Sheepdog Trials at Hopland

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.


Then here was a dog who was watching the trials who could barely contain himself he wanted to herd the sheep so much. This would be what a handler would be delighted to see.

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.

That’s actually Dee down there, working with her dog, Lucky. After performing his stuff Lucky cools off in a big plastic tub, as all Border Collies are trained to do. Beautiful dog!

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

Could you at least try??

Oh, yeah, this is workin’. Not. Ruby!!

Ruby getting a little sniff from Conner

Oh, for crying out loud. Finally after six more spins around the back yard it dawns on me what is distracting her. Silly me. I’d just cleaned out her pool.

Leave me alone; I’m swimming!

Sigh. At least they didn’t embarrass me in public!

Love and doggie blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

20 Responses to “Sheepdog Trials at Hopland”

  1. [Compensating for WP glitch]

    Dick Richards says:

    Happy dogs. Happy Kathryn. A perfect day I’d say!

  2. Hi, Dick! It certainly was! Thanks for the visit! Kathryn xoxo

  3. Hi Mom,
    What a Lovely post! I enjoyed the getaway right there with you!
    Great pics! They are such Beautiful dogs. Love the Star dog!
    He’s workin’ the Kiss look well! lol Prayers for Dot, indeed, what
    a Sweetheart~
    Glad everyone was well-behaved and had Fun!
    Love you,

  4. Good Morning dear Kathryn, wonderful post, it all sounds lika a great day. It it nothing like it, happy dogs running freely! Love Tyra

    New Post from Tyra – Leufstabruk

  5. LOL, Antonia! Maybe that doggie’s name is Kiss! I will ask! You will have to go to sheepdog trials with me sometime! Love you, Mommie D. xoxo

  6. Good morning, Tyra! It’s so true that there is such joy being with dogs who can be out among their own kind having a good time! Kathryn xoxo

  7. What beautiful dogs! It must have been a great day to see them in competition.

  8. Hi, Nancy! They are, indeed, gorgeous dogs! And SWEET! And very energetic. It was wonderful to see them, yes! Kathryn xoxo

  9. Hi !
    I have such a big smile from reading this wonderful post! What a grand setting for the trials!
    Jaspar is a big teddy bear and Lucky has bright eyes. So interesting about their cool down.
    Dot is so soulful. She is so special. I can see she is very loyal and just want to give and receive love.
    I loved the photos of Ruby and Connor playing, and they say we can have a cool down,too!
    So much fun!
    Best regards,

  10. Hi, Philip! Yes, Northern California does provide the most wonderful settings and environment for the whole sheepdog thing. I’m wondering if you have ever gone to the ones in Booneville? You can see so much more as it’s in a much smaller venue and the whole thing moves so much faster. I think you’ve got Dot pegged perfectly. She so wants to please (but there is wear and tear on her heart, you can tell; she needs a home that will serve her the rest of her life). Yes, Ruby and Conner have a grand ole’ time in that big back yard. Plenty of room to run and play! Thanks for the visit. Kathryn xoxoo

  11. Wonderful post. If only everyone could understand animals the way you seem to understand Dot and her needs. She looks so happy. (I’m a little in shock to learn how much a sheepdog is worth, though!) Love your idea to give the doggies their own pool . I may have to try that for my poodle who loves to swim, but is a little scared in the big pool.

  12. Welcome, JGH! Thank you. I do recommend the doggie pool. I gave a castoff to a neighbor who has a BC and she could barely get him out of it! But when I had a big pool I made sure my Border Collies both knew how to swim. (I’m speaking of two different BC’s, btw.) They weren’t thrilled about it (though some BC’s like to swim) but I knew they knew how to get out of the pool if they accidently fell in. You probably have a fence or cover, but I did not. Kathryn xox

  13. Hi,
    I did not see the Boonville trials personally, but my aunt loved them She got Nabbie there, a McNabb shepherd. I just looked up the name to see if I had the spelling right, and look what I found! i did not know this was a breed from Ukiah!
    “a McNabb Shepherd; this was a cross of two breeds of herding dogs bred at the McNabb ranch at Ukiah, California. This breed was famous for their natural instincts to herd sheep or cattle. They would do this by running wide circles around the herd to bring the strays back into the group. Upon signals and whistles of the ownerโ€™s commands these dogs had a natural instinct to run in ever tightening circles thereby controlling the herd”
    Well, the thing was that Lady Sally was a dog” of a certain age” as Joan would say when Nabbie came. Nabbie would find Lady Sallie who would get lost in the garden. Nabbie would use her nose to push LS around to where she need to go. It was a dear thing to see.
    I am sure that nabbie may have cost $38… but certainly wth less zeros!
    Best regards,

  14. LOL, Philip! Oh,yes. McNabs. My first Border Collie was from Ft. Bragg Humane Society and it was always thought she might actually be a McNab. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve been to McNab Ranch and am aware of that early history. Long story… ๐Ÿ™‚ Kathryn xoox

  15. Sure your ‘kids’ behaved beautifully after the camea was put away! I like natural photos anyway, dear Kathryn. Looks like you had a lovely day … I learned much from this post. (Though I don’t have a dog, I’m still training my husband!)

  16. Hi, Joey! They are pretty good most of the time. Conner is very strong-willed, so we’ve had to work through some stuff. He’s more mature as he has aged, thank goodness. (He’ll be five in a few days!) I adore them both, and they love being my doggies. It’s a happy arrangement. Glad you learned a bit about herders!
    Kathryn xoxoxo

  17. What a lovely post Kathryn – we live in “Sheep country” here in Wales and to see the dogs working on the mountains is an amazing sight.
    Your two dogs are lovely and it was nice to meet them ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. Good morning, Karen! Oh, how lucky to be part of the original impulse of sheepdog herding! I’m aware that the World Trials took place this year in Wales. Most of the BC’s around here have their roots in the UK.
    Ruby’s grandfather was from Scotland. And are you aware of Tina Humphrey and Chandi?

  19. Absolutely beautiful post-absolutely gorgeous dogs! I enjoyed every second of reading-and imagining what it must have been like to be there myself. Awesome!

  20. Hi, Susan and welcome! So glad you enjoyed the post and happy to find another Border Collie lover! Kathryn xoxo

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