There is something that happens in my world around the beginning of Spring; after the April trial and before Fourth of July when things get quiet. The rented sheep are lambing, my garden demands my attention and the house converts from winter cocoon to summer shelter. Typically, i’d hunker down, scrub the house and get the garden planted, but this year i’ve decided to do that and also work different stock and get some spring hiking in. Washington Trails Association has a filter specifically for dog-friendly hikes.

During this time Simon also sheds out. Which on its face doesn’t sound like a big deal. How much fur can a dog really loose at one time, right? I like to joke that i found the neighbors lost dog/ball/car. Many an hour has been spent watching a movie on the floor with Simon while pulling out patches of undercoat the thickness of a finger. These are the moments that no one ever warns new dog owners about. They are weird until they’re not, and then you realize that your perception of normal will never be the same. I have to go over him in hour long sittings and each time get a pile that is about the size of Molly. In counter balance, Molly just started to really shed two years and gives up enough undercoat to fill a coffee mug.

Working her didn’t come to an abrupt halt this year. I ended up either taking Molly to Fido’s to work (and help measure gates for the SDC) and picking up part of a rescue transport north, or arraigning to do a transport north from Oly to Bellevue and throwing Molly in the car (and measure gates) because we could stop at Fido’s on our way. These things tend to be rather chicken and egg depending on what day i think about it.

She did some nice work overall.

One of the things that is rather unique to the ASCA trial arena is the Daylight rule. Which basically means if you happen to put your stock through the panel the wrong way, for whatever reason, you may wing your dog around and put the stock through the right way provided that they is daylight between the plain of the obstacle panel and the last end of the last animal. Molly tends to do well at exercises that make sense to her. So my swinging her around on inside flanks to set up for a daylight and then complete it started to grate on her a bit. Eventually what i ended up with was Molly holding them in the corner behind panel two and not walking up. ‘this seems to be where you want them. i will not walk up and move them out of that place again. quit screwing around’ says Molly.

Normally this would be a little annoying, but she’d done the started course both directions, with and without a take pen and the only time i had to pass the Advanced handlers line and approach the Open handlers line was for Away inside flanks. Those are still hard and weird. This would typically mean – using the sliding scale of trial vs training to trial – that i’d be pretty ok for Started and Open would be close depending on how center pen work was going. She can do a free standing pen, but the lift off the fence can be problematic.

I’ve been more interested in watching her try to figure out how to use her eye. It’s been funny as she’s starting to play with the tool. She’ll walk up for a little while and then lower her head a little and try to get them moving. It’s a bit like watching the VW commercial where the little kid is trying to learn how to use The Force.

She’s not quite sure how to get it all done, but it is fun to watch her brain work.

I stopped by the farm today and peeked in on the momma’s to see if they’d done the hard stuff – makin lammies. No live lammies yet, but the wethers were already sorted into the round pen, nearest the nemeses… the guard dogs. I worked her with all the wethers on her away side flank and powering though her flanks even when the fluffy monsters are screaming. It took a little cheerleading, but she started to get it done on command and i called her off immediately.

Lastly, we figured out our working schedule for the summer. We’ll be at Fido’s on Saturday for the ASCofWA June Trial and Show at the end of the month. Either handling or maybe on Started sheep. Then at the Montana trial in July and the Black Sheep trial in Spokane on Labor Day weekend. After all this, i’m going to reevaluate where we are. She is starting to slow down a bit and i don’t want to be in a place where she’s feeling forced. Maybe we just need a change of space. She’s eight (how did that happen?!), and its been a hard worthy eight years.

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