Big Willow was my and Jai's first Open run.  Technically runs, plural, but we only ACTUALLY completed our first.  The second ended in the familiar ironic expression of gratitude.  Sometimes I wonder if Jai just likes to be Thanked.  She is Canadian.  I'm going to have to try BEGINNING our run with a few words of appreciation,

"I am so grateful to you, Jai, for everything you've done to get us here today! Thanks for coming all this way in your crate, listening to Scout bark at anyone who makes eye contact at stop lights or passing us on the highway, and also enduring my sorry itunes playlist; Good girl! for only barely raising your back furr when having enough dog noses planted up your rear end to quality for a farm subsidy…thanks for wagging at me right now. Thank you!

(Insert Canadian National Anthem)

Maybe if I cover my appreciation thoroughly enough before the run, we can make it a full 11ish minutes before she needs more.

Our first run (Friday afternoon) scored us a 33. Jai had a nice outrun, though she did cross at my feet before I insisted that she take my comeby.  She had a nice lift and her fetch was decent.  We missed every panel, though we roughly approximated the shape of the course.  We wrapped up with a really shitty shed …and timed out at the pen.  

The second run on Saturday morning started encouragingly: Jai left my feet full of purpose. She had a nice outrun, beautiful lift.  Her fetch was a symphony of WTF in the key of F.  I have no idea what she was thinking while she ignored my whistles and disappeared from view midway down the field, behind a hillock, way off to the left for longer than seemed reasonable.  Finally, just as I was wishing she had a cell phone I could call, she brought the sheep to the post and…. seemed to then want NOTHING MORE TO DO WITH THEM.  She brought them like a load of nuclear waste to Nevada*, or maximum security prisoners to Nevada*; She brought them with all the joy of Sunday morning in Nevada* and she dumped them, and would have, I swear, called a cab – IF SHE'D HAD THAT CELL PHONE.

She was standing in line for her Thank You, behind the post.  At my insistence, she reluctantly stepped forward and drove the rangey creatures toward the first drive panel, which I messed up in a few different stupid ways, wrong flanks, screechy whistles…wrong flanks again. After a few rapid heart beats of long intense staring, Jai launched and gripped her way into that coveted Thank You.

I was disappointed, though I did see many dogs struggle with this leg of the drive and these sheep on this day. I was sorry that I didn't know how to help her.  I could really FEEL that she didn't want to finish that run and I'm sure I handled it badly in almost every way.  Bad direction, screechy whistles, timing off…maybe I should have not let her struggle and retired the run.

The thing I keep thinking about, besides a monkey jockey, is Jai's bearing on that run once she got to the post.  She was really clearly struggling mentally.   She didn't feel up to the challenge, for whatever reason, of moving those sheep around the course.  This is really not like Jai.  Not the Jai I've worked recently.  I know setbacks are part of training and trialing; and I know that these were difficult conditions and difficult sheep and this was our first open run….but I would love to know what happened, and where, that made her want to quit so that I can mitigate it in the future. 

Two weeks until the next one….near Nevada*.

*Nevada is the anti-Canada