Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Royal Aftermath

That was quick! It's all over, and relatively painlessly.

BabyJ had an even better time than last year. The big hits were the sailing club stand, with dinghies rigged and just at toddler height, the motorbike demo on the main arena, and most of all, the bumper boats. Yep, he stepped confidently out on his own, stood in the queue, handed over his ticket and climbed into a bumper boat to head off into the pool among all the bigger kids. All by himself. He's two! Part of me is just gobsmacked that he's so independent already, another part is terribly proud of him, and a biggish part is mourning the imminent loss of my first baby boy...

The sheepdog stuff went well, too. R had just come down with a nasty cold and bravely suffered through the day with the minimum of "man-flu" symptoms. He used a variety of dogs in the yard demos, let a few of the pups have a go (even little Moffy), and then ran Fred in the judged round at the end of the day. Fred was working well, R was away with the fairies, and they messed around at the drenching race to end up with a 93. Andrew Gorton and Ella scored 97, so they'd have to be in the running for a second win.

R and Yarralonga Charlie, thinking about a warm bed, panadol and a hot toddy:

R and Charlie doing a demo:

The yard sheep apparently started out pinging all over the place, but they got heavy very quickly in the unexpected warm sunny weather, and took some pushing around the yard course. The crowd and the showground noise was also a bit of a challenge for some of the younger pups, but they all handled it brilliantly.

Binnaburra Bonnie (Binnaburra Tuff x Binnaburra Tina):

Hayden Harries' collie, Mac's Magic, a Fred daughter:

Hayden's pup Woofy (Ramulam Gus x Olboa Merle)- 4 or 5 months old, looks like a cattle dog x cocker spaniel, works like a dream:

Our Harry (Fred x Fly):

Boylee Fred:

Andrew Gorton and Boylee Ella (Esme's mum) filling the force:

And our arena run... well, we didn't win but we were running 2nd for a while there (ie that first afternoon). Our arena partners were Ray Sutherland and Christies Tammy- they had an unfortunately bad set out of sheep, and Tammy had trouble getting them back on course, but once they did the rest of the run was smooth and ended with penning for a 78.

Bill's sheep were released correctly, but took off in two different directions and ended up way across one side of the arena. Bill cast fairly straight but got around behind them without any problems, and then brought them neatly across to one of the fenceposts. I couldn't understand why he seemed to be steering them way over to my left until he came around clockwise and nearly crossed- I shouted his name and he looked up in total surprise to see me standing about 20 feet from the fencepost to which he was he was apparently balancing. After that, it was a pretty run- he kept them on course all the way up and across the ground, and I don't think lost another point on the carry. The sheep went through the race like a dream, and I was starting to get rather excited.

Then we got to the bloody bridge.

After an initial inspection, the sheep decided that they didn't fancy going over it, and kept ducking around the corners. Bill was a bit of a tosser and wouldn't come around to me to cover when I asked, and he didn't walk up on them when he should have. But I was also trying to keep him from pushing too much, in case things busted up and looked bad in front of the crowd, which was a big mistake. The sheep decided Bill wasn't a serious threat and started to walk over him, and we must have wasted about 10 minutes pfaffing around, flanking him in wide circles and running all over the place while the sheep had a picnic in the mouth of the bridge. Eventually I asked him to come in and hassle them, which he did, and they turned like magic and walked over the obstacle.

So with just a minute or two on the clock, I started scampering (sorry: 'continued at a steady pace') for the pen. Bill, his unfit little brain just about fried from 10 minutes of pointless boglaps in the hot sun, followed the sheep over the bridge and the only way I could stop him from crossing was to let the sheep run all the way across the arena before calling him behind me and sending him to fetch them.

By the time we got them to the pen, Bill was close to wrecked and just wasn't listening, taking random flanks here and ignoring stops there, and the bell went before we had them close to penned.

We still got a 65, which wasn't bad in the circumstances and was way better than the total trainwreck I'd been seeing all week in my nightmares... Yet I'm strangely disappointed.

