I was eight years younger, 20 pounds lighter and horribly wet behind the ears in herding.
I had already won an open trial with my young Bob. I believe I was the only one entered in the nursery that year who had a dog who was already an open trial winner. They should just give me the trophy and send all the other competitors home to keep training.
Reality, when it hit me, was painful. I believe all novices go through a period where they do well and feel they have nothing else to learn. It's only up from here. The reality is that there is a bit of beginners luck that seems to happen to most of us. That's often all it is. Luck. Unless you are my husband or Alasdair MacRae, who often joke that they only win because of luck but those who know them also know that there is quite a bit of talent and hard work that actually keeps them at the top.
So back to Klamath 2001... I was all cockiness until I saw the outrun. The Scottish judge declared it too far for nursery but you be your own judge. It measured out between 475 yrds and 500. Dear Bob had never gone more than 300. Yes, I was ill prepared. The open trial he had won was on his home field on his home sheep on a fenced cleared 300 yrd field. He never had to look for sheep. He never had to travel to sheep. yikes. I started to fear.
On the way to the post with Bob, notice my slumped shoulders - I was sure I was going to my doom - photo by Melissa LucasI believe they said that 60% of the nursery dogs didn't find their sheep that year, and, yes, Bob was one of them. What made it worse was that the sheep were difficult to set and weren't even in the same place all the time. Bob gave it his best. He ran out about 200yrds with good intentions but then he came in too early, and back then, a look back was not even in my vocabulary, let alone Bob's.
Bob on his outrun (red arrow)- notice you can see no sheep in this picture even though those are the fetch panels in front of me - photo by Melissa Lucas
I finally had to call him back so that Alasdair who was waiting in the blind behind me, could send his young dog and actually find sheep.
I declared this would never happen to me again, and with Bob, it didn't. Be careful what you wish for because I turned Bob into a dog that always knew where his sheep were to be found, but he often ran 10 times the distance he needed to get to them. But he always found his sheep after that so that was good, right? Hmmm.
So this monkey has been on my back for 8 years now. I always wanted to return with Bob but it never happened and now he is retired and 10 years old and not exactly my best open prospect. So I return with Lad. Lad and Bob are cousins. They are very similar but Lad was trained better if only because I've seen more than I had when I trained a young Bob. Unfortunately, Lad also has the bad outrunning gene. And back we go to Klamath, king of the outruns, and this time I'm in open. I have more tricks up my sleeve, but will they be enough? It's a little early for me to start stressing but when has that ever stopped me?
On the lighter side, Klamath was the first place I laid eyes on my future husband. For some reason I noticed him but despite encouragement from my friends, I never spoke to him. He had a very good trial that year and his Fly bitch was the reserve champion. He goes back with Maid this year, Fly's grand niece. They share alot of traits. I hope they prove to share an aptitude for Klamath.
Oh, and one more thing, Klamath Falls 2001 will always go down in my books as having the best handler's dinner ever. Pesto Chicken. It almost, almost healed my wounds that year.