"Rudi" (as I often call her) did the entire gather by herself today!
As I drove to Dean Farm at dawn this morning, I decided to let Kay do the longer outruns for a change.
Kay's taken something of a back seat in recent weeks and I thought it only fair to give her the chance of some long outruns - something she's always enjoyed very much - and she's good at them.
Last week Carew managed to do the main part of the gather from just inside the field - an outrun of half a kilometre or more. I was hoping Kay would do the same but, as soon as I let her out of the 4x4, she noticed a smaller bunch of sheep to our right and immediately seemed to concentrate on them.
This wouldn't normally be a problem. By using the "Look" command I can usually show Kay where to find the sheep I want her to gather. We've done it many times, so I walked her a few paces towards the distant sheep and told her to "Look". The moment she was looking in the right direction I sent her off. Initially, all seemed well and Kay headed off towards the distant sheep, but she soon began to veer towards the bunch she'd first noticed.
I tried to "bend her out" with whistle commands but she just wasn't listening, so I tried to stop her. She totally ignored my stop commands, so I gave her the "That'll do" command (several times) and eventually (by this time she was at the far side of the bunch of sheep she wasn't supposed to gather until later) she ran back around the sheep and came to me.
I was not amused. Kay went back into the 4x4, and Carew came out.
What a difference! Carew's outrun was perfect. She ran all the way down the left-hand edge of the first field, through the gap into the next, and eventually began to "bend in" nicely towards the main body of sheep.
Just then I noticed her widen out again. She'd spotted some ewes and lambs in the dark shadow of the far hedge. I hadn't noticed these myself, but Carew brought all the sheep together, guided them into the first field, and then sped off to gather the bunch that Kay had first spotted at the far right of the first field.
Grouping the whole mob together, Carew took them to the farm buildings and quietly, but firmly, pushed them into the sorting pens. I felt immense pride as she obeyed every whispered command as though she'd anticipated it. When a sheep managed to dash through a gap between some fencing, Carew immediately sprang over the "sheep race" and brought it back without fuss or delay.
With the drafted lambs on their way to market, and the others returned to their field, our next task was to gather a really difficult field which we'd previously done in stages because, wherever you stand, the dog goes out of sight for some time.
I've wanted to gather this field properly (in one hit) for some time, and this was our chance. My only concern was that Carew might be tired, but I needn't have worried. I sent her off to the right and after about 250m or so she duly disappeared from sight, so I gave a couple of "Away" whistles at intervals, just to reassure her.
It's particularly important that the dog goes around the perimeter of this field because the sheep are often hanging around on the very far side of the bank. When Carew reappeared I could tell from her position that she'd done just as I'd wanted.
With the whole mob bunched together, Carew guided them over the railway bridge and into their destination field without a hitch. I was so proud of her!
It's not all good news, of course. Kay's standard of work has deteriorated quite noticeably recently. It's unlike her to ignore my commands in the blatant way she did today, and I've noticed that if a sheep challenges her, she's not as brave as she used to be. It could be because I'm not working her as much now that Carew manages so much better, or it could be that she's just a few weeks from coming into season. Either way, I'll try to involve Kay more over the next weeks and see how she goes.