It's been 13 years since we've made a Nationals. Since they were in our front yard this year, we had to go, of course. Cricket and Rosie were entered in the stock trials, and Sybil, poor thing, ended up in the Altered Conformation ring. Rowyn had his Tracking test the previous Friday, and was now entered in Agility.
It was nice to see old pals I hadn't seen in over a decade, some even longer than that. Shocking, tho - people kept coming up to me and saying 'Dusty, it's so great to see you!!' and I'd be like - 'Uh, yeah! Great to see you too! Who the heck ARE you?'. Amazingly, those people got OLDER! Man, after that first day, I decided to not look in the mirror any time soon!
Anyway. Back to the dogs. We had a pre trial on Monday, the first trial for both girls. Cricket, almost 11, scraped by on the rotten sheep for a qualifying score. Rosie had a bobble at the very end of her run that got a 'Thank you' from the judge, and that's not a good 'Thank you'. Both girls did an okay job on the ducks, but Dale wasn't aware that if they put the ducks thru a panel backwards, they had to move them all the way back out and then back thru the right direction (daylighting, it's called), so he lost 5 points on the second panel. But they still got a great score and qualified. Awesome for a 9 month old pup in her very first trial!! Cricket decided to do Course 'A' with the ducks instead of 'B', on her own, and we lost a ton of control points before I got her turned around and going the right way, so we were just a bit shy of a 'Q'. The cattle were atrocious. They were tie down roping calves of all kinds of breeds and mixes, everything from 300 pound babies to maybe 600 pounders, and they did not want to group or move off of either dogs or people. Thus, Rosie's 4th place finish and qualifying score was quite an accomplishment! Cricket and I did our best, but it wasn't nearly good enough, and in the end, we should have called the run before the judge did, but we didn't. Thus, we got no score.
For the Nationals trials, we got lucky (not). The Started dogs were running both Thursday and Friday, and Cricket had her cattle run on Thursday, while Rosie had all her runs on Friday and Cricket had her duck and sheep runs on Friday. By Thursday, the cattle were beyond bad. As soon as Cricket pushed them out of the pen, the run was, for all intents and purposes, over. One tiny black baldy went flying around, bucking and kicking for no reason. I stood in front of him and walked into him and the little bugger stood his ground. I figured I could take him, as he couldn't have been much over 250 pounds. He didn't like the other calves, couldn't have cared less about the dog or me, and no matter what, he was doing his own thing. This time, I was smart enough to call the run before the judge did. We did get a decent 40 points out of 100 without ever getting thru a single panel.
On Friday, both Cricket and Rosie had good duck runs, good enough for both to qualify. Sadly, due to poor planning on the trial organizer's part, the same judge from Monday's pretrial judged the Nationals trial, so Rosie earned two scores but no title. Pity, that, as she did such a nice job. The sheep were just done; Cricket once again did her usual solid, steady job, got a good score and was only 2 points out of 4th, out of 60 dogs. She ended up 7th AND got her STDs title! Rosie was coming off a frustrating run on the cattle that Dale wisely called early, and while she got the sheep to the first panel, as they were doing with almost all the Started dogs, they buttonhooked around it and headed for home. At that point, Rosie was done. Again, Dale wisely decided to just let her do a nice repen and get the heck out of there.
Rowyn wasn't having much better luck over in the agility area. A great first run ended with an elimination for training in the ring, something neither I nor Shelly realized she'd done with him. And while the rest of the runs weren't all that bad, they weren't quite good enough to qualify. Like so many of the dogs, the long week of events, waiting around and being in a strange place among strange people and dogs was taking its toll on Rowyn and Shelly. But in spite of the lack of success, they still had a great time and learned TONS.
All in all, we didn't do too bad. Well, there was Sybil's last place in all the conformation shows she was in (3) but that was to be expected. She didn't stand a chance, not with me on the end of the lead, not with strangers wanting to put their hands on her, not with 4 other dogs buffed, puffed and polished to the max in the ring with her. But everyone just thought she was so cute, with her freckled face, and by the Nationals show, she actually stood so very nicely and let the judge go over her without moving, which was quite the accomplishment from being a pancake dog the first two preshows. The dogs got to get well socialized (even tho Cricket was taking on all dogs in defense of HER Rosie, who didn't need defending), we got to show off the puppy - working people kept coming up to me and telling me how cute a worker she is, which on the west coast is about as high a compliment as you can ask for - everyone thought Cricket was a couple of years old instead of the almost 11 she is, Shelly remembered the agility courses and in the end, the dogs didn't give a hoot about any silly bits of fabric and scoresheets. They were doing what they loved, as best as they could, and we are so proud of ALL of them!
Texas 2017. Hmmm. Wonder how long a drive it is from here?
Cricket on her Nationals qualifying sheep run. She can take pressure off the stock just by turning her head. All working pictures by Bonnie Sicard
Eyeing up that black face ewe. That sucker gave her trouble the entire course
Rosie takes the uncooperative sheep up the first leg
Sitting nicely for Dale at the repen
Rosie (pink), Cricket and Rowyn show off their Nationals swag
If you thought getting that first shot was hard, you're right. But surprisingly, it WASN'T the puppy that caused trouble!
Ro and momma Cricket, leaving Nationals for the final time
The swag table at the stock trial