(Warning- upcoming photo of something you won't be seeing here often- me)

Bill, sheep, race:

At the accursed bridge:

The other disappointment of the weekend was that I really didn't get to see any agility. I'd been really keen to see Kriszty's Jess in her retirement runs, as well as some of our baby pups grown up, and it sounds like I missed some brilliant agility. Jess and Sonic's team took out the Teams Agility win, came second in the Teams Jumping, despite missing Terra, one of their key members, through injury. Then a flu-stricken Jules and DiscoDiva went and won the Open!

It was a pretty good Royal Show for the Mac's "city crew", overall- Jules and DiscoDiva (an original FredxQueani) also won Excellent Agility to gain their ADX and head on up to Masters for good, and came a close 4th in a tight Masters Jumping (2 seconds between top 10 places! Wish I'd seen that), Graeme and Maverick (FredxQueani Part Two) did well in the Novice Obedience and were on a great score until he got a bit distracted in the signals, came 2nd and 3rd in the Novice Agility and Jumping, and Karen's Sonic (MickxSally) overcame his youth and stresshead tendencies to put down some very professional runs, including 3rd on Open Jumping, 6th in Open Agility and a 7th place in Masters Jumping among some of the top dogs in the state. They might have been handy sheepdogs in another life, but I think agility is the next best thing, and we're very lucky to have such great people keeping these pups out of trouble.

But somehow between R's yard demos, the pacing and nail-chewing of the build-up to my arena run and then the extended self-flagellation, performance dissection and general whining that followed, I didn't seem to have time for anything. We missed the shearing competitions and the wool pavilion, didn't see any of the showjumping or stockhorse demos, and didn't get around any of the agricultural pavilions let alone commercial exhibits, so hardly squandered any money on tacky showbags, gimmicky labour-saving devices or junk food. It didn't seem like the Royal at all.

Fortunately various sources did get some video, so I've been able to see
Jess's retirement runs here
Sonic's Royal debut here
(thanks to Graeme F)
Maverick's Novice Agility:

and Novice Jumping:

Diva's Masters Jumping:

and Excellent Agility:

The big upside of only having one day at the Royal was spending the rest of the long weekend with my family, hearing BabyJ give them his quirky toddler perspective on life and the universe, and soaking up the sunshine and the company of our very own people.

BabyJ and his Unka Mike:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Two and a half weeks

Not quite so guinea-piggish any more.

(Evie making her escape at the front, Boy on the right, Squiggle at the back, and Squee and Dark somewhere in the middle)

Dark- looking very black and white:

Evie and Boy:

Evie- butter wouldn't melt!

Evie devouring Boy:

She loves him really...

Squiggle, thinking that perhaps we need a bigger basket:

DNA test results due sometime in the next 10 days...

Could it be?

Is that... blue sky?
Dogs frolicking in the warm sunshine?

You'd almost think it was spring!

Trying to photograph pretty spring scenery:

Tom can't conceive that there could be anything prettier than him.

"I think this is my better side"

I can't imagine where he gets it from, eh Fred?

Of course, Tom is pretty...

"Pretty? Pfffft!"

Elvis, take that look off your face!

Thank you.

Sally's pretty too.

And Esme.

OMG, the sudden warmth has created a dog-eating pasture!

Ziggy, stuck in the quick-grass

Moffy quickly succumbs...

Either I'm sinking into the grass too, or I have a lopsided head.

Muddy and Finbar work on their entries in the "longest tongue" competition:

But Bart has that one in the bag!

Of course, that was yesterday. Just the universe having a twisted little joke.

Today we return to the scheduled programming: single digit temperatures, horizontal rain, and chipping the ice off the windscreen in the morning.
Ah, spring.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Royal Panic

Totally unprepared and facing immense public humiliation!

It must be Royal Show time...

Every year I do this- I leave preparing for the Royal Show to the absolute last minute, then run around like a headless chook panicking about how unprepared I am and what a fool I'm going to look. And I do look like a fool, but if I let that bother me I wouldn't get out of bed most days.

In 2007 I decided to debut Bill in agility, and only remembered a couple of weeks beforehand that I hadn't taught him to weave, so his first "straight pole" experience was the night before the trial...

