Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Things are more than usually crazy at the moment.  Charlie undertook an uncharacteristically long drive to deliver two puppies out west, and took advantage of the journey to wander home by way of the Custer Battlefield, the Badlands, his University of Chicago Reunion, and visits with various old friends in the Chicago area - folks he doesn't get to see very often since we moved east back in 1998.

He had certainly earned the vacation, though, having held down the fort for several weekends (many of them long) while I took the youngsters lure coursing, in preparation for the ASFA II!

Our preparations started in early April, when we went down to IWAGS to see if we could get QCs on some of the youngsters: Rhionnach, Brigitte and Abbot, along with Rhi and Brigitte's litter sister Saoirse, who lives in Virginia and made the trek north for the weekend.  With four dogs to qualify, I brought four experienced dogs as well: Memsie, LeLe, Boudicca and Banger.  I would have brought Oonagh, but she came into season just beforehand.  Figuring that Memsie was the most reliable, I had her run with Saoirse, figuring that her owner would have fewer opportunities.  And that strategy paid off: Saoirse qualified!  Unfortunately, none of the others did.  Abbot showed very little interest; Rhionnach was distracted by a noisy pulley, and Banger went back to play with her; and Brigitte ran well, but kept splitting her focus between the lure and LeLe.  While she made the correct choice each time to chase the bag, the judge rightly elected not to pass her.  On Sunday, Saoirse ran in the trial, and we again tried to qualify Rhionnach and Brigitte.  Both were successful! 

The following weekend, we were off to Cartersville, Georgia!  A group of southern Deerhounders were getting together there for an ASFA trial, and I brought five Deerhounds: Memsie, LeLe, Banger, Rhionnach and Brigitte.  Another of Rhionnach and Brigitte's sisters, Righinn, was up from Florida, along with their brother, Carlan.  I was hoping to get one or two of the dogs qualified for the II; LeLe (with four points from one previous trial) was the only one of the dogs who had run ASFA before, and to run in the II a dog must have 20 points.  We had a full stake in Open, and Memsie won, with Rhionnach coming in second, so that was two dogs qualified!  Sunday, Rhionnach won, with LeLe coming in third, so that brought the total to three.

It is very frustrating to run here in the northeast, where we rarely have competition.  My dogs often finish field championships without ever running against other breeders' dogs.  It was very gratifying to have the hounds do well in large meets against strong competition from other breeders.

The next weekend, there was lure coursing closer to home - well, four hours away in Connecticut.  Oonagh was out of season in time, and I decided to take five dogs (not including Rhionnach!) to the Saturday trial and see if I could qualify Oonagh for the II as well.  The best-laid plans ...  Oonagh, coming off her season, was edged out by Brigitte - who became the fourth dog to qualify for the II, while Banger, coming in third, picked up ten points and was halfway there.  I bit the bullet and returned on Sunday, bringing Rhionnach as well.  As expected, she won the stake (and thus the breed), and much to my surprise, went on to Best in Field!  Brigitte was second, Banger third (another qualifier!), and Oonagh just squeaked in with a fourth place finish.

I suppose I could have stopped running them at this point and just waited for the II, but I figured they might as well get in shape, so the following weekend we were off to Ohio.  Besides running in an AKC trial, were were also delivering three puppies that weekend.  There were a couple of other Deerhounds at this trial, and I was very proud of Rhionnach, who won the open stake and then went on to take the breed both days for five-point majors.  The next weekend brought my local club's trials, and Rhionnach again triumphed, finishing her AKC field championship in three trials!

Then it was on to the II.  My hopes were pinned on Rhionnach, but on Saturday, it was Oonagh who emerged as the winner from an Open stake with an entry of 14, and went on to BOB.  Rhionnach's inexperience showed up in her inability to handle the terrain, and she fell on both courses.  Sunday, the Open stake winner was Linda Madden's Expresso, but Rhionnach justified my faith in her, coming in second and finishing her ASFA field championship; Oonagh proved that she was no flash in the pan by coming in fourth!  Terry Robertson's field champion Tess was BOB, and she and Oonagh defended the honor of Deerhound-dom very nicely in the Best In Event run.