Sunday afternoon saw me traipsing out to Hopland with Ruby and Conner in tow, to join my friends Marsha and John and their two Border Collies, Stella, and Ruby’s brother, Cooper, to the Sheepdog Trials. I was happy as a lark!
One reason I was particularly excited was that I knew Dee, Ruby’s breeder, was coming down from Oregon for the trials, and was bringing Lexy, Ruby’s mom, whom I had never met. I saw immediately that Ruby really does take after her mom.
I arrived well after the trials had begun as they had started very early in the frosty morning. I had been to several trials, but always in smaller venues, so this was the first trial I had attended that allowed the handlers and dogs and sheep to really stretch out into a large, and natural terrain. One almost needed binoculars to follow, and that’s if you knew what you were looking for, which I never really do. But here’s what I was watching.
In all honesty I’m there to see the dogs. I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful it is for me to be around a really lot of Border Collies all at once, all trained, with their handlers, intent on coming together for a practical purpose, to show what their dogs can do out on the range. There’s the odd person, such as myself, who might show up with Border Collies who are not working Border Collies, but by and large it’s a group of passionate people who all love and understand and respect Border Collies, who are devoted to them in their daily lives. Most of these particular dogs are not companion dogs. Most of them are working dogs. While Ruby was trained to herd sheep, it was not her favorite thing to do in life (she bit the sheep, to make her point) and she’s happily living an alternative lifestyle that includes down comforters and biscuits and lots of ball playing. She’s a complete convert, and if I had any doubt, Hopland confirmed that for me. She watched respectfully from the sidelines, like an old pro. Her ears were up. She watched. But I sensed zero wish in her to be out there sorting out sheep into pens. Nosiree. Thank goodness! And even Conner showed not much more interest in showing his stuff. Glad to know.
So there I was surrounded by the most amazing assortment of Border Collies, taking it all in. Here are some of the wonderful animals I met, each bringing a very big smile to my face. Here’s a dog whose name I never learned but I’m calling him Star dog for obvious reasons. Very interesting markings!
By now you’ve probably noticed that Border Collies do not have a standard look. Some are smooth coats and some are rough coats. Some are sleek. Some are curly. Some are small. Some are larger. (Conner is pretty big!) This is because they have always been bred for their intelligence, not their looks, and, indeed, they are the smartest dog on planet Earth. Once you are around them you see this is true. Until you experience it, it just sounds like something interesting. Kinda like whether you have your own kids or not. Here are some more I met. This is a funny little puppy, impish and curious as all get out, trying very hard to be good, by sitting in this folding chair, and succeeding quite well, I must say! He was only five months old. You would want to give him a big hug.
The judges were under a canopy not far from where we all watched.
They are all taking stock of how long it takes a dog to perform certain tasks, like separating out two sheep from the rest of the flock, or moving them toward a pen or through a gate. This is done either with short, sharp commands or, often, through a series of short whistles,which the Border Collie recognizes, amazingly.
Here was my very favorite dog I met at the trials.
Dot–I am in love with this dog.
I had an instant heart connection with this dog. She’s five years old, and her name is Dot. I learned she was for sale (not that I need three Border Collies, heaven help me, though I’d do it in a heartbeat, probably, if it were realistic). How much, I asked. “Thirty-eight,” the owner replied. Thirty eight. Thirty eight. My mind is trying to calculate what this means. I know she doesn’t mean thirty eight dollars. The reality of what she’s saying is so insane I begin to giggle. Oh, my. “Can I take her to see my friend?” Sure, she says. Dot goes very willingly with me on a lead. I have a huge smile on my face.”Marsha, they want thirty eight hundred dollars for this dog!” I laugh full out. Something must have happened to the Border Collie community in my long absence. Kinda like California real estate. So Dot is property. She’s trained. She can herd sheep. Very valuable skill in some settings. I return her to the owner. Moments of silence. I’m reading the dog. Respectfully, gently, “Do you think Dot would miss sheepherding?” I already know the answer, as I know all she wants in her heart of hearts is for someone to see who she really is and to love her. (Don’t we all?) I would have been the best Mom Dot could ever want. Oh, well. Not to be. Prayers for Dot.
End of the day I return home with my Conner and my Ruby, a renewed appreciation for both of them in my heart and mind. They behaved so well. They were respectful, obedient, quiet, interested. They did not bark or pull or whine or snip, among the best of the best. Color me proud.
Well, dear readers, I was going to close out this post with the Perfect Christmas photo of the two BC’s with bows. You know the photo I was trying to get, right? Not to be. Here was Ruby’s first response.
Ruby, having none of it
Sigh. At least they didn’t embarrass me in public!
Love and doggie blessings,
Posted on December 10th, 2008 by Kathryn
Filed under: Animals