct tuck up. The tail is set on low and is moderately long with the bone reaching at least to the hock. The ideal tail carriage is low when the dog is concentrating on a given task and may have a slight upward swirl at the end like a shepherd's crook. In excitement, it may be raised proudly and waved like a banner, showing a confident personality. A tail curled over the back is a fault.

Maybe I'm not paying attention, but doesn't this describe the general appearance of just about every mammal on the planet? Who was the rocket scientist that came up with this stuff?

FOREQUARTERS: Forelegs should be parallel when viewed from front, pasterns slightly sloping when viewed from side. Because sufficient length of leg is crucial for the type of work the breed is required to do, the distance from the wither to the elbow is slightly less than from the elbow to the ground and legs that are too short in proportion to the rest of the body are a serious fault. The shoulder blades are long, well laid back and well-angulated to the upper arm. Shoulder blades and upper arms are equal in length. There is sufficient width between the tops of the shoulder blades to allow for the characteristic crouch when approaching and moving stock. The elbows are neither in nor out. Feet are compact, oval in shape; pads deep and strong, toes moderately arched and close together with strong nails of moderate length. Dewclaws may be removed. (Emphasis added).

Question: How do you judge a working dog by how it looks?

Answer: You can't.

Yes, it's that simple.

Please tell me what leg length matters if the dog does not have the instinct to work stock? And please tell me if a dog works stock, and covers ground sufficiently to be able to control the livestock effectively ... why leg length matters. So does this part of the standard mean that the dogs that have had the instinct bred right out of them have also been bred so that their shoulder blades are too close together thereby now allowing the dog to crouch, and prevents the dog from working stock? Is that the theory?

Is anyone still reading this?

I am floored that there are actually people that believe this standard is a bible that needs to be followed to the letter.

HINDQUARTERS: Broad and muscular, in profile sloping gracefully to the low set tail. The thighs are long, broad, deep and muscular. Stifles are well turned with strong hocks that may be either parallel or very slightly turned in. Dewclaws should be removed. Feet, although slightly smaller, are the same as front.

It still doesn't tell me how many legs or how many feet are required.

COAT: Two varieties are permissible, both having close-fitting, dense, weather resistant double coats with the top coat either straight or wavy and coarser in texture than the undercoat which is soft, short and dense. The rough variety is medium in length without being excessive. Forelegs, haunches, chest and underside are feathered and the coat on face, ears, feet, fronts of legs is short and smooth. The smooth variety is short over entire body, is usually coarser in texture than the rough variety and may have slight feathering on forelegs, haunches, chest and ruff. Neither coat type is preferred over the other. Seasonal shedding is normal and should not be penalized. The Border Collie's purpose as an actively working herding dog shall be clearly evident in its presentation. Excess hair on the feet, hock and pastern areas may be neatened for the show ring. Whiskers are untrimmed. Dogs that are overly groomed (trimmed and/or sculpted) should be penalized according to the extent. (Emphasis added.)

Translation: The dog can have any coat type it wants.
Red highlight: Does this mean to leave the mud on or something?

COLOR: The Border Collie appears in all colors or combination of colors and/or markings. Solid color, bi-color, tri-color, merle and sable dogs are to be judged equally with no one color or pattern preferred over another. White markings may be clear white or ticked to any degree. Random white patches on the body and head are permissible but should not predominate. Color and markings are always secondary to physical evaluation and gait.
... and working ability is not even an issue, so bring all of your non-predominately white dogs and come enter our shows.

OMG... there's more?

The Border Collie is an agile dog, able to suddenly change speed and direction while maintaining balance and grace. Endurance is its trademark. The Border Collie's most used working gaits are the gallop and a moving crouch (stealth) which convert to a balanced and free trot, with minimum lift of the feet. The head is carried level with or slightly below the withers. When shown, Border Collies should move on a loose lead and at moderate speed, never raced around the ring with the head held high. When viewed from the side the trot is not long striding, yet covers the ground with minimum effort, exhibiting facility of movement rather than a hard driving action. Exaggerated reach and drive at the trot are not useful to the Border Collie. The topline is firm. Viewed from the front, action is forward and true without wasted motion. Viewed from the rear, hindquarters drive with thrust and flexibility with hocks turning neither in nor out, moving close together but never touching. The legs, both front and rear, tend to converge toward the center line as speed increases. Any deficiency that detracts from efficient movement is a fault.

Ah yes ... the "flying trot." This is what all working dogs look like when they are working livestock! And the handlers must learn to wear nurse shoes, nylons, and paisley print skirts and do the "flying trot" right through the sheep shit right next to their dogs, who are being led by that skinny little lead. It's very effective.

The Border Collie is energetic, intelligent, keen, alert, and responsive. An intense worker of great tractability, it is affectionate towards friends but may be sensibly reserved towards strangers. When approached, the Border Collie should stand its ground. It should be alert and interested, never showing fear, dullness or resentment. Any tendencies toward viciousness, nervousness or shyness are very serious faults.

So your dog must not react when a perfect stranger walks up and feels its balls.

