I'm writing this from the Chain O' Lakes campground, where the dogs and I camped the past two nights. We're having a leisurely morning before heading home.
I got up way early on Friday morning (had to teach until 9 pm Thursday), hit the road at 5:30 AM, and was at the test site by a bit after 8 AM, for the Friday Master test at the Backwater Retriever Club. We were running under Dan & Peggy Ramsey. I've run Dan's tests numerous times, to Peggy for the 1st time back in July (pass #4). They seem to put on very reasonable tests, and are really pulling for the dogs. And they both really like Gryffin :-).
Most of the tests for the weekend were near Albion, Indiana, where our field events were held for the National this year. Because of the big entry, the Master flight (division) I was in was held in Topeka, IN, which based on the large number of horse and buggies, is a large Amish community. If my info is right, the test site is owned by Amish people, which means it can't be used on Sundays. The site was an old gravel pit, and frankly, a bit of a junk yard, but it was nice to be in one place - with a porta potti - and not have to drive around at all.
The test started with a land triple, double blind, and an honor. We were in a flat field that had clearly been carved out of the land in the past. It had fairly steep sides on the left and back. The first mark came from a gun station up on top of the cliff to the left - kinda cool, I've never had a mark come from way up high like that. It landed conveniently next to a small mound, which gave me a good land mark to remember (I'm a terrible marker - it's why I appreciate my dogs' abilities). The 2nd one came from the middle of the field and landed behind the large patch of taller cover in the center of the field. The 3rd was a shot flier from the right side of the field. Gryff was his usual Steady Eddie self, grabbed up the flier, having to hunt a bit on the center bird, and going right to the bird by the mound. The shorter blind was to the left of the tall cliff, cleverly tucked into a little pocket with trees and bushes and a hill behind it. He went almost al the way to it on my initial send (yeah, Gryff) and had just a couple little handles at the end. He essentially lined the longer blind, which was between the left and middle stations. His honor was rock solid, as usual.
The 2nd series was a walk-up (walking to the line, the first bird goes off while you are still in motion) water double with a blind. What was unusual was that we had a 2nd flier - never had that before. The flier came out of a station on the left shore, and instead of landing about in the middle of the pond, it was hit late, and landed where the 2nd bird was supposed to land. So we had a 'no bird'. I put him back in his crate and waited for 3 dogs to run (as is typically a good idea). One of the skills that I realize I don't ever practice is coming out of a holding blind and having to stop to pick up the handler gun. I frequently carry one out of the holding blind, but the stopping to pick it up while maintaining control needs some work. I need to come up with a gun stand in order to do so. I got some ideas from some friends at the test.
So on our rerun, the flier was shot correctly, and the other bird came out and landed farther to the left than where the no bird one had landed. This meant the two birds were pretty close together. As he swam out for the right bird, he looked longingly over at the high-floating flier. He ducked in behind the bush where the no bird one had landed, but fairly promptly came up with the bird. No problem on the 2nd one.
The blind was set up so that it was under the arc of the flier. This is one of the scenarios I drilled with him quite a bit in August, and wow, did the work pay off... I lined him up, gave him his cues, and he locked on and swam right to it. Very proud training moment! This time, there was no doubt in my mind that we would go on to the 3rd series.
My training partner Corinne was running her Toller Neon in just their 2nd Master test (1st pass back in July), but in the other flight. At the end of the day, she really didn't think she'd get called back, but between me and one other person, we convinced her that staying when you haven't passed is much better than leaving if you have. Turns out to have been a good choice, since they nailed the last series and got their 2nd pass.
I got to the test site earlier than planned, which turns out to have been good, since they called for test dog almost as soon as I arrived. It was a land/water triple, really fun little test. We ran from back in the woods, looking out across two ponds separated by a narrow dike. The first bird came out left to right across the ponds, landing in the back corner. The 2nd one came out of the woods to the left across the right side of the closer pond, landing cleverly in a patch of leaves, which very effectively camouflaged the duck. The final bird came out of the first gun station, but came straight at us.
We had to sit on a bucket as the birds went down, and during the handler briefing, Dan had shown where he would put it if he was running a dog, but said we could put it anywhere we wanted. After how inattentive Gryff had been on the walkup the day before, I was very pleased when he came out of the blind with me and lo and behold, did a very fine sit stay while I moved the bucket and picked up the gun. The apprentice judge even made a note about his fine line manners for that one! When I sent him on the go bird, he leapt into the water with a big squeal of delight, something I don't remember him doing in a test since he was 16 months old in his first WC test. He got right out to the first bird. I sent him for the shorter right one next. He got out and veered left, almost as though he wanted to peek over the hill to see if that middle one was still there. He had to hunt a bit for the bird that was hidden in the leaves, but his nose won. When I sent him for the middle bird, he took a nice line to the dike, but then hunted to the left. He then ran back along the dike and around the right side of the pond, cheating black heart that he is. He quickly found his bird, ran back around the edge, but when he got to the dike, he ran back along it until he was straight in front of me, jumped in and returned. A small spurt of consciousness?
I got hugs from both judges before leaving the line, since they weren't going to be at the awards that evening. it was great to know before the ribbon ceremony that we'd passed :-).
So that is our 2nd of the needed 6 passes to qualify for the 2011 Master National. It sure was a fun test, and though I was somewhat nervous, nothing like when going for the title. Kind of like after you get your final OTCh points, suddenly, you are hard to beat :-).
Ty ran her last Senior test and was fairly awful. Makes me doubly glad she titled last weekend! I ended up calling her in on the land blind because she was totally ignoring my whistle sits and casts. In fact, I ended up walking out to her to put her leash on her, since she wouldn't come. I think that got her attention!