Well a lot has happened since November and I have been bad about keeping up with the blog... Chesney and I continued training in Louisiana at a friends place. It's too bad it's the same thing week in and week out as far as the sheep go. That's ok there is plenty for us to work on. Most days though are lazy days while I go to class...
After we went home for winter break back to California we were promptly put to work in Anna's field, pulling T-post, rolling up fencing and dragging the posts to the spot the round pen will be built in. This round pen is not being built on a whim though, there is an important person coming and the round pen was his request. We are getting ready for Jack Knox's clinic. There is a buzz in the air at the pasture and spirits during the work are high. I'm excited to meet the man himself! The clinic came and went far to quickly. It left me longing for more time to pick at topics and listen to stories. My brain hurt. The most important thing that I got from Jack was, teach your dog to feel its sheep and things will come easily when the dog is ready for them. The three important pieces; Contact, Pace, Style! Chesney and I still strive for them everyday we work.
Speaking of working, after 6 months since our last encounter on the blogger, we have made great strides forward, with occasional steps backwards, but we are much farther along than we were! Since the clinic there has really been a turning point in both my approach to training with Chesney and my ability to learn and absorb new things from the sheep dog world. I can't learn enough, it's not enough for me to just work my boy once a week, maybe twice, I want to do it everyday, I want to immerse myself in the culture and life style of a shepherd. Anyways, back to reality. Promptly following the clinic Chesney and I had some rough spots to work through now that we were out from under the watchful eye of Jack, not to mention the few days following Jack's departure Anna left and we had the flock and pasture to ourselves to sort and figure out work alone. What a task! We managed with the help of Tucker B who saved some of Chesney's brain power by bringing the group in to be sorted and penned for Chesney to work. The first day it worked great, the second day Chesney had to do all of it and by the time we were sorted and ready to work... Chesney had no brain power left. His stamina for thinking has greatly improved since November as well.
So the few bumps in the road (like forgetting to bring the whole group, being too pushy, being tight at the top) have lessened and some gone away. He is much better about backing off his sheep. Hmmm wonder why? Maybe because he has a feel for his sheep and proper contact on them? Yes! First step to check off of THE LIST! Contact! Chesney turned 3 on February 24th and got to work his first season of momma's and lambs. He did really well. We competed in a trial in March, our first day we did very well and it was thought that we had the winning run... well should I say everyone except the one person who was keeping score... we got 3rd. Still not bad, improving from the last trial we ran in (which was a DQ) and the one previously on the field which was run in a lower class than this recent trial, so improvements all around on that first day. Then the second day... Hmm how to put this, well I guess I could just flat out say that when we got to the pen Chesney decided that for whatever reason he was done with his run and left. Left me with a rope in my hand and five sheep looking at me dumbstruck at the whole scene thinking that this is not how things are supposed to work. No kidding ladies. I walked off the field, and I really, to my surprise was not upset with him. I felt sorry for him, what caused the leaving, me? The sheep? No I don't think so. The stick in my hand? Possibly, he has always been funny about it, but it wasn't a problem the day before. Who knows. We sat at the truck while the lower classes competed. We needed alone time, he needed alone time. All he did was crawl under the truck and lay down with a disappointed look. It made my heart hurt seeing him like that.
After the melt down we went back to work the next week and did some fun things. No pressure, no learning. Just the basics. He still seemed bothered by something and started really slicing in on his "go-bye" side. I figure it would pass when his mind was right again, he just needed some time.
We went to a Bobby Dalziel clinic the first weekend in April, that was interesting. I like what he does with the long line and he worked well with Chesney, who came back from the clinic with a new mentality ready to work. At the clinic we had to set out for practicing a double lift with some of the other dogs. Chesney was a champ. He really enjoyed the task and even if he never makes a great trial dog, I think he would enjoy doing exhaust or set out as he matures more.
So the story goes, we are now getting ready for a trial when we get back home this summer over Memorial Day. It's a good possibility that I get to sneak away for the day to Jack's clinic in central California. What a birthday present that would be! Not to mention when I get home I will have some Tucker stories and new pictures to add to this little blogger. Talk to you all soon!