As the winter solstice approaches and every day is shorter, today we arrived at our field with the sun already disappearing behind the horizon. I rushed out and planted an LP as our SL, planned a series I'd been thinking about, planted two blinds for each dog, got Laddie out of the van, ran him on the series (he did great, though my poor planning resulted in one out-of-sequence event), put him in his crate to avoid van-destruction, got Lumi out of the van, ran her on the series (she ran with nice enthusiasm and control, but her marking wasn't quite as good as she's capable of), let Laddie out so the two of them could play while I put all the gear away, and finally we packed up and headed home.
It was a compact session and a compact course. Here's a description.
SERIES A. Interrupted poorman triple with wiper and two blinds (Laddie, then Lumi)
First I walked out and threw the rightmost mark, a frozen duck right to left at 110 yards. Next I crossed toward the left and threw the leftmost mark, a frozen duck thrown from in front of a tree right to left at a 100 yards, with the fall on the far side of a low crest traversing the left side of the field. Then I crossed back and from beside another tree that was to the right of line to the first mark, threw the center mark, a frozen chukar thrown right to left at 60 yards, in an arc over the line to the first mark so that it landed on the left of the line to the first mark. Such a throw is called a wiper bird perhaps because the throw resembles a windshield wiper, perhaps because the mark tends to wipe out the dog's memory of the earlier, longer mark in the same general direction.
After throwing the three marks, I returned to the dog, who had been watching at the SL, and ran the dog on all five retrieves in the following order:
- The first blind, an OD at a 100 yards on a line between the second and third marks, sitting atop the low crest mentioned earlier, and just to the left of a hedgerow.
- The go-bird, that is, the last bird down at 60 yards in the center.
- The shorter memory-bird, that is, the bird on the left at 100 yards on the far side of the low crest.
- The second blind, an OD at 160 yards on a line over the same low crest, a little to the left of the left mark, 15 yards past a stand of trees on the right and in front of the line of trees that separates this field from Oaks Area 2. Running this blind also required the dog to run across a hill sloping downward from left to right most of the way to the blind.
- The longer memory bird, that is, the first mark on the right at 110 yards.
Here are some of the challenges intended by this series, in intended order of difficulty, most difficult first:
- The first mark at 110 yards was intended to be difficult to remember. It was in an open area with no nearby visual markers, it was retrieved after two other throws and four other retrieves, and a wiper bird was thrown over its arc as the go-bird. However, neither dog seemed to have any trouble with this supposed challenge, both dogs running straight to the fall when finally sent.
- The first blind at 100 yards, run before the go-bird and on a line between the go-bird and the shorter memory-bird, was intended to be difficult to control the dog on. This challenge worked better than I intended, as Laddie raced in the correct direction when sent but at the last moment veered off to the memory-bird on the left, getting to it before I could stop him with a WS. I don't try to discourage my dogs once the dog has gotten to a bird, even if it's not the bird I intended, so I cheerfully blew a CIW, and when he delivered that bird, then I ran him on the first blind. At least I was able to keep him to the left of the go-bird, which he had to run past on both the first two retrieves.
- The 160-yard blind was also intended to be somewhat difficult. All three marks, two of which had already been picked up, were to the right, one of them on a particularly tight angle. The blind involved running across a downslope and crossing over the low crest, and it risked losing the dog behind the stand of trees at 145 yards, especially because the earlier blind was planted right next to a similar formation. However, neither dog had any difficulty with this blind.
- I intended that the dog would have some difficulty remembering the left memory-bird at 100 yards, which was to be run after two other retrieves and was on the far side of the low crest. Laddie had no difficulty with this mark (he picked it up when I was trying to run him on the first blind), and Lumi seemed by her demeanor to remember it. But she overran it and I took the opportunity to switch her to handling and practice an angle-in cast to bring her back in.
- Any mark can be a problem, and I thought it possible that the dogs might have a little trouble with the go-bird in the center at 60 yards, since the dog had first run the blind on a line slightly to the left of the go-bird, and in Laddie's case he had also run the left mark at 100 yards. But both dogs easily pinned the go-bird when sent to it.
- Because these were poorman marks, they were all in effect retired guns. My dogs have often retrieved under those conditions, however, and didn't seem to have a problem with it in this series.
- All five retrieves were within a 75° angle, a tight course that could have caused some confusion of the different lines but didn't seem to.
- The SL was in the midst of a dozen or so widely-spaced trees, so every line had additional distractions on both sides as the dog started each send-out.