It seems like lately all of the blog posts start with ‘lets catch up a bit’, but as mentioned in the previous post, my non-stock life has gotten a bit away from me. All in good ways though. When I arrived in Frenchtown to set for the ASCofMontana trial, and unloaded 5 yards of rubber, 4 colors of fabric, my sewing machine and other such work related goodies… in addition to clothes, boots and the hand blender.  My hope was that long, warm nights would lend to extra time to sew.  I opened up to orders from friends for bed covers and was immediately swamped.  Which is good, but left me totally paralyzed.  I kept reminding myself to start at the beginning… and let the work be the guide.  Thankfully after ten days of being a bit glassy-eyed, i’m starting to feel it again.  There are a lot of distractions lately, almost all of them are wonderful.  Even the garden – in its various states of repair and disrepair, is pretty awesome right now. I’m learning to accept that my Lucifer Flower may not be as big as everyone else’s but it is brand new and it is making a good effort. The dogs running over part of it probably isn’t helping. The veggies and berries are just going nuts with the warm weather and at this rate, even strangers will get preserves or syrup for Christmas.

Molly will be doing her own translated post on the Montana Trial. There are some things that will require her unique perspective to really appreciate.  It was a really wonderful experience for both of us.  As the CD was the stock supplier was a competitor… we were responsible not only for putting out the cattle and sheep, but bringing the various groups in and out from the pastures. Sorting duties were outsourced due to time constraints. There were people there better at sorting sheep than I, and with the heat, efficiency was of the utmost importance. (read: it was just stupid hot and running sheep around more than necessary wasn’t good for anyone.)

She did some great work. As a result of the heat, she was strong in different places on different days.  Her penwork was best on Saturday, when the job was clear and she wasn’t super sore.  Her small field fetches were best on Friday, when she didn’t realize that these hair sheep were different from her big woolies from home.  Her pasture work – from the small fields to the sorting area – was best on Sunday and i want to talk most about that.  First understand that the sheep know where they’re going. Making the process of bringing them up important because if they go way off track, it is because the dog and handler have messed it up pretty bad.  It was interesting how quickly she figured out that she needed to be *super* wide, as hair sheep work and turn akin to schools of fish.  As you travel up the rise from the gate toward the pens, there is a shaded little forage area the sheep like which has a little sheep mountain of dirt and things. It is about ten feet by 5 or 10 feet and gets about four feet high.  It reminded me of the obstacles in Hope’s small pasture when Molly was a puppy.  While i had the opportunity to keep her and the sheep out of it, i wanted her to deal with the different terrain, footing and groups.  With penwork being a bit mechanical, i wanted her to have to think about what she was doing, and what little direction i gave her.  She did a good job as long as the few commands i gave her were clear. And even when we weren’t agreeing, she was still not terrible.  She hit her inside flanks nicely, covered really well, her rating was sometimes a little off, but once we did the same task a few times and she knew where we were going, she modulated really nicely.  I’ve said it before, she’s a task oriented dog. Once she knows what is going on, she does most of the work without much direction.  On Sunday when i used her to exhaust and put up the first group of sheep, she pushed them out and then covered them without direction before they got to their little sheep mountain.  Talk about a conflicted handler – my dog broke her down/stay, but she’s 100% right on point.

Either way, for a dog (and a handler) so incredibly out of shape in the heat… she performed really well.  We got to see new dogs and meet a few new people face to face and catch up with old friends. Which really in the end is what a trial is about; seeing dogs, making new friends, catching up with old friends.  And eating really awesome food.  I go to trials for the same reason trialers do – to see where my dog is and where she needs some more work. I think sometimes with all of the babble and drama, we lose track. Felt good to get grounded a little in our work again and excited to do it all over again in Spokane at the end of September.

Part of our pen progression:

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