The day before the trial started, there was a big parade in the city of Penrith. Mary Lou and I elected to drive to the parade route instead of taking the bus as Dyna was in season.
However, we had no idea where the parade route started. By the time we found parking, we were running late, and since we had the Canadian flag, it was kind of important for us to be in the parade.
We saw a street lined with people, and deduced that was probably the parade route (duh). We ran to the road, but then weren't sure whether to run up the street or down the street. We decided to run in the direction everyone was looking on the assumption that they knew more about it than we did! People started cheering as we ran by. Handlers from several other countries who were in the same boat started to follow us on the mistaken idea that we knew where we were going. After sprinting through half the town we found the throng of handlers milling about waiting to start the parade.
It was quite a spectacular...
Okay, now we know why the cross of Blue-faced Leicester and Swaledale sheep are called Mules. Saturday's trial was on a nice sized field and as Mary Lou still wasn't feeling 100%, we decided to run early and get back to the barn, even though the sheep would likely be better later in the day when they were rerun.
The mule sheep were hard to gauge...they could run like the wind or turn and fight at the drop of a hat. Talk about touchy... These sheep sized up a dog in seconds. Wee Dyna went out and marched them around the field and other than a bit of trouble at the pen, had a very fair run that put her in the prizes.
Craig came on too strong at the pen and needless to say these shrewd ewes weren't having any of it! Mary Lou held up her end to put Canada in the money.
Thomas also ran his dogs in the trial, and it was a treat to watch such a seasoned competitor work the mules with his different dogs. I learned a few penning tricks in the process, to be applied the next time I see mules!...
It's quite a different lifestyle to get up, do some stuff around the house, and then drive 10 minutes to a trial. Saturday's trial was hosted by Denis in the big field, and is a popular trial - handlers don't get many opportunities to challenge their dogs with that kind of a long outrun. People were coming and going, trying to juggle their schedules and all the things they needed to do before heading to the International in a couple of days. When one lives on an island, one lives by ferry and airline schedules.
Although they had been calling for poor weather all week, the conditions were ideal. Mary Lou finished 7th with Dyna on 93 points, just out of the placings by a point (it is always to 6 placings, no matter the number of competitors and there were a sizable number at the trial), and Craig and I placed 4th with a 94! Talk about tight competition!
Denis won the trial on 98 points, not much room for error around here. Man, these guys (it is almost entirely men) can turn panels!
We've decided that it is easier to tow a huge trailer in Chicago traffic during an Oprah Winfrey event than drive on the left hand side of a ridiculously narrow road that has a 100 km speed limit and a stone wall within inches of the side-view mirror. We've now had a few up close and personals with the brush on the "verge" (edge of the road), I hope the rental car isn't scratched. I think one road we were on through the Wicklow mountains was actually a sheep trod in disguise. The trial we were heading to was an hour and a half away which, when it feels like you are about to have a head-on collision at any moment, seems like a four hour drive. No wonder 30 minutes is more the norm.
There were about 35 runners in this local trial. Handlers with multiple dogs went first, and then when everyone is down to a single dog, they do a draw so that all the single dogs run on rerun sheep. The sheep were a mixed flock, and touchy only begins to describe them. It wasn't unusual for there to be a...
This morning we headed to Hollywood. Big white letters up on the side of the hill. But wait, there's sheep grazing around the letters. No, this wasn't Hollywood, California, but rather Hollywood, Ireland. There is an amazing little local fair held in Hollywood every year, where many locals dress in period costumes of the early to mid-1900s. There are antique cars, steam tractors, horse-drawn buggies, old time Irish music and it feels as if you've gone back in time. True to form, there is also a sheepdog trial.
Mary Lou and I were some of the earlier ones to arrive (around noon, very laid back around here). We had to jump a barb wire fence after throwing our dogs over it to get to the path that took us to the field. Through a cemetery, over a stone bridge crossing a small stream, walk through another small stream, you get the idea. The field was small, but the sheep were set out of sight behind a [berm]. You couldn't see the sheep and the dog had to get directed out through a gap in...
Still slightly bleary eyed from an overnight plane trip into Manchester, a drive to Wales on the wrong side of the road, and a less than average B&B, we took the fast ferry to Dun Laoghaire (pronounced Dun Lharry, don't ask me how), and went to pick up dog food at a cute little pet shop five minutes from the ferry terminal.
We had reluctantly switched the dogs onto kibble for the trip, and since we were able to find Orijen, which is Canadian, we figured it was at least patriotic. The dogs were able to accompany us at a local bistro for lunch (love the dog-friendly atmosphere over here), and then we started another drive on the wrong side of even narrower roads, and it started to rain. Mary Lou informed me that I had been driving like a church mouse up until that point, but now that the hedges were getting close to the passenger side mirror and the road was wet, she felt my speed was excessive. Whether I was getting more comfortable or her nerves were starting to fray has yet to...
80 Acres (continued)
On Monday, the 80 Acres Trial hosted the Novice classes. Two more of Mary Lou's students joined the action. In fact, they set a very high standard for the quality of work with good outruns and their dogs under good control, sweeping the top three positions. Neto finished first and third with his two dogs, and Tricia finished an impressive second in her first ever trial with a daughter of Mary Lou's Dyna, Boywood Kix. Mary Lou was very proud of them both.
From there, we moved on to the Grass Creek site. The trial field is very picturesque with the St.Lawrence River in the background and the Wapoos Island sheep are always a (fun?) challenge. These sheep live on an island for a good portion of the year and don't see many dogs or predators, or even humans for that matter. They are quick to test a dog's courage and Wiley enough to escape the dogs that are willing to stand up to them. There is a line of trees on the left side of the field that tempt the sheep...
80 Acres and Kingston
With only two weeks left before leaving for the UK, Team Boywood headed for Kingston, Ontario to participate in the formidable Kingston Sheepdog Trials at Grass Creek Park, and the warm-up 80 Acres Sheepdog Trial.
These trials have challenging sheep and fields and both Mary Lou and I were hoping to get a sense of how the dogs were running. The heat and humidity this summer has made it difficult to do much work with the dogs. Our good friends and students of Mary Lou's, Alistair Simpson and Linda Comeau were also attending the trials.
The 80 Acres Trial can be a bit hard on the faint of heart, because the field is very long. Did I mention VERY LONG? And flat. Enough undulations to keep the dog popping in and out of sight, but flat enough to mess with your depth-perception. With 90+ dogs running this year, the outrun distance wasn't overly long which helped move things along, but without a nearby backdrop of trees there was still the optical illusion that the...
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