January 9, 2008

The fetch

Porterville Spring Trial, Montgomery Ranch, CA. [Click on photo for larger view.]

Another photo with my good girl as a tiny speck.

I loved the Montgomery Ranch: it was a beautiful place for a sheepdog trial. The first time we ran there Bracken took what seemed like ages to find her sheep, but after that she seldom lost a point on her outrun.

Bracken was whippet-fast and had a fine, confident outrun that owed not a thing to my novice handling skillz. She'd leave my feet and run somewhat tight -- maybe 100-200 yards off the fetch line, keeping a keen eye out -- and at the right moment in relation to her sheep, she would cast out wide in a move I always, always loved to watch. Her speed and the angle of the cast made it rather dramatic. [I timed her outrun once, on this course. She reached the top in a bit less than a minute, exactly half the time it took the good dog whose run preceded hers.] Bracken had a quiet, steady lift and a lovely feel for her sheep: she could work close without rattling them. I've known religious people with less faith in their deities than the faith I had in Bracken.

This photo of her was taken at Mission San Antonio de Padua in Central California. Bracken is gone now -- she died in 2004, almost sixteen -- and the last time I visited the mission, the sign was gone, too.

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