In 2008 the prospect of running my two barely semi-trained dogs (Bill and Muddy) just didn't promise enough public humiliation, so I spiced things up with two new completely untrained dogs, Ziggy and Queani. Ziggy must have run through a few tunnels as a baby puppy, but Queani's only experience of agility equipment was two training sessions in the month before the trial. We didn't win anything, both of them enjoyed themselves, and I looked like an entirely new class of fool.

There's no way I can top last year's effort for agility unpreparedness, so I didn't bother to enter the Royal this year. We weren't sure we going to be able to get there in the first place, but it looked like Fred might qualify for the yard event again, in probably his last year of trialling. So I was actually looking forward to the first Royal Show in about a decade where I can just relax and enjoy the show. A day free from event schedules to wander around with BabyJ at our own pace- awesome.

But... Of course there's a but.
Bill qualified for the Arena event.
Yes, that's right (stop laughing), Bill.

The Royal Show sheepdog events are invitational, demonstration events. The 14 dogs to compete in the arena and 16 dogs in the yard are selected based on the results from the previous year's official 3sheep and yard/utility events. Of course there are some top dogs and handlers that can't attend every year, and I guess that's how Bill ended up on the list. But still- we weren't the bottom qualifiers, and he did make Open finals at a few of the tougher 3sheep events this year, so it's not a total Steven Bradbury moment...

I'm not expecting it to happen again for Bill and I, so making the Royal is probably going to be the pinnacle of our 3sheep trialling career. I'm thrilled, and proud, but as the days tick away I'm getting increasingly nervous. Perhaps terrified is a more honest description. It isn't helped by R, who revels in announcing the "countdown" every morning- "7 days until the Royal Show!" this morning. I nearly died.

The Perth Royal Show is the biggest "agricultural show" in the state- and I use the term "agricultural" loosely because it's held in the city, and for at least 90% of the 400, 000+ attendees, it's more about the showbags, fireworks, Sideshow Alley and junk food, than anything vaguely related to farming. But most people do take time to visit the Baby Animal Pavilion, pat a pig, and cast a brief eye over the district displays. The agility and obedience is always a big hit. And the lunchtime sheepdog runs on the main arena seem to attract a huge crowd. So I can expect at least a few thousand people to see Bill and I step out there. I'm trying to stay positive and look forward to the experience, but the reality is that Bill and I haven't been running well lately, he never does well in his first run of a trial anyway, and since he broke his toe he's been doing rather too much of this:

And nowhere near enough of this:

So I have a week to drop a few kilograms of fat off him, add a few of muscle and a chunk of aerobic fitness. And maybe do some training... Chances are I won't. Oh well. Lack of preparation and the potential for public embarrassment at the Royal- it's a tradition!

There will be a heap of actual quality dogs and handlers in both the yard and arena competitions at the Royal, and here's the full schedule:

The yard events are held at the northeast corner of the showgrounds, next to the agility/obedience, the pigs/llamas and the sheep shed. Demos run throughout the day, with the final runs of the day judged.
The arena runs are in the main arena.

Saturday 26 Sept
Arena - 1.30pm
  • Ray Sutherland- Christies Tammy (collie)
  • Sam Weaver- Boylee Bill (collie)
Yard- 9.45am, 11.30am, 3pm, 4.30pm
  • Andrew Gorton- Boylee Ella (collie- Esme's dam)
  • Richard McGuire- Boylee Fred (collie)

Sunday 27th Sept
Arena - 1.30pm
  • Grant Cooke- Pendalup Candy (collie- Tess' litter sister)
  • Gordon Curtis- Nolan's Minnie (collie)
Yard - 9.45am, 11.30am, 3pm, 4.30pm
  • Grant Cooke- Grassvalley Tod (collie- Mick and Moss' sire)
  • Gordon Curtis- Binnaburra Tuff (kelpie- Bonnie's sire)

Monday 28th Sept
Arena - 2.15pm
  • Ken Atherton- Ramulam Gus (collie)
  • Jenny Atherton- Badgingarra DotCom (collie)
Yard - 9.45am, 11.30am, 1.30pm, 4.30pm
  • Ken Atherton- Badgingarra Tony (kelpie)
  • Nigel Armstrong- Yarralonga Darkie (kelpie)

