Monday morning, I was up bright and early to go meet Lynn (and Zoey) to head off to Drayton Valley. Lynn was getting a lesson from Ken, and Zoey was getting her first work on sheep. I had my two pups as well. The further west we drove, the darker the sky got. An hour out, it was raining pretty hard. Praying to the rain gods wasn't helping slow it down any. I had dressed for an overcast, maybe drizzle kind of day. Not pouring down rain kind of day. Gritting my teeth I cowboyed up and prepared to get wet. And cold. Sounds fun doesn't it?
I had forgotten how long Ken takes to prepare a new handler and dog (neither Lynn nor Zoey had ever worked sheep before). There I am shifting from foot to foot, huddled in my hoodie and absolutely miserable. I could feel cold tendrils of water dripping down my neck and arm. Fabulous. Finally, after what felt like forever we moved into the corral. Lynn and I moved into the empty bale feeder and Ken took out Zoey. She was awesome! I was so impressed I was jealous. Ken was able to get nice balanced circles in both directions, a lie down, a that'll do and and a return to nice quality work. This is a lot for a pup to show in their first work. Normally it's rather wild and erratic. He was impressed with the quality of the dog. Lucky Lynn. She has a nice dog for her first working trial dog. She'll be heading up north (St. Paul) for a two day clinic with Ken in June. She has some homework to help her out. Once she's finished the clinic, we'll do dog works two or three nights a week to get her going.
I pulled Diva out of the truck next. By this point in time I was a walking, talking icicle. To give testament as to how cold it was, Diva was shivering. Diva has been driving me nuts, trying to work anything that crosses her path - be it bikes, kids, birds or geese. She'll dive into ponds to try and chase and herd. I'm trying not to give her trouble because I know she's just trying to work. But it's not fun and a wee bit frustrating. For this reason, I've decided it's time to start her. This would be her second work on sheep. And she was great. This is an amazingly confident little dog. She circled both directions nicely. When it came time to try for a lie down she decided if I wouldn't let her work that she'd bugger off. So it will take some work getting her to work for me and not just for herself. But she showed some really nice things. She showed a willingness and ability to rate and read the sheep. She was fairly balanced, if a bit tight on her come bye direction, and has a natural balance to the away to me side. I have some things I need to work on (like getting a solid lie down off stock), but she was so serious, she showed me she really wanted to work. That she was ready for some training. This was not "fun" for her, this was an important job she wanted to do well.
Returning her to the truck, Ken asked for Ryder. And being the ice cube, I suggested not today. He pressed until I pulled off my gloves to show my bright red fingers. While not the wonderful day I had planned, it was still fun to work. I know what I need to work on, and I have a plan.
Reba and Diva will be getting some regular work over the next little while. Ryder can grow up a bit more.