If you ever have the chance to meet my dogs, you might not want to do this to them. They will take your arm off. Click/treat. Good boy.

Any deviation from the foregoing should be considered a fault, the seriousness of the fault depending upon the extent of the deviation

Yeah, right. Don't look around at what's being shown then. Or what's winning.
It blows me away how the "dog fancy" people, who have never stepped foot on a real trial field, can sit in their little world telling everyone how a working dog "should" be built, and what attibutes the dog must have the stamina to work all day long. Meanwhile, the dogs they are producing couldn't herd their way out of a paper bag, and would drop dead from trying after about five minutes. Think I'm being mean? Prove me wrong. Show me. Where are all the dogs who are bred for conformation? Why aren't they competing in herding? Oh, they are? Oh, that's right. They have their "HT" and "PT" titles. Some even have started titles and, ooh ... some might even have Championships. Oh wait, then you have the really really good ones who have their dual championship -- usually in conformation AND herding. So they can look good while they are herding three dog broke sheep up against the fence in a 200' x 100' arena and can do it without disrupting the little sheepies and do it better than Corgis and Aussies and Bouviers. Whoopie! If these dogs are all built so correctly and are able to hack the toughest of jobs, why are there NONE competing in Meeker, Soldier Hollow, Big Willow, etc.? Where are they all?
Hmmmm ... seems a bit fishy to me ...
Happy tails,

Monday, October 6, 2008

Western States Regional Championship 2008

The Western States Regional Championship was held at the Wild Horse Resort and Casino in Pendleton, Oregon. It was very well organized and ran as smooth as silk. The weather was a bit wet, but the clouds made for some nice photos, and it was a welcome break from the hot summer we had. The sheep were tough -- there is just no other way to put that. They were Rambouillet cross yearlings fresh off the range. They challenged the dogs, and the dogs really had to push them to get them to move.

Katy, Ellie and I left Boise at 5:00 a.m. and got out to Pendleton just in time for them to start the second day of semis. It was a single lift with a 2/2 split. Sounds easy enough, right? It took three people and two dogs just to set the sheep. Once the dogs lifted, the sheep would try to bolt right back to the setout pens, and these sheep had no problem running right over the dogs if they felt like it. From what I understand about Friday's runs, the sheep won more of those than the handlers did. On Saturday, there were more scores, although the sheep were still very very tough.

After watching the trial for about 6 hours on Saturday, Katy, Ellie and I went back to the hotel room and met up with Katy's daughter, Cienna, and Cienna's boyfriend, Preston. They came out to pick up Rio. They decided to spend the night and got the room right next to us. After hanging out having a few beers, we went to dinner at a decent steakhouse in Pendleton (don't laugh ... there actually is one). No trip is complete without going to a seedy local bar. Many shots and many drinks later, we made it back to the hotel for some shuteye before heading out to the finals first thing Sunday morning.

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The trial field was gorgeous!
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The handlers were trading stories over some coffee ... (L to R: Karen Child, Heidi Hanson, Bob Hickman, Lorri Schubert)
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Some were just enjoying the scenery... (Pat Shannahan)
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Some were patiently awaiting their turn (Shannahan's Jill):
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Some were strategizing ... (Dianne Deal):
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Some people were just .... I don't know what they were doing ... I'm not sure THEY knew what they were doing! (Katy, Cienna and Preston)
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Some were dreaming of competing someday (a cute pup, I don't recall the breeding ...):
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Some were just ... being cute.
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Here is one of our lovely volunteers.
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Our 12 finalists were drawn and the running order posted.
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The piper piped them in.
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Normally, all we see of the handlers is their tail end. Here, I will introduce you to them as I got to see them. I am sure I will have stock wands tossed at me for some of these photos.

1. Joe Haynes
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2. Elizabeth Baker
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3. Dirk VanSant
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4. Francis Chai
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5. Patrick Shannahan
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6. Lana Rowley
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7. Lorri Schubert
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8. Heidi Hanson
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9. Dianne Deal
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10. Karen Child
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11. Bob Hickman
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12. Ellen Skillings
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I don't have a "real" camera, so the only shots I took were where the dogs/handlers/sheep were close to the spectator area.

Here are a few shots of Elizabeth Baker and Rye. They did a great job! Rye worked his tail off and gave Elizabeth everything he had.

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On one of the fetches:
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The sheep were challenging ...
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Driving to the first panel:
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On the crossdrive...
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Setting up the shed:
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5 with ... 2 without ...
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Here are a few shots of Dianne Deal with her dog, Pat:
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The sheep continued to challenge ...
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A very happy handler ...
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Random shots of Pat Shannahan's Riggs:
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Here is the 2008 Western Regionals Champion ... Karen Child's Jim. Karen and Jim were the only team to complete the shed and get the pen. (I believe a couple of other handlers got the shed and ran out of time at the pen. Karen and Patrick were tied for first place -- and I didn't hear how the tie was broken, but stayed long enough to confirm that Karen won.)
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Beginning the long drive:
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The shed:
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To me, this picture tells the whole story.
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The only completed pen of the day:
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Great job, Karen & Jim! Congratulations!
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