Tuesday 29th Sept
Arena - 1.45pm
  • Ivan Solomon- Perangery Jill (collie)
  • Grant Cooke- Grassvalley Tod (collie)
Yard - 9.45am, 11.30am, 3pm, 4.30pm
  • Ken Atherton- Boylee Gus (collie)
  • Nigel Armstrong- Yarralonga Delta (kelpie)

Wednesday 30th Sept

Arena - 1.30pm
  • Ivan Solomon- Perangery Danny (collie)
  • Peter Gorman- El Shamah Ellie (collie- Tess' dam, Queani's cousin)
Yard - 9.45am, 11.30am, 3pm, 4.30pm
  • Rod Forsyth- Binnaburra Milo (kelpie- Bonnie's brother)
  • Tony Boyle- Bellview Dale (collie- Bart's sire)
Thursday 1st Oct
Arena - 1.45pm
  • Wayne Hall- Boylee Wal (collie)
  • Peter Gorman- Springvale Cindy (collie)
Yard - 9.45am, 11.30am, 3pm, 4.30pm
  • Rod Forsyth- Binnaburra Wal (kelpie)
  • Tony Boyle- Boylee Dot (collie- Bart's mum)

Friday 2nd Oct
Arena - 1.45pm
  • Malcolm Seymour- Glenview Ruby (collie- Moss' dam)
  • Gordon Curtis- Binnaburra Tuff (kelpie)
Yard - 9.45am, 11.30am, 3pm, 4.30pm
  • Gibb Macdonald- Boylee Poppy (collie)
  • Gordon Curtis- Binnaburra Jess (kelpie- Bonnie's sister)

Saturday 3rd Oct
No arena event

Yard - 9.45am, 11.30am, 3pm, 4.30pm
  • Marianne Rogers- Christies Cocoacina (collie)
  • Karen Buller- Badgingarra Barney (kelpie)

And whatever happens to Bill and I out on the arena, he'll always be our best Biww...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Ten days old

Ten days old already! Apart from being much fatter and more mobile, the five are still basically furry slugs. But yesterday the eyes started to open, and from here they'll be more like real little dogs. More fun, but also so much more mess.

The Boy: I think he'll have a pretty dark face. He still has that tan hair under his tail, which has been the first marker of tricolour in all the newborns I've seen so far- but nothing on his face yet. Who knows?

Dark girl- she's also going to have a dark face, and she also has tan under her tail... Possibly tri?
Nice contented pup, happy to be handled.

Look! Eyes opening (trust me, they are)!
She's also got a midline border to the black on her muzzle, just like Fred and a lot of his pups. We'll have to wait for the DNA test to know for sure though.

Squiggle- she's probably the smallest pup now, but it's hard to tell. Black and white. She's an "intermediate" in behaviour, noise, and looks, so she's hard to find and easily overlooked. Poor thing.

Squee: possibly tri (definitely dark tan hairs under tail, but not as much as the other two), and not hard to identify at all, she's loud and opinionated and very mobile.

And camera shy.
"Oh, just eff off"

My current favourite: the Even pup. Eve is a big fat blob, who snuggles when you pick her up and doesn't mind doing her ENS exercises at all. She reminds me of Maverick, so it will be interesting to see if she stays as placid as he did as she grows up. Definitely black and white. I think. Probably.

Evie was the first to open her eyes, and she's actually looking around and blinking benignly at us like a slightly confused furry miniature dugong.

Tess is starting to feel a little bit used and put-upon, I think. You open the living room door and she's out, gone, away across the verandah and down the road. She comes back as soon as Squee wakes up and realises the milk bar has left the building, but as she climbs back into the whelping box and the eager pack of voracious slugs set upon her, you can see her rolling her eyes and gritting her teeth and remembering her carefree single life- those halcyon days of beaches, bars, beer and boys, and no-one kneading at her bosoms unless they'd bought her a drink first. Or whatever the doggy equivalent might be.

They're worth it, though...

Yep, definitely worth it.