[Because it’s Memorial Day, I’m going for “Blog-Lite” today. Content-rich blogs will begin again next week. Thanks for letting Maggie, Willie, Tootsie, Jim and me enjoy the holiday. And thanks especially to all the veterans who deserve our gratitude and respect today. We don’t tend to go to parades, but I always take time to sit by myself and think about all the sacrifices that have been made. I hope you can find time to do that too today.]
We’re just back from the first sheepdog trial of the area, Nippersink or Swim, one of my favorite trials of the year. It’s well run (Margaret, Patti and crew, you are amazing), challenging but fair, and simply gorgeous. It’s like walking into an Irish photo calendar in the month of May. The title is based on the fact that the Nippersink River runs through the trial course, and the Open Dogs have to cross it and bring the sheep back over a bridge. Seriously.
Maggie and I ran in Pro-Novice (think “Intermediate”) on her first standard trial course ever, and I’m happy with how she did. She wasn’t great, but for a first experience on a course that big, with sheep pulled to two different areas like little magnets surrounded by steel fences, she did well. She turned in short on her first outrun (Surely the sheep couldn’t be any farther away than this!?), but stopped when I asked and redirected herself beautifully. The second run she did a lovely outrun, and both times she did a good fetch and first leg of the drive. She panicked on the cross drive (imagine her needing to move the sheep to the south when they were being pulled to east or west) and brought them back to me before she should’ve, but that’s a classic mistake made by inexperienced dogs. Don’t get me wrong, no laurels to rest on here; we have our work cut out for us. But Maggie did a lot right, and most importantly, she had a good time and learned a lot, which were my primary goals.
A few photos for you:
Here’s a friend moving the sheep off the course into a holding pen. Each run has a different group of sheep–part of trialing is never knowing if you’re going to get that one “impossible ewe” who makes your dog’s life extra challening.
Here’s another friend standing at the post for her run in the Open class. She’s waiting while her dog runs around to the sheep, who are barely visible under the three trees on the right, not to mention over a substantial creek. Yeah, they really are that far away!
Part of the fun of trialing is spending days with dogs everywhere, not to mention with people who love them as much as you do. Just in case someone tells you that Border Collies are always black and white, here’s an illustration of what happens when you breed for health, soundness, disposition and working ability instead of size, shape and coat color:
I didn’t get any good photos of Maggie working, but I did get a photo of Willie that is going to be an all-time favorite of mine. I thought long and hard about whether to run Willie this summer or not, and decided not to. He’s only 10, and lots of dogs run at 10, even 12 years, but he’s just never been that sound and he’s indicated to me that he is uncomfortable in tense situations with sheep. Willie assuaged all my angst about whether I’d made the right choice when I took him out on the course for a photograph. While he had seemed blissfully happy sitting with me in the spectator group, he began tongue flicking and looking nervous when we sat in the area where you wait for your turn to compete. It couldn’t have been more clear to me that he was happy to work sheep at home, but not compete in trials. Thanks Willie, and, oh yeah. . . I love you.