I entered Gale and Patches in the Agility pre-trial for a couple reasons: to warm Patches up for the Agility Finals the next day and to “train” Gale on her A-Frame contact. Despite the fact that I cannot make her miss that contact in practice, she has developed a charming habit of launching off of it at trials. Not good. Especially since we needed a clean run during Nationals for MVA. Patches was wonderful as always (but didn’t get the gamble – surprise, surprise) and while Gale flew around her jumpers course, she did not stick one A-Frame contact all day. REALLY not good.
Also this same day, Gale was entered in the Delta Stockdog Pre-Trial on all three types of stock: duck, sheep and cattle. I watched the cattle (in between agility runs) and had pretty much talked myself into pulling Gale (the cattle did not fetch and Gale doesn’t know how to drive yet) when Linda Bell talked me into at least trying the cattle. Thank you Linda! Gale and I picked up the cattle and next thing you know, she has them going around the course (I was waaaaay behind her thinking “Oh my god, she is doing it!”) and for the first time in my life, I was in the right place to help her. I couldn’t believe it. I was even more astonished later on to learn that Gale WON the Started Cattle class! Once again, thank you Linda – you were right, I need to have more faith in my dog.
The rest of the Stockdog pre-trial did not go as well. We went straight from the cattle into the sheep arena and Gale was still massively pumped up. While we got a qualifying score, it was not pretty. Enough said. Then, to add insult to injury, we literally walked out of the sheep arena into the duck pen: Gale would not sit, call off – she was so excited that after about 90 seconds (which felt like an eternity) I called time on myself. Once again, enough said.
I had two dogs in the Finals – Kali in the Regular and Patches in Veterans. They started with Jumpers at 7:30am. Did I mention it was really, really cold? Frost on the contacts cold. I was very careful to warm my dogs up but forgot to warm me up. As a result, while both Kali and Patches ran clean in Jumpers, I pulled both the muscles in the front of my thighs. Another Not Good thing. It was only Monday morning and I had another two full days of agility (with 4 dogs to show) and stock. However, this physical disaster was outweighed by the fact that Patches won the Finals Elite Jumpers – Veterans Round. YAY Patches.
Overall, Finals was tremendously successful for me. Kali finished in the top 50% (after Round 3 she was sitting in 14th place but then she launched her dog walk contact. I seem to have a contact problem these days….) Patches was amazing: after winning Jumpers, she took 8th in Gamblers (didn’t do the gamble but she racked up lots of points), 3rd in Round 1 Standard and 4th in Round 2 Standard. Overall Patches finished up 3rd in the Veterans Division. What a gal!
Tuesday was the beginning of Nationals and I had 4 dogs entered in agility, Gale had to do the MVA Conformation Evaluation and she was also entered in another Stockdog pre-trial. It was a busy day. I decided to only work Gale on the sheep – ducks had been a disaster and I had this gut feeling that I really needed to work on something she knew (sheep) and get some “manners” back on her before the Nationals Stockdog trial. Gale did really well – listened, kicked out – never quite balanced up but the sheep were hysterical (literally – they were panicked) so Gale just held them to me and we got around the course. Not her greatest run but better than a lot of the Started dogs so I was quite happy.
Now came the big bugaboo: her Elite Standard run in agility. She HAD to get her contact and qualify. I was so worried and I shouldn’t have been – she was awesome. While the run was not the fastest (it is such a different mentality running ONLY to Q) she was clean – got her A-Frame! – and we were on our way. My legs were not holding up well but several people (mainly Elena Heine and Kristin McNamara) worked on me and gave me tips and got me through the rest of the trial – many, many, many thanks!
Patches won Elite Jumpers – Veterans during the Nationals and she qualified in Standard as well. I honestly can’t remember how Kali did but I know she had fun! Chance also had a blast – roared through Novice Jumpers (pulled a bar) and was clean in his Novice Standard until the 2nd to last obstacle (the dog walk) which for some reason, he didn’t want to do. A little note about Chance: I have not worked with this dog since last Feb. since he has been on the campaign trail for the breed ring. He has SO MUCH HEART to try so hard for me – like he did all Nationals – with no training. He is quite the guy!
Wednesday was the final day of agility and Gale picked up another Q for Elite Standard and MVA, Patches and Kali also Q’d in Std and the Elite Gamble was VERY doable. It was a serpentine out to an A-Frame. Kali did it (YAY Kali!) and then Gale did it…and launched the A-Frame contact. I could have killed her. But (I kept telling myself) she got the important Q for MVA!
Thursday (Thanksgiving) was technically my only day off – technically. Trish and I spent the day in the cattle pens setting cattle. It was actually a lot of fun (most of the time) and I learned a lot more about working cattle. My experience with them (and ducks) is quite limited so I learned a bunch and I really think it helped for my runs with Gale the next day.
Friday was our Stockdog competition day. I spent a good part of the morning throwing the ball for Kali and Gale to tire Gale out before her stock runs. She was holding up amazingly well to the pressure of trialing – too well it seemed. Each day she was more excited and eager to work. So…operation “Tire Gale Out” was in effect. According to the run order, it seemed like we would be up on cattle first and we would be following Kathy Warren and her awesome young dog Fred. Sigh….oh well. Fred went out and had a stellar run (to be expected) and Gale and I walked in – me worried, her excited. I have to mention that the cattle were AWESOME. They went where your dog told them too – if your dog didn’t harass them, they were wonderful. So Gale and I picked up our cattle and, hot damn – we were in a parallel drive through the first panel, beautiful cross drive to the 2nd panel and then Gale lost it. “I HAVE to go to head Mom! They are getting away!” We had about 30 seconds (another eternity) of me yelling at Gale and trying to call her off – and then it all settled down again and we had a lovely re-pen. As I came out of the arena, Kathy looked at me and said “When did we teach that dog to drive?” “Today apparently” was my reply. Good girl Gale. We had a nice break so she could wind down from the cattle (and do more ball throwing) and went in on the sheep. They were even more panicked than they had been a couple days previously. Too many inexperienced handlers and dogs had been running them around I guess. Gale and I made it around the course but it wasn’t pretty. Lots of circling so she could hold the sheep to me – they wanted back in their pen BADLY. But Gale took all her sits and was awesome. Another break – more ball throwing (I really wanted her tired for ducks) and into the duck pen we went. I had been watching and noticed that if you could get the ducks off the back fence, they went along quite nicely. But getting them off the fence was tricky. Bless Gale’s heart - she went into her newly discovered parallel drive and we easily got them off the back fence. They slipped the first panel but I decided to just move on (I figured that if I tried to mess around with a green dog, I would just lose them to the back fence and frustrate my dog) – we slipped the second panel as well and I decided to fix that. I am glad I did – Gale was awesome – took all her commands and only had one moment (at the re-pen) where she got impatient.
To sum up – Gale qualified in all three types of stock on Friday – she got an 84 on cattle -and earned her Started Duck title! But, the big surprise was the MVA Rankings. Not only did Gale qualify in MVA, out of 88 dogs who competed, she came in 11th! YAY GALE!!!!! Not bad for her first time out – and from the Started stock classes. She was only 3 ½ points from Top Ten – if we had done obedience….well, next time.
Overall, Nationals was an amazing experience and I am so proud of all my dogs. They did SO well and tried their little hearts out for me. But baby Gale – 11th Most Versatile Aussie in the country. I still can’t believe it.