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April 17-18, 2004 Galt, California

I made the trek up to Galt (up by Lodi) for the first time to attend the renowned Silver Bullet Stockdog Trial held at Boyce and Sherry Bakers ranch. What a place! For those of you who dream of miles of rolling hills, oaks and livestock – this is the place. I have several realtor packets….

Well, onto the trial. I brought Cinder and Gale and we went to this trial with several specific goals. Cinder: get her more confidence on cattle so that she can finish her WTCH (she only needs two advanced cattle legs) and work ducks on Course C for the first time. Course C is ALL off the fence, which can be difficult with those flighty, feathered critters. Gale’s goals were different. I had entered her in regular Started classes on Saturday (all three types of stock) and then FEO (For Exhibition Only – not titling) on Sunday. She is NOT ready for Open so we are doing to do lots of FEO for a while. I wanted Gale to keep a brain cell in her head: take her sits, hold her stays and not run amok. Pretty simple right? Right. The run Advanced dogs first so Cinder was up. Ducks were our first run. It was entertaining. Cinder tried her heart out but I couldn’t get her commands out fast enough and those little suckers were FAST.

All in all, I was quite pleased with Cin’s (and my) first attempt at Course C. It wasn’t a disaster and Cin was really working the ducks. Next up was our cattle run. As I was watching people ahead of me I realized that these cows were not thrilled to be there and were not easy stock. To put it mildly. NO ONE got a center pen, not even experienced handlers and dogs. I went out there with mixed thoughts – mostly “Please don’t let my dog get hurt.” The run started great – she went in, took charge (with a little help from me) and off we went. First panel – perfect; cross-drive – perfect; second panel – perfect. My heart was beating so fast, Cinder was doing amazing! The cattle broke for the back while I was opening my center pen so I sent Cinder to head them off. Then the run took a really bad turn. As Cinder was going to head this one cow, the cow decided she had had enough and (never even slowing down) went right through the fence! My jaw hit the ground. As I was standing there totally baffled, a second cow decided to head for the hills as well and climbed through the fence. We penned the last one and called it a day. Too bad – we had a GREAT score going right up until that point. Sheep were fine – a little wild since Cin was still excited from the cattle run but we qualified so the day wasn’t a total write-off.

Gale was next. Unfortunately her first run was ducks. I would have liked to tire her out a little first but, hey, that’s the luck of the draw. Much to my surprise, Gale was WONDERFUL!! She was super excited but took all her commands and got the ducks around Course C with a qualifying score. That’s her first leg in Started ducks. Then we moved on to cattle. Now Gale hasn’t been exposed to cattle that much and we all kind of thought she would be kind of soft on them so I figured I could “handle” her through the course. Right. I own an alligator. Gale had a serious party with the cattle but I don’t think the cattle enjoyed it much. She is a heading fool. I just stood there and stared – so did the judge – it was a total rodeo. So, I leashed Gale up and wondered what would happen in our sheep run. I was worried that after all the chase and bite that she would carry that into our sheep run and the sheep were light so that would not be a good thing. I shouldn’t have worried. She was lovely on her sheep – took all her commands – and ended up in 3 rd place (out of a HUGE Started class composed mostly of BC’s) with a qualifying score. What a gal! But I decided to pull her from cattle on Sunday.

Sunday started out great. Cinder drilled Course C with the ducks, nailed her sheep run and had a great cattle run! And the cattle were (once again) not easy. She was heading and heeling when it was needed and then backing off when the cows moved off her. She was having a lot of fun; I think she thinks she is a cow dog now! She was terrific. She ended up qualifying in ducks and taking 2 nd place in Adv Sheep and Adv Cattle! Now she just needs one more cattle leg for her WTCH! What a gal!

Gale had a hard time Sunday. Did I mention that she had torn her pad badly on Thursday? Despite wrapping her and booting her on Sat, I think her wild cattle rodeo had an effect. She didn’t really want to get around her ducks – she preferred going straight through them (and over them.) Not good. And the sheep were even lighter (they had gotten their rumps chased off on Sat and were paranoid) and she just couldn’t get a handle on them. On both runs, she took all her sits and stays and tried really hard, she just couldn’t get in the right place. Oh well – she tried and she listened and that is what really counts. I am just glad that she was FEO on Sunday. Maybe I should only enter her one day? Hmmmm….I will let you know how the next trial goes: if she gets worse or better as the trial goes on.

Overall, I LOVED going to the Bullet and am planning on being a regular attendee in the future. Great people, great dogs and fun times. Boyce’s BBQ is not to be missed!

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